Truck Accident Lawsuit Questions and Answers

Serving Fishkill, Poughkeepsie and Nearby Areas in New York

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Q. How do truck accidents differ from other auto accidents? A. Due to the immense size and weight of commercial trucks and semi tractor-trailers, truck accidents are much more likely to result in severe injuries or death than other auto accidents. In addition, commercial trucks and semi tractor-trailers are likely to be carrying large loads including construction materials that can break loose if not properly secured.

Q. Do special laws apply to semi truck drivers and trucking companies? A. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was established to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and deaths involving large trucks. To carry out this mission, the Safety Administration regulates all aspects of interstate trucking operations to ensure safe practices are followed. The Federal regulations are designed to ensure that truck drivers are properly qualified and trained, and that trucking companies and drivers follow safe practices when operating, loading, routing and maintaining their trucks. All motor carriers operating in interstate commerce are required to be familiar with and follow the federal regulations. Individual states also have laws specially regulating the conduct of trucking operations within their borders.

Q. What legal rights do you have after a truck accident? A. If a person is injured or killed in a truck accident, a lawsuit may be brought to recover money damages (compensatory damages) from those responsible for causing the accident. Depending upon the circumstances of each case, the individuals that may have a legal right to bring a lawsuit to recover damages include: people injured in the accident; the spouse of a person injured in the accident; the legal guardian of any person injured in the accident; a person recognized by the law as the personal representative for the estate of a person killed in the accident; and, persons who are at the scene of the accident who are considered to have been within the “zone of danger” that experience emotional harm due to the accident. An attorney who is qualified to handle truck accident claims can advise you, based upon all of the circumstances of your case, who are the responsible parties who should be sued and which persons have a right to bring a lawsuit and/or recover monetary damages from the responsible parties.

Q. What kinds of monetary damages are truck accident victims entitled to? A. In general, an injured person may be compensated for: past and future loss of earnings; past and future medical expenses; past and future pain and suffering; past and future loss of fringe benefits of employment; and, loss of enjoyment of life. The spouse of an injured person may be entitled to damages for the loss of their spouse's services and "consortium". In a wrongful death case, the decedents’ estate may be compensated for the decedents’ loss of future earnings, medical expenses, funeral expenses, and conscious pain and suffering , while the decedents’ next of kin may be compensated for the loss of their loved one. Every state has its own laws about the types of monetary damages that are available to compensate those who have been harmed by the negligence of others in a truck accident. Just as different states recognize different categories of damages, some states also have laws limiting the amount of money damages that can be recovered. A qualified truck accident attorney will be able to explain the kind of damages that may be recovered in your case.

Q. Are there time limits for bringing a lawsuit after a truck accident? A. Yes, except for very rare exceptions, there are time limits (statutes of limitations) for bringing a lawsuit. Once the time limit expires, with few exceptions, you lose your right to recover monetary damages from those individuals or entities that were responsible for causing the accident. The statutes of limitations are determined by the nature of the claim involved. For example, a personal injury claim based upon negligence in one state may have a three year limitations period while a wrongful death claim may only have a one year limitations period. In addition, the limitations periods for different types of claims vary from state to state. Furthermore, the statutes of limitations can be extended under certain limited circumstances. After an auto or truck accident, it is very important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to find out how long you have to bring a lawsuit.

Q. Should truck accidents be investigated as soon as possible? A. The causes of an trucking accident can be complex. Every piece of evidence from the accident must be found and given careful consideration in order to determine: whether human error, mechanical failure or a combination of both contributed to the accident; who the responsible parties are; how much time you have to commence your lawsuit; where to bring the lawsuit; what kind of experts will be needed to prove your case; and, what strategies will be used to achieve success. Just as truck drivers are trained and required to report any accident to their superiors immediately to enable the truck company to immediately commence its own investigation, it is important that persons harmed in the accident hire an attorney as soon as possible to investigate on their behalf. The more time that passes before an investigation begins, the greater chance that important evidence may be lost. An investigation will include such things as: interviewing witnesses while the events are fresh in their minds; sending letters to the trucking company and others to preserve important evidence they have; taking pictures of the accident scene, the vehicles involved in the accident, and the victims’ injuries; obtaining official police reports and photographs; sending for copies of relevant medical records and bills; and, identifying and researching the backgrounds of the potentially responsible individuals and companies. In addition to investigating the facts, a qualified truck accident attorney will also investigate and research the law before filing a lawsuit. For instance, you may have the right to choose the location where you will bring a lawsuit and whether to bring a lawsuit in federal or state court. These decisions can have a significant impact upon the amount of monetary damages you will receive. Before filing the lawsuit, a qualified truck accident attorney must research these issues and make important strategic decisions that will affect the monetary value of the case.

Q. Should I speak with representatives of the trucking company or its insurance company? A. Another important reason why you should hire an experienced trucking accident attorney soon after the accident is that the attorney will know how to respond to inevitable inquiries from the trucking company and/or its insurance company. Beyond your duty to provide information to the police at the scene of the accident, you should not give verbal or written statements about the accident or your medical condition to anyone. If anyone other than your own insurance company contacts you about the accident, the best thing to do is give your attorney’s contact information to the inquirer and nothing more. As explained in the previous answer, the ultimate goal of investigations performed on behalf of trucking companies and their insurers is to pay the persons harmed as little money as possible. To accomplish this goal, potential defendants will attempt to obtain information from you that can be used against you in a lawsuit. Once you have hired an attorney, these companies know that they will likely have to pay much more money to resolve the claim. For this reason, the trucking companies and their insurance companies will offer to settle with you for minimal money before you understand your rights. One method used by these companies is to have a "friendly" adjuster contact you and appear genuinely concerned with your medical condition and how your bills will be paid. That concern will vanish as soon as you are represented by an experienced trucking attorney.

Q. How long does it take to litigate a trucking accident case to its conclusion? A. The answer to this question varies from case to case depending upon a number of factors. Sometimes it takes an extended period of time for the treating doctors to figure out why a patient may still be experiencing pain after an injury. Cases should not be brought to a conclusion before you, your doctors and your attorney have a clear understanding of the nature and extent of your injuries and disabilities and whether or not you will need additional treatment and/or surgery in the future. The duration of a case will also be determined in part by where you bring your lawsuit. Some courts have longer lists (dockets) of cases that are waiting to proceed to trial than other courts. Another factor that affects the length of time you will have to wait for your case to be concluded is the number and nature of defendants who are brought into a case. There is a correlation to how many defendants are in a lawsuit and how long the lawsuit will take to be concluded. This is because it takes more time to schedule all phases of the litigation when there are more parties to the lawsuit. Furthermore, corporate defendants tend to have more financial resources available to defend themselves. If allowed, those corporate defendants may attempt to engage in litigation practices that are likely to delay a resolution of the case. An experienced trucking accident attorney knows the importance of identifying and including all individuals and companies that should be a part of the lawsuit and has the experience and resources to deal with the defendant's attempts to delay the case.

Q. What kinds of things happen during trucking accident lawsuits? A. Once you decide which attorney you want to represent you, the attorney will conduct the investigation, collect the evidence, perform the legal research, and prosecute the lawsuit. You will need to provide information to the attorney both before and during the lawsuit which will likely include, but is not limited to: your description of the accident; the names and addresses of witnesses to the accident; the names and addresses of all examining, testing and treating doctors, hospitals and therapists; your educational background; your employment history; any previous accidents and injuries; pre-existing medical conditions; and, previous lawsuits where you were a party. You will have to sign authorizations that will permit your attorney and the defendant's attorney to obtain your medical records, employment records, insurance records and state and federal tax returns. You may also have to provide pre-trial deposition testimony. You will be involved in settlement discussion as the case proceeds. Your attorney will serve as an advisor about any settlement offer, but you will make the final decision about whether or not to accept any settlement. If the case does not settle before trial, you will need to attend and testify at the trial.

Q. In selecting a truck accident attorney, what should I keep in mind? A. First and foremost, you should hire an attorney or law firm that is tough, experienced and respected. Your attorney should be reputable, have a track record of success, and fully committed to fighting on your behalf. You should feel comfortable with your attorney and be confident that they are committed to keeping you educated and informed at every stage of your case. Do not hire an attorney solely because they are a friend or family. While such attorneys may have your best interests at heart, they may not have the experience, knowledge and resources to help you obtain all of the monetary damages you should receive in the most efficient way possible.

The Maurer Law Firm represents seriously injured victims of truck accidents across the United States. If you have been seriously injured or have lost a loved one in a truck accident, or are a lawyer seeking co-counsel, we welcome your inquires. To speak to our experienced Poughkeepsie and Fishkill truck accident attorney in a free consultation, please contact The Maurer Law Firm.

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