Truck accidents often cause more catastrophic injuries and deaths than passenger vehicle accidents because of the size and weight of the truck. A fully loaded truck could weigh 80,000 pounds. A truck with a heavy load could weigh upwards of 100,000 pounds. Because of truck drivers’ extra training, most expect truckers to cause fewer wrecks.
But, as with drivers in passenger vehicles, truck drivers can also make mistakes. If you suffered injuries in a truck accident, you could recover compensation for your financial, physical, and emotional losses with help from a truck accident lawyer.
Access to Expert Witnesses
Most truck accident lawyers have a list of experts they have worked with before, which means the law firm knows how the expert works, including the amount of time the expert takes to review your case, what the expert needs from you, whether the expert will require additional doctors’ appointments for you and more.
Because the attorney knows what the experts need, working with them goes more smoothly and is sometimes quicker than dealing with an unknown expert.
Protects You From Insurance Companies’ Shenanigans
Insurance companies are in business to make a profit. They will do anything to avoid paying a claim. Barring that, they will do anything to pay as little as possible. When you retain an attorney, the insurance companies know it is more difficult to pull their tricks. They also know that you are more likely to litigate if they do not come up with a fair and reasonable settlement.
Some of the practices insurance companies use include:
- Ghosting: Insurance companies may try to stall. They won’t return calls. If they do, they will claim they are still processing your paperwork. They may even say they are “waiting on another department” for more information. Some will outright ignore you, hoping you will give up trying to collect on your claim. In too many cases, this works.
- Acting as they care: A representative from the insurance company will be amicable when they call you after you file a claim. The adjuster will seem concerned about your injuries. However, this is part of the adjuster’s training. Insurance companies use this tactic to take advantage of you while you are vulnerable in the hopes that they obtain more information from you – information they can use against you.
- Using your own words against you: Insurance companies record phone calls. They then use what you say against you to deny your claim or to justify offering you a pittance. Part of the adjusters’ training is to look for inconsistencies in your comments and what they perceive as “admissions of liability.” You may not even realize you are damaging your case. Thus, we recommend not telling insurance companies anything – only give them your contact information, the date and location of the wreck, and your attorney’s contact information.
- Talk you out of retaining a truck accident lawyer: The insurance company will work to get you to trust it, then will try to convince you not to hire an attorney by telling you that you’ll have to share your settlement with the lawyer. What they leave out of their spiel is that when you retain an attorney, you have a significant chance of receiving a much larger compensation when you have the experience of a truck accident lawyer backing you up. They also fail to mention that if an attorney doesn’t believe the compensation is fair or reasonable, the attorney will continue with payment negotiations or will litigate. Insurance companies know that litigation is expensive, and in most cases, they’ll be footing the bill for your attorney in addition to their attorneys.
- Offer you a lowball deal: People involved in a truck accident are often out of work and need money as soon as possible. Insurance companies know this and use it to their advantage. They’ll offer you a lowball deal, hoping you’ll take it and run. However, if you have catastrophic injuries, you might need enough money to cover long-term medical expenses, plus you might be entitled to other damages, such as pain and suffering, inconvenience, and losses. Never accept a payment without speaking to a truck accident lawyer, as it is most likely not the compensation you deserve.
- Demanding or requesting more information: Insurance companies might tell you that they can only offer you a payment contingent on you supplying more information about your medical treatment or the accident. If you do not produce this information properly, the insurance company could use it to blame you instead of the truck driver or blame a pre-existing condition on the injuries you suffered in the accident. You do not have to provide this information to the insurance company. You can tell it that all the information it needs is in the police report and that you’ll have to speak with your attorney before providing additional information.
Statute of Limitations
Each state has its own statute of limitations for taking legal action against a personal injury defendant. Some states give you as little as a year, while others allow you to take legal action four or more years after a truck accident.
Some states also have a separate statute of limitations for wrongful death, while others give you the same amount of time to take legal action for injuries. Finally, some states have exceptions to the statute of limitations.
Always contact a truck accident attorney as soon after the accident as possible, even if your spouse or adult children must make contact for you. A truck accident attorney will explain the statute of limitations for your circumstances.
Choosing a Truck Accident Lawyer
When choosing a truck accident lawyer, you should always choose a firm you feel comfortable with. You could be working with the firm for a few months or over a year. You should be comfortable with the attorney representing you, so when you go in for a free case evaluation, ask the interviewer if they will represent you during settlement negotiations and in court if your case goes that far.
If the attorney is not who will do the actual work on your case, ask to meet that attorney. You should also meet the staff helping your case, including legal assistants, office managers, and paralegals.
Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer Sooner Rather Than Later
The sooner you get your case in front of an attorney, the better it is for your case. Evidence tends to disappear shortly after the accident. The weather could erode evidence at the accident scene, a trucking company or truck driver could repair the truck, thinking it is okay since the authorities released the truck after the wreck, or a company or driver could intentionally hide damage to the truck by repairing it before anyone can inspect it.
When working with the firm, it can review your medical records as your doctors generate them, which could give the firm clues as to whether it needs to retain expert medical witnesses.
Paying for a Truck Accident Lawyer
Your initial case evaluation should always be free and without obligation. Your truck accident lawyer should work on a contingency basis, which means if you lose your case, you don’t pay. They should include their fees when determining a fair and reasonable amount for your injuries and losses. Thus, when an insurance company settles or the jury rules in your favor, their fees are part of the settlement.
Create a Journal
Anyone injured in an accident should create a journal of their injuries and the recovery process. However, someone who suffered catastrophic injuries must keep a journal. Your notes can help your attorney determine a fair and reasonable amount of compensation and where they should start with negotiations.
Additionally, a journal reminds you of facts you may have forgotten. If your injuries prevent you from journaling, a loved one can journal your medical journey.
Items to include in a journal include:
- Information about the accident, including the date and time it happened, location, and how you perceive the accident took place.
- Dates and times of doctors’ appointments, the doctors and nurses who saw you at the consultation, and a summary of what happened. Include any physical, occupational, psychological, and cognitive therapy sessions.
- The amount of pain you feel throughout the day.
- Regardless of how minor it might seem, anything else related to the accident, your injuries, and your recovery. Even something minor could make a difference in the amount of compensation you receive.
Recovering Damages After a Truck Accident
You can recover compensation for injuries and other losses you sustain in a truck accident. Because trucks are so heavy, even if they are not hauling a load, you have a higher risk of suffering catastrophic injuries or even losing your life.
In addition to common accident injuries such as cuts, broken bones, and soft-tissue injuries, you could also sustain injuries that affect you for a lifetime, such as:
- Face and eye injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Loss of use of body parts and bodily functions due to brain or nerve damage.
Injuries could also affect pre-existing injuries and illnesses by making them worse. The defendant is responsible for these because you would not otherwise have suffered additional pain and expense.
Finally, the defendant is also responsible for the cost of any therapy sessions you need because of your accident injuries, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, and psychological therapy. You might need these therapy sessions long after you settle your case or win a trial award. You could receive compensation for “future medical expenses” to cover these costs.
After a truck accident, you could recover compensatory damages in the form of economic damages and non-economic damages. Some states also allow you to recover punitive damages. The court orders compensatory damages to make you financially whole again. However, courts only order punitive damages as a punishment for the defendant’s behavior. Thus, the defendant’s behavior must be grossly negligent or intentional to receive punitive damages in a state that allows them.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value.
Most people injured in a truck accident recover economic damages, including:
- Medical expenses, including prescriptions, ambulatory aids, hand controls for your vehicle, and accessibility aids for your home, such as ramps, handrails, grab bars, and widened doorways. This also covers doctor’s appointments, surgeries, follow-up appointments, and other types of related consultations, such as:
- Physical therapy
- Cognitive therapy
- Psychological therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
- Lost income and loss of future earning capacity.
- Death-related expenses, including funeral, burial, and cremation expenses and probate attorney’s fees and costs.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value. Those who recover non-economic damages usually have catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life.
- Loss of consortium.
- Loss of companionship.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a finger or a leg.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder.
- Excessive scarring or disfigurement.
Contact a personal injury lawyer for a free case evaluation if you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a truck wreck.