It seems that every attorney on the block (or TV) seems to claim that they have expertise in handling truck accident personal injury claims. The question you should ask is whether they have real experience in truck crashes or just good advertising campaigns? If you have been injured in a truck accident, how are you to choose an attorney that has real experience? Basically, you want an attorney that knows the difference between a CMV and a CDL (a CMV is a commercial motor vehicle and a CDL is a commercial driver’s license). You want an attorney that is familiar with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations governing the operation of a commercial motor vehicle and the issuance of a commercial driver’s license. There is a huge difference between the experience necessary to adequately represent a client in an auto accident and one that has been involved in a serious truck crash. You want an attorney that will aggressively pursue the evidence necessary to properly present your case to the insurance adjuster or to the jury.
A commercial motor vehicle weighs thousands of pounds mover that a car. It takes a truck much longer to stop that it does other vehicles, especially if the truck has not been properly maintained, the driver is fatigued, the truck is traveling above the speed limit, the truck is heavily loaded or even overloaded, etc. The result is that the force of the crash can be much more severe than an automobile accident resulting in serious personal injuries or even death.
One other major difference is that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates minimum limits of insurance coverage that are much greater than what is required by South Carolina for a personal vehicle. As a result, the insurance carrier will do everything that they can to place the fault of the accident on you rather than on the trucking company. No insurance company is going to voluntarily pay you what your personal injury claim is worth. It is not unusual for you to receive a call from a very nice insurance adjuster wanting to record your side of what happened. You should never give them a statement since this can be used to deny your claim. The adjuster is only interested in gathering evidence with which to limit your claim, not to pay you what it is worth.
Ask the attorney you are considering retaining what steps he will take in investigating the crash. Your attorney's investigation should start with reviewing the police accident report and interviewing any witnesses to determine if any South Carolina traffic laws were violated. Next would be reviewing the driver's log books to see if he had been driving longer than allowed by the FMCSA regulations. Then would be reviewing the company's books in order to determine if the truck had been properly maintained. Finally, your attorney should obtain the company's records and also the driver's records to see if there had been a pattern of accidents or violations of regulations. The attorney may also need to retain an expert to reconstruct the accident. If he cannot tell you how to properly investigate the accident, then you need to hire a different attorney.
The trucking company's insurance carrier has an entire team dedicated to avoiding paying you what your claim in worth or to entirely deny liability. You are entitled to be fairly compensated for you medical bills, lost wages, pain and any other damages. However, you have been injured and are more concerned with recovering than with properly investigating the accident. You are at a disadvantage without an experienced attorney by your side to properly investigate the accident and present your case.
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