In truck and bus cases evidence constantly disappears. The earlier you hire a great lawyer to help you in your case, the more likely there will be a full recovery for you and your family. Evidence in a trucking case starts to vanish in as little as 14 days, with less time for evidence at the accident scene. Insurance companies have worked hard to create methods to pay you and your family less than you deserve, often delaying you in hiring a lawyer. The delay in having someone actively protecting your rights hurts your chances at a full recovery. A lawyer can obtain witness statements, have the accident scene photographed, preserve evidence at the trucking company and handle the other 1,001 things necessary to protect your rights. This allows you to focus on healing. (See my blog at www.TruckInjuryLawyerBlog.com on "Insurance Companies Trick Victims in Trucking Cases" for some of the many ways insurance companies cheat victims out of full recoveries.)
Find an Expert Not a Beginner
So how do you find a great lawyer? Lawyers have to take continuing legal education (CLE) classes and must report the classes they take to the authorities that regulate lawyers in their state. You want to make sure your lawyer has attended seminars that specifically focus on truck and bus cases for the last several years. It is even better if the lawyer has been an instructor at the seminar and not just an attendee. The seminars should be full day, if not several day, programs focusing exclusively on truck and bus wrecks. A lawyer that neither teaches nor attends continuing legal education courses in the area you need help is not the lawyer you should hire for your case.
Significant Cases Should be Handled by the Best Lawyer, Not Just the Closest Lawyer
If your case involves significant injuries, paralysis, or death you should consider hiring the best lawyer you can find, wherever they are located. That lawyer, if he needs to, will associate the best local lawyer on your case AND IT WONT COST YOU ANY MORE IN ATTORNEY FEES! For example my firm has handled trucking cases across the country in association with local lawyers. The lawyers I associated with had lots of knowledge about the local judges and juries, were some of the best lawyers in that state, but generally lacked the specific truck and bus experience required to maximize recoveries in this complicated area of the law. In short we made a great team and the clients had the benefit of two lawyers for the price of one. Nationally there are at least 10-15 firms that focus specifically on truck and bus wrecks and have the experience I describe in this guide.
Car Wreck Lawyers are not Truck and Bus Wreck Lawyers - Find A Specialist
Just because someone successfully handled a car wreck case does not mean they are competent to handle a truck or bus case. There are special rules (The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations amongst many) that cover truck and bus wrecks. The experts required to prove liability in these cases have unique expertise, and are much harder to find than in car wreck cases. You can't risk someone learning on the job with your case. Hire someone who already has truck and bus wreck experience and who can get experts to the scene of the wreck immediately. When you talk to them they should be able to tell you the types of experts they may need in your case.
Note that most states won't allow lawyers to call themselves "specialists" in truck and bus wreck cases. That is why you have to look at the lawyers continuing legal education courses (CLE) to see where they actually spend their time. Lawyers can say lots of things, they cant fake their CLE attendance record.
Have They Handled Significant Cases Before?
There are a number of organizations that recognize lawyers that have recovered millions of dollars for their clients. Once you have found a lawyer that is recognized for their expertise in handling trucking cases, you also want to make sure they have handled sizable cases. Check to see if they are a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (www.milliondollaradvocates.com) or similar organizations.
Are They a Member of One or More Lawyer's Groups That Focus on Truck, Bus, and Commercial Vehicle Wrecks?
Generally this means that a lawyer you want to hire should not only be a member of his state trial lawyers association, and the national trial lawyers association (called the American Association for Justice [AAJ] (www.justice.org), but should also be a member of the AAJ Interstate Trucking Litigation Group and/or the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America (www.apitlamerica.com). Then there are other groups that, while not specifically related to trucking, indicate a special level of competence of a lawyer in representing the injured. These groups include, amongst others, the Belli Society and The Academy of Trial Advocacy. Both groups are invitation only with a strict membership criteria.
Check the Internet to See What the Lawyer Really Does
Does the lawyer have a blog? On what subject? If it is not on trucking then you should reconsider whether the lawyer truly focuses on truck and bus wrecks or focuses on another area. For example my blog is www.TruckInjuryLawyerBlog.com. What about the lawyers web site? Do they have a trucking specific web page or is that just one page among many? What is thier AVVO (www.Avvo.com) rating?
Ask for Their Spoliation Letter
Spoliation is when the trucking company is placed on notice of a lawsuit and destroys evidence anyway. If the evidence is destroyed after notice, the jury can find that the destroyed evidence would have been favorable to your case. In order to put the trucking company on proper notice of a lawsuit a spoliation letter should be sent. Any lawyer who handles this type of case should be able to print off a spoliation letter in a single (1) minute. If they don't have a form on file, and cant give one to you right away, they don't handle truck and bus cases on a regular basis. If you already have a case going, and a spoliation letter was not sent, you have bigger problems. To get a copy of a sample spoliation letter (and to give you an idea of how complicated these cases can can become) see: www.truckinjurylawyerblog.com/2009/11/articles/legal-issues/the-revised-spoliation-letter