Make Sure Truck Accident Lawyer Has Trial Experience
Being involved in a semi truck accident can leave you and your loved ones with life-threatening and permanently debilitating injuries. Following an accident, there is a chance you will have an onset of medical expenses including hospital stays, examinations, rehabilitation, and ongoing treatment. In the worst cases, you will be left to grieve the loss of a loved one while trying to manage without their income.
Large, corporate trucking companies are often backed by big insurance companies. Insurance adjusters are known to offer the minimum settlement to the victim in order to save money for the insurance company. If a settlement cannot be reached, then your case will likely go to trial. This is where a Munley Law truck accident lawyer comes in.
The Munley lawyers have a deep understanding of state and federal trucking laws, the Pennsylvania court system, and various Pennsylvania insurance policies. While the lawyers work diligently to settle your claim quickly, they also prepare each case as if it were going to trial. If that happens, you can rest assured that your Munley Law truck accident lawyer will have the experience to see your case through until the very end.
Are Trucking Laws Different from Passenger Vehicle Laws?
The Federal Highway Administration named Pennsylvania one of the top ten busiest states for traveling in 2011. The state is a major trucking route hub with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Interstate 80, and Interstate 476 seeing hundreds of thousands of semi trucks travel on its roads per year.
In order to keep all drivers as safe as possible, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation implemented state laws all truckers and trucking companies must adhere to. For example, in order to operate a semi-truck in the state of a Pennsylvania, a truck driver must:
- Be 21 years old.
- Have a Pennsylvania state-issued license.
- Inform the Pennsylvania DOT and their employer of any out-of-state traffic violations, or license suspensions.
- Be subject to driving disqualification for violations.
- Notify their employer of any prior commercial driving employment.
- Obtain a Class A, Class B, or Class C driver’s license.
In addition to the state laws, Pennsylvania also enforces the Federal trucking laws determined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The rules and regulations include:
- Hours of Service: This law limits the truck driver to 14 consecutive hours of driving without a break. Driver rest and sleep hours are also mandated through Hours of Service.
- Electronic Logging Devices (ELD’s): All commercial trucks must be equipped with ELD’s at all times. Electronic logging devices are used to make sure trucking companies and drivers comply with the hours of service regulations.
- Medical exams and background checks: Truck drivers must undergo drug, alcohol, and medical tests in order to be hired. Trucking companies must also do a background check on all new drivers for criminal records and traffic violations.
- Cargo Securement Rules: These rules regulate how cargo is loaded into a tractor trailer before a trip. This is used to prevent cargo from falling off the trailer of a truck and hitting a vehicle. It also prevents cargo from shifting in the trailer, causing the truck to roll over onto a vehicle.
- Entry Level Training: All entry-level truck drivers must obtain a Class A or B commercial driver’s license. Before a solo trip is taken, the driver must undergo extensive training, including how to brake and handle the weight of the tractor trailer.
- Inspection and Maintenance: All motor carriers must inspect, repair, and maintain their tractor trailers regularly. Parts and accessories to the truck must be in good condition and safe for traveling at all times.
Because of the additional laws truck drivers must follow, semi truck accident claims can become complex very quickly. A Munley Law truck accident lawyer can expertly navigate the Pennsylvania and federal trucking laws. If your case goes to trial, your semi truck accident lawyer will know how to litigate by using their knowledge of the law to secure the maximum compensation for your injuries.
What Comes Before a Trial?
Before we can really discuss whether your case will go to trial, it’s important to be familiar with all the steps in a truck accident case that come before a case goes to a jury. While every case is different, below are the most commons steps in every truck accident case.
A Demand Letter
Good truck accident attorneys know that litigation starts even before a lawsuit is filed. The initial demand letter is key to the success of your claim. This letter is drafted by an attorney who can present your claim to an insurance company, trucking company, or truck driver clearly. The letter is meant to explain why the person or company is at fault for the accident, and why they should compensate your injuries before you file a lawsuit.
Preliminary Conversations With the At Fault Party
After a demand letter is sent, and sometimes even before, the negligent driver or trucking company (or their insurance company) may reach out to you our your attorney to begin preliminary settlement negotiations. You should always speak to an attorney before discussing your claim with anyone. What you say, or don’t say, during these talks could impact you later when preparing to present your case to a jury.
Filing a Complaint or Petition with the Court
If you are unable to resolve your truck accident claim through informal negotiations with the other side, your lawyer will help you begin a lawsuit. This is usually done by filing a document called a complaint or petition with the court. It is a formal court document that explains what you think the other party did wrong and your legal claims for recovery.
Early Motion Practice
In our experience in truck accident cases, the negligent parties usually file motions to try to get your case thrown out (for any number of reasons). A motion is simply a formal court filing that asks the court to “do” something, here, dismiss your case. The law allows for many kinds of motions. Your attorney will likely explain these to you as they come up.
If your case survives early motion practice, you and your opponents will begin to exchange information through a formal process known as discovery. This process in highly regulated by the law, so your lawyer should be familiar with it and can help you know what you must provide to the other side, and what you should ask for. Discovery is incredibly important, as you must gather enough evidence to convince the court that a jury should see your case.
After discovery, both sides usually file motions again, this time, they usually directly address the merits, or the factual and legal substance, of your truck accident claim. Sometimes, the other side will argue that your truck accident claims should fail because, based on what was produced in discovery, no reasonable jury could decide that you win. Rest assured that, as long as you have a quality truck accident attorney, these motions are difficult to win. Sometimes your lawyer will also file such a motion, arguing that no reasonable jury could find for the other side.
There could also be motion practice related to any expert witnesses either side has hired to present their case. These motions are used to control what testimony gets presented to the jury.
Trial Preparation and Trial
Finally, after the court decides any motions filed by the parties after discovery, your case will head to trial. During this time, your lawyer will help you prepare to testify and begin preparing materials for presentation to the jury.
Also, it is not uncommon for an insurance company or other negligent party to again make a settlement offer at this point, after the court decides post-discovery motions. Because the strength of each side’s case is set, there is usually there another attempt to settle the case to avoid a trial.
Why Would A Case Go To Trial?
With that background, we can finally start to address the question that has been on your mind: Why would my case go to trial when another might settle? As we’ve suggested, it’s a complex question that unfortunately doesn’t have a clear or consistent answer. But below are some of the common factors that in our experience will affect whether your truck accident claim will go to trial.
How Serious Are Your Injuries?
Most semi truck accidents cause severe injuries. These injuries lead to staggering medical bills. Even still, the cost of your claim for the negligent party can go up for many reasons. For example, if you can no longer work, your damages increase. And, while no amount of money can truly compensate you for the death of a loved one, if someone died as a result of the accident, your damages claim will of course increase. The more expensive your claim is, the more likely your case might go to court. An insurance company or negligent party is usually inclined to settle what it considers to be “inexpensive” claims to avoid the time-consuming and expensive court process.
How Did Settlement Negotiations Go?
Sometimes, effective early advocacy may make insurance companies more willing to settle a case. Similarly, not all insurance companies refuse to pay fair compensation for truck accidents. Especially if they can see that their insureds, the trucking company and the driver, did wrong, the insurance companies involved may be willing to settle. This means you can avoid a trial.
That said, sometimes, at no fault of your own or of your attorney, you just won’t receive a settlement offer, or the offer you do receive is no where near enough to compensate your injuries. In those cases, trial is much more likely.
Was Your Attorney Successful in Pretrial Proceedings Before the Court?
When your attorney is successful in court before trial, the odds of trial decrease. For example, when your attorney wins pretrial motions, defeats motions filed by your opponent, or gets damaging information related to the truck accident through discovery, the parties at fault for the accident begin to see the writing on the wall and push for settlement. In these cases, your case may not make it to trial after all.
Is There A Colorable Argument That You Were Partly At Fault for the Accident?
After an accident, it is not uncommon for a semi truck driver to blame you or someone else on the road for the accident. While blaming the accident victims usually doesn’t play over well with the jury, it’s important that your lawyer knows what they’re up against. If you were, for example, going faster than the speed limit or on your phone, you should discuss that with your lawyer. It may mean a settlement offer is better than it initially seemed.
It’s also important to know that telling your lawyer this information can’t hurt you or be used against you, so you should always be honest. Furthermore, the fact that you could be partly at fault doesn’t usually mean that you cannot recover damages for your injuries. It is just something that your lawyer should know, and that could impact whether your case goes to trial or settles beforehand.
How Big Is The Trucking Company?
Bigger companies often feel less inclined to settle personal injury claims. Their reasoning varies. Sometimes they just have enough money that they don’t feel the need to be risk adverse. Other times, they worry about setting a precedent for future cases (e.g., making someone else think that because they settled in your case, they will settle in a future case).
How Much Evidence Is There?
One of the main reasons you should involve a lawyer, and as soon as possible, is because that lawyer can help identify, preserve, and gather evidence. If you wait, it gets harder and harder to do so successfully. If there is limited evidence, be it because too much time has passed or another reason, the party at fault for the accident, especially if there are multiple parties involved in the case, may choose to take their chances at trial. This is especially true because you, as the plaintiff, have the burden to prove that all the defendants in the case were at fault and legally responsible.
When there is overwhelming evidence, it is much easier to convince the at fault parties to settle.
Who Is Representing You?
Truck accident cases go to trial when the negligent parties think they can win. Negligent parties think they can win when their opponents are represented by lackluster attorneys. There are many repeat players in the personal injury world, and many trucking companies and insurance companies are familiar with the lawyers who work in this space. For that reason, they know who to be afraid of and who they can beat. You should carefully research your attorney and choose someone who has experience taking, and winning, cases against powerful trucking companies.
When you are armed with an experienced legal team who can represent you effectively in both preliminary negotiations and in trial, these companies are more inclined to settle. On the other hand, if the trucking company knows an attorney to be in it for a quick pay out or to be incompetent, they will drag a lawsuit out or push an inadequate settlement offer.
What Does It Mean For a Case To Go Trial?
In addition to knowing what might affect whether your case goes to trial, it’s important to know the realities of taking a case to trial. There are a few misconceptions about trial that we should clear up. Sometimes, our clients want to take a case to trial, even if there is a good offer on the table. We understand that completely, and at Munley Law we’re here to support you in making the best decision for you and your family.
But below are some the things you should know, and some of the things a good legal team can help you work through, when thinking about whether you want to take a case to trial.
- Trials Take Time: While some television shows make it seem like a trial occurs within weeks, or even days, after an accident, that’s often far from true. In fact, a trial is usually the result of many many months, or even years, of hard work. For example, as we’ve already mentioned, there are numerous steps to a lawsuit that must be completed before your case goes to trial. These steps are always, and importantly, time intensive. For that reason, insisting on a trial isn’t always the best strategy.
- You Don’t Have To Go To Trial To Get the Compensation You Need: Every good trial lawyer knows that you have to be prepared to take a case to trial. But if someone tries to convince you that your truck accident case mustgo to trial to get you the compensation you deserve, that person is unfamiliar with the reality of trial practice, especially in complex truck accident cases. Many times, it is in everyone’s interest for your claim to be resolved short of a trial. Trials are expensive and take time. Sometimes, a truck driver, a trucking company, and/or an insurance company will be more than happy to pay you the money you need to move on from a truck accident without setting foot in a courtroom. An experienced lawyer can help them see that as the best option. While we at Munley Law are more than happy to fight for you at trial, if we can get you what you need without the cost and delay involved in a trial, we’re happy to do so. For that reason, you shouldn’t be surprised if your lawyers tries to resolve a case early and asks you think seriously about whether a settlement offer is satisfactory.
- Trials Are Difficult For Accident Victims: Accident victims and their families navigate some of the most difficult times in their lives following any truck accident. While filing a truck accident lawsuit is one of the best ways to hold irresponsible parties who caused your injury accountable, testifying in court is often far more difficult, draining, and time consuming than many victims realize. At Munley Law, we’re no strangers to taking cases to court, and we are experts at preparing our clients, and their families if necessary, to testify. But, even still, telling your story and opening yourself up to cross examination in front of a jury can be difficult, especially if you are still recovering from serious injuries or are testifying after the loss of a loved one.
Why Choose Munley Law?
With so many personal injury law firms to choose from, how do you know who you can trust to fight for you and your family? Selecting a truck accident attorney is an important decision. If you’ve been injured by a semi truck, or another commercial vehicle, and think you might have a truck accident case, you certainly have options. But Munley Law sets itself apart. Consider these factors when selecting an attorney, and let us show you how Munley Law is right for the job.
Experience – When it comes to a truck accident lawsuit, experience counts; especially if you think there’s a good chance your case will end up in a trial. Each of our partners has decades of experience representing individuals and families who have suffered serious injury or been denied benefits. Because we are a family firm, we often work closely together on our cases to achieve the best possible results for you. Furthermore, unlike some lawyers, we’re happy to take a case to trial. While we’re happy if we can get you the recovery you need without a trial, we do some of our best work in the courtroom and aren’t afraid to put our trial advocacy skills to work for you.
Industry Leaders – The board-certified truck accident lawyers at Munley Law are among the highest-rated and most respected legal advocates in the country. Other lawyers regularly look to us as the industry experts in trucking law and how to recover for truck accident injuries. All of our credentials (including Best Lawyers in America, Best Law Firms, Pennsylvania Super Lawyers, Million Dollar Advocates Forum) reflect the extremely high standards we’ve set for ourselves, and the recognition of our clients and peers. Our lawyers are also certified by organizations focusing on trial advocacy, including the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.
Resources – Litigating commercial truck claims is challenging for many reasons, a major one being that we’re often up against large corporations and insurance companies, along with their powerful lawyers. At Munley Law, we utilize resources that are typically available only to big law firms. We work closely with our network of engineers, investigators, experts, and in-house medical personnel to build your case. What’s more, unlike at other law firms, you aren’t on the hook for paying these professions out of pocket.
Client Satisfaction – Perhaps the best testament to our success, and the one that we care about the most, is the satisfaction of our past clients. We understand that the time after any injury or accident is incredibly difficult, especially when a semi truck or other commercial truck is involved. This is true not only for you, but also for your family.
Our lawyers aren’t here to treat you like just another case; we want to understand what happened, what you and your family need, and help you get it. Our goal is, always, getting you the recovery you deserve. Be it through an informal negotiation, a settlement, or a verdict, we’re here to fight for you. And if that fight takes us into the courtroom, we’re ready. We’ll keep you informed, and let you make the decisions. Learn what former Munley Law clients have to say about their experience with our firm.
Our No-Fee Promise – We do not collect a fee unless we win your case. If we do not produce results for you, you owe us nothing. At no point will you ever pay anything out of pocket; even if we win, our fee comes out of the money we recover for you.