Do you need a truck accident attorney?
Chances are that if you’ve been in a collision with a semi-truck or tractor trailer, you need a truck accident attorney. There are typically three types of damages that you can seek compensation for: property damage, minor injury, and major injury. Generally speaking, if there are no personal injuries, you should be able to settle the case with the other driver’s insurance adjuster without an attorney’s help. If you incurred medical bills totaling less than $1000 and fully recovered from the injuries within several days, an attorney may not be necessary either. On the other hand, if there was anything more than property damage and minor injuries, an attorney is recommended.
When deciding whether to hire a truck accident attorney, keep in mind that the trucking company is already at an advantage. Unless they just recently came into business, they have years of experience defending such claims. Unlike you, they have a risk management department that is committed to ensuring the least amount of money is paid to you and that the company’s reputation stays intact. They also have attorneys readily available to defend such claims. To come anywhere near leveling the playing field, an attorney may be necessary.
What will theÂ trucking company be doing?
Time is not your friend in this situation. While you’re trying to clear your head and wait for medical attention, the trucking company is forming its own defense. Barring a severe injury to the driver, his first response will be to contact his home office and report the incident. This ensures the ball is rolling toward counteracting any claims you may make. The company’s own field investigators and accident reconstruction experts will be summoned immediately.
There are a multitude of laws that govern how and when you file a trucking accident lawsuit. Unfortunately, the average person is not aware of the statutes, often leading to a dismissal of the case and a loss of any potential compensation. Hiring a truck accident attorney for your commercial vehicle collision ensures that you are aware of deadlines and have accurately completed all paperwork. Additionally, a lawyer will analyze any potential liability you may have and will work to protect that your legal rights are completely protected. The attorney can interview witnesses, speak with legal experts, negotiate with insurance companies, and plan your approach to the case.
When should you get a truck accident attorney?
The long and short answer is immediately. As mentioned before, time is not on your side in this situation. An attorney experienced in handling tractor trailer cases will act quickly to obtain necessary documents to support your case. If the delay is too long, the trucking company’s own records — documents that provide pertinent evidence and clues to support your claim — may be destroyed. An attorney will secure possession of the company’s documents that record maintenance, inspections, and repairs on the semi-truck or trailer right away. If you don’t secure legal representation immediately following the accident, these documents are likely going to be discarded. Again, they are imperative to the success of your case.
Since evidence on the scene fades quickly, hiring a truck accident attorney is time sensitive. Marks on the pavement disappear in the snow or rain. Your vehicle may end up being sold by the insurance company prior to photographs being taken. The semi-truck may be repaired in a hurry so damage cannot be assessed. There is little benefit to waiting to hire representation, and plenty of reasons to do so immediately.
How do you find the right accident attorney?
In any serious accident, it’s important to carefully choose your representation. You want someone who will ensure that you receive the best possible outcome given your circumstances.
Here are some important considerations when selecting a truck accident attorney:
Find someone knowledgeable
Truck accidents often involve numerous parties at fault, not merely the drivers. Choose someone who recognizes all of the facets that should be addressed, including:
- Federal regulations
- Parts manufacturers
- Truck maintenance companies
- Multiple insurance companies
- Cargo companies
- Truck businesses
Ask for referrals
Although it’s unlikely you know anyone who has been involved in a truck accident, it’s worth checking with friends and family to see if they have recommendations. That said, it’s important to understand that a lawyer involved in a car accident case requires different knowledge than a truck accident lawyer. Ask other professionals, particularly other attorneys, if they have recommendations as well.
Expect to meet with three to five attorneys prior to hiring one. Most truck accident attorneys provide free consultations. Gauge their ability to understand your case and what their expectations are for an outcome.
Questions to ask your accident attorney
Prior to interviewing potential commercial vehicle truck attorneys, prepare a list of questions that you would like to have answered. Below are some questions that will help you make the best use of your time.
What will I be charged for your services?
Many personal injury lawyers charge a fee based upon whether you receive a monetary award. This is called a contingency fee. As long as you have a solid case, most truck accident attorneys will agree to a contingency fee. The typical amount ranges from 25 percent to 40 percent of the settlement amount. The greater severity of your injuries and the stronger your case is, the more willing most lawyers will be to negotiate the contingency fee.
What court fees should I expect to pay?
Even if you pay a contingency fee for representation, expect that there may be more costs incurred. Additional costs may arise from court fees, investigation fees, and other charges that occur even if you lose the case. Make sure you understand these upfront.
What experience do you have in similar cases?
There is tremendous competition for clients in personal injury cases. This is especially true when commercial vehicles are involved. Do not assume that the existence of advertisements or commercials constitutes experience. Ask for specifics, including the percentage of cases won. Request to speak with previous clients, knowing that some attorneys will refuse to provide personal information.
How strong is my case?
You want a lawyer who will be frank with you when it comes time to discuss outcomes. The threshold for proving a case is fairly high, with the need to show that the other person failed to act with reasonable care thereby causing an accident. Moreover, you must be able to show that you suffered as a consequence of these actions. Avoid being fooled into thinking that a lawyer who promises the moon is going to be able to deliver the moon. While your attorney cannot know the outcome in advance, it is possible to offer a spectrum of realistic possibilities. Recognize that the judgment will depend on unknown medical conditions, discovery, and liability.
Can I expect this case to go to trial?
Be wary of the tractor trailer or semi-truck accident attorney who suggests anything less than a trial. It is difficult to receive full compensation for your situation if you aren’t prepared for a trial. If the person suggests settling before even taking on your case, use caution in proceeding. It is common for a defendant to suggest a settlement. Once you’re well underway in proceedings, it is worth asking your attorney for the pros and cons of agreeing to a settlement. However, it should not be the first plan for attack. Ask for a time frame with which you can expect to go to trial. Typically, this entails two to three years, although it’s very possible that it will take less time.
The decision of whether or not to hire a truck accident attorney is one you should carefully consider if you are injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle. You need a firm that is experienced and will take the time to understand the nuances of your individual case. If you’re in the Atlanta, Georgia area, contact Fried Rogers Goldberg for a free consultation. We are confident that you’ll be pleased with the outcome.