By: Peter N. Davis, Esq., Peter N. Davis & Associates
Truck accidents are absolutely devastating. When a semi-truck has a fully loaded trailer, it can weigh up to 85,000 pounds. A passenger vehicle generally weighs only around 5,000 pounds. These accidents can cause permanent, serious damage and even death. If you’re thinking about hiring a truck accident attorney to help you file a lawsuit, you’re probably concerned about the process. Here’s what you need to know about the stages of a truck accident lawsuit.
Stage 1: Getting a Case Evaluation
The first stage is to schedule a cause evaluation with a truck accident attorney. You’ll talk with the lawyer about what happened, and they can determine the amount of negligence for each of the parties involved. Negligence is an important part of all accidents. If you’re unable to show that the other party was negligent, you cannot make a claim for financial compensation. If the truck accident attorney sees evidence that the truck driver or another potential defendant was negligent, your claim can start. The most common reasons that truck accidents occur are:
- Distracted driving. This can include texting and driving, talking on the phone, eating, and just not paying full attention to the road.
- Driving while they’re tired. There are federal and state laws that regulate how long a truck driver may be on the road. Sadly, many trucking companies pressure drivers to ignore the law and meet unreasonable deadlines. Studies have supported the theory that driving without getting enough sleep is just as dangerous as drunk driving.
- The truck hasn’t been properly maintained. Semi-trucks accumulate around 45,000 miles per year on average. However, there are some that accumulate up to 100,000 miles in a year. That sort of wear on a vehicle requires regular maintenance. When that maintenance is ignored, it can lead to accidents. The driver isn’t always responsible for the maintenance of the truck. Often, that liability falls to the owner of the truck.
- Driving under the influence. Semi-truck drivers should not have a BAC of greater than .04%, half of the legal limit for traditional passenger vehicle drivers.
- Improperly loaded trailer. If the trailer isn’t properly loaded and secured, it can shift and cause the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle.
- Violating driving laws by speeding or aggressive driving.
Step 2: Filing the Claim and Negotiating with the Insurance Company
Many truck accident attorneys are contacted after the victim has filed a claim with the insurance company. A lawyer can also help you file your claim. Trucking companies are required to have a certain amount of insurance, but the insurance company won’t always treat victims fairly. The optimal outcome is that your truck accident attorney can help you get a fair settlement from the insurance company and avoid going to court.
Sometimes, there are truck accidents that are so serious that the injuries caused far exceed the payout of the insurance. Your lawyer can advise you on your options if this is the situation for you.
Step 3: Filing the Complaint
If the truck accident cannot be settled, your lawyer can help you file a complaint naming the proper defendants. Complaints explain to the court what happened and provides evidence to support your claim. The named defendants get the opportunity to respond. Both sides can file various motions and responses throughout the process. Lawsuits can take a lot of time, but they can be beneficial.
Step 4: Going Through Discovery
As the lawsuit moves forward, discovery will begin. During discovery, both sides collect and provide evidence that supports their position. It often includes depositions, requests for the production of documents, and requests for admission. It can also involve an exam by an independent medical examiner. The goal is to allow both sides of the lawsuit to see the evidence. It helps the parties understand where they stand. It can even hasten or restart the settlement negotiations process.
Step 5: Continuing Settlement Negotiations
Settlement can happen at any time during the truck accident lawsuit. If the defendant sees that you have strong evidence that shows their negligence, they could be more inclined to settle. If they settle, you won’t need to go to trial.
Step 6: Going to Trial
If you can’t agree on a settlement, you’ll go to trial. During trial, your truck accident attorney and the defense attorney will present their case in front of a jury or a judge. The judge or jury will ultimately decide the case and how much compensation you should receive.
Heuser & Heuser: Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys
If you’ve been involved in a truck accident, call Heuser & Heuser right away. We are experienced truck accident attorneys and we’re here to help.
About The Author
Peter Davis is a leading truck accident lawyer in Paterson, New Jersey and practices in other areas such as auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, workers’ compensation, slip and fall accidents, and dog bites. Peter has been practicing personal injury law since 1988 and belongs to the New Jersey Bar Association as well as the New York State Bar Association.