Although motor vehicle accidents can happen in a matter of seconds, the aftermath of recovering from the injury, investigating the accident, dealing with insurance providers, and reaching settlements can take months if not years. Should a case go to court, the timeline extends even farther. When a large truck is involved, that can complicate things, because you might be dealing with the company that owns the truck as well as its insurance company. In addition to that, bigger trucks can mean more damages and longer recoveries from injuries. Wading through all of this can be quite overwhelming, especially for those in truck accidents who have suffered severe personal injury.
How Fast Can Liability Be Determined?
You have the right to file a lawsuit against a commercial truck company, its driver, or any other liable party that could have contributed to the accident and your injuries. Although New Jersey is a no-fault state, those injured still have the right to sue; the statute of limitations is two years after the date an accident occurs. Although no two truck accidents are the same, it makes sense that the worse the injuries and property damages are, the longer the case will take.
Determining liability is one of the first tasks that needs to be tackled, and this starts when emergency responders arrive at the scene. Law enforcement officers will interview everyone involved and any witnesses who may have seen what happened. They will also look for skid marks and any other signs as to what may have caused the collision. A police report will then be prepared and will be available afterwards. The officer should provide contact information, and you can get a copy by reaching out a few days later.
If possible, you and your passengers can take photos of the scene that could help your case. This evidence could help to move a case along, and the sooner it is gathered the better. Also be sure to take photos of the injuries and to keep accurate records of all medical-related expenses. This information will help investigators who are looking into the case. Again, the length of time required varies greatly in these situations.
How Are Truck Accidents Investigated?
As mentioned, law enforcement officers will complete an initial investigation of the truck accident scene, but investigators may return there later to reconstruct what happened. They may analyze the skid marks, points of impact, and other evidence that may be able to show how fast the truck was going, if it swerved out of its lane, or if anything else questionable may have happened.
As one would expect, truck accident investigations also naturally focus on truck drivers. Investigators will want to know how well the driver was trained, and details about their employment and driving history. They also delve into truck driver logs; these indicate whether a driver took enough rest breaks and if they stopped at required inspection points. Some large trucks also have on-board recording devices, which can be obtained and reviewed to look for any irregularities.
It may also be appropriate to investigate the trucking company that owns the vehicle and/or hired the driver. Some drivers are independent operators, whereas others are not. There are trucking companies that engage in unsafe practices, such as skipping maintenance and inspections to save money. Others hire untrained drivers, pressure drivers to make quotas, and hire vendors that perform subpar work. Thorough investigators will also know to look into any vendors that may have serviced or worked on a truck involved in an accident. Another angle is to examine the truck to see if it complies with federal regulations pertaining to its mechanical systems and conditions. For example, a trained investigative mechanic could easily determine if a truck’s brakes had not been maintained.
How the Discovery Process Impacts Truck Accident Case Timelines
If you are working with a truck accident lawyer, they will suggest waiting until all your medical treatment is completed or well underway, but the important thing is to have a long-term diagnosis. A long-term prognosis could change over time if there are unforeseen complications; it may be necessary to wait a year or longer to get the full picture. It is common for a personal injury case to remain unsettled until the person is completely recovered. Waiting that long can be difficult, but settling too soon and needing more medical treatment later can be even harder.
This is another reason why it is important to seek out medical care immediately following a truck accident. When an insurance provider sees that the person injured did not seek treatment right away, they will likely question the reason and provide the answer: The person’s injuries were not significant enough to make this kind of a claim. You will want to get full compensation for all your medical expenses, so it is best to get treated quickly and to wait until you have a complete diagnosis and to see how well you have recovered. Remember, after a claim has been settled, it cannot be reopened if you learn that your injuries are worse than you originally thought.
Investigators will also look into whether you were unable to work during your recovery. Lost work time can mean lost wages, which can add up quickly if you were unable to go to work for a long period. Determining the property damage amount could be faster or take longer, depending on the damage to your vehicle. It can take weeks on end to order and obtain car parts these days, and just getting an appointment at a body shop can also take a long time. If the vehicle was totaled, getting the monetary amount for that could take less time.
How Insurance Companies Handle Truck Accidents
Even when liability is crystal-clear from the outset, insurance providers can delay matters by questioning legal issues and finding other reasons to stall the case. There may be numerous vehicles, persons, and insurance companies involved in a case, and once there is disagreement on something, you can expect further delays. A truck insurance company that steps in to investigate a claim might very well dispute liability. Keep in mind that these providers normally carry higher coverage than passenger vehicle drivers do, and trucking companies work hard to protect their assets. Some will also make outright attempts to avoid paying what they owe you, and this can be quite frustrating.
It is also not unusual for a trucking company to attempt to shift the blame onto a driver, even if the driver was not at fault. In other instances, insurance companies offer modest initial settlements, hoping to avoid larger payouts. This much-needed money can be very tempting; however, accepting an offer too quickly can be the wrong move. A personal injury lawyer will be able to determine what a case is worth, so consulting with one before agreeing to a settlement is well advised.
Experienced truck accident lawyers work to negotiate settlements with insurance providers when someone involved in an accident needs this kind of legal guidance. To reach acceptable settlements, these lawyers have to show adjusters the severity of the person’s injuries and property damages by sharing the evidence and having frequent communications. If a settlement cannot be reached, there is also the option of taking the truck accident case to court.
Monmouth County Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Provide Sound Legal Guidance in Truck Accident Cases
If you or a loved one has been in an accident involving a truck, it is important to act quickly so that your case will not be delayed. Do not hesitate to reach out to the experienced Monmouth County truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law. Our legal team understands how these cases work and will fight to get you the compensation for which you are entitled. For a free consultation, call us at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We are located in Freehold, New Jersey, and help clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn, New York, and New York City.