Truck accidents frequently cause devastating injuries to those involved, and oftentimes prompt questions from injured victims. What steps should you take following a truck accident? How does the truck accident claims process work? Whether you suffered a traumatic brain injury or broken bone in a truck accident, the accident claim process is essentially the same. Below we discuss some key steps injured victims should consider when deciding to pursue a truck accident claim following a truck accident.
1. Choose an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney to Handle Your Claim.
Many accident victims discover that an experienced attorney can make a big difference in maximizing the compensation they receive following a serious truck accident. Not only can an attorney help maximize your compensation, but also an attorney can alleviate much of the stress and pressure associated with pursuing a truck accident claim. An attorney can guide you through each step of the process to help you successfully navigate your accident claim.
Many truck accident attorneys offer free consultations for prospective clients. During a consultation you can explain the specific circumstances of your accident, allowing an attorney to evaluate the value of your claim. After providing information to an attorney, he or she can help you understand your rights and options for moving forward.
2. Conduct All Communications About Your Accident Through Your Attorney.
You should notify your insurance company about your accident, especially if your vehicle suffered substantial damage as a result of the accident. You should not, however, answer any of the insurance representative’s questions that you do not understand or do not have the answer to. Be sure to avoid making any statements that could be construed as an admission of full or partial liability for the accident.
You should also expect the truck driver’s or trucking company’s insurance provider to contact you. When they do, you should instruct them that any communications concerning the accident should be directed at your attorney. A skilled attorney can aid in the negotiation process to ensure you receive a fair and adequate settlement and prevent you from mistakenly making statements that may minimize your compensation.
3. Allow Your Attorney and the Insurance Companies to Collect Evidence Concerning the Accident.
To initiate the claims process an attorney will file your notice of intent to pursue a truck accident claim with the truck driver’s insurance company. Then the process of gathering evidence can begin. Both parties to the claim are may collect and evaluate evidence after filing notice.
Evidence to support a truck accident claim may include:
- Reviewing the police report. Police crash reports often contain valuable evidence that may support a truck accident claim. When officers respond to a traffic accident, they may assess the scene and resulting damages to determine what caused the accident and identify potentially liable parties. Police officers may also collect witness statements and contact information from those who were present at the scene of the accident. Oftentimes the initial accident report may be used as evidence to strengthen your truck accident claim.
- Contacting witnesses to get their statements about the accident. Ideally, your attorney and the truck driver’s insurance company will interview any witnesses to the accident as soon as possible. Promptly contacting witnesses will help ensure that their statements provide an accurate description of how the accident occurred.
- Obtaining and reviewing any video footage of the accident. Footage of an accident may be recorded on the truck driver’s dashcam, if one was installed. Other potential sources of accident footage may be obtained, including the recordings from surveillance or security cameras of nearby businesses. In some cases, traffic cameras in the area may have recorded the accident.
- Taking and gathering photographs of the accident scene. Did you or the truck driver take photographs of the scene at the time of the accident? Photos depicting the scene of an accident in the immediate aftermath can provide critical evidence for demonstrating the causes of the accident, as well as the documentation of the resulting damages and injuries.
- Assessing the damage to the vehicles. Following many accidents, the damage patterns found on the vehicles can help establish the circumstances leading to the accident. An expert accident reconstruction witness can evaluate the damage to the vehicles involved to determine how the accident occurred.
- Reviewing medical records. In addition to personally providing information about your injuries, you may need to release official medical records to both your attorney and the truck driver’s insurance company. Medical expenses that are incurred when treating accident-related injuries typically create the foundation of a truck accident claim for damages. Not only that, your medical records establish the extent of your injuries, when they were sustained, and how they impact your everyday life.
- Examining cell phone records. Drivers may become distracted when using a cell phone while driving, substantially increasing the risks of an accident. A review of the driver’s cell phone records can help determine whether a cell phone was being used at the time of the accident. Distracted driving poses nearly the same accident risks as driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Since distracted driving can cause slowed reaction times, resulting accidents can be particularly serious and result in severe injuries.
- Evaluating the truck driver’s driving history. Does the truck driver have a history of drinking and driving? Does the trucker have multiple accidents on his or her record? Demonstrating that a truck driver has a poor driving record can help establish fault in an accident. In some cases, the trucking company that employed the driver may share liability for negligently hiring unqualified drivers.
- Reviewing the driver’s logbooks. Federal regulations provide the maximum number of hours a truck driver can spend behind the wheel each day. Drivers must not log more than eleven hours within 14 consecutive hours of driving. Following a fourteen-hour shift, truck drivers are required to wait at least ten hours before starting their next shift. A driver who operates their truck in excess of those restrictions violates federal law. If a driver’s company pressures or encourages drivers to exceed the time limits to meet delivery deadlines, the company may also be liable for injuries caused by a driver working overtime.
- Assessing mechanical damage to the vehicles. If improper maintenance or a mechanical defect contributed to causing a truck accident, a manufacturer or a mechanic who recently repaired the vehicle may share liability for the accident.
While investigating and gathering evidence, you may be required to participate in several interviews. An attorney can help you understand how you should respond to any questions about the accident or about your injuries. In some cases, the insurance company that covers the liable driver may ask you to undergo an independent medical examination to assess the extent of your injuries.
An independent exam can provide the insurance company with a better understanding of the extent of your injuries and the limitations and impacts they have caused. An attorney may also help you prepare for the possibility that the insurance company will investigate the personal aspects of your life. Insurance companies may monitor your activity levels throughout your recovery to assess your physical capabilities.
The negotiation process is typically ongoing throughout the truck accident claims process. Negotiation discussions may begin before you have a chance to obtain an attorney to represent you as you pursue your claim.
Initial Settlement Offers
Often, the insurance company that covers the truck driver will contact you shortly after an accident to offer you a settlement. Insurance companies frequently try to provide victims with an offer before they have a chance to speak with an attorney. Representatives will try to entice you to accept a low settlement amount before you have a full understanding of the value of your claim and your legal right to compensation. However, the settlement rarely reflects an amount that will fully compensate for the expenses you will incur from accident-related damages.
Consider consulting with an attorney before accepting any settlement offer. If you have already obtained representation when the insurance company contacts you, you can inform them that all communications should be directed to your attorney. Allowing an attorney to handle the legal aspects of your case can reduce your stress and oftentimes increase the settlement amount offered by the insurance company.
Of course, you always have the option to accept any offer provided by the insurance company. However, most of the time, this offer does not provide adequate compensation for accident-related expenses caused by a truck driver’s negligence. Injured victims should not bear the financial burden of injuries caused by another. Speak with an attorney to determine the value of your claim and assess the fairness of any settlement offers you receive.
The Demand Letter
Once your attorney has fully investigated your claim, they will compose a demand letter to be submitted to the truck driver’s insurance company. A demand letter demonstrates the expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident to support your claim for compensation. The demand letter ultimately provides the insurance company with an estimated value of your claim.
A demand letter may include:
- Costs of medical expenses. As mentioned, medical expenses usually form the basis of any truck accident claim. Severe, life-altering injuries can create significant expenses very quickly. Costs of medical expenses may include ambulance transport from the sense of the accident and any immediate emergency treatment as well as the costs of long-term treatment and rehabilitative therapies. Medical complications stemming from your injuries can slow down the recovery process, increase your expenses, and make it difficult to resume a normal life. As a result, an attorney may advise victims to wait for a period of time before finalizing their truck accident claim to ensure all expenses past and future will be compensated.
- Lost income. Depending on the severity of your injuries and your profession, you may miss substantial time from work as a result of your accident. You may include lost income that you could not earn during recovery in your compensation claim.
- Pain and suffering. Generally, compensation for pain and suffering is calculated based on your total medical costs. On average, pain and suffering awards are between 1.5 and 4 times your medical expenses resulting from the accident.
Sometimes, you may need to go through several rounds of negotiation before you reach an acceptable agreement with the insurance company. At each stage of the negotiation process, you will have the opportunity to accept or decline the insurance company’s settlement offer. An attorney can advise whether the offer is adequate and fair, or if further negotiation would be in your best interests. Once you formally accept an offer, the negotiation process ends and you can seek direct payment.
In some cases, you may not reach an agreement with the insurance company or other liable party. Oftentimes, this occurs when victims sustain extensive injuries with costly medical bills. When you deserve significant compensation, insurance companies are hesitant to pay large sums, so they may try to discredit your claim.
During mediation, you will sit down with a mediator—usually either a judge or a former judge—along with your attorney and representatives of the truck driver’s insurance company. The parties will review your claim together and the mediator will act as a neutral party to help facilitate a resolution. Insurance companies frequently become willing to agree to your settlement demands when mediation is suggested as they hope to avoid any additional expenses to resolve the claim.
5. Go to Court.
If your claim progresses to the mediation stage, but discussions prove to be unsuccessful, your attorney may advise that you proceed to trial. In court proceedings, your attorney and the insurance company will present evidence regarding your claim and a judge or jury will determine the amount of compensation you are entitled to.
During a truck accident trial in court, your attorney should present evidence to establish that the truck driver caused the accident. After establishing fault, your attorney then presents evidence regarding your injuries and the expenses you incurred as a result of your accident.
By providing a thorough presentation of the evidence, your attorney attempts to convince the jury that you deserve the maximum amount possible for your claim.
Both your attorney and the insurance company will have an opportunity to present evidence supporting each sides’ argument for compensation. Thereafter, a jury will issue a verdict detailing the amount of compensation they believe you are entitled to based on the evidence presented. While the insurance company can appeal the jury’s decision, most of the time, the verdict results in a final compensation order.
6. Wait for Payment.
Generally, following a settlement agreement or court award, Florida law grants insurance companies 30 days to provide payment to the victim. In some cases, including cases in which you need to request substantial funds for your injuries, the court may grant the insurance company additional time to provide payment. The court will include information regarding the timeline required for payments following the jury’s verdict.
An attorney can help ensure that you receive your payments on time and that the insurance company does not try to delay compensation.
Following a truck accident, consider contacting an attorney as soon as possible. A truck accident attorney can review the details of your claim and estimate its value as well as an expected timeline for receiving compensation. Contact an experienced attorney who can offer you guidance and support throughout the truck accident claims process, ensuring your rights remain protected.