Whether you have been injured by a tractor trailer, bus, or some other commercial vehicle you have rights if you or a family member has been injured or killed in a wreck. Those rights include receiving compensation for medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and other damage caused by the wreck.
What to Do After a Wreck
- Make sure you and yours are safe.
- Get the names of the trucking company and all the DOT numbers on the truck and the trailer.
- Write down the names of witnesses and any contact information they give you.
- Take photographs of the scene and the damage, even if with an old cell phone.
- Immediately seek medical care and follow the doctor's instructions
- Do not give statements to the insurance companies without a lawyer being present. You are probably on pain killers, may have memory problems as a result of a blow to the head, and generally are not trained to handle questioning by the well trained, highly experienced insurance adjusters who are assigned to these cases.
- Get a copy of the police report and check it for accuracy.
- Notify your insurance company of the wreck and get a copy of your insurance policy.
- Get an experienced trucking lawyer on your side to protect your rights.
Who is Eligible for Compensation in a Trucking Accident?
Before you can recover you must suffer an injury, and that injury must be the fault of someone other than yourself. For example in Tennessee, the law states that if you are 50% or more responsible for causing the wreck you can't recover any compensation. Don't assume that it was your fault, you may not be aware of all the facts leading up to the wreck. If you have questions, talk to a lawyer.
How Long Do I Have to File a Suit?
Evidence starts disappearing as soon as the vehicles are moved at the accident scene. Truck and bus companies have document destruction policies to get rid of evidence you may need in your case. It is therefore safest to contact a lawyer to protect your rights as soon as possible. Be advised, statute of limitations do apply in trucking accidents. For instance, in Tennessee, you have one year to file suit in personal injury cases. There are exceptions to this general rule so consult a lawyer if you have any questions. Finally, lawyers are not miracle workers, don't wait till the last month and expect to find a good lawyer willing to jump through all the hoops to file your lawsuit. There is a great deal of work involved in getting a lawsuit ready to file and good lawyers stay busy. You may not want to hire a lawyer sitting in his office with plenty of time on his hands, there may be a reason for it!
Finding the Right Truck & Bus Lawyer
I have previously posted a lengthy guide on finding the right lawyer. You want to make sure they have experience handling truck and bus cases, not car wrecks. While most lawyers do a good job with a car wreck case, truck wrecks have special requirements and are much more involved and complicated. A good car wreck lawyer is not necessarily a good truck wreck lawyer. Please read this Avvo Guide: " How to Hire a Great Truck or Bus Accident Injury Lawyer."
Why Hire a Lawyer? The Trucking Company's Rapid Response Team
Trucking companies, through their insurance companies, have teams of experts and investigators ready to respond to a wreck site at a moments notice, anywhere in the country. You can see what you are up against by looking at the home page of the Trucking Industry Defense Association (www.TIDA.org) which states:
"[TIDA] and its members are devoted to sharing knowledge and resources in defense of the trucking industry. Founded in 1993, TIDA has become the organization of choice for over 1,200 motor carriers, trucking insurers, defense attorneys and claims servicing companies. ...TIDA is committed to reducing the cost of claims and lawsuits against the trucking industry. Members work to develop strategies and share knowledge to defend the trucking industry in personal injury, property damage, worker's compensation claims and cargo claims."
The trucking company has a team representing them, you need a team representing your interests just to level the playing field.
Costs Involved in Filing a Suit
If you decide to hire a lawyer most will work on a contingency basis. That means if the lawyer does not win your case, and put money in your pocket, the lawyer does not get paid. The more money the lawyer gets you, the more money the lawyer gets paid. This means that the lawyer will do everything possible to get you the maximum amount you are allowed by law.
In addition to the lawyer fees there are also file costs and expenses which are generally paid by the lawyer as the case proceeds, and recovered from the settlement at the end of the case. The client does not have to pay any money up front to hire a lawyer in most cases.