Why You Need a Lawyer to Represent You in Your 18-Wheeler Accident Claim
By David Carnes, Staff Writer
Depending on the driver, an 18-wheeler can act like an 80,000 pound bully. For this reason as well as their sheer size and power, 18-wheeler accidents can result in devastating injuries. Although 18-wheeler accidents are usually treated as typical personal injury claims, they are more complicated because of the fact that they are common carriers subject to additional federal and state regulation. The added complexity means that the assistance of a skilled truck accident attorney can lead to an increase in the value of the eventual verdict or settlement that far exceeds whatever you pay in legal fees. Following are some ways in which an attorney can help you win your claim.
Locating “Deep Pocket” Defendants
Your average truck driver is unlikely to be able to pay a large personal injury judgment or settlement. If your damages exceed the value of his liability insurance policy, you could be out of luck unless you find someone richer to sue. A good lawyer will be able to scour the facts of your case to find other potential defendants such as:
- The driver’s employer, if the defendant is employed by a trucking company. The doctrine of respondeat superior holds employers responsible for the on-duty acts of their employees, even if the employer was not personally at fault.
- The manufacturer or distributor of a truck part or system, if the accident was caused by a mechanical malfunction such as malfunctioning brake drums or windshield wipers.
- The city government or the traffic light manufacturer, if the accident was wholly or partially caused by a malfunctioning traffic light.
- The city or state government, if the accident was caused by icy or snowy roads and the government failed to properly maintain the roads.
If your accident was serious enough to cause lifelong disability, you will need to accurately calculate your future medical expenses – after all, if you run out of money 10 years from now, it will be far too late to come back for more. It can also be tricky to calculate intangible damages such as pain and suffering and mental anguish. You must prove every penny of your damages to win in court or at the settlement table.
Negotiating an accident settlement is a fine art that requires mastery not only of the legal nuances and give-and-take of bargaining power, but also how these general negotiating principles apply to truck accident claims in general as well as the facts of your case in particular
Following are three of many defenses that might be asserted by a clever or well-financed defendant trucking company:
- Comparative fault: Many states allow a judge to reduce the amount of the claimant’s recovery if he was partially at fault for the accident. The same applies to settlement negotiations, because a defendant won’t settle with you for any more than he would lose in a lawsuit. Typically, if you were partially at fault, the court may reduce your damages in exact proportion to your degree of fault – or (in some states) deny you any recovery at all if your comparative fault reaches a certain percentage. If you were driving 10 miles over the speed limit at the time of the accident, for example, the defendant might seize upon this.
- Statute of limitations: If you fail to file a lawsuit right away, the defendant might intentionally drag out settlement negotiations in the hope that you will carelessly miss the statute of limitations deadline for filing a lawsuit (typically two or three years after the accident). If you miss the deadline, your claim’s value will immediately drop to zero.
- Pre-existing injury: If your back was injured in the accident, for example, and if you experienced back problems before the accident, the defendant might assert that some or all of your back problems were pre-existing and thus were not caused by the accident.
If you have been a victim of an 18-wheeler truck accident, our personal injury lawyer search function can help you locate a truck accident lawyer near you.