Every day across the state of Texas, there is a commercial vehicle accident. Texas has more fatal big truck collisions than any other state. Some semi-truck accidents are minor, and some are devastating. In crashes where the legal damages have the potential to be significant, an early investigation is vital to a successful 18-wheeler accident claim.
Here are a few essential points to consider after getting hit by a big rig.
Time Matters in Truck Wreck Investigation
The rule of thumb is with fatal collisions or those with very serious injuries, the insurance company for the motor carrier and driver will likely send an accident investigation team to the site of the crash. The defense team usually starts with an attorney retained by the insurance company. In many of our recent trucking accident cases, the defense attorney was actually at the crash scene before moving the vehicles.
Apparently, for victims or their families in the case of a wrongful death truck accident, having the defense interests at the scene and talking to officers, and gathering evidence puts them at a disadvantage. If the defense attorney uncovers something that may hurt their case, the attorney usually climbs work product privilege to avoid disclosing the negative information.
Don’t Let the Insurance Company Get a Head Start
The defense attorney usually brings an accident reconstruction expert to the site to gather measurements, take photographs and obtain the necessary information to render an opinion favorable to the defense.
For these and other reasons, it is essential for the victim of a truck accident or the family of a loved one killed and a truck collision to retain the right attorney as soon as possible after the crash.
Choosing Your Attorney for a Trucking Accident
While the victim or their family must find an attorney quickly after the collision, it is more important that the choice be the right one the first time. Many articles are written about choosing your 18-wheeler accident attorney, and they all recommend doing your research before you sign any paperwork with the lawyer.
Some things to consider when selecting an attorney for a commercial vehicle accident include the following:
- Experience in commercial vehicle crashes – you don’t need an attorney to be learning on your case.
- The peer review rating of the attorney – consider first attorneys rated AV.
- Location of the attorney’s office – the attorney you choose should be in the state where the crash occurred.
- Personal service – will this attorney be able to dedicate the time and attention necessary for your case? Or is the firm a high-volume firm where you might be a number? Will a junior partner or associate handle any part of your case?
- Are you comfortable with this attorney?
Evidence Necessary in Trucking Litigation
As an acute above, the sooner you get a qualified commercial vehicle accident attorney on your side, the more likely you will be able to obtain and preserve critical evidence. Some assume that the police officers investigating the crash will gather all the necessary information.
Often, the officer will gather sufficient information but fail to accurately record or retain it, thus depriving the victim or their family of the benefit of the investigation.
Additionally, in Texas, the police department or Highway Patrol will likely refuse to release significant evidence until after the investigation is closed, thus depriving the victim of evidence. This waiting period can take months and be very frustrating for the family.
Available evidence may include the following:
- Crash data from the vehicles- computer information regarding the car accident.
- Measurements at the crash scene, such as skid marks or debris.
- Paper or digital logbooks showing the hours worked by the driver.
- Deficiencies in the tractor or trailer, such as brakes- can be discovered by inspection.
- Eyewitness accounts.
Again, the earlier the personal injury attorney for the injured party can start the investigation, the more likely evidence can be obtained and preserved.
There Are Always Two Sides to the Story
One of the most common things we hear after an 18-wheeler hits someone is the truck driver getting a ticket. Unless the officers who investigated the crash are qualified to reenact the accident and do so, the officer’s opinions as to fault probably will not be admissible in a civil lawsuit.
If the truck driver does not plead or is found guilty to the traffic offense, the ticket or the officer’s opinions as default will most often not be heard by the jury.
Even in clear legal responsibility cases, there are always two sides to the story. Skilled defense attorneys are paid big bucks for a reason. Attempting to shift blame from the negligent truck driver onto the victim or someone else is always their priority.
Too you can expect a truck driver story to change once a defense attorney has gotten involved.
We always recommend that victims of a truck accident do not give a recorded statement to the insurance company for the truck driver.
The insurance company would not let their driver provide a recorded statement to your attorney.
Research Attorneys and Get Started Right Away
In summary, research and choose your attorney as early as possible. Do not make the mistake of hiring the wrong attorney in need to have an attorney.
If you have questions, contact an experienced trucking accident attorney for guidance.
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