What Is the Truck Accident Claim Process?
It is good to know the process before you file your claim
on December 15, 2016
Updated on May 11, 2022
If you or a loved one has recently been in an accident with a commercial truck, you know what a traumatic experience it is. So it’s essential to get medical care immediately as not all injuries are evident right after a truck crash.
Once you are ready to deal with the financial aspects of your semi-truck accident, you will probably find that you have accrued significant medical bills. You probably also missed time at work if you were hospitalized or undergoing treatment. To recover for medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages, you may be considering suing the truck driver that caused the accident or their employer.
Below you will find an explanation of the process to file a claim for your truck accident. The first step will be to select an experienced truck accident attorney near you.
Finding a Truck Accident Attorney
To begin your search for a truck accident attorney, it’s a good idea to ask your friends and family for recommendations. If anyone you know has filed a personal injury lawsuit, it may be wise to ask them about their lawyer. Their personal injury attorney could know local lawyers specializing in truck crashes.
Next, you should check your state’s bar association for referrals. The state bar association is the entity that licenses attorneys. They usually maintain a website that provides information about local attorneys and their license status. Another good resource is third-party attorney rating services, such as Super Lawyers. With Super Lawyers, you will find a directory populated with experienced truck accident attorneys who rank highly in their field.
Having an experienced truck crash lawyer on your side can give you peace of mind while you rest and recover. Your attorney can take charge of the legal proceedings in your case while you focus on healing. To preserve your ability to file a lawsuit, you should act promptly. There may be a time limit, or a statute of limitations, on your ability to file a personal injury claim in your state. Once you have hired an attorney, they will track your deadlines and advise you on your case.
Your attorney will likely advise you to limit communications with other parties about your truck wreck. You should report the accident to your own insurance company. But you should not answer questions from the trucker’s insurance company that you don’t understand. In particular, you should avoid making any statements that they could construe as an admission of partial guilt. Of course, you should also not sign anything about the truck accident without consulting your attorney first.
When the trucker’s or trucking company’s insurance company calls, it’s best if you direct them to talk to your attorney instead. If you have any questions about who you should communicate with, you should ask your attorney for advice.
Your attorney will need to have all the available evidence on your truck wreck to build your case. Accidents with large trucks are generally more complex than car accidents. First of all, there can be many responsible parties. If there was an equipment failure, the truck manufacturer could be responsible. Or the cargo loader might be liable if loose cargo caused the accident. And if the trucker was doing something illegal like texting or driving intoxicated at the time of the accident, they might be personally responsible. Determining who to sue for your accident is something that your attorney will evaluate through careful investigation of the facts. Additionally, truck wrecks usually cause more damage than other motor vehicle collisions. As a result, your attorney will have many details to work through.
To begin compiling the details of your case, your attorney will interview you about the accident. Your attorney will continue the investigation by collecting evidence from various sources. Relevant evidence in your case may come from:
- Medical records. Your medical records will help your attorney understand your injuries. Unfortunately, truck wrecks often result in more serious injuries than auto accidents. Through your medical records, your attorney can see what treatment you have received and how the accident’s aftermath will affect your life in the future. These factors will affect the value of your case.
- Police reports. The police report can contain information about the immediate aftermath of the accident, eyewitness reports, and bystander contact information. They may also include a police officer’s impression of the cause of the accident. This information can be essential in determining who the liable parties are.
- Eyewitness reports. If there were eyewitnesses at the accident scene, your attorney might want to interview them to get more information.
- Experts. In serious accidents, experts will likely reconstruct the accident. These experts can determine how the collision occurred by looking at the damage on the vehicles. Your attorney can then use the accident reconstruction to prove fault in your case.
- Video footage. Many large highways have traffic cameras that record video footage of passing vehicles. If one of these cameras captured your accident, your attorney could request the footage. This video evidence can help to establish who and what caused your accident.
- The truck’s black box. Your attorney may request to see data from the truck’s event data recorder (commonly known as the “black box”). The black box can offer a wealth of information regarding the truck’s positioning, speed, use of brakes, and steering data.
- The truck driver’s logbook. By reviewing the log, your attorney can determine whether the driver worked too many hours in violation of federal law. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces multiple federal regulations that pertain to the trucking industry. One of the rules limits the number of consecutive hours truck drivers can work.
Sending a Demand Letter
Now that your attorney has collected all the evidence, they will draft a demand letter. The demand letter will summarize the expenses and injuries you have suffered because of the truck accident. In many truck accident cases, medical bills are the most considerable expense. Due to the size and weight of a semi-truck, many truck accident victims suffer serious injuries. This leads to emergency medical treatment as well as ongoing physical therapy.
Your attorney will include details about your medical treatments in the demand letter. These details will illustrate why you need compensation for your injuries. Further, you may have had to take time off to recover from the accident. Your attorney will state whether you are seeking compensation for lost earnings in the demand letter. You can also seek financial reimbursement for the pain and suffering that the truck crash caused. Some states limit the amount you can recover for pain and suffering, but it can still result in a substantial payout.
After detailing the physical and financial consequences you suffered, your attorney will make a statement of your demands. In other words, they will propose a settlement amount that you would accept in exchange for releasing the responsible parties from liability.
Negotiating a Settlement or Going to Court
The majority of truck accident claims settle without needing to go to court. Most truck accident victims and their attorneys prefer resolving their claims out of court to save time and eliminate uncertainty. When you go to trial, there is a potential risk of losing your case. By settling, you can eliminate this risk. However, the responsible parties’ insurance companies will not necessarily accept the terms of your demand letter. It’s more likely that they will present a lower settlement offer of their own. Your attorney will then need to negotiate to reach a fair settlement amount on your behalf.
Your attorney will advise you on the reasonableness of any settlement offers you receive. There could be much negotiating back and forth with insurance companies before you can agree. Sometimes the other party doesn’t respond to a demand letter or doesn’t negotiate in good faith. So, your legal team has to be prepared to go to court just in case settlement negotiations break down.
In some situations, you may be able to resolve your claim through mediation. With mediation, you, your attorney, and the opposing party discuss your claim with a neutral third party (a mediator). Through this discussion, you will attempt to reach a settlement that is acceptable to both sides.
Why Hire a Truck Accident Attorney?
You may be busy with medical treatments, physical therapy, or taking care of family members after your truck accident. By hiring a skilled attorney, you can rest easy knowing that they are handling the process of filing a truck accident claim while you heal. Their law firm staff will be able to collect the paperwork and records necessary for your claim. This assistance can be invaluable after the trauma associated with a commercial truck accident.
If you are concerned about paying an attorney, you’ll be relieved to know that most personal injury lawyers do not require an upfront payment. They usually offer a free case evaluation at your first meeting. At this free consultation, you should ask the attorney whether you have a strong case and what they think the value of your claim is. Although they can’t give you any guarantees, an experienced truck driving attorney can draw on previous experience to provide a rough estimate.
Before committing to a truck accident lawyer, it would be wise to ask about their fee schedule. Most personal injury attorneys provide their services on a contingency fee basis. When lawyers work for contingency fees, they will not charge you an hourly rate. Instead, they will take a portion of your settlement or verdict payout. This percentage can vary from around a third to 45 percent. Many truck accident victims prefer a contingency fee arrangement. They feel more comfortable knowing that their attorney has a vested interest in getting the maximum compensation possible.
For more information on this area of law, see our overview on trucking accidents.