Any accident is scary, but one involving a large truck can feel doubly so. If you or a loved one suffered harm in an accident involving a large truck, you may have the right to take legal action seeking financial compensation from the party or parties at fault.
In this blog post, we discuss the process of seeking compensation after a truck accident disrupts your life by causing a serious injury.
What Is a Truck Accident Claim?
By “truck accident claim,” we mean any effort to obtain compensation from the party or parties at-fault for causing the large truck accident that injured you. This effort typically consists of two interrelated processes:
- Negotiating with the legally liable party or, more commonly, its insurance company, to achieve a fair and reasonable settlement of your legal claim; and
- Filing a legal action in a Pennsylvania court asserting your legal claim for damages against that same legally-liable party.
These two efforts often happen simultaneously. Together, they aim to exert pressure on the party with legal liability, and its insurer, to pay the amount of damages the client deserves, whether that means by agreeing to a settlement of the truck accident claim out of court, or to an award of damages by a jury in court.
How do you start these processes? Talk to an experienced truck accident injury attorney.
It takes experience and know-how to negotiate favorable settlements and to win legal actions involving truck accident injuries. Most people cannot hope to do either on their own. Instead, in virtually any truck accident case, victims should retain the services of an attorney with years of legal practice representing people harmed by truck accidents.
How do you find an attorney who can help you with your truck accident claim? One of the best ways is to interview several candidates. Any reputable truck accident injury attorney offers a free consultation with potential clients. When you talk to an attorney you may want to retain, ask questions such as:
- How much experience do you have litigating truck accidents?
- Will you personally handle my case or will I work with another lawyer?
- What is your availability?
- Are you prepared to take my case to court?
- How much access will I have to you and your team?
- What are your fees and how does your firm handle payment?
In addition to conducting interviews, it can also help to do some research on your potential lawyer’s reputation. You can find a lawyer’s disciplinary history and bar admission date through The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. You can find client reviews through websites like AVVO and Super Lawyers.
A Lawyer’s Role in the Truck Accident Claim Process
An experienced truck accident injury lawyer typically takes a variety of actions in pursuing a truck accident claim for a client.
Gathering and Evaluating Evidence
Having quality evidence constitutes one of the most important components of a successful truck accident claim. Attorneys gather evidence to help them understand who caused a truck accident, how a client’s injuries happened, and the nature and extent of harm a client has suffered.
It may seem overwhelming to think about gathering documents and evidence in the aftermath of a truck crash, but the good news is, an experienced truck accident injury attorney knows what evidence to gather and where to find it. Some of the types of evidence an attorney may find important for proving a truck accident claim include:
- Medical records
- The police report
- Witness statements
- Accident scene photographs
- Cell phone records
- Truck driver employment records and driving logs
If you think that you may have evidence that could prove valuable to your truck accident claim, then talk to your attorney about it. Cases can turn on the most seemingly unimportant pieces of evidence. Be sure to save all documents you receive from doctors and insurance companies to give to your attorney.
Gathering and evaluating evidence constitutes an ongoing process throughout a typical truck accident matter.
Engaging in Settlement Negotiations
In Pennsylvania, and throughout the country, the most common outcome of a legal claim for damages arising from a truck accident (or any other kind of motor vehicle accident) is a “settlement.” Settlements are agreements between the injured party and the party with legal liability for causing those injuries. The legally liable party pays money to the injured party in exchange for the injured party agreeing not to pursue the claim further.
Truck accident attorneys spend a significant amount of their time negotiating settlements with opposing parties and those parties’ insurance companies. Negotiations often begin with the attorney having made a “demand” for payment to the party with liability. In negotiating, an experienced truck accident attorney seeks to make use of the facts of the client’s case to present the strongest possible arguments for why the party (or its insurer) should pay damages, and for the appropriate value of the payments.
Pursuing Legal Action
Though most truck accident claims settle, not all do. For various reasons, the parties with legal liability for causing the accident, and their insurance companies, may instead decide to fight. When that happens, an experienced truck accident attorney needs to be prepared to fight for a client’s rights in court, up to and including taking the case to a trial where a judge and jury decide whether to award the injured party damages.
Not every attorney is cut-out to take large truck accident cases to trial. Proving a client’s case to a jury requires a special combination of legal skills and street-smarts. Lawyers need to explain the complicated facts of truck accidents in language that a jury of citizens can absorb and understand. At the same time, lawyers must have a command of the legal principles and the know-how to argue them to the judge. These are no small feats, which is why it is important to choose your truck accident claim lawyer carefully.
Experienced truck accident injury lawyers know that successful truck accident claims end only when the injured client receives payment for damages. That means ensuring the funds arrive from an insurance company settlement, and if necessary taking steps to enforce a jury verdict against a party with legal liability.
The roles above describe what a truck accident lawyer does for a client in the most general terms. Every case is different, and the tasks a lawyer might need to perform to achieve justice and compensation on behalf of a client vary. Whatever the requirements for any specific case, however, a lawyer’s primary obligation in pursuing a truck accident claim, always, is to serve a client’s best interests.
How Long Does the Truck Accident Claim Process Take?
Victims frequently want to know how long it will take to pursue their truck accident claims. The short answer is: It depends on:
- The nature and extent of injuries. In pursuing a truck accident claim, lawyers typically want to have the clearest understanding possible of their clients’ injuries and prospects for making a “full recovery.” That information helps to point to the amount of money in damages a truck accident claim should seek. Often, it takes some time for medical professionals to develop a clear picture of a client’s diagnosis and prognosis.
- The number of parties involved. Truck accidents frequently involve multiple parties. A single big rig can have various legal and corporate interests associated with it, not to mention that when a large truck crashes it can cause widespread destruction affecting many people. The more parties to a truck accident claim, the longer the amount of time the claim process typically takes.
- The other party’s willingness to negotiate. Sometimes, the party with legal liability will immediately recognize that they are in the wrong, and will enter into settlement discussions right away. Other times, however, that party will choose to fight a truck accident claim, prolonging the process.
People sometimes ask about the statute of limitations and how it affects how long it takes to pursue a truck accident claim. A statute of limitations is the amount of time a person has to take legal action for injuries in a truck accident claim. In Pennsylvania, the time period is, in most cases, within two years of the accident. The statute of limitations only serves as a deadline, however. It does not determine how long a claim might take after someone has taken legal action.
How Much Is a Truck Accident Claim Worth?
As with the question about how long a truck accident claim will take, how much money an injured person might expect to receive in making a claim depends on many factors, such as:
- The extent of the person’s injuries;
- The prospects for the injured person making a full recovery;
- The effect of the injuries on the person’s quality of life; and
- The amount of money potentially available, either from insurance or assets, to pay damages.
Generally speaking, a person injured in a truck accident caused by someone else’s careless, reckless, or intentionally-harmful actions, can seek compensation for:
- Medical expenses, including hospital stays, long-term care, medications, and medical equipment. The scope of an injury will often (but not always) dictate the amount of these injuries. Some particularly catastrophic trauma, such as a spinal cord injury, can carry a price tag that reaches into the millions of dollars over an injured person’s lifetime.
- Lost wages and future earning capacity. A truck accident injury often leaves an accident victim out of work for weeks or months, a significant portion of which represents time when the person could have earned income. Some injuries also inflict impairments or disabilities that prevent a victim from returning to work in the same capacity, or from going back to work at all. Both the wages a person loses while recovering, and the future wages a person loses because of an injury, can form part of the damages that person can hope to recover in a truck accident claim.
- Replacement services. Truck accident injuries frequently prevent victims from going about their day-to-day life. Tasks such as running errands, shopping, keeping house, or caring for children, become (at least temporarily) impossible. Friends and family can lend a hand for a while, but oftentimes an accident victim finds it necessary to hire someone to help out. The cost of that help can also form a component of damages in a truck accident claim.
- Pain and suffering. We often hear that “pain is subjective” or that some people have a “high pain threshold.” Nevertheless, victims of truck accidents deserve compensation for the pain they feel and the wide variety of other physical and emotional suffering inflicted by an accident and their injuries.
- Harm to personal relationships. Truck accident injuries do not merely damage a person’s physical and emotional wellbeing. They also cause strain and trauma to that person’s personal relationships with spouses, family members, and friends. Damages recoverable in a truck accident claim often include compensation for the harm done to those important personal relationships.
Of course, not every truck accident claim will necessarily include all of these damages, nor does this list describe the only categories of damages a person might hope to receive in a truck accident claim. Every claim is unique, and it takes the experience of a skilled truck accident injury attorney to make sure an injured accident victim pursues and receives every type of compensation the law allows.
How Bad Are Truck Accidents?
The statistics are clear—the number of accidents involving large trucks has steadily increased over the past several years. While there was a substantial decrease between 2002 and 2009, between 2009 and 2015 there was a 62 percent jump in injury crashes. Two recent years showed a 4 percent increase. These are startling numbers.
Protect Your Rights—Contact a Truck Accident Attorney
If a truck accident has upended your life, the best thing you can do to protect your rights is to contact a truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Do not make the mistake of trying to pursue a truck accident claim on your own. Insurance companies and defense lawyers will try to take advantage of you at every turn. Let an experienced truck accident claim lawyer guide you through the process of pursuing compensation, so that you can focus on making a full and meaningful recovery.