Going to Court After a Truck Accident

Going to Court After a Truck Accident
Going to Court After a Truck Accident

If you suffered injuries or lost a close family member in a truck accident, you need to know your options to obtain compensation. You may know you can work with a lawyer to file an injury claim with the at-fault parties’ insurance companies, but you may wonder whether you will have to go to court to get the money you need.

Despite what television shows and movies may lead you to believe, most personal injury claims, including truck accident injury claims, settle outside of court. Still, in some situations, you must take your case to trial and sue for the compensation you deserve.

For advice regarding your specific case and an honest estimation of the chances your case may end up in court, consult an experienced truck accident attorney soon during your free consultation.

Truck Accident Statistics

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), a “large truck” is any commercial or non-commercial vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,000 pounds or more.

The NHTSA reports that 5,788 died in truck accidents in 2021 and 72% of those were occupants in other vehicles. In that same year, Minnesota reported that 79 large trucks were involved in fatal truck crashes, and Wisconsin reported 98. North Dakota reported 13 large trucks were involved in fatal accidents in 2021.

Factors That Determine Whether You Must Take Your Truck Accident Case to Court

Several factors can affect the chances you will need an attorney to file a lawsuit and take your case to trial. They include:

The Severity of Your Injuries

Due to their size and weight, large commercial trucks can cause devastating, life-threatening injuries to drivers and passengers of small motor vehicles in truck accidents. Severe injuries require extensive medical treatment that results in considerable medical bills and treatment costs. This means the insurance company must pay a substantial settlement to cover your injuries.

Like many businesses, insurance companies care more about profits and making their shareholders happy than doing right by victims and paying them what they deserve. Insurance carriers notoriously refute claims and deny liability, and you will need a truck accident lawyer to get them to honor the insurance policy and offer fair settlements that cover all your expenses and losses.

If the insurance company devalues your claim and won’t negotiate, or if they outright deny your claim and refuse to budge, your attorney may have no other recourse than to file suit against them and take them to court. Your lawyer can also file suit against the insurer if they act in bad faith regarding your claim or violate the settlement agreement’s terms.

Lowball Settlement Offers

Even if an insurance company accepts a truck accident injury claim, they do not want to pay any more than necessary to settle it. If they offer a low settlement, your attorney can negotiate to get more, but if the insurance company won’t offer a full and fair settlement that covers your injuries, your attorney may have to take them to court.

Insurance Company Delay Tactics

Along with trying to devalue or refute truck accident claims, many insurance companies simply don’t respond to claims in the hopes the claimants will just give up out of frustration.

Although many states require insurance companies to acknowledge they received a claim within a certain timeframe, no laws exist that mandate how long an insurance company can take to investigate a claim and offer a settlement. Some insurers intentionally delay claims until their state’s statute of limitations runs out, effectively destroying a claimant’s chances of taking their case to court. A truck accident lawyer can protect you from this tactic.

Liability Disputes

If the insurance company disputes who caused the accident, or if all parties involved cannot agree on liability, your attorney may need to take your case to court and have a judge or jury decide the issue. Your lawyer will need to present clear and compelling evidence of the other party’s liability to have the court hold them accountable.

Most states follow some sort of comparative negligence rule when determining liability and damages. For instance, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota all follow a modified comparative negligence model, which means you cannot seek damages if you were more than 51 percent at fault for causing the accident. Also, your percentage of fault will determine how much compensation you can receive.

Therefore, you must work with a truck accident attorney who can assert your rights, advocate for you, and mitigate the chances the insurance company blames you for the crash. A lawyer can access important information and evidence. They can work diligently to hold the responsible parties fully accountable and show the court you bear no fault at all for the crash.

Complex Truck Accident Cases

In most truck accident cases, several parties other than the truck driver injured a motorist. These parties can include the trucking company or truck owner, the truck’s maintenance company, and even manufacturers and distributors of the truck or its components.

Additionally, several federal and state statutes may come into play. Unclear liability and other extenuating or aggravating circumstances can complicate the matter to the point where you need to go to trial.

Mediation Proves Unfruitful

Many states require parties to a personal injury case to undergo pre-trial mediation to try to settle the dispute before proceeding to trial. Mediation involves a neutral third party, the mediator, a licensed attorney trained in mediation and alternative dispute resolution techniques. 

They serve as an arbitrator between opposing sides in a lawsuit and try to get the parties to reach a resolution. A mediator cannot offer legal advice during proceedings, but they can suggest compromises and attempt to reason with uncooperative parties. If mediation fails and the dispute cannot resolve, the case may proceed to trial.

What Are the Benefits of Taking My Truck Accident Case to Trial?

Some potential benefits of going to trial include:

  • Opportunity for full compensation. Going to trial gives you the chance to have your attorney present your case before a judge or jury who can assess the evidence and determine appropriate compensation. If the insurer offered inadequate settlements, a trial can provide an opportunity for a more substantial award that covers your losses, including medical expenses, lost income, pain, suffering, and future damages.
  • Legal precedent. In some cases, a trial can establish legal precedent or clarify legal issues surrounding truck accident claims. This can have broader implications beyond your individual case, potentially benefiting other accident victims in similar situations.
  • Discovery process. The discovery process in a trial allows both parties to gather and exchange evidence. This process can uncover crucial information, such as witness testimonies, accident reconstruction reports, or documentation related to the trucking company's practices, which can strengthen your case.
  • Public awareness. Trials often receive media attention, especially if they involve significant injuries or notable circumstances. This exposure can help raise public awareness about truck accidents, safety issues, and the impact they have on victims' lives.
  • Accountability and closure. Going to trial can hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions. It provides an opportunity to present your case in a formal setting, ensuring that the responsible party faces the consequences of their negligence. Additionally, a trial can provide a sense of closure for the victim and their loved ones, knowing that a legal authority has thoroughly examined their case and resolved the issue.
  • Sometimes, simply filing a claim in court can spur an uncooperative insurance company into action, since the insurer does not want the additional expenses and unfavorable public exposure of a lawsuit. Once you file suit, they may accept your claim and offer you the full settlement you deserve.

    However, taking a case to trial also carries risks, such as the uncertainty of a jury's decision, the costs and time involved, and the emotional toll of a courtroom battle. An experienced personal injury attorney can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case and determine the best course of action based on your specific circumstances.

    How Long Do I Have to File a Truck Accident Lawsuit?

    Every state imposes time limits on when injured parties can file suit in court and pursue compensation from at-fault parties. Known as the statute of limitations, the time varies by state. For instance, Wisconsin generally allows injured parties three years to file a lawsuit, and Minnesota and North Dakota each generally allow six years.

    If you do not have an attorney file your lawsuit within your state’s statute of limitations, the insurance company may declare your claim invalid, and the court may dismiss your case. You will then have virtually no legal recourse to get the compensation you need, so contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.

    Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Injury Attorney Today

    Russell Nicolet - Attorney for Side-by-Side ATVs in Wisconsin & Minnesota
    Russell Nicolet, Truck Accident Lawyer

    You need lawyers with years of experience handling truck accident injury claims, and in-depth knowledge of state and federal trucking regulations. A truck accident lawyer should understand the complexities involved in establishing liability and negotiating favorable settlements with insurance companies. More importantly, you need seasoned and battle-tested trial lawyers who have won many complex cases in court and secured substantial verdicts for our clients.

    To discuss the chances your truck accident injury claim may go to court, contact a lawyer today for your free consultation.