Steps You Should Take If You Are Hurt in an 18 Wheeler Crash
You may be looking for advice on how to proceed after a tractor-trailer hit you because you tried to deal with the company and got a low offer of settlement. Insurance companies know that many people will accept far less money than the fair settlement value or expected jury verdict amount. Maybe they’ve never made you an offer. But if you were injured in an 18 wheeler crash, your damages can be substantial. How do you know whether you should hire a personal injury lawyer and file a lawsuit or settle out of court?
We at Berenson Injury Law know what to do. We’ve filed many vehicle collision lawsuits over the last 38 years. We filed another yesterday on behalf of a Fort Worth man who has had to go through two surgeries after a tractor-trailer crashed into his car and other vehicles, tragically killing a woman. Here’s a photo from the scene on Interstate 35.
You might not think this could ever happen to you and we certainly hope it doesn’t. But there are a shocking 34,000 collisions involving commercial vehicles that took the lives of 601 people and injured over 17,000 people in the United States. That’s the number of people who watch a sold out concert or game at the American Airlines Center, to put the destruction in perspective.
Commercial truck collisions are often difficult legal battles because they cause serious injuries. You need to hire a good personal injury attorney who can build a strong case and win your case in court or mediation.
Quick and Thorough Investigation Is Critical
There is no time for you to waste. Trucking companies require their drivers to call their dispatchers immediately so they can send a crash response team including an attorney to the scene. You may be rushed away by ambulance to a hospital and key evidence may be altered, hidden, or destroyed.
These are things our law firm does to preserve critical evidence:
- Go to the scene to photograph the vehicles and road;
- Secure eyewitness statements and speak to police officers;
- Mail a letter to the trucking company demanding that it preserve evidence;
- Get the police report and find witnesses;
- Work with accident reconstruction and other experts;
- Research the driver and company involved;
- Research the tractor-trailer and its safety record;
- Download the “black box” data to determine speed, braking, and other event data recorder information;
- Lock down liability; and
- File for a restraining order if needed.
Filing Suit: The Personal Injury Litigation Process
About 99% of injury claims are resolved outside of a courtroom. Often an insurance company will pay a fair amount of money — but only if the above steps have been taken, it knows that you have a strong case, and you are not afraid of taking your case to a jury.
How does this process work? While each case is different, this is generally what happens:
Stage one: filing and service of petition
Filing documents. Your lawyer will draft a petition that explains how the crash happened, the damages suffered, and the legal relief requested. We also attach extensive discovery documents, including requests to admit facts, produce documents, and to disclose facts as well as interrogatories to begin building our client’s case immediately.
Getting the driver, his company, and any other responsible drivers served with process. The individual who is sued must be handed or mailed the lawsuit so he has due process of law. The trucking company is usually notified of the lawsuit by handing the petition to its registered agent.
Getting the response. A person or business generally has a period of three to four weeks to reply to the complaint.
Stage two: discovery
Obtaining discovery. This period can last for months and is critical to the outcome of the case. Each side feels out the strengths and weaknesses of the other’s positions.
Compelling the defendants to fully and properly answer discovery requests.
Answering the discovery. The defendants will be asking you questions about liability and damages.
Making sure the injured person continues to get necessary medical treatment. Getting bills paid by available resources is important.
Filing affidavits with the injured person’s medical records and bills.
Entering into a pretrial order. This controls filing deadlines, evidence, and the trial date.
Taking depositions. What the plaintiff, truck driver, his company’s safety risk manager, key corporate officials, eyewitnesses, doctors, experts, and others know makes or breaks a lawsuit.
Stage three: pretrial
Monitoring medical treatment of the plaintiff.
Updating affidavit filings.
Setting the case for trial.
Filing pretrial motions.
Preparing for trial.
Attending required mediation. If a highly trained mediator can convey demands and offers, there is a chance the parties can arrive at a settlement.
Stage four: trial
Attending trial and obtaining a jury verdict.
Collecting the proceeds or representing injured person on any appeal
Hopefully this outline has given you answers you need about the lawsuit process and whether you should hire a lawyer.
Getting hit by a tractor-trailer is a terrible experience that is made worse if you are not repaid for your injuries and damages. Please contact us if you need our assistance or have any questions. We are here to help you and get you the compensation you deserve.
For more information on this topic: Please read our posts discussing these topics on our separate commercial truck blog page