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Secrets to reaching better injury settlements in truck accident cases

July 20, 2016 by Steven M. Gursten

Attorney Steve Gursten of Michigan Auto Law will share his settlement tips during trucking seminar at the American Association for Justice 2016 Annual Convention this week

Attorney Steven Gursten
Attorney Steven Gursten

Want to know the secret to reaching great injury settlements in trucking cases? The secret is… there is no secret. Better and bigger settlements that more fairly compensate accident victims takes understanding of how trucking companies are supposed to operate, and also understanding insurance and how attorneys can start putting pressure on various insurance layers can lead to reaching higher dollar amounts for your clients.

In other words, it takes a lot of years litigating truck wreck cases. Fortunately, I’ve done that. I’ve litigated well over 300 wrecks involving commercial trucks, and I’ve served as past-president of the AAJ Truck Litigation Group. And this week I will be sharing some of the tips and tactics I’ve learned over the last 20 years when I speak to my fellow truck injury lawyers during the American Association for Justice (AAJ) 2016 Annual Convention in Los Angeles, CA.

The conference runs July 22 to the 26, and I will be addressing the Truck Accident Litigation Section of the AAJ, of which I’m past president. My presentation is called, “Better Settlements for Truck Accident Cases.”

I touched on some of these tips in a prior blog post: 7 lessons from a $34 million truck settlement.

Truck accident cases are different – and lawyers need to litigate these cases differently

As a former president of the AAJ Truck Accident Litigation Group, my priority was always teaching personal injury attorneys that truck accident cases are different. This is the single biggest failing that most lawyers have – and it causes them to lose the single best source of putting pressure on insurance companies to get these cases settled. Many trucking companies have multiple layers of insurance, but if an attorney doesn’t understand the interplay and how working with the secondary or excess layer to put pressure on the underlying insurance carrier to offer policy limits, that attorney is now losing the single best source of leverage you have.

Trucking discovery is also document- and deposition- intensive, but it’s critical to these types of cases because again, handling them like a car accident case means you can miss incredible evidence of negligence that can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to a claim. A lawyer won’t get it if she doesn’t ask for it, and she can’t ask for it if that lawyer doesn’t know what it is.

This includes aggressive legal discovery in how truck companies select, train and supervise truckers, as well as how these companies maintain their fleets.

Truck drivers are grateful

After years of helping people seriously injured or the families of those killed in truck accidents, I’ve found ironically, it’s the truck drivers themselves who are often the most thankful and appreciative of my efforts. I receive many e-mails from truck drivers about how they’re forced to break rules and drive over HOS. If lawyers can’t find this, and can’t prove it, then the trucking companies will keep putting pressure on truckers to keep breaking the laws and safety regulations that are meant to keep us all safe – truck drivers included.

Last but not least – A proven trial record in trucking cases is crucial

You can’t just talk the talk – you have to walk the walk. And this is where almost all personal injury lawyers run smack against the wall. Why? Because almost no attorney who currently is marketing themselves for truck accident cases with the public has actually tried these cases to verdict.

A critical part of securing a top truck accident injury settlement is lots of trial experience in – you guessed it – trucking cases. When defense lawyers and especially insurance companies determine risk, and thus how much money they want to offer to settle a CMV case, they look at the sophistication and courtroom experience and settlement history of the attorneys. A law firm must also have the resources and experience to be able to fund the extensive and very expensive legal discovery required for a successful truck accident lawsuit.

For more information and to register for the American Association for Justice Annual Convention, visit www.justiceannualconvention.org. During the convention, accomplished trial lawyers and experts will discuss the latest developments in trial advocacy and specialized topics at nearly 40 cutting-edge Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs designed to help attorneys better represent their injury clients.

The American Association for Justice is the nation’s largest association of advocates serving the needs of personal injury victims, with more than 50,000 lawyer members. Michigan Auto Law has been a long-standing member, contributor and lecturer to the organization.

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