Do I Need a Lawyer After a Truck Accident?
Being on the road with a semi truck can be unnerving. Trucks are much larger than your vehicle, they haul massive loads of cargo, and the speeds at which they travel create an enormous amount of force. Add to these factors the sizable blind spots in front of, behind, and on either side of 18-wheelers, and it is understandable why so many drivers seek to put distance between their vehicles and nearby trucks.
Most of the time truck drivers and the drivers of other vehicles are able to share the road safely. However, a variety of different errors can result in a collision with a tractor trailer.
If you have been injured or a loved one was hurt or killed in a semi truck crash, it is in your best interest to contact an Orlando truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Please call (407) 712-7300 today for a free case evaluation with Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter.
Can I Handle a Truck Accident Claim on My Own?
Although you can try to handle the case yourself, the better question is should I handle a truck accident claim on my own? In most instances, the answer to this latter question is “No.”
Many victims of trucking accidents don’t realize that a collision with a big rig is, legally speaking, more complicated than the average car accident claim. Achieving fair compensation is very difficult without an experienced lawyer acting on your behalf. You also run the risk of making mistakes that could undermine your case.
Before you try to file a claim on your own, it is worth understanding how an Orlando truck accident attorney can help you.
1. Investigating the Truck Accident
While a car accident may disrupt traffic for an hour or so, collisions involving semi trucks can close roads for the better part of a day. Multiple vehicles may be involved in the crash, and the injuries victims suffer tend to be severe. Sadly, fatalities are not uncommon, either.
By necessity, truck accident investigations are painstaking and thorough. They often involve multiple agencies, such as state and local police and even federal investigators, as well as investigators for multiple insurance companies. None of these parties have your interests in mind, particularly representatives for the insurer.
When you hire a truck accident lawyer, however, you have a dedicated advocate who is committed to your case. After the initial consultation, your attorney will conduct an independent investigation of the accident. This generally involves:
- Hiring accident reconstructionists and other professionals to document the accident scene through photos and videos
- Identifying witnesses and getting their statements on the accident
- Examining the vehicles involved in the accident (including the semi truck) for damage and defects
- Requesting copies of the police report and any other records of the accident by law enforcement and regulatory agencies
- Sending a spoliation letter to the trucking company and other parties in possession of relevant records – a spoliation letter is a legal document that seeks to preserve evidence from possible tampering or destruction
Commercial drivers and their employers are required to keep detailed records on everything from the hours they work to the condition of their vehicles. Timely investigation and prompt collection of evidence is crucial for uncovering wrongdoing in the accident and building a successful claim on your behalf.
2. Investigating the Parties Involved
The negligence of multiple parties may have caused your truck accident. To recover fair compensation, it is crucial to determine who is at fault.
Your knowledge of the accident is generally confined to what happened immediately before, during, and after the crash. A truck accident lawyer, on the other hand, can access much more information about the parties involved.
The most important parties to consider in a truck accident claim are the truck driver and the trucking company. Based on the facts of the case, however, your attorney may also investigate the manufacturer of a defective part, the company that loaded cargo on the truck, and others.
The Truck Driver
Negligence on the part of the truck driver may involve errors behind the wheel, or it could be the result of failure to abide by federal trucking regulations. Investigation by your lawyer may reveal that the driver falsified hours of service records, failed to inspect the rig and cargo in the course of the haul, or committed other infractions.
Anyone who drives an 18-wheeler should be properly licensed (i.e., hold a valid commercial driver license), have a clean driving record, pass drug and alcohol screenings, and be medically fit to drive a commercial vehicle. Violations of these requirements may signal liability for the accident not only on the part of the truck driver, but on the trucking company as well.
The Trucking Company
Legally, employers are responsible for the negligence of their employees. The same is true in trucking accident claims.
Depending on the circumstances, the trucking company may be liable for negligent hiring practices, failure to train and supervise drivers, and other factors that contributed to the truck accident. If the company owns the cab, trailer, or both, it may also be liable for failing to perform necessary repairs and maintenance.
The trucking company may attempt to argue that the driver of the semi was an independent contractor rather than an employee. In the most egregious cases, commercial carriers sometimes hide or destroy evidence of wrongdoing. For these reasons, it is critical to contact an Orlando truck accident lawyer as soon as possible to secure the evidence required to win your case.
3. Calculating Damages in Your Truck Accident Case
After being seriously injured in a truck accident, your main concern is probably the medical bills you incur. You may also be unable to work as a result of the accident, leaving you with little to no income to pay your expenses.
Make no mistake, truck accident injuries are costly. However, the damages in your case are generally not confined to medical expenses and lost wages. You may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, lost earning capacity, loss of enjoyment of life, and more.
It is difficult for accident victims to take into account the full scope of their losses when they are overwhelmed by bills. An experienced truck accident lawyer, however, has the knowledge to evaluate all of your losses and work with experts to calculate the monetary value of damages in your claim.
If your loved one was killed in an accident with a semi truck, your lawyer can calculate the damages you and your family have suffered. Surviving relatives may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death claim.
4. Negotiating with Insurance Companies
One of the most difficult parts of any motor vehicle accident is dealing with the insurance company. Due to the number of different parties that may be at fault, many truck accident claims involve multiple insurance companies.
Every insurance carrier is looking for a reason to pay you as little as possible – if not outright deny your claim. Some of the “tricks of the trade” adjusters use to this end include:
- Presenting themselves as friendly and helpful in an effort to get accident victims to let down their guard
- Asking apparently innocent questions, such as “How are you feeling?”; these are designed to elicit answers that show your injuries are not severe
- Asking you to make a recorded statement about the truck accident
- Asking you to sign a medical release form
- Offering a “low-ball” settlement and claiming it’s the best the company can do
It is easy to fall into these traps, especially if you are injured and in pain. Your truck accident lawyer can handle interactions with the insurance companies on your behalf. Having legal representation is crucial for protecting your rights and negotiating a fair settlement.
5. Taking Your Case to Court
Most accident claims are resolved via settlement negotiations before a trial ever takes place. However, the complex liability and significant damages in truck accident claims may mean that the only way to obtain fair compensation in your case is to go to court.
Insurance companies are represented in court proceedings by experienced lawyers with access to significant resources. You need a truck accident lawyer who will not only build a strong claim on your behalf but have the skill and savvy to present the matter before a judge and jury.
Your truck accident attorney’s goal at trial is to win a verdict in your favor. Settlement negotiations may resume during the course of the trial as well, making it doubly important to have a lawyer who is both a skilled negotiator and experienced litigator.
Contact a Trucking Accident Attorney in Orlando Today
Truck accident claims are complex. When you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a crash with a big rig, the last thing you should have to do is try to investigate the accident, deal with the insurance companies, and fight for the compensation you deserve. The Orlando truck accident lawyers at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter can help you with all aspects of your claim.
The attorneys at our law firm have decades of experience helping clients with semi truck accident claims. We know how trucking companies and their insurance carriers operate, and we have the persistence to pursue the maximum amount of damages on your behalf.
Please call (407) 712-7300 today for a free case evaluation. Our truck accident lawyers are based in Orlando and serve clients throughout Florida, including Tampa, Miami, and more.