Expenses can pile up quickly after a truck accident, which compels most people to sue the negligent party to recover the losses. However, you can only recover any damages if you can win the lawsuit. Winning a truck injury lawsuit depends on several factors, including the skill of the attorney and the ease of proving negligence.
The complexity of cases vary, but you can apply similar principles to increase the chances of winning the case. In this article, The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm discusses some of the steps you can take to ensure that you win a truck accident case.
Overview of Truck Accidents
Being involved in a truck accident is a traumatic event that can leave you with serious injuries. You have to deal with medical bills and reduced or lost income months after the accident. In some cases, you will have lost some body functions, thus having to relearn some basic activities such as coping without your limbs.
The recovery process after a truck accident can be lengthy and draining. However, you have legal recourse against the at-fault party for causing the accident. You can file a lawsuit against the negligent party.
Filing a lawsuit can give you the means to cover the medical bills and other losses you incur during the recovery period. But you must win the case first. Winning a truck accident case does not always mean getting a large sum of money. Instead, it means getting a fair settlement that covers the injuries and losses you suffer from the accident.
For example, a one-million-dollar settlement might seem like much, but to someone who lost limbs and suffered traumatic brain injuries, the amount might not be that large or enough to cover the medical bills and the pain the person goes through.
Therefore, working towards a fair settlement and negotiating until you get it is part of winning a personal injury case. Some of the steps that contribute to winning your truck accident case include:
Get Medical Treatment
Get a medical evaluation immediately after the accident. Blame the delay in the manifestation of the injuries on the adrenaline rush after the accident.
Most people make the mistake of delaying a medical checkup after an accident. The defendant or insurance company can use this mistake to discredit the seriousness of your injuries. In some cases, the defendant will claim that your injuries are not a result of the accident.
When seeking medical attention, let the doctor know that you have been in a truck accident. This way, he or she can identify the common injuries after an accident to check whether you have any of them.
Start keeping records of your diagnosis, tests, and results from the first evaluation. You must also follow the doctor's instructions, including taking the prescribed medication.
Hire an Attorney
Hiring an attorney is the most important step towards winning a truck injury case. It should involve a careful study of the possible attorneys, their experience, and results from previous cases.
Choosing an attorney can be complicated with distracting ads and presumptuous declarations about their success. However, you can make the process a little easier by asking for referrals from your friends, relatives, and attorneys you have worked with previously.
The person giving you a referral can also provide you with the pros and cons of working with that attorney. If you have no one from whom to ask a referral, you can check online through websites, directories, or social media. From these sources, find three to five attorneys. Take advantage of the first free consultation to evaluate the attorneys.
Create a list of questions and concerns that you have about the case. The attorney must answer these questions satisfactorily. Repeat the process with each attorney until you find one with whom you are comfortable.
You should also evaluate factors such as customer service, the personality of the attorney, experience, and reviews. You must also verify that the attorney understands the personal injury laws in your state and location. A good attorney also has the resources (financial and workforce) to handle a personal injury case to completion. Personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis; they are paid when you win.
Choose an attorney who is comfortable going to trial. This means that he or she must also be a good negotiator. One with such characteristics is comfortable negotiating the worth of your case with the insurance company. In addition, he or she will know when to go to trial and how to navigate the process.
Finally, discuss the payment details with the attorneys as you evaluate the best one. Affordability is key to ensure that your case is worth pursuing. As mentioned earlier, attorneys work on a contingency basis. They earn a percentage of the settlement once you are paid.
The similarities end there for most attorneys. Some have upfront fees as well as expenses that the client must pay during the case. Besides, the percentage the attorney gets differs depending on the attorney.
You must understand the fees involved before you sign an agreement with an attorney. If the fees are too high, you can negotiate with the attorney. You should also calculate whether the case is worth pursuing based on the percentage you take at the end of the case.
Gather the Necessary Paperwork and Evidence
While an attorney has a role to play in the success of your case, you must provide the relevant information he or she needs. The information will include information such as:
- Your medical records including details of treatment, diagnosis and the related bills
- Your insurance information
- Documentation of the wages or income you have lost
- Police reports
- Photos and videos of the scene of the accident
- Your pain and suffering journal
- Your notes about the accident
The record-keeping process should begin as soon as the accident happens. You must document everything from the time of the accident to the insurance information of the other driver. Keep records of witness information, including their names, addresses, and their testimony about the accident. Let the witnesses provide a detailed explanation of all they can remember.
You should also note down your side of the story describing in detail the accident. Such information should include the weather, the speed you were at, the position of the other car, and the accident itself. Take this information with you to your attorney, either during the consultation or at the first meeting You could also document photographs of any visual injuries. Having visual evidence in a truck accident lawsuit makes it more convincing to the jury or the insurance company.
The extent to which you record your injuries depends on the case. For example, saying that losing your limbs has made your life difficult might not be impressive. However, if you can record a day in your life without limbs, you become more convincing and likely to win big.
Get the Value of Your Case
The value of the truck accident case has a considerable influence on whether you file a claim. Most people make the mistake of undervaluing their claim, especially if they are not working with a good lawyer. The value of a personal injury case depends on the compensable damages you suffer from the accident. California has three classes of damages available in personal injury lawsuits including:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
- Punitive damages
Economic and non-economic damages are available in every lawsuit involving the negligence of another person. However, punitive damages apply only if the defendant acted egregiously. Economic damages compensate you for the monetary losses you suffer due to the accident. These might include:
- Medical costs
- Lost income
- Lost earning capacity
- Future medical costs
- Property damage
Insurers, attorneys, and the court calculate the value of economic damages before determining those of non-economic or punitive damages. The past medical bills and lost wages are easy to calculate since you will need the receipts for medication, treatment, therapy, and any costs related to treatment. You will then add up the values to get the total cost.
Since most truck accidents result in significant changes to your life, you might need future medical care and lose some wages or earning capacity in the future. The calculation of future damages requires the help of an expert who can analyze the cost of medication, inflation, and the length of treatment required to calculate the settlement.
You will also receive compensation for the property damaged during the accident. The value of the property will be based on the fair market value of that item. When calculating property damage, make sure you include the costs for modifications and improvement that raised the value of your car. If you had to repair your property, present the receipts showing the costs of repair.
You will calculate the value of non-economic damages after the economic damages. General or non-economic damages compensate you for the non-quantifiable losses you suffered due to the accident. These losses include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment
- Loss of consortium
The value of general damages is not as straightforward as that of special or economic damages. You, therefore, need to do thorough research and use a skilled and experienced attorney. Research involves evaluating the value of the case, typical payouts by the insurance company, and an honest evaluation of the case.
The level of pain and suffering, for instance, increases with the severity of the injuries. Therefore, a person who suffers laceration experiences less pain and suffering compared to one who developed a permanent disability. The last step in determining the value of your case is establishing whether you were responsible for the accident. Any responsibility you had in the accident reduces the value of your case considerably.
For example, if your claim is worth $500,000, but you are 10% at fault, then your damages reduce by 10%. The principle of comparative negligence in California ensures that you do not place the whole blame on one party when you are also partly responsible.
The actions you take after the accident can also influence the value of your claim. For example, if you delay getting medical treatment after an accident, your condition might get worse, resulting in more losses. In such a situation, the value of your settlement might be reduced.
Get the Right Timing
Timing is key to the success of your lawsuit. Filing too soon can lead to an incomplete settlement while filing too late could void your lawsuit.
Two things you must think of to decide the timing of your lawsuit include:
- The maximum recovery period
- The Statute of Limitations
The maximum recovery period is the time within which your condition has stabilized. In this state, the doctors do not expect significant improvement. The period is usually one year for most injuries.
However, you must gather essential evidence as you continue healing. Some of the evidence will include:
- The photos and images at the scene of the accident
- Medical records such as the diagnosis, medication and your progress
- Medical bills
- Records of missed workdays and wages or income
- A record of your injuries including the pain and suffering you experience
You can work with your attorney during this period to ensure that your interests are safeguarded. Your attorney will work on the important aspects of your case while negotiating a settlement.
The Statute of Limitations dictates the period within which you can file a personal injury lawsuit. In California, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. The Statute of Limitations applies as well to wrongful death and property damage lawsuits related to truck accidents.
Courts make an exception based on when you discovered the injury. When an injury takes longer to manifest, you have two years from the date you discovered the injury. If an injury takes longer to show, you must present medical evidence that shows the accident occurred later but as a result of the accident.
Do Not Be Quick to Settle
Impatience in a truck accident case will work against you. After an accident, you might want to get over with the settlement process that you settle for the first offer. What happens when the settlement cannot cover your pending medical bills?
You must, therefore, take time when negotiating to ensure you get the worth of your case. Insurance companies do not have your best interests at heart. They are there to make a profit. Therefore, they will lowball you to protect their bottom line. While it might seem unfair that the insurance company is reluctant to give you the full value of your claim, you will witness it, especially when the bills start coming in.
The first offer you get is usually low and incapable of covering the full costs of your medical costs, lost wages, property damage, and the pain and suffering you experience.
Limit your communication with the insurance company and let them deal with your attorney. This way, you can avoid mistakes such as accepting a low offer and admitting mistakes, which will invalidate your claim.
People settle quickly due to the pressure from pending bills associated with the accident. However, you can find alternative means to deal with these bills, especially medical costs, to relieve yourself of the pressure.
Some of the alternatives include:
- You insurance policy
- The insurance policy of the at-fault party
- Your health insurance coverage
- Getting medical care on a contingency basis (you can negotiate with your doctor to pay your bill after the settlement of the case)
Your attorney can help you locate doctors who can treat you on a contingency basis. What happens is that the doctor delays charging you until you settle. However, he or she will provide the current cost of treatment to help you make an accurate claim for the incurred medical bills.
You could also get litigation funding whereby you take a loan to be repaid from your compensation. Litigation funding is readily available, making it possible to settle your pending bills as you negotiate a fair settlement.
Negligence is the fulcrum of a truck injury case. You could recover damages if another person or entity were responsible for the accident.
When you file a lawsuit claiming that another party was negligent, it implies that:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care
- He or she breached the duty of care
- You were injured as a result of this breach
- You suffered damages due to the accident
The complexity of proving negligence depends on the specifics of the case. A truck accident caused by drunk driving is usually the fault of the drunk driver. However, road conditions or other drivers could have contributed to the accident.
If you are working with an attorney, he or she will review the case to determine the cause(s) of the accident and the liable party.
Some of the common causes of truck accidents include:
- Driver fatigue
- Drunk or drugged driving
- Distracted driving
- Improperly loaded cargo
- Poor training
- Poor maintenance of the truck
- Weather conditions
- Dangerous road conditions
From a distance, it might seem easy to pick the liable party from the list of causes. However, each detail of the case must be examined to determine whether another party is actually at fault.
For example, a fatigued truck driver might be complying with an employer’s requirements to work longer hours. In this case, the employer is violating the regulations that drivers must maintain reasonable working hours and be well-rested before a trip.
You will also need to determine the person responsible for the driver. For instance, if he or she is an employee, then the employer is liable. However, if he or she is an independent contractor, then liability will be on the contractor.
In other cases, more than one party is responsible for the accident. For instance, if the truck driver was speeding, but the brakes also had a design flaw, then both the driver and the manufacturer could be liable for the accident.
Some of the parties who might be liable for a truck accident include:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The truck owner
- The person or company loading the cargo
- The manufacturer
Determining liability will put a focus on your case, as you know whom to sue. In cases where multiple parties are responsible for the accident, you can sue one of them for all damages or all of them. Here, the attorney will determine the party more resources and can afford to pay these damages. Courts apply the theories of several and joint liability when dealing with these cases.
Know When to Settle
A truck accident case is neither a business opportunity nor an investment. Therefore, you must be willing to make a compromise when dealing with the other party. This, however, does not mean that you settle for the first offer. No. You should fight to get a fair settlement that will cover your damages adequately.
Most personal injury cases settle out of court through mediation, arbitration, or mutual agreement by the concerned parties. In some cases, the case will settle in court. The offer from the liable party often sets the pace for how soon you can settle. For instance, if the insurance company of the liable party insists on lowballing you even after meditation and arbitration, then settling in court is a good idea.
However, if they make an offer that is lower than the requested amount, but is fair enough, say 90% of what you are asking for, then you can settle.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
One thing you should always do to ensure you win a personal injury case is by hiring an excellent attorney. Working on recovering from your injuries and dealing with your legal case can be overwhelming, thus the need for a lawyer. The expertise, knowledge, and skills your attorney has will make a difference in the outcome and value of your case.
The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm has extensive knowledge and experience in handling truck accident cases. We also have the resources to ensure you get the right compensation to cover your damages. You can reach us at 619-625-8707 for a free consultation.