How Truck Accident Lawyers Help Accident Victims After Collisions

The physical impact of a collision between a truck and a passenger vehicle is significantly different than an accident between two cars. Tractor-trailers are often up to 16 times heavier than a typical passenger car and can be as long as 80 feet (versus 15-17 feet for an automobile). Depending on speed, type of impact and other factors, the potential for suffering a catastrophic injury can be immense.

A truck accident lawyer can help you find the funds to recover or adapt to your injuries after a collision. And they can do something else: They can help you successfully navigate the world of truck accidents, which has several elements rarely found when two passenger cars collide.

The law firm of Girardi | Keese can help you with your recovery if you are in an accident involving a large truck. With offices in Los Angeles and San Bernardino, we represent accident victims throughout Southern California.

How Do Truck Accidents Differ From Car Accidents?

There are several ways in which a collision involving a truck differs from a crash between two or more cars.

  1. A commercial truck driver is an employee of a business, or a self-employed professional driver, not a person driving for noncommercial reasons. This means that a business as well as an individual driver may be sued for compensation.
  2. Trucking companies cultivate strong relationships with insurance companies and their legal teams. This provides them with automatic legal help should a truck driver be involved in an accident.
  3. Truck drivers and trucking companies are expected to comply with state and federal safety regulations and industry standards. This means they are held to higher driving standards than other drivers. This fact can play a role in personal injury lawsuits filed against them after wrecks.
  4. In order to protect themselves against liability, many trucking companies have access to an accident response team hired by their insurer. This team will gather evidence crucial to accurately reconstructing what happened in the crash.

Why Do I Need A Truck Accident Lawyer To Represent Me After A Crash?

Successful truck accident lawyers, such as those who work for Girardi | Keese, understand the complex set of California and federal regulations governing the trucking industry. With extensive experience – both at the negotiation table and in the courtroom – our attorneys also know how to search for additional parties whose negligence may have played a part in your accident injury and who therefore may be named in a lawsuit. These could include the manufacturer of defective vehicle parts that contributed to the accident.

Hire a truck accident lawyer to represent you if any of the following is true:

  • You suffered a physical injury in a truck wreck that caused a life-altering injury, such as brain damage, paralysis, amputation or loss of function of a limb.
  • You have suffered a loss of income from your inability to return to work full-time after the wreck.
  • Your injury has resulted in other losses, including emotional distress and loss of enjoyment in life. These are known as "noneconomic losses."

How Is Fault Determined In A Truck Accident?

An experienced truck accident lawyer can help you determine who is at fault for the accident. California is a "comparative fault" state, meaning that you may still sue for damages in an accident even if you are partially to blame for it. This legal standard means that even if you committed a serious driving error or had a moment of carelessness that contributed to the accident, you may still receive a settlement that can help with your recovery. For example, if you make a claim for $100,000 for your accident, but the court decides you were 40 percent at fault, the other side may only have to pay you $60,000 in damages.

What Is The Deadline For Filing A Personal Injury Lawsuit After My Truck Accident?

In general, you have two years from the date of the truck collision to file a personal injury lawsuit in California. To file a valid lawsuit, you must be able to demonstrate four things:

  1. The other party owed you a duty to drive safely. In some cases, the other party could be a trucking company, and its duty would be to maintain safe vehicles.
  2. That party failed to follow this duty.
  3. The reckless or negligent behavior caused your truck accident.
  4. You were injured or suffered harm because of the accident.

Our truck accident attorneys can help you determine if you have a strong case. We will also help you determine if an out-of-court settlement or a trial will be best for your situation.

Can My Attorney Help Me Determine When To File My Lawsuit?

Yes, and this is one reason working with a truck accident attorney can benefit you in terms of properly calculating your claim amount. You must file before the statute of limitations runs out, of course, but it is to your benefit to wait to file until you've received enough medical treatment or rehabilitation to document the extent of your injuries. The goal is to determine if you've reached your "maximum medical improvement," or MMI, a term that refers to whether you have become as healthy as you are capable of becoming after your truck accident. Once your MMI is known, it is much easier to calculate a claim amount that will cover your ongoing medical care needs, compensate you for lost income and truly reflect the extent of your losses from this incident.

How Often Do Truck Accident Injury Claims Go To Trial?

As is the case for many types of personal injury cases, most truck accident lawsuits are settled out of court, before trial. It is not common for these types of claims to go to trial, but there are times when it is necessary, such as when:

  • Parties to the suit cannot agree on an acceptable amount of damages for the victim.
  • There is significant disagreement about the level of fault the responsible person has for causing the accident.
  • The person or company sued questions the extent of the victim's injuries or how the claim amounts for losses were calculated.

It can take months, even years, for a litigated truck accident claim to work its way through the justice system. However, sometimes, taking a case to trial is the only way to obtain the compensation you need and deserve.

Should I Accept An Out-Of-Court Settlement Related To A Truck Accident?

A qualified, experienced truck accident attorney can help accident injury victims evaluate offers for their claims. Your lawyer should evaluate the following with you:

  • Will this settlement allow me to recover from my injuries or adapt to new physical limitations?
  • Will this settlement allow me to pay my current and future medical bills?
  • Will this settlement help me recoup lost income from work or business?
  • Does this settlement consider limitations this injury may have placed on my future earning power?
  • Does this settlement clearly establish the defendant's degree of fault in the injury accident?
  • Does the settlement amount take into account noneconomic losses, such as my pain and suffering?

Insurance companies often pressure injury victims to settle quickly and for far less than they are entitled to. A personal injury attorney can help you determine if a settlement offer is fair to you and your family.

How Much Does A Truck Accident Lawsuit Cost?

Many personal injury lawyers who represent plaintiffs usually charge what is known as a "contingency fee." That term means that if your attorney cannot obtain a settlement or award for your injuries, you do not owe the law firm fees for their legal representation. On the other hand, if they are successful, you will owe them a percentage of the settlement or verdict – an amount which is typically negotiated when you hire them.

Contingency fees for California truck accident lawyers average 33.33 percent of a settlement reached before a truck accident lawsuit is filed. If the case is settled after the lawsuit has been filed, the average fee for representation can be closer to 40 percent.

Even with these figures as guidelines, there can be great variance in the contingency fee you may be charged. An experienced attorney charging a higher percentage of the final amount may be better at winning cases and obtaining larger awards.

What Other Expenses May I Have To Deal With As A Result Of My Accident?

While you may not have to pay for representation by a personal injury lawyer during settlement negotiations or your civil trial, the firm may charge you for various expenses that are essential to building a strong case. Some of these expenses can include:

  • Costs for copying medical records and police reports
  • Hiring someone to conduct an independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the collision
  • Fees for expert witnesses, including physicians and accident reconstruction specialists
  • Costs associated with taking depositions of witnesses to the crash
  • Postage and filing fees

The firm representing you may charge you separately for these expenses, or you may negotiate to have these costs deducted from your settlement or award.

Which California State Laws Apply To Truck Accidents?

Beyond the statute of limitation of two years to file a personal injury lawsuit in California, the state has a number of other unique laws that pertain to the trucking industry. Because of an exemption the state received to the federal Clean Air Act of 1963, many of these laws concern the environmental operation of trucks, with the ultimate goal of reducing vehicle emissions. The state also has its own set of regulations and exemptions related to idling limits, emission control labels, inspection programs for 18-wheelers and the physical construction of tractors and trailers. Trucks unable to meet these requirements may be denied permits to operate within the state.

Hire Our Firm As Your Truck Accident Legal Team

Collisions involving trucks, including tractor-trailers or 18-wheelers, have outcomes than can be far more damaging than most car accidents. It takes a skilled, experienced legal team who have handled many truck accident cases to help you get the support you need. Contact Girardi | Keese at 800-401-4530 or email our office to receive a free case evaluation.