How Long Does It Take To Settle a Semi-truck Accident Case?
A potential timetable for your accident claim
on December 15, 2016
Updated on May 12, 2022
If you or a loved one has experienced a semi-truck collision, you already know that these accidents can be traumatic. Even a relatively minor collision with a large truck can cause significant damage to your automobile and severe injuries to you. You may need to spend time in the hospital, which can cause your medical bills to pile up quickly. You may be thinking about suing the truck driver or other responsible parties to recover some of your medical treatment expenses and property damage costs. Since most semi-truck accident claims settle out of court, truck accident victims usually ask how long it will take to settle their case.
The simpler the truck wreck case is, the faster it is likely to conclude. Uncomplicated truck accident cases can settle in as little as a few months if you are fortunate. However, truck accidents often have complicated fact patterns and multiple parties at fault. These complications and others can cause cases to take several years before they wrap up. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to give a more specific estimate because the settlement timeline depends on so many factors. If you are considering filing a truck accident claim, you should hire a personal injury attorney with experience in truck accident lawsuits. Truck accident claims involve specialized regulations, multiple at-fault parties, and technical details. So, it’s wise to find a truck accident lawyer familiar with this legal specialty’s unique aspects.
Factors that Delay Truck Crash Settlements
The specifics of your case and the behavior of the opposing insurance company will significantly impact how long your settlement takes. Truck wreck cases generally take longer when there are serious injuries, complicated investigations, or split liability. In the event that negotiations deteriorate, your attorney will have to take your case to trial. A trial could delay the outcome by several months.
Serious injuries and damages
The timeframe of your case will be greatly affected by the extent of your injuries. Due to the size and weight of tractor-trailers, large truck accidents often cause more damage than other motor vehicle accidents. When a truck moves at high speeds, it can cause catastrophic damage to an automobile without sustaining much damage to itself. As a result, you will probably seek reimbursement for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost earnings
- Property damage
- Non-economic damages like pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment
- Lost earning capacity if the accident prevents you from working
Insurance companies will try to delay expensive cases as much as they can. Further, they will likely try to find ways to argue that you were partly at fault for the accident. Your attorney will know how to handle these delays and will take the insurance company to court if necessary.
If your truck wreck caused traumatic brain injuries or long-term disability, the opposing party’s insurance company might act quickly. The at-fault party’s insurer often suggests a settlement for the maximum insurance policy payout with such severe injuries. Your truck accident attorney can advise you whether to accept this type of settlement offer. Further, they might advise you to sue multiple responsible parties.
An automobile is no match for a semi-truck moving at high speeds. Unfortunately, when a commercial truck crashes into a car, it will often cause fatalities. If you have lost a loved one in a truck accident, you may be considering filing a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful death claims can take longer than other truck accident claims. In wrongful death cases, the victim’s estate is often involved, which means that a probate court is part of the proceedings. Further, several family members could seek compensation for loss of companionship or future financial support. All of these factors complicate and slow down the settlement process.
Trucking businesses and their insurance companies will do their best to avoid paying large settlements and verdicts. To minimize their financial outlay, they will often drag out investigations. During these delays, they will see if they can find ways that you may have been partially responsible for the truck accident. If they can implicate you in the truck crash, they can reduce or eliminate your award. Your attorney will need to collect as much evidence as possible to back up your claim to counteract this. Compiling all of this information is a lengthy process and can extend the timeline of your claim.
The information your attorney will collect includes:
- Police reports: When the authorities arrive at the accident scene, they document the facts and collect the contact information of all the parties. Police officers will also sometimes include a description of the cause of the accident in these reports. This description can be key evidence to prove fault in your case.
- Eyewitness interviews: If there were bystanders when your accident occurred, your attorney would likely interview them to learn about what caused the collision.
- Black box data: Large commercial trucks usually have a black box or event data recorder. This black box contains valuable data on the use of brakes, steering, and the truck’s positioning at the time of the accident.
- The truck driver’s logbook: A logbook contains information about the hours a trucker worked, the miles they covered, and their truck’s inspections. This information could be valuable in your case if it proves that the trucker worked too many consecutive hours or otherwise violated federal law.
- Video footage: Many major roadways have traffic cameras. If one of these cameras captured your truck accident, your attorney could request this footage. Video footage of your accident can vividly illustrate the series of events that caused the crash.
- Results from drug and alcohol tests: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces federal regulations that require trucking companies to screen truckers for drugs and alcohol. Your attorney will ask for the results of these tests to find out if the trucking company and the truck driver complied with federal law.
Several Liable Parties
Truck accident cases can be far more complex than car accident claims. In the trucking industry, separate companies often own, lease, and load the truck. A fourth company may be responsible for transporting the cargo. All of these parties could be liable in your accident. Further, the truck driver could be liable for their irresponsible driving. The truck or parts manufacturer could even be liable for equipment defects. In truck accident cases, the fault is often split among a few parties. Each of these parties will have lawyers who will do their best to defend their client. They may try to pin liability on the other parties or onto you to protect their clients. All of this legal wrangling can result in months of delays.
Difficult Settlement Negotiations
After your truck accident attorney has formulated your case, they will send a demand letter to the liable parties’ insurance companies. Your attorney will describe your injuries in the demand letter and propose a financial settlement. You agree to drop further legal proceedings in exchange for this proposed amount. The opposing insurance companies will probably respond to your demand letter with a counteroffer, if they respond at all. At this stage, your attorney will advise whether to accept or present a counteroffer. This negotiation process can go back and forth for months, depending on the stubbornness of the insurance companies.
Although most truck accident cases settle out of court, negotiations sometimes break down. If the other party becomes uncooperative, you may become unable to agree on a financial settlement. Although it’s unusual, your attorney should be prepared to take your case to trial if necessary. When a truck crash case goes to trial, this always delays the outcome. Just setting up a trial court date can sometimes take months.
Why Should I Hire an Attorney?
The help of an experienced truck driving attorney will be essential in all stages of your truck accident claim. Your attorney will collect evidence to prove fault and build your case. Their law firm staff can help track deadlines and file the necessary paperwork for your claim while you focus on your recovery. Further, they will use the details of your case to argue for a fair settlement on your behalf. If necessary, they might even need to take your case to court.
There might be a time limit (a statute of limitation) on your ability to file a personal injury claim in your state. So, it’s wise to schedule a free consultation with an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as you can.
At your first meeting with a lawyer, you can ask them for a free case evaluation. Although the attorney cannot give you an exact dollar figure of your payout, they can draw on their experience to estimate the compensation you can expect. Your first meeting with an attorney also presents you with an opportunity to ask them about their fee schedule. It might give you peace of mind to know that most personal injury lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis. With a contingency fee schedule, you will not need to pay an hourly rate. Instead, the attorney will take a portion of any settlement or verdict you receive. For many truck accident victims, it’s reassuring to know that their attorney has a stake in the outcome of their case.
For more information on this area of law, see our overview on trucking accidents.