What You Need to Know After A Car Accident With A Semi-Truck

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After being in a motor vehicle accident with a semi-truck, tractor-trailer, or other large commercial vehicle it can be difficult to know what your next steps should be. You may have injuries. You may want to seek a semi truck accident settlement.  After receiving medical treatment, it can feel overwhelming to begin a fight with the insurance company to become financially whole again. By knowing the steps involved in the truck accident settlement process, you will know where to begin. You can take the steps on one at a time and prepare for life after you heal from your accident.

Why Are Large Truck Accidents So Dangerous?

There are multiple reasons that semi truck and tractor trailer accidents are more dangerous than other types of motor vehicle accidents. One of the main reasons is the size and weight of large commercial trucks. Depending on how much cargo a semi truck is carrying, they can weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds; even an empty trailer weighs over 35,000 pounds. This huge size makes any sort of collision or accident with another vehicle much more likely to be severe and cause major injuries. 

Because of their weight and size, it is incredibly difficult to navigate or stop a semi truck. This is why drivers are always cautioned to give semi trucks as much room as possible on the highway. It can be difficult for semi truck drivers to see smaller cars that follow them too closely behind or beside their trailers.

What Are the Common Causes of Truck Accidents?

While every accident will have a unique situation and circumstances, there are common issues and patterns of behavior that can cause commercial vehicle accidents. Drivers should be aware of these patterns of driving behavior. All drivers should do what they can to avoid big truck accidents. Avoid these accidents  by giving truck drivers plenty of space on the road, not following them too closely, and never engaging in road rage with large commercial vehicles. The most common causes of truck accidents include the following:

  • Mechanical failure
  • An inexperienced driver
  • Poor road or weather conditions
  • Speeding, improperly changing lanes
  • Using a cell phone while driving
  • Brake failure
  • Poor lighting/vision at night
  • Driving under the influence
  • Falling asleep at the wheel

In the majority of truck accident settlements, the truck driver or the truck itself usually falls into one or more of the above categories. If your attorney can prove that the truck driver was negligent or that their vehicle was improperly maintained or serviced, it may entitle you to a larger accident settlement.

What Types of Injuries Are Common With Semi Truck Accidents?

The people struck by a semi truck suffer the vast majority of injuries in commercial truck accidents. Speed and the weight of the truck are the two largest factors impacting the severity of injuries. Common injuries in large truck accidents include:

  • Broken bones
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Head injuries and trauma
  • Injuries to the back
  • Neck pain or whiplash
  • Internal bruising, bleeding or other injury
  • Spinal cord damage or paralysis

Unfortunately, truck accidents also account for a large portion of deaths due to motor vehicle accidents. If your loved one died due to an accident with a large commercial vehicle or semi truck, a skilled attorney will be able to help you file a wrongful death claim.

What Are the Common Psychological Effects of Truck Accidents?

There are many psychological effects one may face after a semi truck accident. The force of impact can leave lasting fear, anxiety, and even cause post-traumatic stress disorder (known as PTSD.) Those struck by a semi truck may develop a fear or anxiety around driving. This can make it difficult for them to get back behind the wheel even after they have recovered physically from the crash. These psychological effects are not limited to their experience behind the wheel. Some crash survivors may face challenges such as insomnia, panic attacks, and recurring thoughts about the accident. Victims may require therapy, counseling, and medication  in order to help the victim of the large truck accident learn how to cope with these intense and painful psychological effects.

The Difference Between Commercial Vehicles, 18-Wheelers, and Truck Accidents

Most commonly a “commercial vehicle” refers to a larger vehicle  used for the transportation of commercial goods. A driver must hold a commercial vehicle license in order to drive one of these vehicles. Laws and regulations are in place to ensure that these drivers receive proper education and that their vehicles receive proper maintenance. Big rigs, 18-wheelers, and other types of commercial big trucks fall under the label of commercial vehicles.

However, one of the most important differences are the types of accidents they are part of and the severity of any injuries that may result. All of these vehicles are prone to accidents caused by tire blowouts, wide turns, and driver inattention.

What Do You Do After A Truck Hits You?

After your truck accident, you should seek immediate medical attention. Even if your pain does not currently present itself as an injury, some may not be immediately evident. 

In the days following your commercial vehicle accident, make sure you keep track of all documentation. This will help a truck accident lawyer determine the validity of your case and allow them to start the settlement process. Important documentation includes:

  • Your medical records pertaining to the accident
  • The police report
  • Communication about time-off from work due to the accident
  • Medical and on-going treatment bills
  • Communications regarding property damage

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:

Economic Factors

The economic losses after a truck accident are:

Medical costs

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.

Lost wages

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.

Property damages

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.

 Lost wages

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.

Non-Economic Factors

Non-economic factors are harder to quantify and will be the subject of intense negotiations between the attorneys. 

Pain and suffering

Includes disfigurement, physical pain, fear, grief, anxiety, inability to concentrate, and insomnia. It also can include loss of enjoyment of life. These claims are often the hardest to prove in court. Seeking immediate and on-going medical treatment is one of the best ways to help prove your case.

Emotional pain

A major issue in many truck accidents, given the violence of the collision. Some face fear every day, including a terrible fear of being in the same situation again. Some accident victims develop PTSD. For some, it can be impossible to drive a vehicle for a long time after their semi-truck accident. This is due to fear, anxiety, and PTSD.

Loss of consortium

This means loss of companionship in regards to family and friend relationships. Or a lost relationship with a partner because of a changed personality. This is easiest to prove in cases with documentation of lasting injuries (both mental and physical).

Punitive damages

Used as a deterrent for the defendant who engaged in reckless activity. For example, if the trucker drove in a reckless manner that caused harm to others. A local attorney will be able to better argue if the defendant was in violation of local or state laws when the accident occured. 

While there is no way to say what an average semi-truck settlement will be, there are many serious truck injury cases where settlements exceeded $1 million. These cases involve severe injuries that take months or years of recovery. Occasionally these cases involve permanent injury. Your case could be worth more or less depending on the factors listed above and your unique situation. Talk to a skilled and experienced truck accident attorney to get a ballpark idea of what your case could be worth.

Typical Semi Truck Accident Settlement Factors

In addition to the factors listed above that help determine how much your truck accident settlement may be worth, there are other major factors. There are four main factors that affect the amount of the accident settlement in truck crashes:

Liability

Every state has its own laws pertaining to contributory negligence. For example, California is a pure comparative negligence state. This means the defendant (the trucker) is liable only for his percentage of fault. If a jury finds that the car driver was 20% responsible for the rear end truck crash, the final settlement amount reduces by 20%. Contributory negligence laws also can bar the accident victim from receiving any compensation, if determined that the plaintiff is 51% or more at fault. A personal injury attorney needs to determine how a state’s contributory negligence laws affect the potential settlement amount.

Injury severity

Truck accident injuries often have high dollar injury claims. The insurance company or defense attorney will review these higher figures. Generally, the more serious the injuries, the higher the odds of getting a larger accident settlement. However, it is common for defense counsel to comb through the plaintiff’s medical history. They look for preexisting conditions that the company can hang the injuries on.

Deaths

Trucks weigh up to 80,000 pounds fully loaded. Fatal truck accidents are common. If the accident leads to a death, a wrongful death lawsuit may be in consideration. These lawsuits frequently lead to larger settlements. Some states allow punitive damages as well, usually in the case of reckless driving behavior.

Insurance policies in effect

How much insurance money is available? Given the involvement of more than one commercial entity, the amount of insurance covering your accident could be a higher amount. But as noted earlier, many trucking companies only carry the bare minimum coverage. Serious truck accident injuries easily can exceed those limits.

Commercial Vehicle Rear End Accidents

The size and force of commercial vehicles can make being rear ended by one a terrifying and painful experience. Immediately following a rear end accident with a commercial vehicle, you should seek medical attention. Medical attention should be a priority even if you do not have any obvious injuries. Rear end accidents have a high rate of whiplash injuries. Whiplash may take several hours or even days to present themselves. Other injuries common with rear end accidents include:

  • Head and neck injuries