How Long Does It Take to Settle a Semi-Truck Accident?By Stewart J. Guss on April 24th, 2020
Semi-truck accidents are some of the most devastating wrecks on the road. They’re also among the most complicated to recover from, both physically and financially.
When fully loaded, semi-trucks can weigh 20 to 30 times more than the average passenger car. With this massive size comes less maneuverability, a longer distance required to come to a complete stop, and more space needed to make turns. Semi-trucks also have a high center of gravity, which makes them more prone to rollovers. They also sit higher off the ground, which leaves enough space for a smaller vehicle to slide beneath the truck during an accident and become pinned.
All these ingredients make one dangerous cocktail. Truck accidents risk causing serious and even fatal injuries for occupants of smaller passenger vehicles.
If a truck accident caused by someone else’s carelessness has hurt you or taken the life of your loved one, you may have the right to seek compensation for your injuries and losses.
One of the most common questions we hear from clients at our law firm is: How long until my semi-truck accident case settles?
As with all cases, the answer is: it depends on your unique circumstances. Read on to understand why.
If you still have questions specific to a semi-truck accident that harmed you or a loved one, we’ve got answers. Contact an experienced truck accident injury lawyer right away. A personal injury lawyer who knows how to handle truck accident cases can make all the difference in getting you the best settlement the law will allow.
What a Settlement Is and Isn’t
Clients often ask us how long it will take for their semi-truck accident case to “settle,” but we find they don’t always understand what that word means. You could often “settle” for a measly amount relatively quickly, but that’s not what you or your lawyer want.
A settlement is an agreement between someone who got hurt in a semi-truck accident and someone who has a legal liability for that accident. In a typical semi-truck accident settlement, the person or business with legal liability pays money to the injured accident victim, and in return the victim agrees to release the party from future legal liability. When parties agree to a settlement, the legal dispute between them ends and, in most cases, can never start up again.
Often – but not always – the money paid to the injured semi-truck accident victim comes from an insurance company. That’s the main reason people buy liability insurance: to protect them against liability if their bad decisions or careless actions hurt someone else.
Most semi-truck accident cases we handle—and, in fact, most of all the cases we handle as personal injury lawyers—end in a monetary settlement. The liable party and their insurance company will conduct a “cost-benefit” calculation and decide it makes more sense to pay money now to make a lawsuit end, rather than drag out the battle or go to court.
Sometimes parties cannot agree to a settlement. In those cases, the semi-truck accident lawsuit goes forward to a trial in front of a judge and jury. So when someone asks us how long until their semi-truck case settles, we always have to remind them that the answer could be… never. Instead of settling, it might take a fight in court to get our injured clients the money they deserve. A competent lawyer will always be prepared for this path.
But don’t worry: most semi-truck cases do reach a settlement. How long that takes depends on the following factors.
Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen – Multiple Parties Can Slow Things Down
In one particular case, the wind blew so hard along I-65 that it sent a semi-truck airborne, crashing into another truck. A third truck then rear-ended a fourth truck, which had slowed down to avoid the initial accident. The force of that crash pushed one of the vehicles into a fifth truck. Three drivers suffered injuries, and the road stayed closed for hours.
That sounds like a ton of trucks, but believe it or not, semi-truck accidents involving multiple vehicle pile-ups happen quite often. Many passenger vehicles can be damaged in the wake of an 18-wheeler. Plus, numerous individuals and entities can have a legal interest in a semi-truck: the driver, the truck owner, the owner of the cargo in the trailer, the trucking company, insurance companies, and so on.
This means your typical semi-truck accident involves multiple victims, and multiple individuals and entities with potential legal liability for the victims’ injuries. With every additional party comes additional complications. Just coordinating the schedules of the attorneys for these multiple parties burns through a lot of time.
How long it takes until your semi-truck case settles depends on the number of parties involved in your case.
Truck Accidents Make a Mess. Sorting It out Takes Time.
No matter how obvious it seems to you, saying that someone else caused your accident is not enough to convince a court or a reluctant insurance company.
You have to prove it.
To obtain compensation from someone in a personal injury lawsuit, you must show that that person or entity made bad decisions or took dangerous actions that caused the accident and, consequently, hurt you.
This is easier said than done. Take that chain reaction truck accident we described above as an example. Suppose your injury happened when the fifth truck to get hit plowed into your sedan, crushing it and causing massive injuries. Your doctors cannot tell you exactly how long it might take you to recover, nor what a “full recovery” might look like in your case.
For settlement discussions in your semi-truck accident case to even begin, a lawyer representing you typically faces a double challenge: First, they must untangle the accident to figure out which of the trucks/truck drivers/trucking companies/other parties involved in the crash might have a legal liability to you for your injuries. Second, they must record and examine your medical condition to estimate, as accurately as possible, the amount of money you need to make a “full recovery” and get your life back on track.
It doesn’t stop there. Your lawyer also has to contend, compete, or coordinate with lawyers for other accident victims trying to do the same thing, and lawyers for all of the other parties who are trying to dodge legal liability to you and the other victims.
You can see why this undertaking might need months upon months of effort. Bottom line: semi-truck accidents commonly involve lots of factual and legal complications and uncertainty from the get-go, with even more obstacles revealed as the layers are peeled back. Lawyers need time to investigate and set you up for success: a settlement that pays you the full, fair amount of money you deserve.
Time is Money
You may hear your lawyer talk about case value and how much your case is worth. Obviously, when we use those terms, we aren’t referring to the value of life itself. You simply can’t put a price tag on that.
The value of a case is determined by adding the economic expenses – such as medical bills, vehicle replacement or repair, and lost wages – and then adding a dollar-value reflecting the pain, suffering, and other harm done to a person’s life by a semi-truck accident.
As a general rule, the more money an injured semi-truck accident victim deserves to receive, the longer it can take for that case to reach a settlement.
Semi-truck accidents are capable of inflicting massive casualties and damage, bringing with them enormous expenses. Parties with legal liability may try to declare bankruptcy to avoid losing their assets. A bankruptcy filing can halt personal injury lawsuits in their tracks, adding additional time to reach a settlement.
You deserve an experienced truck accident lawyer by your side. The right attorney knows how to aggressively pursue liable parties and stand up for you when you’ve been knocked down. Don’t fall prey to the legal tricks those who hurt you will try to employ to delay or avoid paying you what you deserve.
Avoid Temptation – Patience Pays!
Even in cases with clear liability and significant injuries, the at-fault party’s insurance company will try to take advantage of you. They will quickly offer a settlement before you’re even discharged from the hospital. Many accident victims feel tempted to accept this quick settlement. They might be stressed and disoriented, and just want to “get it over with.”
Don’t fall for this trap.
Early settlement offers seldom take the full extent of your suffering into account. In fact, that’s why insurance companies make them: to get you to accept the money before you realize how much harm you’ve suffered or before you can get advice from an experienced attorney. If you agree to a paltry premature settlement but discover unexpected bills and complications down the road, you’ll be out of luck.
Instead of acting on impulse, hire an experienced semi-truck accident lawyer who can protect your legal rights and hold responsible parties accountable. Personal injury lawyers deal with insurance companies every day. They know the tricks and tactics to avoid, and know the most opportune time to strike.
Don’t get played – get a fair settlement that pays you what you deserve.
How Things Usually Play Out
Now that you know the factors that affect the length of time it takes to get to a settlement in a semi-truck accident case, let’s take a look at how a typical settlement process can play out.
A personal injury law firm like ours gets to work on building a case as soon as an injured semi-truck accident victim hires us. We work on a contingency fee basis, so hiring us does not cost our client anything up front. Instead, we get paid a percentage of what we recover for our client. If we can’t help you recover compensation, we don’t get paid. Simple as that.
Typically, we begin by investigating the facts. We look at photographs of the accident scene and the crash report. We identify all of the parties who might have a legal liability to our client, and then determine which of those parties has financial resources (insurance or assets) with which to pay damages in full. We also collect evidence to prove each party’s liability to our client, and how much money our client deserves to receive as compensation.
Next, we reach out to the party or parties with a legal liability (typically through their attorneys or insurance representatives) to demand money on our client’s behalf. We may also file a lawsuit on our client’s behalf naming those same parties as defendants and seeking monetary damages from them.
Lawyers for the legally liable parties will respond and engage in settlement negotiations. A neutral mediator may be involved in these negotiations.
Meanwhile, if we have already filed a lawsuit on our client’s behalf, the case proceeds.
Ultimately, lawyers for the parties often find middle ground on settling a case. The final decision whether to agree to a settlement, however, always belongs to our client.
While we cannot promise how long that will take, we can promise to move you through all of this as quickly and efficiently as possible—with the goal of obtaining the best outcome for you that we can.
The legal process after a truck accident is never smooth sailing, but we try our best to make it easy for you.
If you were injured in a semi-truck accident, an experienced truck accident injury attorney can provide a free case evaluation, answer your other questions, and help you decide what to do next. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Reach out now.