Don't Ruin Your Truck Accident Case - Avoid These 5 Mistakes
While most victims of 18-wheeler accidents realize that there are legal implications for their actions, they aren't aware of how seriously a small mistake can impact their case. Sure, hiring a lawyer and filing suit may save the day if minor mistakes are made, but at some point a case is unfixable.
While those who have never been in an 18-wheeler accident wonder how folks can blunder their case before it even gets filed, our 30 years of experience has informed us that almost everyone will inevitably make these mistakes, and there shouldn't be any feelings of shame or regret surrounding those errors, because there's no way to know.
That's why we're here -- to give an account of what not to do after an 18-wheeler accident -- so that you have a chance to get the compensation you deserve.
The 5 mistakes accident victims should avoid making
1. Trying to be your own lawyer
Even if you're relatively well-versed in the law, that does not mean you will be able to represent yourself in your truck accident injury case. Lawyers go to law school for three years, take the bar exam, and need years of experience for a reason. You can have the best case, but if you are unable to prove that case in a way that is consistent with court procedure and the rules of evidence, then the jury will never hear that compelling evidence. It will be as if all the evidence proving your case never existed.Ultimately, the value of your case comes from being able to convince a jury to make the defendant pay a lot of money. However, there are rules to the civil court system with which a non-attorney is naturally not familiar. By not being familiar with procedural laws, you will damage your case every time. For example, if you are in an accident and are claiming you have a back injury, the defendants might hire a spinal surgeon to look at the evidence and say that the injury is not as bad as you say it is. Would you know the formal process you'd have to take to prove that they are wrong? Would you know how to hire your own medical expert to refute their claims? Basically, knowing what the law says is only a small part of the process. Defendants will always have their own sets of experts to try to prove you wrong, and if you hire a lawyer, your lawyer will also have their own experts who will work to make sure the defendant doesn't get an unfair advantage in your case.
2. Sending medical bills and records to the defendant's insurance company
Medical bills, by default, cannot be admitted in court. You must "prove up" your bills in a manner that complies with the Texas Rules of Evidence - that is the only way a jury will ever hear about them. If the insurance adjuster assigned to your case asks you to submit your medical bills as soon as you receive them, this is nothing more than that adjuster testing your lack of legal training. If you send those bills, you're giving more power to the defendant by giving them the chance to refute the evidence or downplay the importance of the medical attention you've received.
3. Waiting too long to hire a lawyer
There are several reasons why people wait before they hire a lawyer, and any one of them can cripple a case. These include:
Waiting for the police report
This is never a good idea because not only is the police report not conclusive, but it also sometimes contains errors. The defendant definitely isn't waiting for the police report; the trucker's lawyer is already conducting an investigation into the accident that is aimed at uncovering the tiniest shred of evidence that can point to you at least being partially responsible - if not totally responsible - for the accident that led to your injury. Therefore, if you wait for a police report to come out before hiring an attorney, it might already be too late.
Waiting until the insurance company makes an unfair settlement offer
LOTS of people make this mistake. By the time you receive a low-ball offer from the insurance carrier, it might already be too late. You need to hire an attorney as soon as you can after your accident before the defendant company---and their lawyers---have unfettered access to the evidence. Remember, the insurance carrier holds all the cards at this point---they have the money you're entitled to, but they will never willingly give you what you deserve.
Think of your case as if you're steering a ship. If you're in the ocean heading toward a storm, you need to take evasive action well in advance. If you wait too long to change course, it will be too late. It is the same principle in regard to hiring an attorney. If you wait too long, you could do damage to your case which no attorney may be able to fix.
Waiting until your medical care is completed
You may be in treatment for years, and you don't have years to win your case. Texas law limits the number of years you can bring a case, but more importantly, evidence is one of the most important factors in the case, and the evidence will be harder to find for each day that goes by after the accident. The longer you wait to hire an attorney, the weaker your case will be. To find out more about taking immediate steps after your accident, read here.
4. Trusting the trucker's insurance company
By law, the trucking company has no requirement to pay you, and has the right to defend itself. In fact, that company's insurance carrier will look to exploit any available technicality in an effort to either downplay its liability or completely deny your claim.
An insurance company's attorneys have but one objective: to find some argument or scrap of evidence that can be used to limit that carrier's liability. If you trust the insurance carrier involved in your case, you are giving them too much power.
There are many ways that an insurance company will try to lull you into a false sense of security. These include:
When an insurance carrier accepts liability in regard to property damage, that is completely different from accepting liability for your injury claim. Just because the insurer agrees to pay for your property damage, do not be fooled into thinking that means it will pay for the expenses related to the injury you sustained. The laws that cover injury claims are vastly different from those that cover property damages.
Offering you an advance on a settlement
Quite simply, you cannot accept it. That would be tantamount to accepting the settlement in general, and if it is a bad offer, it could cause you years of financial hardship. This can cause financial hardship because you may still have injury-related expenses after the settlement money has been depleted. And, when you agree to a settlement, you sign a legally binding document agreeing not to sue the insurance company for any more money in the future. You will be stuck, and there will be nothing that any attorney will be able to do to help.
They promise they will pay for your medical bills
The insurance adjuster assigned to your case could very well try to "buddy up" with you and act like your friend, saying something like, "Don't worry about all of those medical expenses. We'll take care of them." That adjuster is actually trying to make you think that you won't need an attorney to have your medical bills covered, and later you'll find the insurance company not only won't pay your medical bills, but will deny your rightful claims for lost wages and pain and suffering.
5. Assuming that you can just refuse to settle until the insurance company gives you a reasonable offer
Again, the insurance company will try and drag out your case until the expiration of your statute of limitations. Once that happens, you will instantly lose any ability to hold that carrier accountable. In addition, if the case has been stalled for a matter of months, even if you're still months away from the expiration, by the time you realize your case has gone south, you could very well be past the point where an attorney would want to help. Some of the stall tactics insurance companies use include:
- Claiming that they are waiting to interview witnesses.
- Claiming that they are waiting to talk to their insured.
- Telling you that they are still investigating and/or evaluating the case.
- Saying they cannot offer you a settlement until your medical treatment is complete.
- Requesting a ridiculous amount of documentation that requires tremendous amount work on your part.
- Trying to convince you that you do not have a case. They commonly misrepresent relevant laws in an official-sounding way in order to make you think your case is not valid.
Don't Let This Happen to You - Call Grossman Law Offices as Soon as You Can
Please do not fall into any of the traps mentioned above, traps we have seen ensnare far too many plaintiffs in the past. At Grossman Law Offices, our experienced 18-wheeler accident attorneys have helped thousands of truck accident clients win their cases, and we can do the same for you. Please call our toll-free number at (855)326-0000 to learn more or get a free consultation.