Semi-truck accidents can be devastating as well as deadly, and that doesn’t include putting the pieces back together after the accident. If you have been in an accident involving a semi-truck, the legal system may seem confusing, and it may be difficult to understand where to get started.
If the truck driver was at-fault, you may be wondering what steps you need to take to pursue compensation for damages and medical expenses, as well as what type of compensation you’ll receive. If you choose to seek compensation instead of filing a lawsuit, you are pursuing a personal injury settlement. This option is a process and a challenge, but may also be incredibly rewarding in providing the help you deserve.
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Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Settlements
Both personal injury and wrongful death settlements are based on proving liability (who is responsible) with the theory of negligence. In proving liability, the theory of negligence states: the party owed you a duty of care, the party breached its duty of care, the breach of duty of care harmed you, and the harm left you damaged. In both types of settlements, there are economic and non-economic (pain and suffering) damages. Personal injury and wrongful death settlements differ in who has the ability to bring an action forward, as well as what types of compensation may be awarded.
In a personal injury settlement, the party bringing the action forward is the person who suffered the injury, and sometimes the spouse of the injured party. Personal settlement compensation is typically awarded for three reasons:
- Lost wages – wages that you were unable to earn due to recovery or disability from the accident.
- Medical Bills – medical care needed prior to the demand, as well as projected future treatments.
- Pain and suffering – this accounts for the pain, discomfort, and disruption of the injured party’s life that resulted from the negligence.
A wrongful death settlement occurs when the injured party is deceased. The party to bring the action forward is the decedent’s personal representative. The personal representative is responsible for recovering the damages reward for the benefit of the deceased’s survivors, who were dependent on the deceased for support and maintenance. The settlement is typically awarded for:
- Lost wages – calculated upon future earnings of the deceased.
- Medical treatment – based upon medical treatment provided until death.
- Funeral expenses – based on the cost of the final arrangements for the deceased.
One of the first steps to filing a claim is investigating all parties that might be legally liable for damages. Even if the truck driver is at fault, there may still be third parties that are liable for damages. This third-party liability is called vicarious liability, and may include everyone associated with the truck: the driver, the truck owner, the driver’s employer, the insurance provider, the party that loaded the truck, the party who owns the cargo in the truck, the last mechanic to service the truck, potentially the manufacturers of the truck and all of its parts, and sometimes even those that paved the road if it is implicated in the accident.
Should I Pursue a Settlement Instead of Suing the Trucking Company?
The truth is, it really depends. Taking a truck accident claim to court is a process, and may take some time. Many insurance companies often prefer to settle over allowing the case to go to court. It often occurs that an insurance company may offer a low settlement at first, hoping that the injured party will accept it and unknowingly lose the right to seek additional recovery. Accepting a settlement can sometimes save time and energy compared to a lawsuit.
Utilizing a truck accident lawyer who understands the complicated process of investigation, liability, local laws, and federal regulations to investigate the claim and pursue a fair settlement may enhance the chances of receiving a fair settlement. On the other hand, if a settlement can’t be reached with an insurance company, a truck accident lawyer may provide the option to resort to a lawsuit and trial to recover damages. Sometimes a lawsuit becomes unavoidable when an adequate settlement isn’t reached.
Even if it seems that the truck driver was at fault, the assistance of a truck accident lawyer on your side during trial assures that you have an advocate willing to represent your interests against an insurance company that may be trying to limit or deny a claim for various reasons. An insurance company may try to limit a payout by claiming only partial fault, challenging claimed damages, or trying to get the injured person to settle for much less than they deserve.
Which Damages Will the Settlement Cover?
A settlement is meant to cover damages to the injured person and their property. This includes:
- Medical bills and treatment before the settlement;
- Projected medical costs after the settlement;
- Damage to property;
- Lost wages for the length of time the injured person is in recovery or may be unable to work;
- Pain and suffering — which is to account for the negative impacts sustained in the injured person’s life and to their welfare by fault of the accident. These negative impacts may include intangible losses including catastrophic injuries resulting in impairments, disfigurement, or disabilities that greatly influence quality of life.
Minimum Settlement Amounts
There is no guarantee of a specific minimum settlement amount. The laws governing fault and negligence, the investigation and it’s findings, and the nature and extent of injuries and other damages are all variables that make pinning down a finite number impossible. However, if a settlement is offered it will typically be negotiated in proportion to the damages outlined above.
Maximum Settlement Amounts
Maximum settlement amounts will vary greatly due to fault, negligence and the outcome of an investigation. The investigation, lawsuit, and settlement or jury will set amounts for different types of damages such as:
- Economic damages: defined by objective real losses that include the cost of medical treatments, and property damage, or loss of wages.
- Non-economic damages: defined as subjective, non-monetary losses such as pain and suffering.
- Punitive damages: compensatory damages awarded to punish the defendant for outrageous conduct and instigate reform, or to deter others from similar actions.
Some states place caps on personal injury damage (an amount that cannot be exceeded), to avoid excessive verdicts based on emotion rather than reason. To discuss the details of a truck accident case, common questions, types of collisions and accident injuries, potential settlement amounts, and damage caps for the state of Texas, set up a free consultation to speak with a lawyer.
How Does the Insurance Company Investigate My Claim?
The insurance company does preliminary as well as a discovery investigation to better understand the situation to see if there is any way that the damaged party may be at fault, to check on documents for proof of damages, as well as asking the injured person to provide testimony. They will contact all sides to get all the details possible. A hired attorney will also provide investigative work as well as act as an advocate for the injured person, providing needed documents as well as aiding in compiling a testimony.
What Are Some Actual Settlement Amount Examples?
The following examples do not predict the outcome of all cases, but may provide insight into the settlement, verdicts, and factors involved in each case, and can be valuable when considering claims that are similar.
The family of a Stamford woman who died eight days after being struck by a semi tractor-trailer that ran a red light was awarded a settlement for $18.75 million. The settlement was agreed to after two weeks of trial rather than allowing the case to go to a civil jury.
A seven-year-old student was struck and killed while crossing an intersection near her school. $4 million was awarded to her family, to be paid by the city of Chicago — found accountable due to the high amount of control the city exercised over the contractor who owned the vehicles and hired its own seasonal employees.
A sanitation worker was struck by a commercial vehicle that pinned his left leg between the vehicle that struck him from behind, and the garbage truck. The injury resulted in amputation below the knee, physical pain, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Two truck driving companies were ordered to pay $26 million to a surviving husband who also sustained injuries after a 90-mile “cat and mouse” road rage incident that lead to the fatal crash. The behavior of the drivers detailed in the suit included cutting one another off, honking horns, refusing to let one another pass, and “rude and aggressive hand gestures”. The result of these actions was a head-on collision where the truck was in the wrong lane.
If you are searching for an attorney after being in an accident, please don’t hesitate to call the experienced legal team of Stewart J. Guss. We are available 24/7, seven days a week — serving clients nationwide.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.