How Is A Georgia Tractor-Trailer/Big Truck Injury Claim Handled?

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As a Georgia injury attorney handling tractor-trailer and big truck claims, I know that one of the first questions potential clients want answered is “How is my claim going to be handled?” In other words, for Georgia tractor-trailer cases, what is the usual roadmap for litigation?

Obviously, every case is different and every client is unique. However, we can provide some general principles with respect to how Georgia big truck cases are handled. First, the injured person must select a qualified lawyer with whom he or she feels comfortable. There will be more on this in a later blog. But, for the time being, it is important to know that Georgia commercial truck injury claims are very (very) different from regular automobile collisions. It is vital to find an attorney with a track record of handling Georgia tractor-trailer cases. Once the client has selected an attorney, the client will fill out paperwork, usually including a Health Authorization Form. This particular form allows the attorney to secure all of the client’s relevant medical records and bills–the ambulance trip to the hospital, emergency room records, surgical records, and rehabilitation records and more. The attorney may also have the client fill out other Authorization forms so that he or she can secure the client’s lost wage information, etc. Of course, in the event of a death, the Representative of the decedent’s Estate will fill out the relevant forms.

Very quickly (ideally within days of the wreck), the attorney will need to send out what are known as “spoliation letters.” These letters are sent, usually via certified mail, to the tractor-trailer driver and his company. These letters mandate that the driver and company preserve and secure vital records related to the crash. Such records include, but are not limited to: driver’s logs (showing how long the driver was driving before the wreck), bills of lading (showing what the driver was hauling), employee records for the driver, and much more. Some, or all, of this information may be critical for the case. Next, some lawyers request (and I think this is the better practice), the post-accident drug and alcohol screen for the driver. Federal regulations mandate that commercial drivers take drug and alcohol tests after many types of wrecks (and particularly where someone is injured and leaves the scene of the collision in an ambulance). The tractor-trailer company does not have to turn over any records before a lawsuit is filed, but many companies will share such information in an effort to get the claims resolved (and because they know they will have to turn over the documents in the event of a lawsuit).

After all of the necessary documents are collected and after the client has completed necessary medical treatment, a demand package should usually be sent to the tractor-trailer company and its insurer. This demand package–if done properly–should include the client’s pertinent medical records and bills, lost wage information, and a thorough discussion of the relevant liability and damage aspects of the case. Of course, the amount of money demanded and reasonable value for the claim varies widely and depends upon many factors. Among those factors are: extent of injury, the number of people injured, liability (ie, was the wreck totally the fault of the commercial driver?), drug/alcohol use by the tractor-trailer driver, venue for the case (what county the case would be filed in), etc.

If the parties can agree upon a fair and reasonable settlement, the claim is over. If, however, a monetary settlement cannot be reached, the claim proceeds into litigation with the filing of a formal lawsuit (which will be the topic) of a later post.

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