Accidents caused by the operators of large trucks, big rigs, and tractor-trailers are unfortunately an all-too-common occurrence across the country today. These accidents sometimes occur when truck drivers exceed the speed limit on highways and other roadways, engage in reckless driving, or otherwise violate the rules of the road and/or applicable motor carrier regulations.
At other times, truck drivers engage in distracted driving and turn their attention away from the roadway, bringing about a serious accident. Truck accidents can also occur when drivers operate their large vehicles under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or some other intoxicant, preventing them from operating their vehicles safely.
When a large truck or tractor-trailer collides with a smaller passenger vehicle, the driver and any occupants are more likely than the truck driver to suffer a serious injury. The extent of your truck accident injuries can depend on the force of the collision and the severity of the impact.
Moreover, if the force of the collision causes the accident victim to strike a part of his or her body on something in the car, such as the console, the headrest, or the window, then the accident victim could sustain serious injuries. Common injuries that accident victims suffer in truck accidents include traumatic head injuries, bone breaks and fractures, muscular and soft tissue injuries, and scrapes/abrasions.
If you suffered injuries in a truck accident that occurred because of someone else’s negligence, seeking an experienced truck accident lawyer to represent you in your case immediately. You may recover monetary compensation—in the form of damages—for all of the injuries and other complications that you suffered in your accident.
Therefore, your first step after suffering any injury in a truck accident should be to consult with an experienced truck accident attorney in your jurisdiction. Also, when you first consult with a lawyer, bring documentation with you to make your initial consultation as productive as possible. After an initial consultation, your lawyer can begin investigating and working on your truck accident claim—all while you treat for the injuries you suffered in your accident.
Important Documents You Should Bring to Your Initial Consultation
When you first meet with a truck accident attorney for an initial consultation following your accident, you should be prepared to discuss many different issues. To streamline the discussion and help the meeting go as smoothly as possible, there are several types of documentation that you should bring with you, assuming they are readily available. Those types of documentation include the following:
The police report that an officer prepared following the truck accident – Following a motor vehicle collision—especially one that involves a large truck and/or several vehicles—the police officer who responds to the scene will often prepare a report. Police reports typically contain a significant amount of important information, and this information becomes especially important in truck accident cases where the at-fault truck driver (and/or the employer trucking company) is disputing fault in some way.
Police reports typically include the names and insurance company information for all of the motor vehicle drivers who were involved in the truck accident, as well as the owners of the involved vehicles. The police report may also include the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses who may have been present at the truck accident scene. Finally, police reports typically contain a narrative description of the accident and decide which driver(s) were likely at fault—including whether or not the at-fault driver received a citation (and what the citation was for).
In many less-serious accident cases, the responding officer does not complete a formal police report, but instead, he or she simply completes an exchange of information report. This report can still be helpful because it will contain the names, contact information, and insurance companies for all involved drivers.
Medical records and bills to date – In some instances, at the time of an initial attorney consultation, the truck accident victim will still be undergoing treatment for the injuries and damages he or she suffered in the truck accident. However, the accident victim should bring any medical records and bills that he or she has to the initial consultation. These records and bills can show the nature and extent of the truck accident victim’s treatment, including imaging studies (including X-rays and MRIs), any medical procedures performed to date (including surgical procedures and injections), and the costs of these treatments along with any necessary future treatment or procedures.
Medical records dictated or prepared by a health care provider can also be useful when it comes to establishing that a particular injury, medical procedure, or treatment is causally related to the truck accident (i.e., as opposed to a preexisting condition).
Lost wage documentation – In many instances following a serious truck accident, the accident victim is injured to such an extent that he or she has to miss time away from his or her work—ranging from a few days to a few weeks or even months following the truck accident. The injuries the truck accident victim receives may prevent him or her from working at all, or in the alternative, the accident victim may have only been allowed to perform “light-duty” work—often at a lower rate of pay than what he or she had been making.
Moreover, some truck accident victims have to take time off of work to attend medical appointments and physical therapy sessions. Many workers do not receive income if they are not present on the job working. Therefore, if you have missed work time as a result of your truck accident injuries, you should bring any documentation that you have in your possession that shows time off, including a calendar that shows the dates that you missed, documentation from your employer’s human resources department, and/or medical documentation or “off work slips” that your health care provider prepared (and that authorized you to be off work or to perform only light-duty work following your accident).
Photographs/video footage of the accident scene and property damage – Following a truck accident, some accident victims (assuming they physically can) take pictures of the accident scene, as well as pictures of the property damage to vehicles. Photographs/video footage of the accident scene that was taken by the accident victim or a witness can establish the positions of the vehicles immediately before the impact, the colors of traffic lights, the lanes that the vehicles were in, etc.
Photographs of the property damage can be helpful when it comes to establishing the seriousness of the accident. At least in the minds of insurance company adjusters and jury members, more serious property damage translates into more serious injuries—and potentially a higher monetary settlement or damage award at trial. These photos can also help your lawyer gain a greater understanding of the force of the impact in your truck accident.
Photographs of your injuries – In addition to property damage photos, many victims of truck accidents take pictures of the injuries they sustained in their accident. These injuries may include cuts, bruising, swelling, and scarring, and you should bring these photos with you to your initial attorney consultation. These photos can help your lawyer understand the extent and significance of your injuries—especially those that were visible at the scene of the accident or shortly thereafter. These photos can also be helpful when it comes to proving the nature and extent of your truck accident injuries to the insurance company or a jury at a truck accident trial.
Witness information and narrative witness statements – Some eyewitnesses to serious truck accidents will give accident victims their contact information. Some may even write out a written statement about how the accident occurred and what they observed at the accident scene. You should bring any witness contact information and witness statements in your possession to the initial meeting with your truck accident attorney.
Witness testimony can be incredibly helpful in truck accident cases where fault and liability are in dispute. Following your initial consultation, your lawyer could contact eyewitnesses and get his or her take on how the accident occurred, the relative speeds of the involved vehicles (including the truck), and any other observations that the witnesses might have made at the scene of the accident.
Any diary or journal you kept regarding the truck accident and the injuries you sustained in the accident – Some victims of truck accidents keep a log or journal of everything that they went through following their accident. They may keep daily entries regarding their medical treatment, symptoms, medications, and how they generally felt from day to day. These journals can be helpful when it comes to jogging your memory about how you were feeling at a particular time or on a particular day. If you have kept a diary or journal like this, bring it to the initial consultation with your truck accident lawyer.
Once your truck accident lawyer receives and reviews all of this documentation, he or she will be advise you on how best to proceed forward, including whether or not there may be any problems proving liability or fault. If it does not appear that there will be a significant dispute as to liability (such as in accident cases where the at-fault truck driver received a citation for violating a specific traffic law or for drunk driving), your lawyer could give you an idea as to the approximate settlement/verdict value of your case.
In reaching this determination, your lawyer will typically take into account your medical bills to date, the nature of your injuries, and the extent of your medical treatment, which might include doctor visits, physical therapy, surgical procedures, and other types of treatment.
Many truck accident lawyers throughout the country offer free initial consultations, and these consultations often present a good opportunity to learn more about your case and what its potential value might be.
What Will Happen After the Initial Consultation With Your Truck Accident Attorney?
Following the initial consultation with a truck accident lawyer in your jurisdiction, your lawyer can begin investigating the accident, especially if the insurance company disputes liability. If the insurance company for the at-fault truck driver accepts liability for the accident, your lawyer could present a demand package for settlement.
Along with a demand letter, your lawyer will typically include copies of your medical records, medical bills, lost wage documentation, photographs, a police report (if an officer prepared one), and a victim impact statement.
The adjuster for the insurance company will then review all of this documentation, and he or she might then make an initial settlement offer on your case. Most initial settlement offers are low, as the insurance company will do everything it possibly can to settle your case for as little money as possible. Your lawyer will then have to negotiate with the insurance company to try to reach a full and fair settlement.
You have the ultimate authority when it comes to accepting or rejecting a particular settlement offer. If you reject a final settlement offer in your truck accident case, your lawyer could file a lawsuit in the state court system on your behalf. After some litigation, the insurance company may then decide to increase its settlement offer. If your case does not settle, you may take your case to trial or pursue alternative dispute resolution, such as binding arbitration or mediation.
A truck accident attorney in your jurisdiction can help you decide if you should accept a particular settlement offer or litigate your case in the court system.