The ongoing truck driver shortage is showing no signs of letting up. In fact, industry experts predict that the shortfall will reach 160,000 drivers by 2028.
As a result, some shipping companies employ drivers with little experience behind the wheel. Other companies subtly encourage drivers to stay on the road as long as possible, even if that means running afoul of HOS (Hours of Service) regulations which restrict such activities for safety reasons. The bottom line is that the risk of a truck accident may be higher than ever.
Typically, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers resolve these claims out of court. So, victims need not go to trial to obtain compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Unfortunately, the legal system in Crow Wing County is often not very fast or efficient. Every settlement process is different, but most follow the same general outline.
How Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers Build a Case
If you were hurt in a truck wreck that was not your fault, immediate medical attention is usually the first priority. Without such treatment, vehicle collision injuries, such as whiplash, usually get worse and become more difficult to treat. Additionally, delayed treatment gives insurance company lawyers a chance to argue that the victim’s injuries must not have been very bad.
So, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers quickly connect victims with doctors. These medical professionals usually charge no money upfront, because they agree to delay billing until the case is settled.
The aforementioned “fault” is not always easy to determine. Typically, truck wrecks cause catastrophic injuries. So, the victim does not give a statement to emergency responders. As a result, the police accident report only reflects the truck driver’s version of events.
Therefore, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers must also collect evidence in the case. Medical records are always important. In addition to diagnosis and treatment issues, medical professionals usually take notes about the victim’s pain and suffering.
Electronic evidence, such as the Electronic Logging Device, may be critical as well. As mentioned above, many truck drivers are dangerously fatigued. ELDs provide rock-solid evidence in this area. But a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer must act quickly to preserve this evidence before the insurance company “accidentally” destroys it.
Insurance Company Defenses
Building a case is a big part of the settlement process. This evidence allows Brainerd, MN accident lawyers to assign a preliminary settlement value. So, a lawyer does not sell the claim short and does not needlessly hold out for more money.
This determination is only preliminary, because an attorney must also consider any insurance company defenses. These legal loopholes include:
- Contributory Negligence: Comparative fault shifts blame from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim. For example, the insurance company might admit the tortfeasor was speeding, but insists that the victim’s illegal lane change substantially caused the crash.
- Last Clear Chance: In many rear-end and head-on collision claims, the insurance company argues that the victim could have avoided the crash, perhaps by changing lanes, yet did not do so. If that’s the case, the victim, and not the tortfeasor, is legally responsible for damages.
- Sudden Emergency: This doctrine is similar to last clear chance. If the tortfeasor reasonably reacted to a sudden emergency, like a tire blowout, the tortfeasor is not responsible for any resulting car crash damages.
Typically, the insurance company must prove these defenses apply.
The Settlement Process
Even if these defenses do no hold up in court, insurance companies typically use them as an excuse to delay settlement. As a result, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer must often file legal paperwork to preserve the victim’s rights. If an attorney waits too long, the victim could completely lose the right to recovery, because of the statute of limitations.
At that point, most Crow Wing County judges refer cases to mediation. This alternative dispute resolution mechanism is successful about 75 percent of the time.
During mediation, a neutral third party, who is usually an unaffiliated Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, first listens to brief legal arguments from both sides. Then for the remainder of the session, the mediator goes back and forth between the two sides, conveying settlement offers and counteroffers. These sessions usually last a full day, but some last a half day.
Mediation has a number of benefits for both victims and insurance companies. Mediation reduces litigation costs and shortens the case. Additionally, mediation gives both parties more control over the outcome. For these reasons, mediation is often successful in other areas as well, such as family law.
Connect with a Dedicated Attorney
The accident settlement process usually takes time. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.