This post was last updated on July 20th, 2019
In the course of your work as a truck driver, there is a lot which can go wrong.
Moving violations and collisions are the most obvious dangers on the road—but many other hazards need to be considered as well. For example, in tractor trailer trucking accidents, cargo that spills out of your vehicle could cause a secondary crash behind you on the road. Trucking companies can be held liable for that secondary crash.
Or maybe someone on the road has a bout of road rage and causes damage to your rig. The list goes on and on…
Your CDL insurance policy should cover the damages for most of these incidents, assuming you have a thorough policy.
But there are a lot of situations where you might need to go a step further and contest the violations and damages. Not only will your deductible and premiums go up if you are held liable for an accident or injury, but you also will accrue points—and that can prevent you from landing trucking jobs in the future.
So there are going to be times when you need a CDL attorney on your side.
How can you afford to do that on a trucker’s salary and make sure you are getting solid representation?
That is the topic we will be exploring in depth, focusing mainly on prepaid CDL legal plans or law firms with individual trucking accident attorneys. Before we get started with your legal options, lets consider who is at risk from a 18-wheeler accident.
Truck Accident FAQs
Question: Who oversee the laws for trucking companies?
The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) oversees all laws and regulations for the commercial truck industry. These regulations force OTR carriers to have some type of commercial insurance coverage. This ensures that owner operators and commercial truck companies will have enough insurance protection to be able to pay for any damages if found liable in the event an accident occurs.
Question: Who can be held responsible for a a truck accident?
Semi truck accidents most often result in personal injury lawsuits against the driver and trucking company. This includes the truck owner(s) if different from the actual driver. In some serious injury cases (spinal cord injury, wrongful death, etc…) insurance companies have gone after the actual truck manufacturer for damages.
Question: What are the most common causes of truck accidents?
One of the most obvious causes is distracted driving. This can be from talking on your cell phone, texting while driving or using your GPS unit.
Fatigue and tiredness also take a heavy toll drivers and are a common source of truck accidents.
Faulty truck maintenance is another likely cause. All commercial trucking companies are required to document all maintenance records for their fleet. If faulty equipment is to blame for a tractor trailer accident the company will be held accountable. Even for experienced drivers, a tire blow out or worn brake can lead to a serious accident. For this reason and many others, strict guidelines are in place to record all maintenance records.
What Are Prepaid CDL Legal Plans?
You can think of a prepaid CDL legal plan a bit like “legal insurance” (in fact, sometimes it is referred to as “civil liability insurance”). You pay a monthly premium on an ongoing basis—for example around $20 a month. If anything ever does go wrong, you will receive legal coverage within the parameters defined by the plan you have selected. The most popular plans are offered by Drivers Legal Plan, which we will discuss later.
The idea here is much the same as it is with auto insurance or health insurance; instead of letting one bad judgment drain you of many thousands of dollars through penalties and lost work opportunities, you just pay a few hundred bucks a year to stay safe.
Is It Smart to Enroll in a Prepaid Legal Defense Fund for Truckers?
Sounds great in theory, right? But do these prepaid plans actually deliver? On that, the reviews are mixed.
It seems that most truckers are either very much in favor of these programs or very much against them, depending on their personal experiences (and general feelings about prepaid programs).
The most common arguments in favor of prepaid legal plans for truckers are:
- For a relatively low annual fee, you can rest assured knowing that basic legal expenses will be covered when you need them.
- You can take fast action to get an issue resolved—and someone else can do the legwork for you.
- A lot of truckers have had great experiences with these services. They not only have saved them time, money, and hassle, but have also spared them points.
- Anyone can get into an fatal truck accident or another predicament necessitating legal help. Sometimes you follow the rules to the letter and still end up in a bad situation.
The most common arguments against prepaid legal plans for truckers are:
- If you drive safely, you may rarely or never need to actually call on your prepaid legal plan (this does not seem particularly realistic to me, as by definition you are trying to prepare for that which is unpredictable. Nobody is ever in total control of their situation on the road. There are too many outside variables on the road especially when you are driving a tractor trailer).
- With the money you save every year not paying for a prepaid plan, you may very well have enough to cover your tickets and/or defense through a traditional lawyer, with some left over.
- Just as many truckers have had good experiences with prepaid plans, others have had terrible experiences to report. When they needed the plan, they found it didn’t cover nearly what they needed, or the prepaid law firm wasn’t willing to do the hard work. Sometimes, they even demanded more money.
Judging by these varied reports, we can say a few things about prepaid plans:
- They seem to vary widely in quality. Some prepaid plans are pretty much scams and don’t have legit trucking accident attorneys at all. With that said, others seem to actually fulfill on their promises.
- A prepaid plan can only go so far. Considering their relatively low cost, what else do you expect?
- How you perceive prepaid plans will depend in part on your general financial outlook.If on the whole you don’t think insurance makes a lot of sense, you will not find prepaid CDL legal plans very sensible. If on the other hand you consider insurance products reassuring and fiscally sound (or have ever seen footage of jacknife accidents), you probably will find prepaid legal plans for truckers appealing.
Wondering what is in prepaid cdl legal plans for the lawyers?
You get access to cheaper legal services and the truck accident law firm attorneys who work for these services get access to more clients. It is a great way to cut back on marketing costs.
So this should assure you that not all prepaid legal plans are necessarily scams. They can be mutually beneficial for all the parties involved. The last thing most drivers want to think about after a personal injury is what trucking accident lawyer should they call. In fact, many people have no idea how to contact an attorney- especially one that specializes in commercial truck accident representation. It this scenario, being prepared for the worst case scenario (commercial vehicle accident with wrongful death claims) beforehand is a big relief. Rest assured that the other parties in any accident will hire aggressive personal injury attorneys
You may want to ask around for referrals from truckers you know. That way you are getting recommendations from people you trust and see eye to eye with. Ask about other truckers’ real-life experiences with prepaid CDL, and then make a decision accordingly.
Pros of Prepaid Defense Funds for CDL Truckers
- In some situations, prepaid legal defense can save you money.
- Prepaid legal defense may also prevent points from going on your record. This can actually be the greatest value, since it keeps work opportunities open to you. It also keeps the cost of your insurance down. Ultimately, this may save you even more money than getting a ticket written off.
- Prepaid CDL plans minimize hassles. If stress is a major problem for you, just having a plan in place before disaster strikes can be a major weight off. With prepaid legal, you have less research, calling around and negotiating to do. A ticket can be dealt with (and hopefully dismissed) quickly and with minimal involvement on your part.
- With a prepaid plan on your side, you have some peace of mind. The emotional benefit of knowing you are covered may help you worry less on a day-to-day basis.
- Some prepaid plans include great benefits. You might for example get unlimited attorney hours, low flat fees for the majority of violations, and hefty discounts for everything else.
Cons of Prepaid Defense Funds for CDL Truckers
- Some prepaid plans cover very little. You might get to chat briefly with an attorney, and then the company will start charging lots of money (or simply stop communicating with you).
- Many prepaid companies operate on a referral basis, transferring issues to various attorneys who contract with them. Not all of these attorneys are truck driver lawyers. Some may not know how to help you.
- There are reports of prepaid companies charging more to defend against a ticket than the price of the ticket.
- You might just be pouring money down a black hole. After all, there is a chance you will never need to fall back on the plan—or if you do need to defend yourself, the money you saved not paying for one of these services could be more than sufficient.
You will have to weigh these pros and cons for yourself and decide what is best for you.
Features to Look for in a Prepaid Drivers Legal Plan
If you do decide to shop for a prepaid drivers legal plan, here is what to look for in terms of features:
- No or low deductible. It is better if a prepaid drivers legal plan can begin paying out right away. Otherwise there may be a lot of situations where you never make it through your deductible for the year and the plan fails to cover anything.
- Substantial or unlimited talk time with an attorney. Being cut off after just an hour or two talking to a lawyer often means you are forced to pay more to get anywhere with your case.
- If a referral system is used, make sure that only experienced CDL lawyers will be dealing with you.
- High or 100% coverage for all moving and non-moving violations.
- Representation in court by an experienced CDL lawyer. This is included with most plans, but you should always double check.
- High discounts on services which are not covered 100% or at a low flat rate (discounts of around 30% or higher are great).
- High caps or no caps.
- Great customer service and communication. This is a must; it is every bit as important as what the company says they cover. You need them to actually deliver when you are in a tight spot.
- Strong reputation and reviews. Again, check online and ask around. See what companies your buddies have used, and whether they have had good or bad experiences. Steer clear of dubious companies that you cannot find a lot of information on or those which customers consistently complain about.
- Reasonable costs. You don’t have to shop for the cheapest plan in the world, but you do need to find one which provides you with value.
Alternatives to Prepaid Monthly Legal Defense Programs
A lot of truckers will never choose to invest in prepaid CDL legal services. So if you do not want to go that route, you do not have to. But that leaves the question, “What can I do to protect myself”? You don’t want to sell yourself short here either, especially if you may have a workers compensation claim for compensation for your injuries from a semi truck accident injury.
There are really not a whole lot of options here.
But there are two things you can do:
- Work with an experienced lawyer.
- Follow safe driving practices.
Driving carefully goes a long ways toward avoiding tickets. There are some people who believe that is enough to spare you from situations where you would need a lawyer. Life is pretty uncertain, though, especially on the road—and sometimes someone else is entirely at fault.
Further Reading On Driver Safety: Review the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations
Those are actually the situations where you are most likely to need a lawyer on your side.
After all, you need to contest the ticket and keep your record clean.
If you do not have civil liability insurance, you will simply need to hunt down a CDL traffic ticket lawyer to defend you. In some cases, yes, this can be very expensive. In others however, it may be a lot more affordable than you think.
While more research will be required and it will cost more than the defense you might get through a prepaid program, you can be more selective about the attorney you choose to work with, and you can usually get more extensive services.
If you opt for this approach, my suggestion is to set up your own legal defense fund on a continuing basis. Say for example you would be spending $20 a month on a prepaid plan, but have decided not to go for it. Sock that money away and label it “legal” instead. Several years down the road, maybe you will end up with a ticket, and you will have to contest it. Now at least you have a few hundred bucks set aside toward your defense (or toward paying the ticket).
Conclusion: It Is Up To You Whether You Want to Use Prepaid CDL Legal Defense Plans.
Now you know some of the pros and cons of prepaid legal plans for truck drivers. Some people swear by these programs, while others recommend staying far away from them. You will need to research various prepaid CDL plans thoroughly and then decide for yourself if the expense is worth it to you. Good luck and stay safe!