What Does a Truck Accident Lawyer Do?
What an attorney can do for you
on December 15, 2016
Updated on May 12, 2022
If you or a loved one have recently experienced a truck accident, you may be busy recovering from your injuries and repairing your vehicle. Once you have finished recuperating from the accident, you may be considering filing a lawsuit against the trucker or trucking company that caused the accident. You will need an experienced truck accident attorney to guide you through the legal process and offer you legal advice. Before you arrange to meet with attorneys, it may be helpful to know what truck accident attorneys do. The following overview will help you understand how a truck accident lawyer can assist you in achieving a positive outcome for your case.
Determining Who to Sue
A truck accident lawsuit is usually more complicated than a passenger car accident. If you have experienced a commercial truck accident, you already know that the truck is far heavier and larger than other motor vehicles on the road. Unfortunately, there is a high likelihood of serious injuries in a semi-truck crash. Truck accident injuries often include broken bones, spinal cord damage, and even brain injuries. There can be a long road to recovery after suffering such traumatic physical harm.
There are substantial financial costs to these injuries. Medical bills pile up quickly, and truck accident victims often need to miss time at work to receive medical care. To financially recover for costs like medical expenses, property damage, and lost earnings, you will need an attorney to assess who was at fault in your truck accident.
In large truck accident cases, the responsibility for the accident often goes beyond just the truck driver. Common causes for large commercial truck crashes include improper cargo storage, roadway damage, manufacturing defects, and more. So, there can be multiple parties responsible for the accident.
The liable parties in a truck accident can include:
- The truck driver: The driver could be responsible if they negligently operated the commercial vehicle. They should be aware of their blind spots and attentive to traffic. They must also follow all traffic laws. However, their liability will depend on whether they were acting within the scope of their duties as an employee when the accident happened. In many cases of simple negligence, their employing trucking company will be responsible for their actions. But the trucker will generally be liable for illegal acts like driving drunk or texting while driving.
- The trucking company: The driver’s employer may be liable for their driver’s negligence. Further, the employer must not encourage the driver to work too many hours in violation of federal law. They must run background checks and monitor for substance abuse problems in accordance with trucking regulations that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces.
- The truck owner: In the trucking industry, companies often lease their tractor-trailers rather than owning them. If the leasing company failed to do proper truck maintenance, they might be at fault for your accident.
- The cargo loader: The cargo owner often loads it onto the truck for shipping. They must follow federal regulations and adequately secure the truck’s load.
- The truck manufacturer or parts manufacturer: If defective equipment or parts caused the accident, the manufacturers might be at fault.
- Local government and its contractors: Government entities and their contractors are responsible for the design and maintenance of the roadways. Suppose they failed to keep the road in good condition or designed an unreasonably hazardous highway. In that case, you might be able to sue them.
It might not be apparent at first which entity or person caused your accident. Any equipment or parts defects will only be evident to a trained eye. If loose cargo caused your accident, there would need to be an investigation into whether the cargo loader properly secured the load. A skilled truck accident lawyer will know how to handle this investigation.
Determining whether you can sue the trucking company is also a complicated matter. Your attorney will scrutinize the facts in your case to determine whether the truck driver was acting as an employee of the trucking company. If the accident occurred while they were performing tasks related to their employment, you could probably sue their employer.
Building Your Case and Creating a Strategy
Most truck accident cases are founded on the legal theory of negligence. To prove negligence, your lawyer will need to show that the defendants owed you a duty, that they breached this duty of care, and that this breach (negligence) caused your injuries. Truck drivers and other trucking industry professionals have a duty to follow the rules of the road, drive attentively, follow safety regulations, and more. If they breach these duties and cause an accident, they can be liable.
Your lawyer and their law firm staff will do a lot of leg work for you to build your case. They will gather evidence, request medical records and police reports, and consult with an expert. They may even request information from the truck’s Event Data Recorder (EDR), commonly known as a “black box.” If there were eyewitnesses at the accident scene, your lawyer might need to interview them to gather more information.
Many victims of truck accidents pursue their cases all the way to a trial. If you cannot reach a settlement, your lawyer will need to present a convincing case in the courtroom. However, there can be benefits to settling your case out of court. Whenever you go to court, you risk losing your case. By settling, you can avoid the uncertainty of going to court. Another advantage of an out-of-court settlement is that it allows you to avoid extended legal proceedings and stressful courtroom situations. Your attorney will be able to draw on their experience to advise you whether settling or going to trial is a better strategy in your case.
Insurance companies will sometimes offer a low settlement at first, hoping that the truck accident victim will accept it. Your attorney can help you assess whether any settlement offers you receive are reasonable. They can then expertly negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf.
How a Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help Your Case
Truck accident attorneys are highly specialized in the personal injury field. An experienced truck accident lawyer will understand the ins and outs of driver negligence, cargo loading issues, excessive driving hours, and more. Further, they will have experience assessing the value of a case. So they can set your expectations for your truck accident claim’s potential payout. Although they can’t give you any guarantees, your attorney may have handled cases similar to yours. This experience can give them a good estimate of the amount of compensation you can expect.
If you are concerned about the cost of hiring an attorney, it may give you peace of mind to know that you will probably not have to pay legal fees upfront. Personal injury attorneys like truck accident attorneys usually offer a free case evaluation. During this consultation, you can ask the attorney whether they provide their services on a contingency fee basis. If they do, this means that they will not charge you an hourly rate. Instead, they will take a portion of any settlement or verdict you receive as payment. This percentage usually ranges from about 33 to 45 percent.
Although you may be busy recovering from your accident or assisting an injured family member, it’s wise to book a free consultation with an experienced truck accident attorney soon. There may be time limits (statutes of limitation) on your ability to file a personal injury claim under your state’s laws.
For more information on this area of law, see our overview on trucking accidents.