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Alabama Truck Accident Lawyer Sara Williams

Former Defense Lawyer Urges Taking Immediate Action

Video Transcript:

Sara Williams:

Time is absolutely of the essence when it comes to these claims.

Rob Rosenthal:

If you're injured in a wreck with a big rig, do you know what to do? How about some insider tips? Well, that's what we're going to find out right now, because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer.

Hi again everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com, and my guest here to answer our questions is Alabama attorney Sara Williams. Remember, if you have questions about your specific situation, go to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the home screen that says “Ask a Lawyer”, and you can ask your questions right there. But right now, it's my turn.

Sara, thank you for making time to answer our questions today.

Sara Williams:

Absolutely, thank you for having me.

Rob Rosenthal:

So you come at this a little differently than a lot of attorneys because you've been on both sides. So let's start with a little bit of your background. You haven't always been a plaintiff's attorney, and you have experience with these kinds of truck accidents. Tell me about that.

Sara Williams:

Yeah, prior to joining Alexander Shunnarah’s firm, I spent years as a trucking defense attorney and even was a member of a firm that was on a lot of panels for what is called a 24-hour response team. So I've used that knowledge to inform my day-to-day activities in regard to my trucking cases.

Rob Rosenthal:

Why represent injured people now?

Sara Williams:

My heart really has always been with people. Most people will tell you that I have a big heart, and so I really got to a point in my career where I felt like I was using my skill set not to do good, and I wanted to do good for people; I wanted to help people. I just got to a point where I felt like I could be more on the other side.

Rob Rosenthal:

You mentioned 24-hour response teams. I'm sure most people don't know what that is. What is that and what does that mean if someone's injured in a collision with a big truck?

Sara Williams:

So oftentimes the insurance carriers for these trucking companies, or some trucking companies handle their own claims in-house, but they will have an individual who the driver is responsible for reporting that wreck to. Oftentimes that's the safety director, and then the safety director is triggered to contact either the in-house claims adjusting personnel or the insurance company. Most insurance companies that ensure commercial motor vehicles have a panel of law firms throughout the country that constitute their 24-hour response tea; when you decide to join one of those teams, you essentially agree that if they contact you, whether it's 2 o'clock in the morning or 1 o'clock in the afternoon, to respond to the scene of a collision to preserve evidence or what have you, that you will do that. And so that's what a 24-hour response team is, which I think is often shocking to people to hear, but I have known of lawyers who have assisted a driver in writing their statement that's going to a company, the wreck report. I have gotten photographs from defense lawyers that were taken at the scene of the collision, where first responders were still there, but the photos are from their cell phone. So it's a very real thing, and it's the reason why oftentimes in those cases the defense has an advantage because they were there immediately thereafter.

Rob Rosenthal:

So that begs a couple of questions. Some people might think, well, the 24-response team has come, and the adjusters, the insurance company, they're coming; they're going to help me, to make sure I'm okay and help me get the help I need, that sort of thing. That's not necessarily true, right? They're not really coming to be on the injured person’s side?

Sara Williams:

No. Their job and their responsibility is to, one, preserve evidence, but two, oftentimes to ensure that the statements that are made by the truck driver are not detrimental to a future claim. They are there from the standpoint of what can we do to put ourselves in the best position in regard to any anticipated claims arising out of this collision. They are not there to help the injured party.

Rob Rosenthal:

In other words, to make sure the insurance company has to pay as little money as possible.

Sara Williams:

That's their goal.

Rob Rosenthal:

Now, the other question that occurs to me is if those people are getting going right away, if that truck driver immediately after the accident is on the phone or on the radio to the dispatch and that gets going, if the injured person waits a few days or a couple of the weeks before they contact someone like yourself, they're already operating from a disadvantage.

Sara Williams:

Not only are they operating from a disadvantage, but there is a potential that the truck is repaired or that truck is moved and crucial evidence contained within the electronic devices on that truck and on the trailer could be lost. So one thing that I am constantly encouraging people to do, and it's difficult, is to reach out as soon as it’s practical and find a good, reputable trucking plaintiff’s attorney. There is nothing you can do about evidence that is gone. Once it’s gone, it's gone. So it's imperative that you are also contacting someone who can jump on preserving evidence to ensure that they are working for you. Unfortunately, most people are not thinking about that because they may have a loved one who is laying up in the hospital, or who is deceased and the family is thinking about funeral plans; so oftentimes I hate to have that conversation, but the reality is, because of what the other side is doing, time is absolutely of the essence when it comes to these claims.

Rob Rosenthal:

It seems like sometimes people could get discouraged, Sara; they’re going up against a big trucking company or a big insurance company with their teams of attorneys. Can the little guy take on the big guys?

Sara Williams:

Absolutely. All is fair in litigation, and I think that is where the positions are evened out. The important thing is that you are retaining someone who has the specific knowledge to handle a trucking case as a trucking case. Oftentimes, I saw this when I was a defense lawyer, they handle them like they were big car wreck cases, and it is a completely different industry because it is an industry. You are not suing an individual; you are not talking about Joe Blow from down the street who may have slipped his foot off the brake and rear-ended you. You're talking about a corporation that is putting a particular driver on the road, and that is regulated by the federal government and state governments. So it is a particular field of knowledge, and it's important to identify a lawyer who has that knowledge.

Rob Rosenthal:

How do they make that identification? Do they just ask?

Sara Williams:

Yes, that's the first step. I think any time you hire an attorney if you have a trucking case, the first question that you have to ask is, “What is your experience in this area of law? How many of these cases have you handled?” There are certain things that are going to clue you in to whether or not that individual has the requisite knowledge. I would ask, “What are the first steps that you're going to take?” If they are not talking to you about sending preservation letters and conducting vehicle inspections and conducting downloads of vehicles, then you probably are not talking to someone who necessarily has that specialized knowledge.

Rob Rosenthal:

And I would imagine if you can get someone like yourself who has had that experience on the other side as well, that's just an extra added benefit.

Sara Williams:

I hope it is.

Rob Rosenthal:

A fascinating conversation. Thank you for answering our questions. Lots of great information. I appreciate you taking the time today.

Sara Williams:

Absolutely, thanks for having me.

Rob Rosenthal:

That's going to do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been Alabama attorney Sara Williams. Remember, if you have questions about your specific situation, go to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the screen that says, “Ask a Lawyer”, and it'll walk you through it right there. Thanks for watching everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers™.

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