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Keys to higher truck accident settlements

April 18, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Truck accident lawyer lists 8 tips to raising settlement amounts in truck accident cases

I was reading about a recent $62.7 million record-breaking settlement (that occurred in another state) for a horrific truck accident that caused a number of innocent deaths. What makes this settlement notable for truck accident lawyers who handle catastrophic accident cases throughout the nation is that this was not a jury verdict, but a voluntary settlement entered into by the various insurance companies representing the trucking company.

Reading about this truck crash settlement raises a number of interesting thoughts:

1. Trucking company’s failure – The settlement was based upon the trucking company’s failure to select, train and supervise the driver.

2. Aggressive discovery into the trucking company – This information about the trucking company’s failures came about only after aggressive discovery into the trucking company itself.

3. Most truck lawyers don’t do it
– This aggressive discovery is something that most personal injury lawyers who handle trucking accident cases rarely will do.

4. Most personal injury lawyers treat trucking accident cases like car accidents with bigger policy limits – They’re not doing aggressive truck discovery; they are not going through driver logs, receipts, and taking depositions of safety directors. Instead, these lawyers treat truck accident cases like car accident cases with big policy limits, but handle everything else the same. Many of the glaring abuses and safety violations of trucking companies remain hidden.

5. Truck accident cases are different
– As former president of American Association for Justice (AAJ) Truck Accident Litigation Group, the main focus I’ve had is teaching personal injury lawyers that truck accident cases are different. I will be speaking and moderating on truck discovery in New York City this July for the AAJ Truck Accident Litigation Group, and again in September in St. Louis for the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America seminar. Trucking discovery is document- and deposition- intensive, but it is critical to these types of cases.

6. Discovery – what to prove
– Aggressive discovery in how truck companies select, train and supervise truck drivers, as well as maintain their fleets, makes the difference in reaching a just result, and making bad trucking companies act safer.

7. Truckers are thankful – After years of specializing in helping people seriously injured or killed in truck accident cases, I’ve found ironically, it’s the truck drivers themselves who are often the most thankful and appreciative of my efforts. I receive constant emails from truck drivers about how they’re forced to break rules and drive over hours.

8. Need more oversight of truck driver recruitment – This voluntary truck accident settlement highlights how important proper oversight of truck driver recruitment is for the entire trucking industry, and how proper discovery by a truck accident lawyer can make the crucial difference in a catastrophic truck death or serious injury case.

While this settlement occurred out of state, in a state that has punitive damages as a cause of action (Michigan does not) the principles can still be applied to Michigan law and cases that occur here.

Steven Gursten is a partner of Michigan Auto Law and one of the most renowned truck accident lawyers in the country. He is past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Litigation Group, and has received the top-reported trial verdict in Michigan for truck accidents. Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his efforts in promoting national truck safety.

Related information:

Call a truck accident lawyer before the motor carrier destroys critical evidence

Michigan truck accident FAQs

For truck accident attorneys – Legal discovery of the trucker

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, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit to better serve you. Call (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation from one of our truck accident lawyers.

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One Reply to “Keys to higher truck accident settlements”

  1. Steven, I definitely agree with you on these points. Any case, but especially truck accidents, need excellent discovery. I think this case had some other interesting facts too:.

    1) The attorneys thoroughly prepared the case for trial. In fact, they actually started voir dire in the case when it actually settled.

    2) The facts (after discovery) came out that the truck driver had just come back from taking 3 weeks off for medical issues. The driver was also 76 years old. The driver’s shift started at 3am and the collision took place at 1:16pm with the cruise control still set at 70 mph.

    3) And obviously, 10 people getting killed in this tragedy played a role in the large settlement amount.

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