After a crash with a commercial truck, a common question is, “How long does it take to resolve a truck accident case?” Understanding the timeline for such a lawsuit — and knowing that your lawyer will handle all the heavy lifting for you — can help you overcome whatever reservations you might have about pursuing a lawsuit.
So, exactly how long does it take to resolve a truck accident case? Long story short: no two truck crash incidents are going to be the same. As a result, the exact timeline of your truck accident lawsuit will also be different depending on the specific facts of your case. Generally speaking, injury cases can take anywhere from a few months to more than a year to settle. Usually, the more serious the injuries and the more legal issues involved, the longer the timeline for the case will be.
Having a broad timeline for the overall truck accident lawsuit process can help understand how long it might take and what happens at each step:
At Pierce Skrabanek, we are highly familiar with the ins and outs of truck accident litigation in Houston and the surrounding Texas areas. We do all that we can to ensure you meet each filing deadline, and that your case is continually being pushed forward through the court system. Contact us at (832) 690-7000 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to review your legal rights and options.
What Should You Do if You Are in a Commercial Trucking Accident?
The foundation for your lawsuit actually begins once the truck accident has occurred. If you’ve been involved in a truck accident, there are specific steps you should take to ensure your safety. These will also help your attorney initiate the evidence-gathering process.
At the Scene of the Accident
Immediately after a commercial truck accident, call emergency services by dialing 911. You should remain at the scene until police and paramedics arrive. If you are able to, take photos and videos of the scene, including any injuries to you or other passengers in your vehicle. If you can, obtain the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses in the vicinity, but don’t disclose information relating to liability.
Once your information is taken for an accident report, make sure to get the name and badge number of the officer making the report, as well as the case number. You will need the case number when contacting the relevant law enforcement agency to obtain the complete written report. You will also need the accident report for your insurance provider and your attorney.
Seek Medical Treatment
If you are not treated at the scene of the truck crash, it is important that you seek medical attention as soon as you can after the accident. The full extent of your injuries may not be realized right after the crash because of a normal shock reaction to the event; some injuries may be immediately obvious, while others are not known right away.
You should allow a medical professional to assess your physical and mental condition to determine if you need further care. Be sure to follow all of your doctor’s treatment directions and recommendations. The defense attorneys who represent the trucking company, and/or the driver of the commercial vehicle, will request your medical records to determine the extent of any injuries.
If an ambulance took you to a hospital, be sure to obtain emergency department records, physician records, and any operative reports. All records related to your accident will better enable your attorney to process your claim and provide you with the best legal representation for your situation.
Additional tips after an 18-wheeler truck accident include:
- Don’t discuss anything related to liability — it could be used against you in court
- Make a written account of what happened while the events are still fresh in your mind
- Avoid any negotiations with insurance companies, especially without a lawyer
- Don’t worry if you can’t do any of these — it’s the lawyer’s job to prepare your lawsuit
Contacting a truck accident lawyer after an accident is the next important step in the truck accident lawsuit timeline.
1. Hire an Attorney
Hiring a truck accident lawyer as quickly as possible after an accident is crucial to the outcome of your lawsuit. Any delays could hinder your ability to collect damages. Truck accident attorneys are highly knowledgeable about the many federal and state safety regulations that apply to commercial vehicles. They are skilled at gathering vital information for an investigation, such as defective equipment or truck driver negligence.
Inspecting a tractor trailer as soon as possible after an accident can uncover evidence to support your case. This may include driving logs as well as recorded information from vehicle-installed “black boxes” and dashboard cameras. Most commercial vehicles have an onboard computer that stores important data about operation of the vehicle.
This data typically includes the speed the vehicle was traveling right before the accident and the time the brakes were applied. This data can then be reviewed after an accident to help piece together the moments before an accident — information that often proves to be critical to your case.
The Nature of the Attorney-Client Relationship
Once you sign a retainer with your attorney, the attorney-client relationship has formally begun. From that point on, you will speak only to your attorney about your case. All questions and requests for information from insurance companies or other parties will be handled by, and through, your lawyer. As your attorney will instruct you, you are not to make any statements about the accident to anyone besides your attorney.
In addition, state laws differ regarding accident reporting and assessments of liability. A commercial trucking attorney who is experienced with your state’s vehicular law will navigate the legal landscape and assess the facts of your case.
2. Investigation & Discovery
Once retained, your attorney will perform various tasks, including:
Requesting your personal account of the accident, and details about your injuries
Reviewing the official police report
Working to gather additional facts about the crash
Your truck accident attorney will work hard to uncover the causes of your accident. This part of the investigative process is often challenging. There are many common causes of accidents involving 18-wheelers, such as road conditions, distracted driving, driver fatigue, driver error, or mistakes with cargo load, to name a few.
What are the most frequent types of accidents in all of trucking?
Common types of truck accidents include the following:
- Head-on collisions
- Rear-end accidents
- Brake failure incidents
- Blind spot accidents
- Jackknife accidents
- Semi-truck rollover accidents
Depending upon the circumstances of the accident, your attorney may work with a professional accident reconstructionist to recreate the order of events, have a specialist analyze all onboard electronic recordings, review all findings made at the accident scene by police, and review eyewitness statements. During litigation, eyewitnesses and expert witnesses may be called to testify.
Once your attorney has prepared adequate information and a legal strategy for the case, they will engage in discovery to collect more information from other parties involved in the accident. The discovery process allows your attorney to demand copies of driver’s licenses and safety records, trucking company safety inspection records, onboard camera footage, and other important documentation for your case.
Are commercial truck crashes common? Absolutely — in 2021, approximately 107,000 trucks were involved in accidents. In addition, 18-wheeler truck accidents can involve multiple parties who are responsible for the injuries.
While a typical passenger car accident case may involve two drivers and their insurance companies, a truck accident case can often involve multiple parties. Through extensive discovery, an attorney can identify and prove who is liable for any injuries you may have experienced.
The parties involved may include the driver, the parent trucking company, a contracting company that hires drivers, vehicle part manufacturers, cargo manufacturers, and insurance companies. A comprehensive review of all parties’ information and possible involvement in the accident can reveal the liable parties.
The amount of damages you are awarded can be highly dependent on the attorney’s skill and preparation, so it’s important you choose the right one for your lawsuit.
3. Demand Letter & Negotiations
After your attorney has collected and reviewed evidence from all other parties during discovery, they will engage in discussions with insurance adjusters. They will draft and send a demand letter to the insurance company of the parties responsible for causing the accident.
The demand letter will specify the facts of the case, as well as how you have been physically, emotionally, and financially affected. It will request a specific demand, which is the financial payment that you and your attorney discuss beforehand. The amount you may obtain often depends on the attorney’s skill in negotiating, so it’s important you hire an experienced truck accident lawyer.
Trucking companies tend to have large insurance policies and deep pockets. However, trucking companies and their insurers handle such claims regularly, and are motivated to pay as little as possible to resolve the claim.
Thus, having a knowledgeable trucking attorney to represent you will ensure you are treated fairly and achieve a fair resolution, no matter how large or small your claim. If the opposing parties are unwilling to engage in negotiations or meet the terms of your demand letter, your attorney must have the skills and expertise to take your case to trial.
In many cases, the liable parties and its insurer may be willing to meet only some of the terms outlined in the demand letter. In such situations, your attorney, with your approval, can negotiate the terms and present a counter-offer. If an agreement can be reached, then your case can move forward with a settlement outside of court.
Oftentimes, however, the parties are unable to come to a final resolution to achieve a settlement. In this case, it is crucial to have a knowledgeable trucking attorney who will file a lawsuit and take your case to trial. Filing a lawsuit involves drafting a complaint based on information obtained during investigation, filing it in court, and serving the lawsuit on the potentially liable parties.
A settlement may be unreachable for many reasons, some common ones being disagreements on the cause of the crash, severity of injuries, the compensation amount of compensation, or which individual or company is liable. The importance of having an experienced trucking attorney who is willing and able to take your case to trial cannot be stated enough.
Trial rules and procedures differ in each state. At trial, your trucking accident lawyer will select a jury through a process known as voir dire. During this process, the suitability of jurors for your case will be determined. After jury selection, your attorney will present opening statements and review evidence in support of your case. This may include statements from individuals who witnessed the accident, evidence presented by an accident reconstruction specialist, and analyses from doctors and expert witnesses. The defendant’s attorney then presents its case.
After closing arguments by both parties, the jury then engages in deliberations. Jury deliberations are confidential, and can often take several hours or days to reach a decision. Once the jury reaches a verdict, it is brought into the courtroom where it is then read to the parties.
The court will then issue an appropriate damages award, which can cover:
- Past and future medical costs
- Loss of income
- Lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Vehicle repair costs
- Various other expenses
Again, the amount of damages you receive will depend greatly on the attorney’s skill and experience, so it’s important you choose the right one for your case. At Pierce Skrabanek, our attorneys have deep knowledge of the courts as well as the overall processes involved.
Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer
For those injured in a semi-truck accident, the road ahead is paved with many hardships, including medical bills, physical therapy, insurance claims, and a host of other financial issues. It is in these situations where it is critical to work with a knowledgeable trucking attorney, no matter if it is a minor “fender bender” or a major collision with severe injuries.
Truck accident lawsuits involve many steps, and the entire case can be won or lost at any of these steps. An attorney with a strong, well-prepared trial strategy can avoid delays and make the lawsuit process smoother, and more efficient.
If you or a loved one were injured in a trucking accident, contact Pierce Skrabanek at (832) 690-7000 for a free consultation. Our legal team has the experience, skill, and resources needed to guide you through the legal process from beginning to end.