How Is Compensation Determined After a Semi-Truck Wreck?
Setting expectations for potential damagesBy Kimberly Lekman, Esq. | Last updated on January 29, 2023
Use these links to jump to different sections:
- What Are the Common Causes for Truck Accidents?
- Damages in a Truck Accident Case
- Semi-Truck Accident Settlements
- Why Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer?
What Are the Common Causes for Truck Accidents?Like passenger vehicle accidents, truck accidents can occur because of driver error. However, truck accidents are usually more complex than other motor vehicle accidents. So, there are many other potential causes of large truck accidents. Truck wrecks commonly occur due to:
- Driver fatigue from overwork
- A trucking company’s improper hiring and training procedures
- Insufficient road maintenance
- Improper cargo loading procedures
- Equipment failure
- Excess speed
- Failure to follow traffic laws
Damages in a Truck Accident CaseTruck wreck claims are often based on a theory of negligence. To prove negligence, your legal team must show that the opposing party breached a duty of care, causing you harm. Suppose you were in a truck crash because the truck driver fell asleep at the wheel. In this case, your lawyer will gather evidence to show that the trucker worked too many hours, in excess of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) rules. The truck driver could be at fault for breaching their duty to follow these federal regulations. Or their employing trucking company could be liable for encouraging them to work too many consecutive hours. In addition to establishing fault, your attorney will show evidence of the damages you suffered. They will gather evidence through your medical records, police reports, video footage, and more. Damages in commercial truck wrecks can include:
- Economic damages: Damages that you can readily calculate are called economic damages. Property damage, lost wages, and medical expenses are all examples of economic damages. Your attorney can quickly add up these damages and present them in court. Another form of economic damages is the loss of future earning capacity. If you become unable to work due to your injuries, you may be able to seek compensation for future lost earnings.
- Non-economic damages: Your attorney can request compensation for your physical pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, mental anguish, or disfigurement. These damages can be challenging to quantify, so they are called non-economic damages. State laws sometimes place caps on payouts for non-economic damages. However, they can still be a significant source of compensation. Further, the possibility of a non-economic damage award can be a bargaining chip during settlement negotiations. Both economic and non-economic damages are types of compensatory damages. They are designed to compensate you for the injuries you suffered due to another party’s negligence.
- Punitive damages: Although it’s uncommon, it may be possible to seek punitive damages for a truck collision. Punitive damages are usually reserved for egregious conduct, such as driver intoxication or malice. When a court issues punitive damages, they do so to deter such behavior in the future. For this reason, punitive damages are usually substantial. Some states place limits on punitive damage awards. But they typically allow truck accident victims to receive punitive damages up to three times the value of compensatory damages.
- Wrongful Death: Unfortunately, truck wrecks are more likely to cause fatalities than car accidents. Large trucks are much heavier and larger than passenger vehicles. When trucks are traveling at high speeds, they can cause life-changing injuries and even fatalities. If you lost a family member in a truck wreck, you might be able to sue for wrongful death.
Semi-Truck Accident SettlementsThe majority of truck accident claims settle out of court. Truck accident victims and their attorneys often prefer settlements over trials. By settling, both parties can avoid extended legal proceedings and associated costs. Further, settling out of court helps you avoid the uncertain outcome of a trial. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to calculate the value of your truck wreck settlement. The amount of your compensation will depend on a variety of factors, including:
- The severity of your injuries
- Your pain and suffering
- Your lost wages
- Future lost earnings
- Your age and general health
- The long-term ramifications of your accident.
Why Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer?It’s wise to contact an experienced truck accident attorney soon after your truck accident. Your state may place time limits (statutes of limitation) on your ability to file a personal injury claim. While you focus on your recovery, a skilled truck accident lawyer can track deadlines, file paperwork, and collect evidence for your case. They can also hire experts to reconstruct the accident or give expert testimony as needed. If you are concerned about the cost of hiring an attorney, it may give you peace of mind to know that most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation. At this first meeting, you can ask for a case evaluation. Although an attorney will not give you an exact value for your claim, they can describe the outcomes of similar cases. These outcomes can give you an estimate of what you might expect as a settlement or verdict in your truck accident claim. Further, it would help if you took this opportunity to ask about the law firm’s fee schedule. Most truck accident attorneys will work on a contingency fee basis. This means that they will take a percentage of any payout you receive rather than charging you an hourly rate. A contingency fee schedule can relieve you from needing to pay any legal fees upfront. When you first meet a personal injury attorney, it’s also wise to ask about their experience with truck accidents. Truck accident law is highly specialized. So, it’s best to hire an attorney familiar with trucking regulations and trucking industry issues. For more information on this area of law, see our overview on trucking accidents.
Additional Trucking Accidents articles
- What is Trucking Accidents Law?
- What To Do After a Truck Accident
- How Long Does It Take To Settle a Semi-Truck Accident Case?
- Can I Sue for Being Hit by a Semi-Truck?
- What Does a Truck Accident Lawyer Do?
- Who Is Liable in a Truck Accident?
- What Is the Truck Accident Claim Process?
- How Do I Find the Best Truck Accident Lawyer?
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