When a person is injured in an accident involving a commercial truck, he or she may have a “cause of action,” or grounds for filing a lawsuit. Similarly, if a person is killed in a semi-truck accident, his or her surviving spouse or family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party or parties. Our Dallas truck accident lawyers discuss the timeline for this process, and explain some of the stages involved in a case.
What is the Timeline of an 18-Wheeler or Commercial Truck Accident Lawsuit?
When a person has been injured or killed by the negligent actions of another, a legal clock called the “statute of limitations” starts counting down. If the plaintiff does not file suit before the clock runs out – before the statute of limitations expires – the claim will be barred, and the victim will therefore lose much of their legal recourse.
The statute of limitations does not restrict the duration of the case; it simply creates a deadline for a case to begin. Texas law gives you two years from the date of your injury, or the date of your family member’s wrongful death, to initiate proceedings. However, it is ideal to start well before the deadline in order to maximize the preparation time. So what does this preparation entail, and what are the general stages of a truck accident lawsuit?
- Discovery – Legal terminology can be confusing, but “discovery” means precisely what you would think: the process by which each party discovers information about other side, largely in the form of written documentation that parties request from each other. The purpose of discovery is to help both sides plan and prepare their strategies, in order to keep the remainder of the process efficient.
Depositions are also a key part of discovery. A deposition, which is oral testimony outside of court (often in an attorney’s office), is effectively a question-and-answer session. Each side will have the opportunity to ask the other questions, which, like the information gathered through discovery, further allows each party to plan their strategies going forward.
- Mediation – Mediation is an attempt to settle the case before heading to trial. At mediation, a neutral attorney from outside the case will act as a mediator. His or her role is to try and guide negotiations toward a successful settlement on terms that are acceptable to all parties. If mediation fails, it may be necessary to go to trial, unless the case can be settled at a later point in time.
- Trial and Settlement – A Texas truck accident case can be settled very late in the process, even after a trial has already started. Otherwise, the jury will answer questions about the case, which the judge will then interpret in order to make a judgment.
So, how long does this entire process take? Unfortunately, it’s impossible to answer that question without knowing the details of your situation, because some cases are substantially more complex than others. Depending on factors like the number of defendants, the nature of your injuries, the nature and timing of your medical treatment, the willingness of the defendant to make you a reasonable settlement offer, and how much evidence each side believes they have to support their case, the overall process may take up to several years, especially in the larger courts that are heavily backlogged with prior cases, such as the Harris County courts that handle truck accident cases.
Individual components of the process can take several weeks or more. For example, it may take several months to serve the defendant and, in response, for the defendant to file an answer. Later in the process, the trial itself may last for weeks or months. That being said, the vast majority of claims never make it to trial, resolving instead through settlements beforehand. Our Dallas personal injury attorneys will work to make your case move along as efficiently as possible, but will take all measures necessary to protect your best interests, and will not rush to settle your claim for less than it is actually worth.
Truck Accident Lawyers Serving Dallas, Texas
The Texas 18-wheeler accident attorneys of Queenan Law have over 20 years of experience representing semi-truck accident injury victims in highly complex personal injury and wrongful death litigation involving major trucking and insurance companies. To speak confidentially in a free legal consultation with one of our Arlington truck accident lawyers call the Queenan Law Firm, P.C. as soon as possible at (817) 476-1797.