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Lawyers Advice to Truck Accident Victims: Beware of Strangers Bearing Gifts

March 12, 2009 by Steven M. Gursten

I recently attended the American Bar Association’s Transportation Megaconference in New Orleans, LA. Regulation updates and legislative proposals were discussed in great detail by insurance claims executives for trucking companies and insurance companies, mostly for defense lawyers. But the greatest lesson I brought home to our Michigan truck accident lawyers is a scary one for victims of catastrophic truck accidents: Following a truck crash, victims immediately become targets for seemingly unethical settlement attempts by trucking companies and their insurers.

Some “independent risk agencies,” usually hired by the trucking company’s liability insurer, can provide instant on-site accident investigations within hours of a truck driver reporting the accident to his dispatcher. The agency’s own accident reconstruction engineers and forensic experts interview the truck driver, find counsel for the truck driver, speak with local authorities and meet with the victim’s family — all before the parties involved have any time to realize the ramifications and effects of the traumatic event. From there, the agency will work long hours until the source of blame is identified. If the motor carrier is deemed the cause of the accident, the unscrupulous settlement process begins.

Case in point: Senior claims executives from a number of high profile motor carriers have done away with the adversarial “deny and defend” methodology in resolving truck accident disputes. Instead, these executives advocate an “apology program,” where the truck company will do anything possible to ease the pain of the accident victim and his or her family.

Trucking Companies Push Gifts to Settle Claims Fast

While this may sound like an example of good public relations, in reality, the program is a backdoor approach to saving litigation costs at the expense of an accident victim’s right to a full recovery; especially since these cases can be worth millions.

According to stories shared by the commercial transportation panelists, trucking companies will stop at nothing to settle a claim as quickly as possible. One account had an executive rushing to a truck accident victim’s rusted mobile home, which rested upon broken cinder blocks leaning alongside a mountain. He came equipped with an apology, a check and an offer to buy the family a brand new house. Another story had a defense attorney visiting the home of a victim, whose vehicle was worth a paltry $500 prior to her horrific accident. After learning the victim “really liked the new Buicks” she’d seen on the road, the defense attorney was quick to take her car shopping for the day.

Other attempts at an “apology” are less blatant. Some carriers will mail “apology letters” with offers for “any request necessary to help make the family whole once again.” However these apologies are disguised, the end result is the same: Motor carriers and their insurers are taking advantage of unrepresented clients and offering them quick and easy money during these traumatic and difficult economic times.

Truck Accident Lawyers Must Sign Serious Truck Accident Cases Immediately

The experiences shared by trucking defense attorneys and liability adjusters made our role as plaintiff’s truck accident attorneys undeniably clear. Catastrophic trucking cases must be signed and brought into suit immediately.

But plaintiffs’ attorneys are dealt a bad hand in this dilemma. More often than not, truck accident victims won’t seek representation until a considerable amount of time has passed after the accident. Essentially, the defense bar will get the first shot at a settlement long before the victim steps foot into his or her attorney’s office for the first time.

So what’s the best way to combat this unfair disposition? Perhaps raising public awareness of this unsavory behavior is the best alternative. Truck accident victims should never give statements to Michigan auto accident claims adjusters or any defense representative. And never sign a release or allow the adjuster to look at the auto damage. Too many people rush into signing adjusters’ documents and abiding by their plans without having the language reviewed by a Michigan truck accident lawyer. Therefore, they may lose their right to sue the negligent truck driver and the trucking company for accident-related injuries and pain and suffering. Read more on what to do at the truck accident scene and things to know after a truck accident. No matter how you tackle the situation, the message given to the families of trucking accident victims must be stressed: Beware of strangers bearing gifts!

The truck accident lawyers of Michigan Auto Law want to ensure that accident victims aren’t throwing away their cases and protections to the temptations of a quick and easy settlement offer. If you have any additional questions or wish to speak to a truck accident lawyer directly about your circumstances, please call Michigan Auto Law for a free consultation at (800) 777-0028. You can also use the free consultation form.

This blog post was written by Roger Thon. Roger coordinates truck discovery on many of Michigan Auto Law’s serious truck accident cases in our pre-suit division.

— Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Sheeshoo

Related information:

Do I Have a Case? When you Need a Michigan Truck Accident Lawyer

How to File a Truck Accident Lawsuit in Michigan

Truck Industry Myths

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights. For more information, please read our law firm quick facts.

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