You should contact a truck accident lawyer immediately following your accident. The sooner you start the claims process, the more seriously your claim is taken. Waiting until you have fully recovered may make your claim or injuries seem “less serious” if your case goes to a jury trial.
Your lawyer will help determine what the next steps will look like for your truck accident settlement claim. They may need additional documentation or time to start the claim process. Make sure you respond to your lawyer’s inquiries in a timely fashion. The sooner your lawyer can submit all the necessary paperwork, the sooner you may receive compensation.
How Do You Determine the Average Semi Truck Accident Settlement?
If you are in an accident with a semi-truck or tractor-trailer, your personal injury claim is likely to be more complicated than a regular car accident claim. Accidents with large trucks often cause very serious personal injuries and property damage. After your car accident with a large truck, you will want to know how much your settlement may be. The settlement will help you cover medical expenses, vehicle repair or replacement costs, the cost of missing work, and enduring pain and suffering.
In order to determine how large your truck accident settlement may be, we first must answer one critical question. Who is liable for a truck accident? The truck driver, his employer, or the truck owner? We will review these critical issues below, including insurance amounts, length of time to settle, as well as average settlements and other important factors in large commercial vehicle accidents.
Laws For Semi-Truck Accidents
There are many federal laws and regulations that govern the commercial trucking industry. These laws set certain standards that trucking firms, owners, and drivers must satisfy. These laws are often what determines who is liable for a tractor-trailer and other types of large truck accidents. Most federal regulations regarding the commercial trucking industry are in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
In addition to federal laws regarding truck driver and semi truck rig safety, there are also local and state laws that may be relevant to your accident. The complexity of semi truck accident settlements is why you need a local attorney to land the most compensation.
Who Is Held Liable for Commercial Truck Accidents?
With most car accidents, the driver responsible for the accident is liable and their insurance company will pay out a settlement. When there is a semi-truck accident, however, there are several entities and people that may be liable for the accident. These people may include:
- The truck driver
- The owner of the trailer or truck
- The person or entity that leased the truck or trailer
- The manufacturer of the tires, motor, or other parts that may have failed in the accident
- The loader or shipper of the cargo, if improper loading contributed to the accident
Who is liable for your car accident with a semi-truck will depend on your unique situation. Regardless of who is liable, you may expect a large settlement based on your injuries, property damage, and your pain and suffering.
Truck Accidents and Minimum Liability Insurance Policy Limits
Liability insurance for semi truck drivers and companies is critical for public safety. It protects the public from truck accidents where the driver was negligent. The idea behind minimum liability insurance is that the trucking company pays damages to make the injured party whole. However, this does not always occur in reality.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires truck drivers to have the following minimum coverage. Note that the minimum amount of insurance coverage depends upon the type of freight.
- Non-hazardous goods moved in vehicles <10,001 lbs: $300,000
- Non-hazardous goods moved in vehicles >10,001 lbs: $750,000
- Oil moved by private carriers: $1,000,000
- Hazardous materials moved by private carriers: $5,000,000
These are the minimum requirements established by the FMCSA. Many commercial trucking companies require minimum liability insurance of at least $1,000,000. This is regardless of the material hauled.
These minimum insurance coverage numbers are important to keep in mind when trying to determine how much you may receive from your truck accident settlement. Talking with a local attorney will help you determine what type of insurance the driver or their trucking company carried and how that may affect your settlement.
Trucking Companies Often Opt for Minimum Coverage
The aforementioned policy minimums may sound like plenty of coverage, but the reality is often different:
- When rear ended by a semi truck, the car driver and passenger could suffer devastating injuries that cost millions of dollars to treat. Minimum coverage seldom covers serious medical problems. These may include traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries. While some motorcycle accident settlements may cover similarly catastrophic injuries, often truck accidents are much more serious than the average auto accident.
- Some trucking companies and owner operators may not have updated their coverage limits for years. Inflation and medical costs increase over time. The policy limits may not cover the high medical costs the crash victim faces.
- In a truck accident settlement, victims may win damages that exceed the minimum liability limits. A 2013 study determined that 42% of truck crash settlements paid exceeded FMCSA’s minimum insurance requirements.
- Bring in expert legal help to help fight for your semi-truck settlement case. Otherwise, it can be difficult for you to determine and fight for the settlement money. Trucking insurance companies will have access to expert truck accident lawyers. These lawyers will do everything they can to lower the insurance company’s liability.
The reality is that many truck accident cases require a personal injury lawsuit to obtain compensation. An attorney will be able to fight for you. They will ensure you receive proper compensation for the costs incurred because of your accident.
Other Semi Truck State and Federal Regulations Affect Settlements
As noted earlier, all semi trucks in the United States follow FMCSA regulations. However, truck drivers themselves are subject to other rules, such as the state’s commercial driver’s manual. In the Georgia CDL manual, for example, requires semi drivers to stay in the two lanes on the right of an interstate. If the trucker is driving outside those two lanes, this is against the law. An accident where the trucker is riding in the far left lane could lead to a personal injury lawsuit with a higher settlement.
Another example: Georgia’s CDL laws state that a truck must not follow another truck, or a motor vehicle pulling another motor vehicle closer than 100 yards. If a distracted trucker hits the vehicle in front, this could net a larger settlement.
The combination of the various state and federal laws can result in larger settlements. Your chances are better with the help of a truck accident personal injury attorney. A local attorney will know the specific state laws that apply in your case. They will also know how the truck driver may be in violation of them. This makes your claim of negligence much stronger should your case end up in court.
Semi-Truck Insurance Policies Are Often Large
Regardless of which party ends up paying your truck accident settlement, it is common for a tractor-trailer to carry insurance coverage of $1 million or more. However, because of the large amount of money at stake, aggressive tactics by insurance companies are often employed to defend their drivers and the trucking company from liability. The insurance company will look to pay the lowest settlement amount possible to avoid going to court.
In addition to the laws mandating higher minimum requirements for semi-truck accident coverage, there is a chance that several defendant policies are in effect. For example, it is possible one semi-truck could have a $1 million policy that covers the rig and another $1 million that covers the trailer. This means that your truck accident settlement may be much larger than you initially estimate.
Because you may have suffered severe injuries in the semi-truck accident, your truck accident attorney will work diligently to uncover every potential source of financial recovery. That is why locating all of the possible policies for a tractor-trailer company can take longer than in regular passenger vehicle accidents. This is why truck accident settlements often take a longer time to pay out.
Choosing a good attorney to represent you is critical. A good truck accident attorney will be highly skilled in finding every possible avenue of possible compensation. Additionally, they will know how to fight the insurance company using a knowledge of local, state, and federal laws. They will ensure you get the highest payout for your truck accident settlement.
Injuries and Medical Treatments Can Affect Time To Settle a Semi-Truck Claim
When you have serious truck accident injuries, you want to get your settlement money as soon as you can. With multiple serious injuries, you will likely face a flood of bills. These may include your medical bills and regular expenses that you cannot pay due to missing work because of your injuries. One of the biggest factors is how severe your injuries are and the medical treatments needed to heal you.
Most personal injury claims resolve once the victim has had a full recovery. Because a crash with a tractor-trailer is more likely to cause severe injuries, your treatment and recovery period may take longer. With complex cases involving severe or multiple injuries, it can take months to years to settle with the insurance company.
You may wish to settle your claim when you are still getting treatment or suffering from pain caused by your accident. But your lawyer will strongly advise against this. Only after your doctor releases you from their care will you and your lawyer have a clear understanding of the extent of your injuries, their severity, and how they will affect your quality of life moving forward. At that point, your lawyer can help you make an accurate determination of what your semi-truck accident claim is worth. Serious injuries that will cause lifelong pain or disability may entitle you to a much larger truck accident settlement.
How Do You Start the Truck Accident Settlement Process?
After an intense truck accident, it can feel overwhelming trying to start the claim or settlement process. The very first thing you should do is seek medical attention for your injuries. Your physical and mental well-being should be your number one priority after a semi truck accident. Property damage and legal battles can settle after you have taken care of your health.
Once you’ve received medical attention and are on the mend, you should reach out to an attorney. A local truck accident attorney will know how to best start the claim process. For large commercial vehicle accidents, the claims process can take months or even years. So getting started as soon as possible is crucial.
However, keep in mind that in most cases, it is in your best interest to wait until after you’ve finished receiving medical treatment to reach a settlement with the insurance companies. This is the best way to ensure coverage of the entire cost of your medical treatment.
Most insurance companies will look to settle your claim out of court to avoid costly and drawn-out legal proceedings. This can also be to your advantage as well. If your claim goes to court, you and your attorney may face a jury trial. There, it can be difficult to convey the severity of your injuries or damages to the jury.
How Much is the Average Semi-Truck Accident Settlement?
Because all truck accidents involve different scenarios, it can be difficult to pinpoint what the average semi-truck accident settlement is. The area of the crash also plays a role in how much you and your attorney can seek in damages from the insurance companies. However, knowing what factors affect the dollar amount of a large truck accident can help you and your attorney determine a starting point for what your claim may be worth.n help you and your attorney determine a starting point for what your claim may be worth.
There are several factors that will affect the size of your tractor-trailer accident settlement:
The economic losses after a truck accident are:
Includes every cost related to your physical injury and treatments, starting with the cost of the ambulance ride, ER care, hospital stay costs, physicians’ bills, drug costs, and surgical procedures. It also includes X-rays, CT and MRI scans, rehab, physical therapy, and transportation for your medical visits. Those who suffer from particularly severe injuries may be able to receive a settlement that factors in the cost of on-going, long-term care.
Wages that you would have gotten if you were still working during the time preceding the accident. If you took sick time or vacation time to receive medical treatment, this time is also covered. This includes earnings you would have made if you cannot work in the future due to the injuries sustained in your accident. Even if you are partially disabled, the reduction in your ability to earn an income factors into the size of your settlement.
Typically involves the loss of your motor vehicle. These accidents usually result in the vehicle being a total loss. Even if your vehicle is not a total loss, you may experience property damage in the tens of thousands that you may expect to have covered in your semi-truck accident settlement.
Wages that you would have gotten if you were still working during the time preceding the accident. If you took sick time or vacation time to receive medical treatment, this time is also covered. This incl