Five children and two adults died after a semi-truck driver lost control and collided with a van transporting a Louisiana church youth group to Disney World. The semi then crashed into another commercial truck, as well. The accident occurred north of Gainesville on I-75. In addition to the children in the van—ranging in age from nine to 14—the drivers of both semis were killed in the accident and several other van occupants were injured. The deceased children’s families and the injured van passengers filed several wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits against the company for which the at-fault truck driver worked after they discovered that the deceased driver had a history of traffic tickets.
In Orange County, around 3,000 accidents involving commercial motor vehicles occur each year, resulting in more than a dozen deaths and hundreds of injuries. Annually, accidents involving semis result in more than 4,000 fatalities across the nation. Due to the massive size of these trucks, which often weigh 20-30 times more than a passenger car, as well as the difficulties with braking and steering that are inherent with large vehicles, often those injured or killed are the occupants of other vehicles.
If you were injured in a truck accident in which the truck driver was at fault, you are eligible under Florida law to collect compensation for your injuries. Because this type of truck accident is often complex, you need the guidance of an experienced truck accident attorney.
Most attorneys who deal with this type of accident provide a free consultation to prospective clients. Finding attorneys to meet with generally involves doing an internet search for attorneys in your area who take truck accident cases. Peruse the websites of the attorneys carefully and also read review sites to learn about the experiences other clients have had with this particular attorney.
This initial consultation is a time for you to explain your case to the attorney and for the attorney to answer questions you have about their services, experience, and the legal process of a personal injury claim. Read on for more information about what you will need to take with you when you attend this consultation.
Preparing for the Consultation
When preparing for your consultation, you will want to dress as professionally as possible. While your attorney understands that you have been injured and may not feel like dressing up—and your consultation may even take place in your hospital room—you still want to look as though you are taking your case seriously.
Here are some other tips:
- You should gather your documents in advance and keep them safe and organized. The attorney will likely want copies of the documents, and obtaining these copies will be simpler if the documents are already organized.
- Be sure you also take a pen and paper (or an electronic device you can use to take and store notes). You will want to make notes regarding the attorney’s answers to your questions, as well as information the attorney provides you regarding the next steps in your case or a listing of items the attorney needs from you.
- Be prompt to your scheduled appointment. Again, this speaks to the seriousness of how you approach your case. It is also respectful of the attorney’s time.
- Be honest with the attorney. Don’t embellish the details of your accident in hopes that they will be more likely to take the case. Even if you were partially responsible for the accident, you should explain this to the attorney as they can only help you with as much as you’re willing to share. Lawyers seldom see cases in which one person’s actions were perfect and the other’s were completely the opposite. Rest assured, they will not be surprised by the story you tell.
Bring Any Evidence You Gathered from the Accident
The attorney will want to know the details of your case, and will want to see any evidence that you gathered from the scene or collected from the police. If you have these items in your possession after the accident, the attorney will want to see:
- Your own written and detailed description of the accident. While you’re perfectly capable of telling the attorney verbally about how the events transpired, writing it down beforehand ensures that no detail is left out.
- A copy of the police report. This will provide details such as exactly where and when the accident occurred, a narrative of what happened based on what the investigating authorities observed at the accident scene, details of any citations issued and/or arrests made, information about who was injured and the severity of those injuries, and the names and contact information of all drivers and witnesses involved.
- The name of the truck driver’s company, as well as their insurance carrier and policy number.
- Any photos you have of the scene, including photos of the damaged vehicle, photos of any physical injuries you or others involved in the accident received, and the weather and traffic conditions at the time of the accident.
- A description of any contact the truck driver’s insurance carrier made with you following the accident, including the name of the person who spoke to you.
- Any diagnosis or physician’s prognosis, any specialist referrals, and a description of the treatments you have received for your injuries.
Bring Evidence of Your Expenses
One of the services that your truck accident lawyer is likely to provide is establishing a value to your case. This is the amount of money that you will ask from the trucking company’s insurance carrier to cover your accident-related economic expenses, such as medical bills and lost wages, as well as non-economic expenses, such as pain and suffering or emotional distress.
In addition to the evidence available in your case, you will also want to bring a listing of the expenses you’ve incurred, including:
- Any medical bills you’ve received, including bills for ambulance transport and emergency department services after the truck accident, as well as for any follow-up care.
- The bills or estimates for the damage to your car and other personal property.
- A listing of any out-of-pocket expenses that you’ve incurred, including prescriptions or the cost of renting a car or paying for transportation to and from your medical appointments.
- A journal of how your injuries have impacted your life, including your level of pain, the activities that you enjoyed before the accident that you no longer can, and any impacts to your career resulting from the injury. Include also any psychological therapy that you are undergoing as a result of the accident.
- An accounting of the wages you have lost or will lose from missing work, including to attend medical appointments.
- Any business opportunities you have lost as a result of being hospitalized or recovering at home.
Bring Your Questions
As previously mentioned, the consultation isn’t just to explain your case. This is also an opportunity for you to ask questions to learn about the attorney, as well. Because time at initial consultations is often limited, it is best to write your questions down in advance of the meeting. Rest assured, the attorney is used to answering questions about their experience and will likely answer some of your questions before you ask them.
It is better to have the questions ready anyway, just in case there’s something you want to know that the attorney doesn’t automatically share with you. Below are some sample questions you might want to ask a truck accident attorney.
Questions About Experience
Your attorney needs a license to practice law in your state. Experience is also important. Truck accidents are often a lot more involved and complex than other types of motor vehicle accidents, so you will want an attorney who has experience with truck accidents and with representing clients who have sustained injuries that are similar to yours.
Here are some questions you can ask to get an understanding of the attorney’s experience:
- How long have you practiced truck accident law?
- How many cases like mine have you represented?
- How many truck accident cases have you represented that resulted in a settlement? What was the biggest settlement you ever obtained in a truck accident case?
- How many truck accident cases have you litigated? Are you comfortable with the idea of the case going to court?
- Do you rely on experts such as accident reconstruction professionals, trucking industry professionals, or medical experts to help you on cases?
- Do you have any references from previous clients that you could provide to me?
It’s also important to note that you can always look at the firms previous case results to get an idea of what types of cases they handle and if there is anything similar to what you are going through.
Questions About Communication
Communication with your attorney as your case proceeds is vital not only to your peace of mind but to keep you apprised of any new developments. Be wary of firms that represent many clients at a time, as they may not have the time to devote to your case that is necessary for a successful outcome. Here are some questions that can help you get a feel for how the attorney will communicate with you:
- How many people will be working on my case? Will you be the lead attorney?
- Who will be my point of contact with your firm?
- How many cases do you represent simultaneously?
- How often will you provide me with updates on the progress of my case? How will this communication occur (phone call, email, text, etc.)?
Questions About Your Case
While attorneys don’t have a crystal ball in which they can see the outcome of your case, they should have the experience to give you a guess as to how strong of a case you have. Here are some questions you can ask to get a feel for how the attorney perceives the strengths and weaknesses of your case:
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case?
- Is there anything I can do to help strengthen my case?
- How confident are you that you will secure a settlement?
- How long do you think it will take to resolve my case?
Questions About Payment
Many people avoid hiring an attorney because they’re worried about how much it will cost. However, most personal injury attorneys work on a contingent-fee basis. What this means is that you don’t have to pay your lawyer’s fees until they have secured a settlement or award for you.
Ask about payment, and the following questions can help you get a clear understanding of how the attorney will expect to be paid:
- How are your fees paid? Do you work on a contingent-fee basis, flat-fee, or are your services billed by the hour?
- Are there any other services, such as copies or filing fees that I will be responsible for?
- Is there anything I can do to reduce the costs associated with my case?
- Explain to me what happens when a settlement or award is achieved. Will the money be sent directly to me, or will it go to you to be disbursed for expenses?
- If the defendant files an appeal in my case, what happens? Will you continue to represent me during the appeal?
While this is not an exhaustive list of possible questions to ask the attorney, these questions should provide you with many of the answers you need. If you decide after the free consultation to hire that attorney to represent you, the firm will likely give you some documents to sign. Be sure to read these documents carefully and only sign them after you are sure that you understand them completely.
If you don’t feel like this is the right attorney to represent you in your case, then you should schedule a consultation with another attorney. Just like seeking a second opinion when a doctor recommends a specific treatment for a medical condition, it is not at all unusual for a person to speak to two or three personal injury attorneys before deciding which one they want to represent them. You need confidence in the person you hire to represent you, and the attorney you’re speaking with understands this fully.
Orlando, FL 32814