According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), between 2016 and 2017, large trucks were involved in 107,000 crashes resulting in injury and 4,657 accidents resulting in death. The sheer size and weight of semi-trucks make them capable of causing significant damage, both to people and property. If you were in a collision with one of these behemoths, you might have incurred steep expenses and losses because of the accident.
Because the crash resulted from someone else's negligence, you shouldn't be stuck with the financial burdens associated with it. Focusing on your recovery, your health, and your family is a top priority. Thankfully, you have the right to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party to seek compensation for damages you sustained. And while money cannot erase your experience, it can help relieve some of the stresses arising out of it.
Like other car accidents, when you're involved in a crash with a large truck, you can seek a monetary payout for things such as:
- Current and future medical bills
- Lost wages and loss of potential income
- Pain and suffering
You may be wondering how much money you can recover for your truck accident-related damages. The answer to that isn't straightforward, as several factors need to be taken into account when filing a claim or lawsuit and seeking compensation.
Determining the Cause of the Accident and the At-Fault Party
One of the first things that must be done when submitting a claim for a semi-truck accident is determining the cause.
According to the FMCSA, numerous critical factors lead to collisions with large trucks, including, but not limited to:
- Driving too fast around curves or turns
- Sleeping behind the wheel
- Shifting cargo load
- Not paying attention to the road
- Using over-the-counter medications
The reason it's crucial to determine the cause of the accident is it helps identify the at-fault party. Although you may think all you need to do to recover compensation is to file a claim against the driver, that might not lead to adequate payout (or any payout at all) because the driver's insurance may deny the claim, stating their customer wasn't responsible for the accident.
In some cases, the trucking company, the cargo loader, or even the parts manufacturer may be accountable. To seek the maximum payout, you must ensure that you include all relevant parties in your claim.
Related to determining the cause and fault for your large truck accident is proving negligence. In short, "negligence" means that the party you're pursuing a claim against breached their duty of care, leading to your accident. For instance, when you're on the road, you expect other drivers to obey traffic laws and pay attention (that's their duty). If they're speeding or texting while driving (they've breached their duty), they risk the safety of you and others.
When proving negligence, you must present evidence showing that the breach of duty caused an accident that resulted in harm.
Proving negligence is also important should your case be taken to trial, as Texas is a proportionate responsibility state. This means that the final settlement amount will be determined by how much each party was responsible for the accident. We'll discuss that more shortly.
Calculating Damages and Sending a Demand Letter
To determine how much your truck accident claim is worth, you must also calculate the damages you suffered. This can be a complicated step because of the different types of damages resulting from crashes.
One type of damages is referred to as economic. These are expenses and losses that have an actual dollar amount associated with them, such as doctor bills, medications, and lost wages.
The other type of damages is referred to as non-economic. These are more challenging to calculate because they don't have an actual number associated with them. They are based on subjective measurements. An example of non-economic damages would be pain and suffering. There is no concrete monetary value for pain and suffering, but such harm can impact your life in substantial ways. Several questions must be asked to determine how much these types of damages are worth, such as how long did it take you to recover or how did the pain affect your ability to take care of your usual activities.
After you've calculated damages, you must submit a demand letter to the at-fault party's insurance company. This notice includes the dollar amount associated with the damages you suffered, as well as your claim that their customer was the responsible party.
The insurance company will then begin negotiations with you. Its goal is to pay out as little as possible, which means talks can get tough as you seek fair compensation.
Taking Your Case to Court
If your case doesn't settle through negotiations, you may decide to take the matter to court and have a judge or jury decide how much compensation you will receive. This can be a lengthy process, and while sometimes it can lead to a higher payout than would have been achieved in negotiations, it's also possible the judge or jury will not award any settlement.
Additionally, because Texas is a proportionate responsibility state, if you are awarded compensation, the amount you receive will account for the percentage of your responsibility for the accident. For instance, if it's decided that your truck accident claim is worth $30,000, but you were 20% responsible, your award will be reduced by $6,000, leaving you with a settlement of $24,000. It's important to note that if you were more than 50% responsible, you could not recover any compensation.
Speaking with an Attorney
Large truck accident claims are complex, and determining how much money you can recover for damages is a lengthy process. It's most efficient, and puts you in a stronger position, to speak with an attorney about your circumstances. A lawyer can investigate the accident, collect evidence, calculate damages, and recognize when an insurance company's offer is low.