Brad Pistotnik Law
Abogado El Toro

Multiple Defendants in Truck Accidents Lawsuits

Multiple Defendants in Truck Accidents Lawsuits

The preliminary investigation that was done by Attorney Poston and his team of hired experts is now complete. So what is the next phase in the truck accident lawsuit? That would be identifying the defendant or defendants and then the actual filing of the civil lawsuit itself. One of the tactics that Attorney Poston or any other good truck accident litigator will do is name as many defendants as possible in an accident where a truck driver is at fault. This tactic, although it increases the complexity of the lawsuit greatly, also increases the chances of winning the suit against at least one of the defendants and increases the pool of financial assets that a winning settlement or court award can draw from.

Before getting into the details of having multiple defendants in a civil lawsuit, it is important to know a little bit about how the actual lawsuit is filed with the court.

Filing the Lawsuit with the Court

After looking at the all the facts from the preliminary investigations it has been decided by your legal team that you have a valid argument as a victim and a strong case for being awarded compensation if you bring forth a civil lawsuit. The next step in the lawsuit’s procedure is the actual filing of the documents with the court to commence with the civil suit.

It is important to note, much like fingerprints, no two lawsuits are ever the same, despite the fact they are required to follow the same set of rules and procedures. Most lawsuits relating to trucking accidents are also filed with state courts as opposed to federal ones. Civil lawsuits are also settled out of court or dismissed outright over a whopping 95% of the time. Just because lawsuits are often settled out of court often, don’t let that fact fool you, there are very much still a complicated litigation process that takes a skilled lawyer such as Blain Poston to get you the results you desire.

Once Blain Poston files the lawsuit on your behalf you become the ‘Plaintiff’. This name is simply derived from the fact that a lawsuit is no more than a formal ‘complaint’ that you have been wronged and incurred a loss by actions from another person or entity.

The person, persons, entity, or entities you claimed have wronged you become the ‘Defendant’ or Defendants’ in the lawsuit. Once served notice of the lawsuit the defendant has 30 days to acknowledge the lawsuit by responding. This response by the defendant is called an ‘answer’ and may contain an admission of guilt (good luck on that one) or a denial of the claim against them.

Often times an answer will be accompanied by a ‘cross complaint’ or a ‘counter suit from the defendant or defendants, which states they are actually the victims and the plaintiff is the one who has wronged them. An example of this; your lawsuit states that a truck driver that the defendants are affiliated with caused a wreck which harmed you in some way; the defendants counter suit states that you actually caused the accident and were therefore the one who caused harm to them. This is a tactic often applied by a defendant’s legal defense team to take some pressure of them and put it back on you and your legal team. A civil suit is not a race to the finish where the first person who files the suit wins; many times the defendant will win the counter suit and the plaintiff will get nothing. It can and does happen. Having Blain Poston’s expertise by your side will greatly minimize this risk.

Once the civil suit has been served, even if the defendants have not given their answer, the plaintiff’s legal team will begin filing motions of discovery. A motion for discovery is seeking the facts that the defendants will use to support their innocence in response to your complaint. At the same time this is happening, the defendants’ legal team will also be filing motions of discovery against the plaintiff. Discovery is very important because any evidence that is not disclosed in the discovery phase by either side may be deemed inadmissible when presented at a later time.

With all things relating to a trial being set in motion there are a few more things that can happen before the actual trial begins.

  • One option is that the two parties represented will settle out of court, usually to a lesser amount than the plaintiff was asking for in the lawsuit.
  • There can also be filed what is known as a ‘Dispositive Motion’ which can be brought forth either by the defendant or plaintiff; it is brought forth in one of two ways.
  • 1.Summary adjudication of facts – this is a filing that claims some of the facts presented by either side should not be allowed to be included in the legal proceedings. Although these filings can show just cause why a lawsuit does not need to go to trial, approval of the findings is no guarantee that a trial will no longer take place, but it does help diminish the other sides chances of winning when approved.
  • 2.Summary Judgment – This is when one side goes all in and claims their case against the other is so conclusive based on the facts that they should be granted a verdict of award or dismissal (depending on which side filed the summary judgment) and the legal proceedings should stop at this point.

After all these steps have taken place, the civil lawsuit trial is then ready to commence.

Blain Poston knows how to use all of these things wisely and timely. He is smart enough to realize that if these tactics are used frivolously that there is no easier way to put off the presiding judge or jurors and take a step backwards in the case. Attorney Poston’s experience will lead him to instinctively choose to use or not use these filings at the appropriate times.

Selecting the Defendants

Of course no lawyer just jumps right in and starts selecting defendants to add to the lawsuit. There are some things to be considered when selecting the defendants to be named in the lawsuit. Just as your legal team conducted a thorough investigation into the accident itself, so too must they conduct a thorough investigation into potential defendants in the lawsuit. There are also cases where even though you can name someone as a defendant, there are times it is not advisable.

Also, just as it was advised that you hire an attorney such as Blain Poston to get working on your behalf as a victim in a large truck accident, so too will many of the persons or entities you are about to name as a defendant as in your suit. It is often the case that a person or entity that expects to be named as a defendant in a lawsuit will start preparing their defense even before they are formally named as a defendant in the suit. All the more reason to hire Blain Poston as soon as possible after becoming a victim in a large commercial truck involved accident, so the defendants do not get a head start on your legal team preparing their defense or counter suits.

  • A.At fault truck driver – this one is a pretty easy choice and without naming this person as a defendant you pretty much won’t have a lawsuit. Most likely the truck driver won’t have a big pool of money to get an award from, but they are still the defendant your case will revolve around because of how the other defendants who have deeper pockets are connected to them. Since they will probably not be affected a lot financially even if they lose the lawsuit, Blaine Poston will attack them and try to force an admission of fault or negligence that results from a guilty conscience, so it is better to name them as a defendant in the suit even if they are financially insolvent.
  • B.Solvent parties – These persons or entities are usually the key to forming a pool of money from which to draw an award or settlement from. These could be the trucks owner, the freight company, the trucks insurance company, an owner of the trailer part of the truck, the company of the people that loaded the truck, or anyone else that may have a financial connection with the truck or driver involved in the accident. When these companies are pooled together, they not only increase the size of the potential reward fund, but you are bound to get some settlements out of some of them too. You can believe that Blain Poston will know this and research a person or entities trend as far as how they have handled past lawsuits.
  • C.Insolvent parties – these are persons or entities that can potentially be named as a defendant in a civil suit, but do not have the ability to add any money to the award pool because of their current financial state. Examples of this are the owner of the truck involved in the accident if they show no significant assets that can be liquidated into cash, a freight company that has just filed for bankruptcy protection, or a truck repair center that just went out of business. Blain Poston would have to determine if they added value to the case in other ways than financially.
  • D.Discovered parties – These types of defendants are named not because they contribute to the award money pool, but because they may have information or documents that are critical for you winning your civil suit. Naming them as a defendant ensures that you will be able to get this information out of them and have it brought to the forefront of the lawsuit.
  • E.Settlement Potential Defendants – as was previously mentioned, some potential defendants can be found out to be a business entity that often settles its cases when they are involved in lawsuits. It never hurts to have a few of these named in the lawsuit. Doing this and settling with a few of these defendants right away can infuse some money into the legal funds available, give the lawsuit some initial momentum, and help casts some doubts on the other defendants chances to win and ability to pool their legal resources.
  • F.Lose Lose defendants – be careful not to add any defendants to the case who not only have limited financial resources, but also stand a good chance to have their part in the lawsuit dismissed. This does the opposite of settlement potential defendants. It needlessly takes momentum away from your side of the suit and also inspires other defendants to aggressively pursue dismissals also.

Drawbacks to having multiple Defendants

You know the advantages now of naming multiple defendants in your civil suit, but one must be aware of the potential drawbacks of this also, and there are many. Here are some possible scenarios when it comes to multiple defendants in a lawsuit.

  • A.You run the risk that they may effectively pool their legal teams and unwittingly make them stronger. As the old saying goes, “two heads are better than one”, imagine what 10 or 12 heads can do. If these defendants do indeed pool their legal resources it can lead to a lot of experienced legal ideas and a lot of creativity towards beating you in court. That is why Attorney Poston will be very meticulous in determining what defendants to name.
  • B.If you have a laundry list of defendants it may appear that you and your legal team’s sole focus is purely monetary instead of seeking justice and to be made whole because of the truck accident. It is never a good thing to have a jury of 12 start to question that your motive with the suit is purely monetary when you need 10 of the 12 to be on your side to win it. Opinions can and do swing momentum very fast when it comes to a small jury pool that works closely together.
  • C.We have showed you in the previous chapter just how much work can go into the accident investigation alone. The more defendants you add in your civil suit, the more work you have to do and the more complicated your lawsuit becomes to win. Another reason that you have to choose wisely when naming defendants in the lawsuit.
  • D.You run the risk of giving the impression you are suing everyone. This can give the judge and jurors a sense that you do not really have a strong case so you are hoping that by naming a lot of defendants you will come up victorious in at least a few of them.

Settlements in Multi Defendant Cases

This is one of the more unusual and interesting things about having multiple defendants in a civil suit. There are a lot of crazy things and combination of outcomes that can potentially happen. You may have one defendant who is dismissed from the suit, one you settle out of court with, and yet another you end up going to trial with. It can and does happen.

A lot of time the ability to do things, such as settle, depends upon the state laws of the court your suit was filed in. In some states all the defendants assume the same liability percentage wise across the board in addition to owing their percentage even if they settle for a lesser amount before the verdict. In that case there is no benefit to making a settlement because if the defendants lose the case they will still end up owing their percentage up to what they settled for; and if the defendants win the case you lost money while the others had to pay nothing. This highlights that there are scenarios when you would not even consider settling the suit in some of the states who had these types of rules.

Blain Poston’s Strategy

Here is where having the expertise and experience of Attorney Poston comes in. Mr. Poston will take a look at the evidence and facts of the case and decide how he needs to proceed when it comes to naming defendants in the lawsuit. He will seek to create balance in his selection of defendants and also generate a money pool for an award. He may strategically settle with one defendant to place the fear of losing in the others and force them to settle for an appropriate amount also. If it goes to trial he will bury the defendants in stacks of facts that he and his legal team have uncovered to lead to the biggest monetary award possible in winning the suit. If a defendant is out there who can add something to the case, attorney Poston will seek them out, find them, name them in the lawsuit, and have them contribute their fair share to the monetary award or a settlement amount as it pertains to the truck related accident.