Truck Accident Settlement Process in North Carolina
Many people who are hurt in truck accidents assume that they will have to go to court to recover compensation. However, most injury claims are actually resolved through negotiated settlements between the injured victims and whoever is at fault for the crash. If you’ve been hurt in a truck accident in North Carolina, understanding the settlement process for truck accidents can help you will know what to expect as your claim gets underway.
The path to a settlement is rarely a straightforward one, especially with commercial truck accidents. Turn to Stewart Law Offices. Our North Carolina truck accident lawyers work hard to protect the rights and interests of injured individuals. We strive to obtain the best possible results for each client, every time.
The truck accident settlement process can be particularly burdensome because multiple insurance companies may be involved during negotiations. North Carolina also has very harsh laws that can eliminate your right to compensation if even a tiny portion of the blame is successfully placed on you. Hiring a proven truck accident lawyer can shield you during these complex settlement talks, where one unfair move by the insurance company could damage your case forever.
Truck Accident Settlement Process in North Carolina
Many insurance companies will require a copy of a police accident report before paying out on a claim. The report will include important details about the truck accident, such as whether anyone was cited or arrested for the collision. In some cases, the police report may include the officer’s determination of who is to blame for the wreck.
Gathering other information at the accident scene can also help the settlement process. If you’re able, try to get:
- The names and insurance information from everyone involved in the truck accident
- Contact information for any witnesses
- Photographs of your injuries, vehicle damage, and any environmental evidence that could tell the story of what happened (e.g., skid marks, road debris, etc.)
Once the immediate crisis has passed, you will also need to notify your insurance company about the truck accident, even if the crash wasn’t your fault. Check your policy to see the deadline for reporting the accident. When you report the crash, only provide your name, insurance policy number, and the date, time, and location of the crash. You should not agree to give a recorded statement or sign any documents until you’ve spoken with a truck accident attorney.
After the insurance claim is filed, the insurance company will begin its own investigation of the accident to determine fault. If the insurance company decides that you don’t bear any responsibility for the truck accident, it may offer you a settlement right away. Don’t accept it. The first offer is almost always too low.
If you and the insurance company do not agree on the initial offer of compensation, you (or your attorney, if you hire one) will have to negotiate until you both reach a sum that you are willing to accept.
Strong evidence is crucial to the success of your claim. Proof may come in the form of medical records, photographs of the accident scene, witness statements, data from the truck’s electronic data recorder, toxicology reports, cell phone records, expert testimony, and truck company records. A knowledgeable truck accident lawyer will know what evidence is necessary to support your claim for compensation.
Although you can pursue a claim with the insurance company on your own, you can help improve your chances of an increased financial recovery by hiring a truck accident attorney to represent you.
Benefits of Settling after a Truck Accident
A truck accident settlement offer may be less than the total compensation you might receive if you won your case at trial. However, settling your truck accident claim can have significant benefits that make up for accepting less than the financial compensation you might have won in court, including:
- Avoiding drawn-out litigation: If you decide to file a lawsuit in your truck accident claim, you may end up waiting years before finally obtaining a judgment and financial compensation for your injuries and damages.
- Not having to testify in a deposition or at trial: North Carolina remains one of the few states that still uses the contributory negligence rule. Under this rule, you can be barred from receiving any compensation if you are found even one percent at fault for the crash. If you go to trial, you may be required to testify at a deposition or in court, where the opposing side may try to get you to make statements they can use as proof that you are partly responsible for the truck accident.
- Reduced legal fees: Most truck accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means they are paid a percentage of your total financial recovery if they obtain a settlement on your behalf. Many contingency fee agreements increase the percentage your attorney is entitled to if your case goes to trial. That’s because litigation means your lawyer will expend considerably more time and effort to pursue your case.
- Privacy: Settlements typically remain a private matter, meaning no one needs to know how much money you recovered in your case. Conversely, court cases are public affairs, meaning details about the accident, your injuries, and any recovery you obtain are made part of the public record.
- Having control over the outcome of your case: Even if you feel confident that you would win greater compensation by going to trial, putting your case in the hands of a judge or a jury means surrendering control over the outcome of your case. A judge or a jury may end up finding in favor of the other side, leaving you with nothing. In a settlement, you don’t leave all of the decision-making up to outsiders.
Factors to Consider Before Agreeing to a Settlement
Once you receive a settlement offer, you should consider several factors before making a decision:
- The conduct of the at-fault parties: If the truck accident was caused by intentional or reckless conduct, you may be entitled to pursue punitive damages in addition to compensation for your injuries and losses. You may wish to ask for your compensation to include money for punitive damages if possible.
- The severity of your injuries: The insurance company may try to downplay the severity of your injuries or argue that preexisting conditions made your injuries worse. This is an attempt to reduce your final payout. A truck accident lawyer can help you place a reasonable value on your case by looking at your losses and anticipated future expenses.
- Insurance policy limits: Although trucking companies and insurers may try to claim that an offer represents the full amount of available insurance coverage, some companies utilize layered insurance coverage, which can obscure the true amount of insurance coverage available to compensate you.
How Long Can the Settlement Process Take?
Each truck accident case has its own unique circumstances. This makes it difficult to predict how long a truck accident settlement process can take. Many different factors can affect the length of the settlement process, including:
- How long it takes to fully investigate the accident: Truck accident cases are complex, and gathering the essential evidence can take time.
- Determining the availability of insurance or other sources of compensation: If the case has multiple defendants, it will take time to identify all potential avenues of compensation for you.
- The severity of your injuries: The more severe your injuries, the more extensive and expensive your medical treatment and rehabilitation is likely to be. This also makes it more likely that you will still be undergoing treatment once the settlement process begins, requiring that any settlement offer also include compensation for your anticipated medical expenses. More extensive financial losses tend to complicate settlement negotiations. The higher the dollar figures get, the more the at-fault parties will be fighting to lower their ultimate payout.
- Whether liability or fault for the accident is being contested: If the liable parties accept fault for the truck accident, you only need to negotiate fair compensation for your injuries and losses. However, if the other parties contest fault for the crash, it may require longer and more intensive negotiations to reach an agreement.
Hurt in a NC Truck Accident? You Need Stewart Law Offices on Your Side
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident in North Carolina, reach out to Stewart Law Offices today. We’ll discuss the settlement process in detail so that you understand all of your legal options. While there’s no way to guarantee results in your case, a North Carolina truck accident lawyer from our firm can give you honest advice based on decades of experience representing injured clients.
You’ll never feel alone with Stewart Law Offices on your side. Call or contact us for a free consultation.