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Truck accident litigation tips — and traps

Written by Steve Gursten Posted August 17th, 2016

Tip No. 1: Begin with the end of the in mind

As President of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and as a Past President of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Lawyer Litigation Group, I travel the country teaching other lawyers how to better litigate truck wreck cases. A founding principle of the Truck Roundtable has been that we can change an entire industry, and make it safer and thus save lives and prevent many crashes from ever occurring, if we can just teach other lawyers who take on these cases how to better investigate the cause of these crashes and why they happen. If we can teach lawyers to find the violations of safety laws and regulations that lead to so many preventable crashes, and actually hold the companies accountable when they violate these safety laws, we can force companies and safety directors to do more to stop them. We can save lives.

So for the next several weeks, I, as well as my fellow Truck Roundtable co-founders, will be sharing some valuable truck litigation tips for attorneys handling commercial motor vehicle cases.

Today I’ll start off with my first tip, which is to begin any case involving a truck accident with the end firmly in view.

The Biggest Mistake Attorneys Make in Truck Accident Litigation

It’s tempting to assume that big cases are likely to settle rather than go to trial. It’s tempting because it then excuses a lawyer from properly investigating the case.

This assumption leads to laziness, lack of preparation and lower settlement values for injuries.

I always stress that truck accident lawsuits are much different than car accident cases. They’re not simply car accident cases with bigger policy limits. Trucking is a regulated industry, and companies are required to comply with state and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (almost all states have adopted these federal regulations in their entirety).

From the first phone call from a prospective client, a truck accident attorney must evaluate and prepare the case with the assumption that it may go to trial, and prepare the case as if it will go to trial. Trucking companies, especially the larger ones with deep pockets, know when an attorney is preparing a case for trial or for settlement. They know when they are being out-worked, when experts are on board, medical and liability exhibits are being prepared, and when any plaintiff lawyer has a track record of taking cases to trial.

This last point is extremely important because even today there are only a small handful of lawyers in the entire country who call themselves “truck accident lawyers” who have actually taken these case to verdict. All three founding members of the Truck Roundtable have, but that is something that makes our law firm extremely unique. It is also the best way we’ve ever found to substantially increase settlement values. A lawyer has to be willing to put in the hundreds of hours and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars to take cases to trial.

Most are not.

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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