How to File a Truck Accident Lawsuit

July 3, 2024 | Phil Sarfin
How to File a Truck Accident Lawsuit

If you've been involved in an accident with a commercial truck, you may be facing major injuries, property damage, and other losses. The process of seeking compensation can seem overwhelming, especially when going up against a trucking company and its insurers. However, you have rights and options.

One path is to file a truck accident lawsuit to pursue the money you need and deserve. Here, a truck accident lawyer will guide you step-by-step through the process of bringing a legal claim after a crash with an 18-wheeler or other large truck.

When to Consider a Truck Accident Lawsuit

Filing a Truck Accident Lawsuit

Not every truck accident necessitates filing a lawsuit. If you suffered only minor injuries and vehicle damage, you may be able to work things out directly with the trucking company's insurer. However, there are many situations where a lawsuit is advised to protect your interests, such as:

  • You suffered severe, disabling, or disfiguring injuries
  • A loved one was killed in the crash
  • The truck driver was clearly at fault
  • The trucking company acted negligently
  • The accident involved multiple vehicles
  • Your losses exceed the insurance policy limits
  • The insurer denied your claim or made a lowball offer
  • Negotiations with the insurer broke down

If any of these apply to your case, it's time to consider legal action. The compensation from a lawsuit can cover your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, vehicle repairs, and more. Don't get left paying out of pocket for a wreck that wasn't your fault.

Hiring an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer

Truck accident cases are highly complicated. Trucking companies and their insurers have teams of lawyers finding ways to minimize payouts.

To have a fighting chance, you need an experienced truck accident attorney. Look for a lawyer who:

Schedule consultations with a few different truck accident law firms. Most offer free case evaluations. Ask questions, share your story, and choose the attorney you think will fight hardest for you.

Investigating the Accident

Your lawyer will investigate the crash to determine liability and build a strong truck accident lawsuit. This involves:

  • Visiting the accident scene
  • Reviewing the police accident report
  • Interviewing eyewitnesses
  • Obtaining video footage, if available
  • Hiring accident reconstruction experts
  • Examining the truck's "black box" data recorder
  • Analyzing the trucking company's safety records
  • Looking for violations of trucking regulations

Through this investigation, your truck accident attorney will work to prove that the trucker and/or trucking company were at fault for the wreck due to negligence. Examples of truck driver negligence include distracted driving, speeding, fatigue, and drug/alcohol impairment. Trucking company negligence may involve poor truck maintenance, inadequate driver training, or unrealistic delivery schedules.

Determining Damages

The next step is determining the full extent of your damages, meaning the losses you suffered from the truck accident. These may include:

Past and Future Medical Expenses

After a serious truck accident, you may have significant medical bills piling up. Ambulance rides, emergency room visits, surgeries, hospital stays, medications, and more can quickly add up to an overwhelming amount. If your injuries are severe, you may also need ongoing care, such as physical therapy, rehabilitation, home health assistance, and future surgeries.

All of these past and future medical expenses can be recovered in a truck accident lawsuit. Your lawyer will gather all your medical records and bills to calculate the full cost of your accident-related healthcare needs.

Lost Income from Missing Work

Truck accident injuries often force victims to miss a substantial amount of work while they recover. You may have used up all your sick leave and vacation days and are now without a paycheck. This lost income can be included in your lawsuit.

Your lawyer will document your missed work days and calculate your lost income based on your hourly rate or salary. If you're self-employed or a business owner, your attorney can estimate your lost income based on past tax returns and business records. Don't let the truck accident drain your bank account from lost income.

Reduced Future Earning Capacity

In the most serious truck accident cases, victims are left with permanent disabilities that impact their ability to work. You may be unable to return to your previous job at all or may only be able to work in a lower-paying position.

This reduction in your future earning capacity is compensable in a lawsuit. Vocational experts can assess your ability to work based on your injuries and calculate the lifetime income you'll lose. Your lawyer will fight to recover this money so you and your family are provided for, even if you can't work like before.

Vehicle Repair and Replacement Costs

Trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. The results are often catastrophic when they collide with a standard 4,000-pound passenger vehicle. Your car may be totaled beyond repair. Even if fixable, the repair costs can be exorbitant. You shouldn't be left footing the bill.

A truck accident lawsuit can demand payment for the full cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle. Your lawyer will gather repair estimates or use the Kelley Blue Book to determine the pre-accident value of your car. You have the right to get back on the road without paying out of pocket.

Pain and Suffering

Not all injuries from truck accidents are physical. Victims often experience tremendous pain and suffering in the aftermath of a crash. Debilitating pain can last for months and require strong medications. The traumatic nature of these accidents can also cause severe emotional suffering like anxiety, depression, and even PTSD.

While harder to quantify, these non-economic damages are just as important as the financial losses. Your truck accident lawyer will know how to calculate a fair amount for your pain and suffering and fight to get you compensated for these intangible hardships.

Emotional Distress

Emotional distress goes beyond the physical pain after a truck accident. Victims are often overwhelmed with negative emotions that can impact every facet of their lives. You may feel constant fear and anxiety, have nightmares about the crash, and find it difficult to get in a vehicle again. Relationships with family and friends may suffer. Some truck accident victims develop severe depression and even suicidal thoughts.

No one should have to suffer this emotional fallout alone. A lawsuit can provide compensation for your emotional distress and get you the counseling and support you need to heal psychologically.

Disfigurement

Truck accidents can leave victims permanently disfigured. Severe burns, deep lacerations, amputated limbs, and other catastrophic injuries can drastically change your appearance and mobility. Ongoing reconstructive surgeries may be needed. You may require prosthetics or mobility devices.

Disfigurement can impact every area of your life, from work to socializing to self-esteem. While no amount of money can undo this damage, a lawsuit can ease the burden by compensating you for the emotional toll and long-term costs of living with disfigurement.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life

After a severe truck accident, your life may never be the same. The hobbies and activities you once loved may now be impossible. You may be unable to play with your kids like before, engage in sports, travel, or even do basic household chores. If your injuries have impacted your ability to enjoy life, you deserve to be compensated.

Although it's subjective damage, your lawyer will fight to get you money for this immense loss. No one should have their zest for life stripped away because of a reckless trucker or negligent trucking company.

Wrongful Death Damages

Sadly, many truck accidents are fatal. If you lose a beloved family member in a crash, no lawsuit can bring them back. However, a wrongful death claim can provide a sense of justice and much-needed financial recovery.

Spouses, children, and sometimes parents can file a claim to collect damages for funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, lost income, and loss of companionship. A compassionate truck accident lawyer can guide you through this process and work to get your family the maximum compensation. While it won't erase your grief, it can provide stability and hold the trucking company accountable.

Sending a Demand Letter

In most cases, your lawyer will send the trucking company's insurer a demand letter before filing a formal lawsuit. This letter outlines:

  • The details of the truck accident
  • Why their policyholder was at fault
  • The severity of your injuries and losses
  • The total compensation you're demanding

The demand letter opens settlement negotiations. The insurer will investigate and respond with an offer. Your attorney will handle these back-and-forth discussions and advise you on the fairness of each offer. If an agreeable settlement is reached, your truck accident lawyer will finalize the agreement, and you'll sign release forms. The case will end here without needing to file a lawsuit.

Filing the Truck Accident Lawsuit

If settlement negotiations don't result in a fair offer, your lawyer will move ahead with filing a formal lawsuit. This involves:

  • Drafting a complaint summarizing your case
  • Filing the complaint at the appropriate courthouse
  • Serving the complaint to the defendant
  • Paying the filing fee (advanced by your lawyer)

The trucking company will be served notice of the lawsuit and will retain defense counsel to respond. Strict deadlines apply throughout the process. Your attorney will make sure everything is filed properly and on time.

The Discovery Phase

After the lawsuit is filed, the discovery phase begins. This is a months-long process where both sides share evidence and information. Your lawyer will:

  • Send written questions (interrogatories)
  • Request relevant documents from the defense
  • Complete depositions (sworn testimony)
  • Consult with expert witnesses
  • Review all evidence provided by the defense

The trucking company's lawyers will do the same to build their defense. They may ask you to attend a deposition and answer questions under oath about the accident and your injuries. Your lawyer will be present and prep you beforehand so you feel confident.

Mediation and Negotiations

Mediation

As the trial date approaches, the judge may order mediation. This is a formal settlement negotiation overseen by a neutral third party. The mediator will go between both sides to try to resolve the case.

Even if mediation isn't ordered, your lawyer will keep negotiating to reach a fair settlement. With the full weight of a lawsuit pending, the trucking company may now make its best offer to avoid trial.

Going to Trial

If a settlement can't be reached, your case will go before a judge and jury. Truck accident trials can last days or even weeks. Your lawyer will be responsible for:

  • Selecting a jury
  • Making opening and closing statements
  • Cross-examining the defense's witnesses
  • Presenting your evidence and witnesses
  • Objecting to improper questions
  • Arguing your case to the jury

After both sides present, the jury will deliberate and decide the verdict. If you win, the jury will also decide how much compensation to award you. Keep in mind, though, that the defense can appeal the decision, drawing out the legal process.

Collecting Your Compensation

Once a settlement is reached or a jury verdict is awarded, your lawyer will collect the compensation owed to you by the trucking company's insurer. Your lawyer's fees will be deducted (usually around 33 percent of the award). Any medical liens placed by healthcare providers or your health insurer will also come out. The rest will be your payment for damages. Your truck accident lawyer will fight to maximize your compensation every step of the way.

Speak with a Truck Accident Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation

You may be entitled to substantial compensation if you or a loved one have suffered a severe injury in a crash with a tractor-trailer or other commercial truck. However, trucking companies and their insurers don't part with money willingly. You should always file a truck accident lawsuit and present a strong case proving their liability.

An experienced personal injury attorney can guide you through the legal process, gather powerful evidence, and aggressively advocate for your maximum financial recovery. Most work on contingency, meaning no upfront cost to you.

Don't settle for less than you deserve after a devastating truck accident turns your life upside-down. Speak with a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer today for a free consultation. A truck accident lawyer can review your situation and advise you on moving forward with legal action.

The sooner you act, the better your odds of a favorable outcome. Call now to get started.

 

Phil Sarfin

Phil Sarfin is an associate at Blakeley Law Firm, P.A. and focuses his practice on personal injury, including automobile accidents, slip and falls and wrongful death. He received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Delaware in 2010, and his Juris Doctor from Nova Southeastern University in 2015. He is licensed to practice in all Florida state courts.

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