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Hiring a Lawyer After a Commercial Vehicle Accident

March 26, 2024

What to Do After a Commercial Vehicle Accident

Getting into an accident with a commercial vehicle like a semi-truck or delivery van can be a terrifying experience. The sheer size and weight of these vehicles means the damage and injuries are often catastrophic. In the aftermath, you may be facing a long road to recovery – physically, emotionally, and financially. One of the most important steps you can take is hiring an experienced lawyer who specializes in commercial vehicle accidents. Here’s what you need to know.

Why You Need a Lawyer After a Commercial Truck Crash

Make no mistake – trucking companies and their insurers have teams of lawyers ready to swoop in and minimize their liability after a crash. Their goal is to pay out as little as possible. Without your own legal representation, you’ll be at a major disadvantage. A skilled attorney levels the playing field and fights for the full and fair compensation you deserve.There are also many complex factors in commercial vehicle accident cases that require legal expertise to navigate such as:

  • Federal trucking regulations
  • Complicated insurance policies with multiple liable parties
  • Obtaining evidence like black box data, driver logs, and company records
  • Proving negligence of the driver and/or carrier
  • Calculating long-term costs of catastrophic injuries or wrongful death

Trying to handle all of this on your own while recovering from serious injuries is next to impossible. You need someone in your corner who knows the law inside and out and has experience going up against trucking companies.

How to Find the Right Commercial Vehicle Accident Attorney

Not all personal injury lawyers have the specialized knowledge and track record needed for these complex, high-stakes cases. When searching for a commercial vehicle accident attorney, look for these key qualifications:

  • Specific experience handling commercial truck and bus accidents
  • Proven results winning sizable settlements and verdicts
  • In-depth understanding of federal and state commercial carrier regulations
  • Ability to thoroughly investigate the accident and identify all liable parties
  • Extensive trial experience in case a fair settlement can’t be reached
  • Compassionate client service and responsiveness during a difficult time

Start by asking friends and family for referrals or searching online for commercial vehicle accident lawyers near you. Check out their websites and read former client reviews. Most offer free consultations, so take advantage of that to get your questions answered and gauge your comfort level before hiring someone.

What to Expect When Working With a Truck Accident Lawyer

Once you hire a lawyer, they will handle all the legal heavy lifting so you can focus on healing. In general, you can expect your attorney to:

  1. Thoroughly investigate the accident to determine cause and liability
  2. Gather extensive evidence such as accident reports, medical records, black box data, safety records, witness statements, expert analysis, and more
  3. Handle all communication with the trucking company, insurers, and their legal team
  4. Calculate your total past and future accident-related expenses
  5. Negotiate aggressively for a maximum settlement offer
  6. Prepare your case for trial if a fair agreement can’t be reached
  7. Keep you updated on your case and promptly answer all your questions

Your lawyer will also counsel you on the dos and don’ts of the process, such as not giving recorded statements to insurers or signing anything without their review. The ultimate decision of whether to settle or go to trial is yours, but your attorney will advise you on the pros, cons, and risks of each path.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer?

Most commercial vehicle accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. That means they only collect a fee if they win money for you through a settlement or court verdict. If they don‘t secure compensation, you don’t owe them anything.Contingency fees are typically a percentage of your total recovery, often around 33-40%. So if your lawyer wins a $1 million settlement, their fee would be around $330,000-$400,000. While that may seem like a lot, keep in mind that attorneys foot the bill for building your case. Preparing for trial can easily cost six figures in court fees, expert witnesses, accident reconstruction, medical record analysis, and more.Your lawyer will go over their contingency fee agreement with you in detail before you hire them. Make sure you understand what expenses you may be responsible for if your case is unsuccessful. The agreement should also specify who pays for costs related to pursuing your case if you do win. Those may be taken out of your settlement before or after the lawyer’s contingency fee is calculated.

What Compensation Can You Recover After a Commercial Truck Accident?

Every case is unique, but in general, you may be entitled to damages for:

  • Medical bills (past and future)
  • Lost income
  • Reduced earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Property damage
  • Wrongful death damages if you lost a loved one

Your lawyer will calculate the full value of your damages and pursue the maximum amount possible. Keep in mind that commercial vehicles typically carry much higher insurance policies than passenger cars. That means there may be significantly more compensation available compared to a regular car accident case. However, the stakes are also higher for the trucking company and insurer, so they will fight that much harder to avoid a massive payout.

How Long Do You Have to File a Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawsuit?

It’s important to be aware of the statute of limitations for commercial vehicle accidents in your state. This is the deadline for filing a lawsuit. If you miss it, you lose your right to seek compensation in court.In most states, the statute of limitations is 2-3 years from the date of the accident. However, some states have shorter deadlines of only 1 year. And if a government-owned vehicle was involved, you may have to file an administrative claim within as little as 6 months.Due to these strict time limits, it‘s crucial to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible after a commercial vehicle accident. They can ensure all deadlines are met while you focus on your physical recovery. Waiting too long also makes it harder to gather fresh evidence to support your case.

Comparative Negligence in Commercial Truck Accident Cases

In some cases, the trucking company‘s lawyers may try to argue that you were partially to blame for the accident. If they succeed, it could significantly reduce your compensation. That’s why it‘s so important to have an experienced commercial vehicle accident lawyer fighting for you.Most states follow a comparative negligence rule. That means your damages would be reduced by your assigned percentage of fault. For example, if you were found 30% responsible for a crash, you could only recover 70% of your damages. A few states bar recovery if you were more than 50% at fault.Your lawyer will work to minimize any assignment of blame to you. They may be able to negotiate a better settlement by arguing against allegations of comparative negligence. And if your case goes to trial, they will present strong evidence to the jury showing the truck driver or company was fully responsible for the crash.

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Todd Spodek

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