Claimants often find themselves overwhelmed with questions and concerns following serious truck accidents. From filing insurance claims to asking whether you’ll work again, the administrative aftermath of truck crashes often adds to your physical trauma. Experienced truck accident attorneys act as confidential resources for claimants stuck by commercial motor vehicles.
Most truck accident firms handle hundreds of motor vehicle cases each year and can answer various questions about your legal, financial, and healthcare rights. In fact, claimants often have so many questions they frequently forget what to ask truck accident lawyers during their free consultations. Consider the following ten questions legal professionals recommend asking truck accident attorneys after semi-truck crashes.
Do I have a viable truck accident case?
Traumatic motor vehicle accidents often leave injured claimants questioning whether they could have avoided the crash. Unfortunately, negligent truck drivers often wrongfully blame drivers for operating in the truck’s blind spots or failing to avoid collisions. This aggression may deter injured vehicle occupants from filing commercial insurance claims or contacting a lawyer.
Local attorneys should start truck accident consultations by asking the claimant what happened and reviewing any available witness statements, police reports, photos, and videos. Lawyers must determine whether truck driver negligence caused or contributed to the crash.
Establishing a prima facie case for negligence (the legal cause of action underlying most accidents) requires proving:
- Duty – The truck driver had a legal duty to drive carefully, generally meaning the tractor-trailer operator was subject to state traffic laws or federal commercial motor vehicle safety regulations immediately before the crash (such as operating a truck on public roadways).
- Breach – The truck driver breached his duty to drive safely, typically by violating state or federal safety laws. Examples include speeding, failing to check blind spots, tailgating, or driving while fatigued. Enhanced safety regulations apply to commercial drivers due to the dangers associated with large truck crashes.
- Causation – The operator’s breach caused or substantially contributed to the motor vehicle collision.
- Damages – The claimant suffered truck accident injuries or other foreseeable losses (such as vehicle damage and lost wages) due to the truck crash.
Some states bar truck accident litigation unless claimants suffer from serious injuries. Certain jurisdictions also limit litigation or recovery if the claimant’s negligence contributed to the crash. For these reasons, speak with an attorney qualified to analyze truck accident cases in your state.
Have you successfully recovered compensation for similar clients following truck crashes?
Every semi-truck accident case presents unique facts. Many claimants suffer from life-altering traumatic brain injuries, burns, or paralysis following truck rollovers, jackknifing, and tire blowout. Specialized Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) insurance, maintenance, and operating regulations also apply to commercial motor vehicles. The seriousness of these injuries and unique federal laws applicable to truck accident cases necessitate experienced counsel.
Ask attorneys if they’ve handled truck accident cases previously, especially cases involving your unique injury. Many truck accident attorneys want high-value truck accident cases but do not have the experience necessary to maximize injury settlements. Always ask for examples of the lawyer’s previous truck accident case outcomes and, if available, previous client testimony. Local bar associations and attorney organizations and rating groups may keep lists of experienced truck accident lawyers.
What do you charge?
Prospective clients often worry about adding attorneys’ fees to their mounting medical costs and lost income. However, most truck crash lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. Contingency fee agreements delay payment until after successful financial recovery. The attorney accepts viable truck accident cases with no upfront fees or costs in exchange for a percentage of any truck accident verdict or settlement. Most truck accident firms even front all litigation and expert witness costs. This system allows injured claimants to benefit from complete legal representation without worrying about monthly bills and expensive hourly rates.
Contingency fee arrangements offer high-risk, high-reward solutions to claimants’ need for quality representation after truck accidents. Generally, clients owe attorneys nothing if they do not recover acceptable compensation. The lawyer only gets paid if you do, which often encourages attorneys to work harder for higher-settlements.
Because every law firm offers different fee arrangements, ask about the following:
- How the firm reimburses itself for litigation fees and costs
- What happens if you disagree with an eventual settlement or fee amount
- How the attorney calculates their fee, such as before or after subtracting costs and liens
- How fees work if the client changes attorneys or drops the litigation
- Client liability, if any, for fees and costs due to exigent circumstances (claimant stops communicating with the attorney or interferes with reasonable settlements)
- What you may owe if the attorney cannot recover reasonable compensation for the accident
- Rules applicable to third-party payments, such as parents fronting litigation costs for injured children
Consider discussing each of these issues before signing a retainer agreement. Retainer agreements should contain the full written contract between the attorney and client, especially if the parties discussed special terms.
What’s my truck accident case worth?
Most experienced truck accident lawyers can provide a non-binding estimate of a case’s value. This estimate depends on available insurance coverage, the claimant’s direct losses, and the client’s overall cooperation with attorneys. In truck accident cases, clients might recover damages for medical bills, lost income, lost enjoyment of life, and pain. Medical bills may include compensation for counseling, nursing care, rehabilitation, and medications, while lost income often includes the value of lost healthcare, retirement, and vacation benefits.
Non-economic pain and suffering damages incorporate financial demands for mental anguish, daily frustrations, family turmoil, depression, and physical suffering stemming from the truck crash. Most courts calculate these damages by multiplying the claimant’s economic recovery claims (like lost wages and medical bills) by a seriousness factor. For example, courts may award claimants suffering from widespread burns or paralysis far more than the medical damages. Lawyers should gather all the information regarding your case, including past losses and future anticipated expenses, before estimating your case’s actual value.
Can you approximate the take-home value of my case based on past experiences?
This question is one of the wisest to ask truck accident lawyers before signing retainer agreements. Most claimants do not understand the difference between a case’s actual value and anticipated take-home value. Claimants should know how much to expect following a semi-truck accident settlement or truck accident verdict. Knowledgeable truck crash attorneys generally recommend clients accept commercial insurance settlements that provide reasonable compensation without the need for expensive litigation.
Estimating your case’s take-home value depends on:
- Insurance policy limits
- Attorneys fees and potential litigation or expert witness costs
- Liens, such as reimbursement demands from private health insurers, state entities, or child support agencies
- Avoiding bankruptcy proceedings, such as forcing the trucking company or driver into federal bankruptcy court
- Settlement concessions due to time constraints
Many attorney-client disputes arise due to financial communication failures. When economic experts estimate a claimant suffered from $1,500,000 in damages, clients are understandably shocked when they take home less than $500,000 in compensation. Consider asking local attorneys about your truck accident case’s realistic take-home value, especially if you need money fast.
How long does it take to recover compensation after truck crashes?
It can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to recover damages from negligent trucking companies and drivers. Recovery time depends on the case’s facts and the client’s financial situation. The right attorneys will consider their clients’ economic needs following truck accidents. While truck accident litigation may result in higher jury verdicts, it typically takes longer to recover compensation this way—and sometimes ends with plaintiffs recovering nothing. Many claimants contact truck accident lawyers when they’ve exhausted insurance benefits and cannot work. In such cases, clients often need quick settlements.
Most truck accident cases settle with the commercial motor vehicle insurer within 18 months. Sometimes lawyers recommend filing negligence litigation to pressure uncooperative insurers into settling. However, the parties cannot typically settle claims while the injured client undergoes medical treatment. Clients typically need a reasonable prognosis before the medical, occupation, and economic experts can calculate their case’s value.
How can I get my medical bills and lost wages covered immediately following a tractor-trailer crash?
Immediately following truck accidents, injured claimants may receive unexpected hospital and ambulance bills. Compassionate truck accident lawyers commonly help clients understand their healthcare rights and maximize their insurance benefits following eighteen-wheeler crashes.
Whether this means filing no-fault applications or appealing insurance denials, truck accident attorneys frequently get immediate medical expenses and lost wages covered by:
- Filing no-fault or personal injury applications with the client’s auto insurance provider
- Applying for public or private short-term disability wage benefits
- Applying for SSDI
- Appealing health insurance denials
- Obtaining public health insurance (Medicaid) benefits
- Negotiating litigation liens, such as doctors agreeing to collect their fees from the settlement
- Making payment plan arrangements
- Requesting financial aid from healthcare facilities
Attorneys might also protect clients from harassing collections agents following the crash. Collections agencies may not contact injured claimants about bills related to the accident after learning of the attorney-client relationship. Instead, they must typically discuss payments with the client’s lawyer. Retaining legal counsel immediately following the crash can relieve the administrative stress associated with truck accident claims. Attorneys often provide these services and more to clients with viable truck accident cases.
When should I expect you to follow up on my case?
Communication failures are the number one bar complaint made against lawyers. As such, it’s important to discuss your expectations following the initial truck accident consultation. Attorneys must conduct a preliminary review of the facts, including police reports, photographs, and medical records, to determine whether they can provide representation. This review process could take months. You should discuss the nature of the attorney-client relationship during this period and ask when to expect a follow-up call. A clear follow-up time frame can prevent communication failures resulting in delayed settlements. Clients may always seek confidential advice from other truck accident lawyers if they’re struggling to get in touch with their truck accident attorneys.
What’s my responsibility if you take my case?
While experienced tractor-trailer accident lawyers often provide comprehensive services, the client ultimately controls the representation. Attorneys may not accept settlements or file litigation without client approval, and clients must review and certify certain court filings. Suing negligent truck drivers and trucking companies requires the plaintiff’s meaningful participation in legal proceedings.
This participation normally includes:
- Reviewing and signing pleadings and affidavits (statements of fact)
- Providing attorneys with signed medical record requests (HIPPA waivers)
- Providing your lawyer with truthful information about the truck accident
- Discussing previous accidents resulting in similar injuries
- Attending all necessary medical appointments until reaching maximum medical improvement
- Providing any requested documents, witness information, photographs, and information about treating physicians
- Promptly responding to the law firms emails and phone calls
- Attending mandated medical examinations with the defendant’s doctors
- Attending and participating in depositions and trial proceedings
- Preserving evidence
Clients seldom consider the extent of this participation until after filing truck accident litigation. As such, claimants often struggle to balance medical treatments with these administrative responsibilities. Discussing these expectations now can prevent attorney-client disputes and litigation delays.
Do I have to sue the truck driver to recover compensation?
Accidents happen to everyone. Many injured clients express concern about bankrupting hard-working truck drivers for innocent mistakes or engaging in years of stressful litigation. However, most truck accident claimants recover needed compensation without filing lawsuits. Be upfront with your lawyer about preferring to settle with the commercial motor vehicle insurer. You might even request the lawyer only represent you during settlement proceedings.
Clients could also ask about the alternative dispute resolution options, such as mediation and arbitration, available to truck accident claimants. Most truck crash settlements come from commercial insurers or trucking companies, not the negligent truck driver. If you’re concerned about the implications of filing truck accident litigation, don’t be afraid to discuss this with local truck accident lawyers.
With dozens of legal professionals vying to represent you, it’s hard to select the right one. Asking the above questions can help you select the best truck accident lawyer for your case.