By their very nature, accidents come out of nowhere. One minute you’re driving down the freeway or sitting at a stoplight, the next minute—boom, you don’t know what hit you. Literally.
After an accident, it’s completely normal to feel a wide range of emotions. Fear, pain, confusion, anger—the gang’s all here. If you or someone you love were in an accident, you may have the right to compensation. But how do you preserve these rights? How can you make sure you get what you need to take care of yourself and your expenses?
If you have suffered an injury as the result of an accident caused by someone else, you deserve fair and just compensation. When your accident involves a large truck, you need an experienced attorney by your side. Want to make sure you hire the right attorney to help you win this fight? Start with these questions:
1. What types of cases does your firm focus on?
Before you discuss your case or your injuries, the number one question to ask your attorney is: “What’s your focus?” Sure, Uncle Hal may have 20 years of experience as a lawyer, but if he has never tried a truck accident case, he’s probably not a good choice.
When it comes to truck accidents, stick with a truck accident lawyer. Even better, you want an attorney who regularly works with truck accidents.
Why does this matter? Because practice makes perfect. Extensive experience means they know what to look for in a case, what type of evidence is important, and which relevant laws and rules can help you win your case. Plus, there’s a good chance they’ve worked with the insurance company you’re going to be going up against. This is a huge advantage.
2. What do you charge?
Most attorneys work on a contingency basis. This means they’ll get paid a certain percentage out of your final settlement or judgment. This may vary slightly by attorney, so be sure to ask.
Now, most attorneys will tell you, “You don’t pay unless you win.” But in many cases, this does not include general costs that the attorney may front during the case.
- Filing fees
- Postage and copy fees
- Travel fees
- Accounting fees
- Expert witness fees
It’s always a good idea to know what to expect ahead of time. As for the initial consultation, some attorneys charge a fee to meet with you, but many attorneys don’t.
3. Do I have a case?
Worried you won’t get a direct answer on this one? Don’t be. Remember, most attorneys only get paid if their client wins. That means they don’t want to take on a case that won’t result in a positive outcome. There are many things your attorney will look at to determine if you have a case, and they should have a good idea by the end of the initial consultation. They don’t want to waste your time or theirs!
Items that may come into play include:
- The length of time since the accident: In Texas, victims have two years from the date of the accident to file a truck accident case with the court. In Louisiana, you only have one year. There are very limited circumstances where you can file a case beyond this point.
- The degree of your injuries: The purpose of a truck accident case is to recover damages resulting from your accident. If there are no damages, or your damages are very limited, your attorney may recommend that you deal directly with the insurance company.
On a related note, clients often ask, “How much is my case worth?” This is a 100% valid question, but the answer isn’t always simple. The value of your case depends on a wide array of variables, including:
- The number of parties involved
- The other party’s policy limits
- The willingness of both parties to negotiate
- Your actual damages and injuries
While this is a fair question and you should ask it, be very wary of any attorney who gives you an exact dollar amount. As of now, there is no magic calculator that can let us know how much the insurance company will offer. Negotiation is almost always required.
4. What damages can I recover?
Though it’s hard to predict how much a particular case is worth, certain things are standard in most truck accident cases. The economic damages (the ones that result in a direct deduction from your pocketbook and can be proven with bills, receipts, etc.) are generally reimbursed dollar for dollar. The non-economic damages, like your emotional turmoil and lost quality of life, are where calculating the value of your case gets tricky.
That said, here are a few things you can expect from your case:
- Medical costs: This includes doctor visits, hospital stays, imaging, medication, rehabilitation, medical devices—essentially any care your physician deems necessary for your recovery. Once again, the goal is to recover 100% of these costs. For very serious injuries, your attorney will likely fight for a lump sum payment for future medical costs.
- Lost wages: When you miss time from work, you lose money. If you can’t make money, you can’t pay your bills. You should never have to worry about money or feel like you have to return to work early. Never compromise your health and your recovery. Just like medical costs, some truck accident injury cases may merit future lost wages.
- Residential modifications: Injuries like spinal cord injuries, broken bones, and traumatic brain injuries can make it difficult to move around your own home. When this happens, modifications like wheelchair ramps, handrails, and stairlifts can help. Don’t pay for these costs out-of-pocket. Talk to your attorney to discover solutions.
You’ll hear a lot of names for these types of damages. They may be referred to as non-economic damages or soft damages, or lumped together as “pain and suffering.” These damages can include:
- Mental and emotional anguish: This can include depression, anxiety, PTSD, or changes in sleep behavior.
- Loss of enjoyment of life: Losing the ability to participate in an activity you loved before the accident can be heartbreaking. A truck accident case should compensate you for this loss.
- Loss of companionship: Humans are social animals. We rely on our personal relationships. What happens when you can’t talk to the person you love or a serious injury changes the dynamic of the relationship? You deserve to be compensated for this emotional loss.
- Wrongful death: Sadly, truck accidents result in thousands of deaths every year. Money can’t bring a loved one back, but it can help you cover expenses that arise because of the accident.
5. Who will pay for my injuries and related losses?
After a truck accident, the last person who should have to carry the cost of your bills is you. Because of their sheer size, trucks can cause much greater damage than a smaller motor vehicle. This often results in much more serious injuries and, consequently, higher medical bills.
The law protects you in an accident that is not 100% your fault.
Typically, the truck driver is the primary defendant in a truck accident case. Your attorney will pursue damages from their insurance company. However, in some cases, your damages may exceed policy limits. For this reason, the driver’s employer is often a joint defendant in the case.
Other parties who may hold financial responsibility include:
- A third party driver: Did another reckless driver contribute to the accident? For example, did they swerve out in front of an 18-wheeler?
- A vehicle or parts manufacturer: A shocking number of accidents happen because of vehicle defects. Defective tires or brakes can cause a driver to lose control of their truck. When this happens, the auto parts manufacturer may hold partial or full responsibility for the accident.
- The state or local government: These cases are rare, but they can happen when poorly maintained or unsafe roadways contribute to an accident. And yes, you can sue the government (but you’re going to want an attorney).
The role of a truck accident attorney is to help you recover damages from all responsible parties. Get help determining liability in your truck accident by getting a free case evaluation now.
6. Will you be my attorney?
You’ve gone in and had your initial consultation. You completely “clicked” with the attorney, and you’re feeling great. Then, when you go into your first meeting, BANG. Total bait and switch.
For larger firms, the attorney you meet with at the initial consultation may not always be the one who takes on your case. But some attorneys won’t always tell you this upfront.
This is important information, especially if you base your decision on whom to hire based on your connection and how much you trust your attorney. If someone else will handle your case, ask to meet with that person before you sign any agreements.
7. Do you have the capacity to take on my case?
You want to work with an attorney that has time for you, not one who is impossible to get a hold of and doesn’t have enough energy to devote to your case.
There is a direct correlation between the value of your case and how much your attorney invests in you. Don’t be afraid to ask potential candidates what their caseload looks like and how accessible they will be to you throughout the case. If you don’t feel comfortable or don’t feel the attorney is straightforward, move on.
8. If I’m not happy with the insurance company’s offer, are you willing to take my case to court?
Let’s get one thing clear: insurance companies have one priority, and it’s not you.
When it comes to insurance companies, nothing matters more than money. So this is how it generally plays out:
- The insurance company offers you an insultingly low number.
- The offer goes up slightly.
- The insurance company tells you, “this is our final offer.”
When you reach stage three, you have two options: either call their bluff or accept the final offer. A good attorney should tell you whether the final offer is fair, or if you should seek more. If you are not satisfied, you want to know whether your attorney will take it all the way to court. It may come as a surprise, but some attorneys choose not to or are simply not comfortable in court. Speaking of, ask the attorney how much trial experience they have. If the answer is very little or none, proceed with caution.
9. What should I do if the insurance company contacts me?
Insurance companies should not contact you once you have an attorney. However, in some cases, the insurance company may not know you have an attorney, or worse, they may not care. Have a plan for what you should do if you get a phone call or a letter from the insurance company. A good rule of thumb is, if you get a phone call, tell them to contact your attorney. Refer all questions and communication to your attorney, and if you get a letter, forward it to your attorney ASAP.
10. What do you need from me next?
If you decide to sign on with an attorney, it’s a good idea to figure out what level of involvement you will have in your case. Some attorneys will have you gather all your records and do a lot of the leg work. Others may only involve you when your signature is needed.
Generally, some things you can expect to do include:
- Email photos of the accident and any relevant evidence to your attorney
- Sign medical release forms
- Provide insurance information for all parties
- Obtain a copy of your police report
- Gather and forward any receipts for medical visits, over the counter purchases, or auto repairs
Be sure to walk away with a list of items you need to take care of after you leave, and have a good idea of what comes next.
Don’t settle when it comes to choosing a truck accident attorney.
Unfortunately, Texas continues to be one of the worst states for truck accidents. From our Houston headquarters we’ve helped thousands of truck accident victims recover from these devastating wrecks over the last twenty years, and now we’re ready to extend that experience to clients all over the country.
We know a truck accident can have a significant impact on your life and the lives of those around you. We also know a good attorney can help ease your burden and help you get what you rightfully deserve. Let our next big win be yours. Contact Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers today.
Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers
12777 Jones Rd #297
Houston, TX 77070