Your deadline to file a claim for a truck accident varies from state to state. Each state has a statute of limitations for the two types of lawsuits you'd file in response to a truck accident a personal injury lawsuit or a wrongful death lawsuit.
Insurance companies may also require you to file a claim within a reasonable time following your truck accident. Additionally, you may need to report injuries within a certain time if you hope to receive compensation for medical expenses and other injury-related damages.
A truck accident attorney also needs time to prepare your case before filing anything. Evidence can disappear, weaken, or become harder to obtain with time. You want to hire a truck accident attorney immediately so they can begin preserving evidence and building your case.
What Is the Deadline for Filing a Truck Accident Claim?
Each state details statutes of limitations for filing personal injury and wrongful death claims. You can search the statutes for your state, as there may be different deadlines for personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits.
Generally, you’ll have a matter of years to file a truck accident claim, though, in some states, the deadline can be as short as one year.
Insurance Claim Deadlines Vary
Ask your truck accident lawyer about the insurer’s deadlines for filing a claim. Most people file truck accident insurance claims shortly after the accident. You may have already informed your insurance company about your truck accident, and they may have already opened a claim.
Your insurer may also have contacted a liable party's insurer to open a claim. However, ask your attorney to monitor the status of any claims related to your truck accident. They will get a formal record of your claim date, which you may need.
The Insurance Laws in Your State Could Dictate How You File Your Claim
When it comes to processing auto accident claims, two primary categories states fall into:
- No-fault states
- Fault, or tort, states
In no-fault states, every motorist carries coverage that pays for their medical bills from a truck accident up to coverage limits. In tort states, the at-fault motorist's insurer must cover victims' medical bills (and possibly other accident-related losses).
Twenty-seven states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have some form of a no-fault insurance law. The remaining states, for the most part, have fault-based insurance laws.
In fault-based states, you or your lawyer may need to file a claim with the at-fault motorist's insurer. You may have to do the same in a no-fault state, but you may first need to file a claim with your insurer.
What Happens If I Miss the Filing Deadline for a Truck Accident Claim?
If you miss any filing deadline related to your truck accident claim, it can prove catastrophic to your quest for compensation.
This includes deadlines governing:
- When you have to file a lawsuit
- When you have to report injuries from your truck accident
- When you have to file insurance claims
Because these deadlines vary significantly from state to state and even insurer to insurer, it may be in your interest to have a competent attorney leading your case. A deadline is more than just a point in time by which you must take certain actions. By minding the statute of limitations and other case-related deadlines, you:
Keep All Options Open for Seeking a Financial Recovery
You should have the option of filing a lawsuit if necessary. You keep all your options open by retaining legal help before the lawsuit filing deadline expires.
You may choose to file a lawsuit if:
- Your accident-related damages exceed the coverage limits on applicable insurance policies
- You have damages that insurance does not cover
- Liable parties do not have insurance
- Your lawyer advises that you pursue a lawsuit
Serious accidents can cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in economic losses alone. Insurance does not always provide such extensive coverage. Therefore, every truck accident victim should take action before the statute of limitations expires.
Afford Your Lawyer the Time They Need to Build Your Case
Deadlines can be a source of pressure when building a truck accident case. While the statute of limitations is only the deadline for starting legal action, your lawyer will need to determine who to initiate legal action against. This may require them to complete at least a partial investigation, so provide your lawyer with the time to do so.
Give Your Attorney Critical Leverage During Negotiations
As your lawyer negotiates with insurance companies to provide the money you deserve, a live statute of limitations can serve as leverage. If insurers know that your lawyer can (and will) file a lawsuit, it may compel the insurance companies to offer fair compensation.
Insurance companies have a duty to represent their policyholders in good faith. If an insurance company forces your lawyer to file a lawsuit, it can put their policyholder at great financial risk.
Conversely, if the statute of limitations approaches before or during your lawyer’s negotiations, it may:
- Force your lawyer to file legal action before exhausting negotiations
- Cause the deadline to expire, at which point insurers may hold all the negotiating leverage
Don't wait to hire a lawyer following a truck accident. Your financial recovery can depend on your ability to hire a lawyer quickly after the collision.
With that said, you may want to hire a truck accident lawyer because:
- Your injuries are serious: Any injury requires your full attention. If your injury is serious, you should not do anything to compromise your recovery. The stress of leading your own insurance claim or lawsuit can compromise your recovery.
- You lack experience with insurance claims and legal cases: Most people do not spend much time thinking about insurance claims and lawsuits. Lawyers are a rare breed in that respect. This can mean you're unfamiliar with winning an insurance claim or lawsuit. It only makes sense to hire a personal injury lawyer who deals with claims and lawsuits day in and day out.
- Your lawyer will bankroll your case: Personal injury law firms take all the financial risk on their client's behalf. They cover case-related expenses and require no upfront compensation. This is especially helpful in truck accident cases, which can be more expensive than most.
- Truck accident cases have a reputation for complexity: From diagnosing the cause of an accident to getting evidence from trucking companies and winning the money you deserve, truck accident cases are a multi-step challenge. An experienced lawyer will be familiar with and comfortable overcoming those challenges.
If your truck accident is worth pursuing a claim or lawsuit over, it may have caused you significant physical and psychological trauma. If so, your recovery should be your priority. Let a lawyer worry about the financial fight.
Questions to Consider When Seeking a Truck Accident Lawyer
Once you decide to hire a lawyer, you must determine which lawyer is fit to lead your case.
Some questions to consider as you search for an attorney are:
- Do former clients speak highly of this law firm?
- Compared with other law firms I’m researching, does this firm have impressive case results?
- What financial recoveries has the law firm secured in truck accident cases?
- Does this law firm advertise truck accidents as a vital practice area?
- Does the law firm use a contingency fee structure, which requires no upfront payment from the client?
- Was I comfortable interacting with the law firm during the free consultation?
Truck accident victims find lawyers through recommendations from friends and family, internet research, local ads, and other means. The internet allows you to research specific firms in-depth, so take advantage.
What Does a Truck Accident Lawyer Do for Their Client?
Once you hire your lawyer, expect them to handle every detail of your insurance claim or lawsuit. Standard responsibilities in a truck accident case include:
Protect You from Insurers
Though many policyholders don’t view their insurer as a threat, they can be. Insurance companies look out for one party: themselves. Once it becomes clear that one or more insurers owe you compensation, those insurers may:
- Pressure you to make recorded statements (and use your words against you)
- Offer a lowball settlement
- Deny certain accident-related losses
- Deny your claim altogether
Your lawyer will deal with insurers and negotiate with them as necessary. This is a means of protecting you from any bad-faith tactics insurance companies may otherwise employ.
Build an Evidence-Based Case
Your lawyer will secure any evidence that contributes to your case for compensation, including:
- Video footage of your accident
- Witness accounts of the collision
- Data from the truck’s black box
- Expert testimony
- An expert’s reconstruction of your collision
- The police report from your accident
An attorney may need to file a letter of spoliation requiring the trucking company to preserve evidence from your accident. Your lawyer will then need to secure the evidence. This is one challenge that makes truck accident cases uncharacteristically difficult.
Documenting Your Damages
Your lawyer will document your accident-related damages with the following:
- Medical images of your injuries
- Medical bills
- Doctors’ written notes regarding your injuries
- Proof of lost income
- Expert testimony about your pain and suffering
- Bills for vehicle repairs, temporary transportation, and other property costs
If there is any other documentation of your damages, your lawyer will secure it and use it in your claim.
Calculate Every Accident-Related Damage
There is a cost for economic and non-economic damages caused by a truck accident. Your lawyer will determine what that cost is.
Manage All Paperwork and Communications
Drafting and filing paperwork, securing and submitting documents, and managing case-related communications are pivotal responsibilities. Your lawyer and their paralegals will handle these duties for you.
Lead Settlement Negotiations
Your attorney will negotiate for the settlement you deserve. This is a critical stage in any truck accident claim, and your law firm will place all hands on deck in fighting for the compensation you deserve.
Complete a Trial
Truck accident cases rarely end in trials. However, your lawyer may take your case to court if they believe it is in your best interests.
Recoverable Damages in Truck Accident Cases
Each truck accident victim has different damages, and yours may include:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Counseling, medications, and other treatments for pain and suffering
- Lost income
- Decreased earning power
- Lost opportunities for promotions, bonuses, and employer-matched retirement contributions
- Disability-related damages
There is also a possibility that you’ve lost a loved one in a truck accident. You deserve capable legal representation, and an attorney will seek justice for both you and the loved one you have lost.
Recoverable damages in a fatal truck accident case may include:
- Funeral expenses
- Lost spousal companionship
- Lost parental guidance
- Lost financial support
- Loss of household services
- Grief and other forms of pain and suffering
Losing a loved one is the most devastating outcome of a truck accident. Work through your loss while a truck accident lawyer seeks the compensation you are entitled to.
Retain a Truck Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible
Remember the importance of outpacing all filing deadlines. The surest way to beat these deadlines (and preserve your chance for a financial recovery) is to hire a personal injury law firm in Chicago as soon as possible.
Complete your research into local firms and hire the right firm immediately. Delaying can have serious ramifications, so start your search as soon as possible.