Every day across the state of Texas there is a commercial vehicle accident. In fact, 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 it is likely that the insurance company for the motor carrier and driver will send an accident investigation team to the site of the crash. The defense team usually starts with an attorney who is retained by the insurance company. Many of our recent trucking accident cases the defense attorney was actually at the scene of the crash before the vehicles were moved.
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 try to keep from having to disclose the negative information.
The defense attorney usually brings an accident reconstruction expert to the site to gather measurements, take photographs and obtain information necessary to render an opinion that will be 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 it is vital that the victim or their family find an attorney quickly after the collision, it is more important that the choice be the right one the first time. There are many different articles written about how to choose 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 commercial vehicle accident include:
- Experience in commercial vehicle crashes – you don’t need an attorney to 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 any part of your case be handled by a junior partner or associate?
- Are you comfortable with this attorney?
Evidence Necessary in Trucking Cases
As an acute above, the sooner you get a qualified attorney on your side the more likely it is that you will be able to obtain and preserve critical evidence. Some people make the mistake of assuming that the police officers investigating the crash will gather all the necessary information.
Often, the officer will gather sufficient information but failed to accurately record or retain the information thus depriving the victim or their family of the benefit of the investigation. Additionally, in Texas, it is very likely that the police department or Highway Patrol will refuse to release significant evidence until after the investigation is closed thus depriving the victim evidence. This waiting period can take months and can be very frustrating for the family.
Evidence that available may include:
- Crash data from the vehicles- computer information regarding the accident.
- Measurements at the scene of the crash, 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- which can be discovered by inspection.
- Eyewitness accounts.
Again, the earlier of the attorney for the injured party can start the investigation more likely it is that evidence can be obtained and preserved.
There Are Always Two Sides to the Story
One of the most common things that we hear after an 18-wheeler hits someone is the truck driver got 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 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 cases of legal responsibility, 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 got involved.
We always recommend that victims of a truck accident do not give a recorded statement to the insurance company for the truck driver. You can know that the insurance company would not let their driver provide a recorded statement to your attorney.
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 reach out to an experienced trucking accident attorney for guidance.