In the wake of a semi truck accident, it's important to know how to find a good lawyer to ensure you have the best chance of a favorable outcome for yourself or your loved one. Below are tips for hiring an attorney for truck accident compensation, as well as what to look for in a good truck accident lawyer.
Tips for choosing a truck accident lawyer
If you've been involved in a commercial truck crash through no fault of your own and your insurance claim was denied, you may be able to sue the truck driver’s liability policy and the trucking company for compensation. Often, however, truck accident victims find themselves in court against companies with entire teams of lawyers and large litigation budgets.
To avoid being at a disadvantage from the start, you should know what to look for when interviewing potential law firms for your case. Picking a law firm with insufficient experience or resources may cause you to lose your case. Here are four tips for choosing the best truck accident lawyer.
1. Meet with several lawyers or law firms before choosing one
While it may be tempting to go with the first commercial truck accident lawyer you interview and get started on the case as soon as possible, you should take the time necessary to decide which lawyer has what it takes to win and bring you the best long-term results. Meet with several attorneys before you decide and compare how well they can answer your questions about the legal process and what to expect. Often, law firms offer a free case evaluation.
Before you know what to look for, an inexperienced and unqualified attorney may be able to convince you that they're a good choice through bluster and legalese. After you’ve met with a few firms, however, that likelihood is smaller.
Look into their years of experience and practice areas, whether that experience includes truck or big rig accidents, since property damage and serious injuries from these types of incidents can be much worse than for a car accident with passenger vehicles.
If you’re not sure where to start when looking for a truck accident injury attorney, you can call your local bar association and ask them if they have any recommendations. You still need to vet any attorneys you get through such referrals carefully, but it may be a better starting point than responding to billboards and TV or online advertisements.
2. Ask family and friends for recommendations
If any of your family or friends have worked with a experienced truck accident injury lawyers or know someone who has, ask if they can recommend anyone. Ask your friend or family member questions about the case and take notes on how the law firm handled everything, from the initial investigation to litigation and billing.
If you get a recommendation from past clients, set up an appointment to meet with the attorney in question. Make sure you ask the attorney the same questions you would have asked them if you'd found them without a referral. Just because they were able to win a case for your family member or friend does not mean they will necessarily be able to win yours.
3. Check the reputation and size of the law firm
Do some online research about the reputation of the law firm you are considering. Do they have positive testimonials or reviews from past clients? While testimonials on a law firm's website may have some value, it of course will not put up any reviews or testimonials that would hurt its credibility. That's why you should look for reviews on platforms not affiliated with the law firm.
Make sure you also check the size of your law firm. A prolonged fight with an insurance or trucking company may take months and cost your lawyer thousands of dollars in unpaid hours. If it works on a contingency fee basis, the law firm will get paid a percentage of your settlement offer, verdict, or jury award. But, until then, will they have the resources necessary to continue the fight? Small one- or two-person law firms may not have the same resources as larger ones.
4. Note how well they communicate
If a law firm’s communication isn’t great before you’ve become their client, it's unlikely they’ll start promptly returning your phone calls once you've chosen them to represent you or your loved one. Dealing with an uncommunicative law firm during a case can be very stressful, especially during the investigation and trial stages of the litigation process. If the truck accident injury attorneys you’re considering aren’t communicating well, it may be a good idea to go with one of your alternatives instead.
What does a truck accident lawyer do?
During litigation, a truck accident injury lawyer's main job is to help you recover the financial loss that you or your loved one may have incurred due to the accident. They should ensure that you're covered for any medical bills and get you the maximum amount of compensation you may be entitled to.
Help you recover compensatory damages from liable parties
The first step to getting compensation for any losses after a truck accident is to file a personal injury claim with the truck driver’s insurance company. A truck accident attorney can help you file a claim, gather all necessary documentation (such as police reports and medical records), and undertake negotiations. The insurance company may respond by accepting your claim, denying it or sending back a counteroffer.
While it may be tempting to take the money the insurance company offers initially, the first counteroffer for truck accident claims is usually a lowball. Based on their experience and knowledge of personal injury law, your truck accident attorney can help you negotiate for a higher settlement.
If the insurance company denies your claim, the case may move into litigation. The first step in suing for compensation is knowing whom to sue. There may be multiple liable parties after a truck accident. If the fault lies with the driver, you may be able to sue the driver, the driver’s insurance company and the driver’s employer.
If the accident was caused by equipment malfunction such as truck brake failure or you were hit by loose cargo caused by truck bed failure, you may be able to sue the equipment manufacturer. In some cases, if the accident was caused by a lack of infrastructure maintenance, then you may be able to sue the government arm responsible.
Your truck accident lawyer will do the investigative legwork and gather evidence to determine who is at fault in your semi truck accident lawsuit and who is liable. Once that's done, with their help, you will be able to sue the responsible party for compensation.
Help you cover medical expenses
If you or a family member were seriously injured in a truck accident, the truck driver’s or trucking company’s bodily injury liability insurance policy will be liable for paying for your medical care. In the tragic case of a fatal semi truck accident, the insurance company will be liable to pay for funeral expenses. Your lawyer is responsible for ensuring that you are compensated for these costs.
What to look for in a truck accident attorney
Here are some of the qualities that you should look for to find an attorney who can win your case and get you the compensation you’re entitled to.
Extensive experience with trucking accidents
If your attorney has won truck accident cases in the past, this usually means that they've already done significant research on relevant case law and will know how to approach your case. If your lawyer isn’t dealing with this sort of case for the first time, they’re less likely to make major mistakes.
An experienced truck accident attorney means an extensive track record. If your potential attorney has a history of representing clients in truck collision cases, look at their past cases and how many they were able to win. After all, experience may not be enough — you don't want to hire a lawyer with a history of losing truck accident cases.
Impressive client testimonials
If your potential attorney’s clients speak publicly about their good experiences, this may be a good sign. Positive testimonials by themselves shouldn’t be the reason why you hire an attorney, but more positive client testimonials may mean that clients believe the attorney went above and beyond to help them win their case.
Awards and public recognition
If your potential attorney was involved in winning important or high-profile cases, they may have received awards from various law associations. Such law associations usually only give awards to a small percentage of their most distinguished members every year. If the lawyer you're interested in has received any such awards, this may be a point in their favor.
Additionally, if your potential lawyer has previously been selected by a judge to represent the judge’s family members in a personal injury case, this can be a very good sign. Because judges work with lawyers on a daily basis, they know how to recommend the best ones to friends or family members.
Transparent contingency fees
Contingency fees are a type of fee structure commonly used in personal injury cases. Unlike in criminal cases, where lawyers are typically paid on a per-hour basis, in a contingency fee structure, the lawyer is paid a percentage of the settlement after successfully winning the case. Contingency fees usually fall in the range between 20% and 50% of the total settlement.
The American Bar Association's Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5(c) requires that a contingency fee agreement be:
“In a writing signed by the client and shall state the method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentage or percentages that shall accrue to the lawyer in the event of settlement, trial or appeal; litigation and other expenses to be deducted from the recovery; and whether such expenses are to be deducted before or after the contingent fee is calculated. The agreement must clearly notify the client of any expenses for which the client will be liable whether or not the client is the prevailing party.”
If the lawyer you're considering is not transparent in their fee structure or doesn’t offer an initial free consultation, this may be a red flag. While tales of less-than-scrupulous personal injury lawyers taking the majority of a client’s settlement after winning a case may be exaggerated, that doesn't mean you shouldn't be vigilant.
Strong negotiation skills
Strong negotiation skills are a must for a truck accident attorney. Your attorney must represent you and negotiate for you during the insurance claim process and continue to do so during litigation.
Just as important as negotiation skills is the truck accident lawyer’s willingness to negotiate. See if your potential attorney has a track record of going above and beyond to help their clients win the maximum possible settlement. Sometimes a less-reputable law firm paid through a contingency fee structure may choose to settle earlier for a smaller amount to avoid a prolonged negotiation process.
How much does a truck accident lawyer cost?
If your truck accident personal injury attorney is paid on a contingency basis, then they will be paid a percentage of the final settlement. This contingency percentage should be clearly stated and agreed upon in writing when you choose to hire them. Therefore, until the verdict is in, your case is won and you receive the compensation you are entitled to, you will not have to pay your truck accident attorney.
Find a legal team for your truck accident today
If you or a loved one have been part of a truck accident and have yet to make a claim or have been denied by the truck driver’s or trucking company's insurance policy, legal action may be right for you. Hiring a reputable and qualified truck accident injury attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve. Reach out to a truck accident lawyer today to discuss your options.
The information provided on this page is for educational purposes only, is not intended as legal advice, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. [Money] is not a law firm or lawyer referral service. Results are not guaranteed. The decision of which attorney to hire can be important and should not be based only on information on this page. Consult with a legal professional for individual legal advice.