7 tips for selecting the truck accident lawyer who’s right for your lawsuit
Finding the right lawyer to handle your lawsuit can be an intensely personal process. It's both factual and emotional — you want to know that the law firm you choose is experienced and reputable. It's also important to have a trusting, comfortable relationship with your legal team.
How truck accidents differ from car accidents
An accident with an 18-wheeler or commercial truck is handled differently from a collision with another passenger vehicle. If you're in a car crash involving 2 (or more) passenger cars, you probably only have to deal with insurance and liability of those drivers.
A truck accident isn't as straightforward. There might be several liable parties in a lawsuit — it could include the driver (who might be an independent contractor), their employer, the trucking company, and maybe even the manufacturer or shipper of material being hauled.
That means you might be dealing with several insurers, in-house lawyers for big companies, and other entities—none of which will have your best interests in mind.
The best way to handle this yourself is... not to. Your lawyer should manage all communications with any parties related to a truck accident lawsuit, conduct negotiations, and generally handle the legal process on your behalf.
How to find a truck accident lawyer
Although you probably want to find a truck accident lawyer quickly, it's important to do your research and find a law firm that will be best suited to you and your situation.
Enjuris tip: Don't accept the services of a lawyer who contacts YOU. Lawyers aren't permitted to be “ambulance chasers” and solicit business because they learn on the news or elsewhere that people are injured. If a law firm calls you and offers its services, say no. A reputable firm won't hassle you to get business.
Unscrupulous lawyers break ethics rules when they contact injury victims. Find out more.
These are 7 factors to consider as you look for a truck accident lawyer:
Reputation is possibly the best gauge for how successful your lawyer is and how they'll work with opposing counsel. If you can get word-of-mouth referrals from friends, coworkers, or other people you know personally, that's the best way to find a good lawyer.
If a lawyer has been successful and responsive to other clients, it means that in addition to being good at their job, they also probably have the respect of other lawyers in the community. If your case is in a small city or town, lawyers and judges know one another's reputations. You want to work with an attorney who already has the respect of the community.
If you don't have referrals, you can ask a prospective lawyer for a list of client references. You can also search online for reviews, news articles, and other information that would indicate whether people have had generally positive experiences with the firm.
Most lawyers will have some sort of bio on their websites that will include personal information such as where they went to school, how many years they've been practicing, and maybe some notable cases they've won during their career.
Commercial truck accidents, in particular, are a specialty. A personal injury lawyer might be very experienced in slip and fall lawsuits, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be a great choice for a truck accident.
During your first meeting with a lawyer, don't be afraid to ask questions about how many similar cases they've handled. Did they win? Settle? These are important figures for you to know before you engage a law firm.
A truck accident might require several experts to establish liability. Depending on the nature of the accident, your lawyer might require accident reconstruction experts, traffic engineers, medical experts, actuaries, and others who will help build your case based on the available evidence.
An experienced truck accident lawyer will have a roster of experts they rely on for these kinds of cases. Ask your lawyer about those experts. How many times have they worked together? How much experience do the experts have? Does your lawyer have the financial resources to hire the best experts?
But that means the lawyer pays for expert witnesses until the case concludes. That's an investment on the lawyer's part, and you should be confident that the firm is prepared to spend that money before your settlement or verdict is awarded.
Part of your lawyer's job is to thoroughly investigate your claim. A police report doesn't always tell the whole story. Especially if there are questions about who was liable and how much each party was at fault, the lawyer will need to hire professionals who can recreate what happened and how.
4. Negotiation skills
Negotiations might turn out to be the most important part of your lawsuit. Think of it like a balancing act. Your lawyer will present the facts, use strategy and tactics, and formulate a strong argument for why you should recover damages and how much.
Each state has its own laws for damages. In some states, if you're found to have any portion of liability, you might not be able to recover damages.
Fault Systems by State
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Part of your lawyer's role is to minimize your responsibility for the accident. Being a plaintiff in a truck accident case isn't always about being on the offensive. Sometimes you need a little defense, too.
The trucking company might try to make you responsible for all or part of the crash, and your lawyer will try to reduce your portion of liability as much as possible.
All the experience in the world doesn't matter if your lawyer is too busy to give your case the attention it deserves. To get a feel for how dedicated the prospective attorney will be in representing you, ask yourself the following questions:
- How responsive was the law firm when you first called or emailed?
- Did a lawyer get back to you that day?
- Was your call returned by an assistant or secretary, or by the lawyer directly?
- How quickly were you able to get an appointment to meet with the lawyer?
- Once in the office, did the lawyer give you their undivided attention, or did they seem distracted?
Your lawyer will be busy. That's almost always a given as most law firms are bustling with activity. But your case is just as important as any other. A good law firm has the staff and capability to be available when you need them.
Choosing a lawyer can be similar to choosing a doctor or therapist. If your case involves serious injuries, as truck accident claims often do, there might be some awkward moments when you need to share deeply personal issues with your lawyer. Your lawyer will need to know exactly how your injuries affected your lifestyle.
For instance, maybe you've experienced sexual dysfunction as a result of the accident. Or perhaps you're suffering from depression or other mental health concerns.
Don't hold back from sharing every detail with your lawyers. The more effects the accident has on your life, the more you might be able to recover in damages. Don't leave out important parts of your story just because you're embarrassed to share.
Your lawyer can only help you to the extent that you let them — and that means being open and honest about how you're affected by the accident.
If you feel like your lawyer isn't listening with compassion and care for your situation, perhaps you need a different lawyer. Unfortunately, compassion isn't taught in law school. Your lawyer might be a caring person, but maybe you just don't mesh together. It happens, and it's nothing to feel bad or guilty about. You're entitled to the best representation in a way that makes you feel most comfortable.
Bear in mind that most lawyers rely heavily on assistants and paralegals for a lot of day-to-day communication with clients. You might have had a pre-screen phone call with an assistant before the lawyer would meet with you to learn more about your case.
Often, the assistants nearly as knowledgeable about the legal process as the lawyers. They're the ones who handle the nitty-gritty of court deadlines, process serving, and the other details of litigation.
Chances are that the majority of your communication with the firm will be with an assistant, so those people should be professional, caring, and competent, too. You can ask to meet the paralegal or assistant who will be handling your case because it's good to have a rapport with that person as well.
The general standard in personal injury lawsuits that you don't pay your lawyer until there's a successful resolution of your case. The lawyer earns a contingency, or percentage of your settlement or verdict award. If you case isn't successful, then you should have no legal fees.
That generally works in your favor because you don't need to pay up front. If a lawyer agrees to take your case, it's a good indicator that they think your claim is likely to be successful. Any contingency fee payment arrangement is a risk for them because if you recover nothing, they don't get paid.
But be wary of additional fees. Some lawyers will raise the percentage of their contingency fee if the case ends up going to trial. Some might bill you for certain expenses.
Get your attorney fee agreement in writing. Be willing and prepared to negotiate for a lower fee. Some lawyers will budge a little on fee percentages, but not everyone. Chances are that if you're considering two lawyers in the same city whose practices are about the same size and reputation, their costs will be fairly similar. Always shop around to ensure you're getting a fair deal.
The bottom line is that you deserve to be compensated for the injuries you suffered in your accident. A truck accident lawyer can be the key to recovering damages that will allow you to get back on your feet and pay your bills, along with covering your future expenses.
Start by browsing the Enjuris personal injury law firm directory to compile a list of lawyers near you who'll help you successfully navigate your truck accident lawsuit.