Truck accidents are unfortunately all too common on Texas roadways. In fact, in just one recent year, there were three lives lost every two days in truck accidents. If you’re fortunate enough to have escaped with your life and are filing a truck accident claim, it’s likely you are still coping with serious injuries and trauma.
Even if you managed to take all the right steps immediately following a truck accident, you may still be curious how the claims process will proceed. Here is a general rundown of how a truck accident claim will work in most cases.
Understanding the Legal Steps & Why They Matter
First off, it is common for victims to think they can handle an accident claim on their own without the help of an experienced truck accident lawyer. However, doing so would be a mistake. The insurance companies actually bank on victims not seeking representation. They’re well aware victims generally do not know the law, and do not know the true value of their case. In fact, it can greatly benefit insurance companies when someone does not hire a lawyer… which is a great reason to hire one!
Victims of a truck accident — or the families of someone lost in a truck accident — should seek immediate legal help. Contact a skilled, experienced legal team to take on your case. It’s the best way to protect your rights and protect your interests.
Here’s what you can expect following a free consultation with an attorney.
Step One: Signing a Legal Retainer
Once you have agreed to be represented by a truck accident attorney, you will be asked to sign a legal retainer. This means an attorney has agreed to serve as your representative and handle all negotiations on your behalf. Additionally, this agreement also explains the attorney’s fees and how they will be paid (usually from your final settlement.) It will also include a table of anticipated filing fees. Read the agreement carefully to ensure you understand all the fine points.
Step Two: Communications Matters
One of the best things about hiring an attorney? No more phone tag. You can now refer any telephone calls from insurance adjusters directly to your legal counsel. Lawyers know all about how an insurance company may try to avoid paying you the maximum amount you deserve to collect for your injuries or your loss. Your lawyer is well-equipped to deal with an insurer who is making a lower settlement offer or trying to shift the blame for your injuries onto you.
From the time you sign a retainer until the time your case is settled, all communications should flow through your attorney. This will help avoid confusion, prevent you from unwanted contact by an insurance company, and ensure a clear communications record throughout the process.
Step Three: Discovery, Collection, & Investigation of Evidence
Your attorney will collect the available evidence in your truck accident case.
Some information your lawyer may obtain includes:
- Accident reports
- Medical reports
- Cell phone logs
- Truck driver logs
- Truck driver training records
- Maintenance records
- Traffic camera surveillance video, if applicable
Your legal team then carefully reviews all available evidence to determine whether the truck driver followed all appropriate regulations. (There are a multitude of regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) which must be adhered to by drivers and their employers.)
By examining all available evidence, your attorney will also be reviewing information that could help them determine if anyone besides the driver should be held accountable for the accident. For example, maintenance records can be evaluated to make sure the truck was properly maintained.
Additionally, a review of your medical records creates the basis for the base amount of the demand which could be issued on your behalf. If you have a broken bone, your losses would be significantly less than someone who has suffered the death of a loved one or a traumatic brain injury in a truck accident — but you are still entitled to compensation!
Step Four: Issuance of Demand Letters
Once your attorney has reviewed all available evidence and thoroughly evaluated who is at fault for the truck accident and the extent of your injuries, they calculate the amount of the settlement they believe you are entitled to receive.
In determining a fair amount, your attorney will take a look at the wages you lost immediately following the accident, wages which you may lose in the future due to your injury, and all of your medical expenses. Other factors also come into play, including any injuries that caused disfiguration. For example, if your windshield was broken during the accident and you suffered gouges to your face, you could be facing future plastic surgery procedures to correct the disfiguration. Your dedicated truck accident attorney will not overlook this injury and its impact on you. Someone will be held accountable.
Before your attorney issues a demand letter, they will discuss the demand with you. They will explain how they reached the dollar amount in the demand letter and why they are asking for specific amounts for specific categories of compensation.
Most truck accident cases include economic and non-economic losses.
Economic losses include compensation for past and estimated future medical bills, the income you lost and stand to lose, damage to your vehicle or personal property, as well as other quantifiable costs associated with your injury. For those who have lost a loved one, economic losses would also include unexpected costs associated with the loss such as funeral and burial expenses.
Non-economic losses include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of your life. As you discuss your settlement options, your attorney will take the time to explain this concept to you and assess the total impact of the accident on you and your family’s life.
Step Five: Settlement Negotiations Begin
Once a demand letter has been sent out, your attorney waits for responses. Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, the demand letter may have gone out to more than one insurance company. Keep in mind, truck accident claims are complicated because there may be multiple parties who are partially responsible for your injury or your loss.
Some of them include:
- Truck driver
- Truck driver’s employer
- Maintenance company for the truck
- Truck manufacturer
- City/town/municipality where the accident occurred (in the case of poor road conditions, for example)
It may take a while after sending your demand letters to determine how the process will play out. In cases involving multiple parties, the attorneys for each party would work together to determine how much each party should pay.
Chances are, within a few weeks of getting a demand letter, your attorney would receive one (or more) settlement offers. If there was only one party at fault, this may happen more quickly than if multiple parties were partially responsible.
Next in the process, your attorney will contact you to let you know how much you are being offered to settle your claim. They’ll also advise you whether they believe this is the best offer you are likely to get and help you understand the potential consequences of accepting or rejecting this initial offer. With years of experience and thousands of truck accident cases under their belt, they know what’s fair and what isn’t.
There’s a catch to accepting an early settlement: future losses. Any medical bills, future estimated wage losses, or other expenses which may be part of your claim will remain unpaid. Beware: the final settlement documents will contain a clause that eliminates any future options for you to seek additional compensation for your injuries. This is one of the reasons why the evaluation of evidence and a thorough review of your medical records is so crucial in determining how much to request in compensation.
Truck accident claims are messy and these negotiations take time, involving a back-and-forth volley between your attorney and the insurance company. A fast settlement offer is nearly always a sign an insurance company knows they are facing a major problem with liability.
This is always a period of conflict. Of course your attorney wants to make sure you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries or loss.On the other hand, the insurance company (or multiple insurance companies) wants to make sure they pay out as little as possible. Fortunately, in nearly all cases, it’s possible to reach an agreement. Remember you are in complete control of this process—your attorney strives to do the best they can for your benefit, but only you have the final word on what is acceptable.
Step Six: If Negotiations Fall Apart—The Trial
Depending on what you and your attorney decided in the early part of the process, a lawsuit may have already been filed. The responsible parties will be named as defendants in a truck accident lawsuit. This is usually done to preserve your rights and make sure the statute of limitations does not expire on your claim. Should the statute of limitations expire without a lawsuit having been filed, you could potentially lose the right to hold the parties accountable in court at all.
When should you take your truck accident claim to court? You and your attorney will agree upon a minimum settlement you will be willing to accept for your injuries and losses. If the involved parties refuse to budge and are not offering you this minimum amount, the next step would be to take the issue to court.
It may take some time to get on the court calendar, and the attorney who is representing the other side of the lawsuit may need more time to prepare. While this means you’ll have to wait longer to get your money, it may be your best option for getting the maximum amount of compensation. Don’t give up! In the event you cannot reach an agreeable settlement for your injuries, your lawyer will be fully prepared to fight for you in court. Through litigation, truck accident lawyers are often able to obtain settlement awards exponentially larger than the insurance company’s initial offer. It’s their job to know what approach to take when your matter goes into court.
The good news about taking your truck accident claim to court? Truck accident cases nearly always result in a settlement versus a judgment.
Final Step: Getting Cash In Your Pocket
Once a settlement has been agreed upon or a judgment has been issued by the court, your attorney will draw up a statement showing you the amount of the settlement or judgment, the fees for court document filings (where applicable), and your legal fees. If your health insurer deserves reimbursement for paying your medical costs, as in the case of a letter of protection, the statement will reflect that as well. Finally, your attorney will disburse the funds by issuing you a check for deposit into your account. Once you receive that final disbursement, any costs you incur afterward for medical bills or other services are your responsibility.
Truck accidents are far too common, and their victims have a long road to recovery in front of them. For those who have lost a loved one, no amount of money received from a truck accident claim could ever make up for their loss. But the fact is, while money can’t instantly repair the damage done to your life following a truck accident, it can help you maintain your financial stability in the face of your injuries.
If you’ve been in a truck accident, you surely want to know the right way to get the compensation you deserve. The best choice is to work with an attorney who is skilled and knowledgeable in the department of truck accident claims.
Don’t wait. Contact an attorney today and make sure you have someone fighting on your behalf. Remember, the decisions you make today will impact your case, but they will also affect the rest of your future. The sooner you team up with an experienced attorney with a proven track record fighting for truck accident victims’ rights, the better off you’ll be.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.