Interview with Attorney Spencer Farris of the S.E. Farris Law Firm on Truck Involved Accidents
When a semi-truck is involved in an accident, it immediately raises the stakes. What potentially may have been a minor accident involving only passenger vehicles can become very serious, very deadly, very fast. For the injured who survive a wreck and the families of victims lost, winning the legal battle that follows is often about more than just compensation.
So what makes accidents involving a semi-truck different than a typical car accident case, and what skills do the very best lawyers for trucking injury cases bring to the courtroom for their clients?
We spoke with Spencer E. Farris, of the S.E. Farris Law Firm, with over $100,000,000 recovered for clients, 20+ years experience and awarded the highest possible Avvo ranking by clients about truck injury cases and how a skilled attorney can make all the difference to the client, both with their claim and in their lives.
How does a Semi-Truck being involved in my collision change things?
Truck accidents are different than car accidents, from the damage and injuries they cause, to the rules and regulations that govern the trucking industry. On top of that, time is not on your side. You need a lawyer with specialized knowledge to wade through all of the red tape, and get the compensation you deserve. If you’re hit by a truck, there’s a good chance your injuries will be more severe, your medical care will be more expensive, and your recovery time will be a lot longer than if you were hit by another car. Bigger accidents often mean you need more compensation in order to recover, and it takes an experienced attorney who knows how to get it for you.
I was seriously hurt in my collision, what’s that potentially worth to me?
It is never worthwhile to get seriously injured! No amount of money adequately makes up for the pain and fear of getting hurt. That being said, your case value is dependent on a host of factors: where did it happen? Is the responsible party a truck driver, a drunk driver or senior citizen taking meals to the homeless? What is your prognosis for recovery, and what are your future medical needs? How did the collision impact your earning ability? How experienced is your attorney in handling serious cases? And a host of other factors.
Does it matter what state the accident occurred when I am looking for the best attorney for my claim?
Maybe. Many attorneys can settle a case in a state other than where they regularly practice. If the injury occurred in a state where you were travelling but don’t live, a local attorney in that state will know the “lay of the land” and how to maximize your recovery. However, an attorney local to you should be able to associate with another attorney where you were hurt, and may be able to make a more informed decision as to which lawyer to select.
When do I NOT need an attorney?
If you weren’t hurt, or if your injury was very minor: no hospital visits, no follow up doctor visits and no pain or symptoms after a week or so.
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There are a lot of lawyers out there… What separates the good from the great attorneys?
That is like asking what separates a good artist from a great one! When it comes to representing injury victims, a great attorney is one who treats you like a human being instead of a number and is willing to try your case, with the experience and passion to do it well. But even a great attorney is the wrong one for you if there isn’t a good fit. If you don’t feel comfortable and like you matter to the lawyer, their ability is less valuable.
We were in a multi-car pile-up; I’m not sure whose fault it was. Does it matter?
Ultimately, yes, it matters who is at fault. Sometimes the at-fault party isn’t readily apparent. A dangerous highway may be the source of the problem, rather than any one driver. A good law firm has the resources to investigate your crash and find out what happened.
I just want my life back… Will I have to go to court? What does the claim process entail and how does your law firm simplify it for me?
Your lawyer’s job is to take care of the claim so you can move on with your life! The claim process first involves you healing—no one should settle a case without knowing what the medical implications are, and how likely future treatment is. Once you are done with doctors, we collect medical records and bills and submit a demand to the insurance company. Either a fair settlement is reached or a lawsuit is filed. While most claims, over 95%, settle out of court, that settlement can happen at any point in the process. If a lawsuit is filed, you will have to answer written questions and give a deposition. You may have to be examined by the defendant’s doctor so they can evaluate your medical claims. If the case doesn’t settle during this process, you will have to go to trial and your lawyer will present your case.
How do you deal with the devastating tragedy a serious or fatal accident can result in for the victims and families involved?
My law firm does nothing but represent injury victims, and no one calls on us for help unless they have a traumatic event. We treat every client with compassion based on that understanding. I never let the insurance company refer to my client as a claim number—I represent people, not files, when I am your advocate. As your counselor, we promise to promptly return phone calls and emails to answer questions so you don’t feel alone in the process.
Can you share a story that comes to mind of how a settlement you won positively impacted the life of one of your clients?
I hope that most settlements have that impact! I remember a client who was paralyzed after a car crash. His settlement helped make his home accessible and get a vehicle that would accommodate his disability. I was thrilled to see his face when he got some of his independence back! Even in less severe cases, I have often heard that being able to pay off doctor bills and catch up from missing work takes such a load off of a client’s mind that they feel like they have a new lease on life.
Can you walk us through some of what your firm does to prove negligence or support proximate cause in a claim?
Every case is different, and there is no stock answer. Generally speaking, I talk to witnesses and visit injury scenes to understand what happened. Other times I consult with engineers, doctors or product safety experts to make sure we explore every fact that proves our case. Sometimes this investigation reveals that we can’t prove the case, and I tell clients when this occurs, rather than push forward with rose colored glasses.
There has been a lot of attention focused on driver fatigue safety concerns and new DOT safety rules for drivers. Can you share what your thoughts are on this issue?
I have worked with experts on trucking cases to understand and prove cases of driver fatigue. While you may drive a car tired—and you shouldn’t—the attention needed to pilot a passenger car safely is much less than what is needed to handle a semi-truck without incident. You may recover from a mistake with a car without incident, but a momentary lapse due to fatigue in a big truck can have devastating consequences.
Are there any other safety issues you feel are NOT getting the attention they should?
Zombie attacks. Okay, maybe not zombie attacks, but the real threat is that jurors are being brainwashed to believe that every injury victim is trying to milk the system or get something they don’t deserve. Jurors become zombies that repeat what they hear in the media and come to trial blaming the victim for getting hurt. There is also a real threat of products being rushed to market with too little government testing, making us guinea pigs and test subjects instead of safe consumers.
I was hurt, am out of work, how long can it take to get a settlement for my injuries?
There is no one size fits all answer for this. A skilled attorney knows how to pressure insurance companies to pay a fair amount promptly, rather than allow them to drag a case out until the victim is desperate for any settlement.
What sets you apart from the countless other attorneys and firms?
We know that each case is the client’s only case, and treat it with that level of seriousness. We are passionate to fight for clients, and have the experience to be successful. I continue to develop my skills—I am graduating from the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers’ College, am Board certified, and stay on top of the latest science both in trial work and for issues that affect my clients. We remember that the practice of law is a profession first, not a business. That philosophy is becoming rare in today’s world.
Why do your clients love you?
Everyone in my office understands the fear that injury victims have—the unpaid bills, the pain and sleepless nights, the loss of ability to move around and enjoy life. We don’t take every case, but we promise the clients we do represent that we will fight for them rather than just get a quick settlement that pads the firm’s coffers and leaves the client with less than he or she should get. We deliver on that promise.
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