Semi-truck accidents lead to high-dollar injury and death claims. Learn how to pursue fair accident compensation from the insurance company.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports there are more than 150,000 injuries in large truck crashes, with almost 5,000 fatalities annually.
A vehicle collision with an 18-wheeler is a traumatic experience, often leaving victims with severe, life-altering injuries. If your life has changed because of a semi-truck accident, you can pursue the trucker’s insurance company for your damages.
With good evidence, you can likely settle a relatively minor injury claim within a couple of months. Severe injury claims take more time, more evidence, and a good attorney to protect your interests.
High-dollar serious injury cases can take years to settle. Your attorney may need to file a lawsuit to get adequate compensation for your crash injuries.
Semi-Truck Injury Settlements and Jury Awards
If you’re lucky enough to walk away from a tractor-trailer accident with minor injuries, you can expect a settlement amount ranging from $3,000 to $10,000 from the at-fault driver’s insurer.
If you’ve fully recovered from mild injuries and only lost a few weeks of work, you might be able to handle your own auto accident claim.
Minor injuries include:
- Soft tissue injuries, including bumps, bruises, and lacerations
- Whiplash neck and shoulder injuries
- Mild concussions
- Uncomplicated broken bones
Case Example: Semi-Truck Accident Settlement for Broken Arm
Roger Williams was taking the interstate to work one morning when a tractor-trailer driven by Archie Smith attempted to merge from the on-ramp into the rush-hour traffic. Smith failed to yield to oncoming traffic and barreled right into the lane.
Smith tried to avoid a crash, and ran his truck into the grassy median, but not before sideswiping Roger’s car and forcing him off the road into a Jersey barrier.
Smith was cited by police for failing to yield and reckless driving. The police report also contained statements from three witnesses who stopped to help after seeing the crash.
Williams only suffered a broken arm and several bumps and bruises, thanks to the front and side airbags that deployed in his car.
Medical costs for the broken arm came to $2,500. Williams missed two weeks of work, so he had $1,200 in lost wages. Williams’s total economic damages came to $3,700 ($2,500 + $1,200). Using a basic settlement calculation method, Williams added 2 times the amount of his economic damages ($3,700 x 2 = $7,400) to account for his pain and suffering.
He sent a settlement demand letter to the insurance company for $11,100 ($3,700 + $7,400). After a few rounds of negotiations with the adjuster, Roger Williams settled his tractor-trailer injury claim for $9,000.
Property damage claims for vehicle repair or total loss are typically handled separately, and resolve much faster than personal injury claims.
Severe Truck Accident Injuries are High Dollar Claims
Tractor-trailer accidents typically result in serious injuries and death, as in the case of the Walmart tractor trailer that rear-ended a passenger van carrying actor Tracy Morgan and his associates. The crash killed one man and severely injured three occupants of the van, including Morgan who suffered a traumatic brain injury.
While Morgan’s final settlement with Walmart was kept confidential, the lifetime costs of treatment for traumatic brain injuries can range from $85,000 to $3 million.
Other types of catastrophic injuries, like spinal cord injuries, also deserve high-dollar compensation.
You or your loved one will need a skilled personal injury lawyer to protect your interests after a commercial truck accident, even when the truck driver’s liability is clear. Most injury attorneys offer a free consultation to accident victims.
Severe injury settlements involve more than medical bills and lost wages. Your attorney will seek compensation for future medical expenses, loss of future earning capacity, loss of consortium, and significantly more pain and suffering compensation than you could possibly get on your own.
If your loved one was fatally injured in a tractor-trailer collision, a good truck accident attorney can handle a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of your family.
Case Example: $7.6 Million Verdict for Fatal Tractor-Trailer Crash
Jose Naranjo was heading home three days before Christmas when he collided with a tractor-trailer truck on Washington State Route 12. The driver of the truck, Jose Inzunza, had failed to yield to oncoming traffic, pulling out into Route 12 and stopping, leaving the truck barely visible and blocking several lanes.
Naranjo succumbed to his injuries shortly after the crash. Through their attorneys, the Naranjo family filed suit against the at-fault driver, the trucking company, and the company that had commissioned the cargo on the trailer.
After a week of deliberation, the jury returned the $7.6 million verdict in favor of the grieving family.
Who Pays for Tractor-Trailer Crash Injuries?
Truck drivers who violate traffic laws or trucking regulations are negligent. This means they did something wrong or failed to act as a reasonable driver would.
When a truck driver’s negligence leads to an accident, and the accident is the proximate cause (meaning the only reason) for your injuries, then the trucker is liable (responsible) for your damages.
The at-fault truck driver should have liability insurance that can pay for your damages, but the driver may not be the only liable party.
Your attorney can uncover other liability insurance policies, such as those of the:
- Truck’s owner
- Driver’s employer or client
- Manufacturer of defective truck parts
- Business responsible for the cargo
Truckers Have a Duty of Care
All drivers on American roadways have a duty of care, meaning an obligation to look out for the safety of others. A driver’s duty includes keeping a proper lookout and obeying traffic laws.
The law demands a much higher duty of care from semi-truck drivers. State and local regulations monitor the trucking industry. They ensure big rigs like semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles operate safely. Regulations regarding truck maintenance, driver eligibility, and cargo capacity are but a few of the rules in place to protect public safety.
Tractor-trailers are very dangerous in a crash situation. Due to the high risk for death and destruction, trucking laws are strictly enforced.
Higher Injury Payouts Start at the Scene
If you are alert and able to move around, what you do at the scene of the trucking accident can impact the success of your insurance claim. Here are the steps you should take after the crash.
1. Call 911
When you’ve been in an accident with a tractor-trailer, call 911. Tell the dispatcher your location, that you’ve been in an accident with a semi-truck, and you need help. Tell the dispatcher if anyone else is hurt, trapped, or thrown from their car.
The dispatcher will want to know if there are hazards at the scene like leaking fuel, downed power lines, or if the truck that hit you is carrying a dangerous load.
2. Cooperate with Emergency Responders
When help arrives, the police will begin to secure the scene, and medical responders will evaluate each person for injuries. Never refuse medical treatment at the scene. Let them take you to the emergency room.
Refusing or delaying medical treatment after an accident is a terrible mistake that will hurt your claim. The insurance company will jump at the chance to deny your injury claim, arguing that your injuries are not related to the accident.
3. Collect the Trucker’s Information
Exchange information with the truck driver including your full names, home and work addresses, home and work phone numbers, email addresses, and any other relevant contact information.
Ask to see the driver’s license. Truck drivers should have a special driver’s license, so pay attention. Also get information about the truck, the truck’s owner, and insurance information.
4. Gather Evidence from the Scene
Evidence gathered at the accident scene can help your injury claim, but don’t try to gather evidence if you’re injured. Delaying medical treatment or aggravating your injuries will do your truck accident claim more harm than good.
If you’re able, collect as much additional evidence as you safely can:
- Photographs: Take photographs or videos of the accident scene. Include photos of the truck, your car, and the point of impact on the vehicles. Try to take photos of skid marks, road conditions, and damage to the surrounding area.
- Detailed notes: Write down your observations at the scene as soon as you practically can. Be sure to note admissions the truck driver may make like, “I’m sorry,” or “I couldn’t stop.”
- Witness statements: Witnesses and their statements are invaluable. The police may not have spoken with everyone who saw the accident. Get as much contact information as possible from potential witnesses.
- Surveillance cameras: Look for security and red-light cameras close to the accident scene. Surveillance cameras are often attached to businesses, schools, or municipal light poles that take photographs of intersections or railroad crossings.
Collect Evidence Throughout Your Recovery
Proving negligence in a truck accident case may hinge on crucial information about the truck driver and the driver’s regulatory compliance.
You’ll find some of the information you need in the official police report. But don’t expect the truck driver to hand over any confidential or potentially incriminating evidence without a subpoena. An attorney can collect evidence you can’t get on your own.
A personal injury attorney can find out critical information, such as:
- The driver’s CDL license status
- Whether the driver has a criminal record
- If the driver was drunk or high at the time of the crash
- Prior traffic tickets the driver received
- How many traffic accidents the driver was in
- Whether the driver was operating in accordance with industry standards
Successful insurance claims prove the at-fault driver was negligent. In semi-truck accidents, the most effective way to prove negligence is by proving the truck driver violated state or federal regulations.
Two frequently violated trucking regulations are:
- Driving without an active commercial driver’s license (CDL).
- Failing to maintain an accurate logbook with hours-of-service, activity dates, and trailer weights
A violation of a state or federal regulation can all but win your personal injury case. Courts have traditionally ruled that trucking violations are clear and unequivocal proof of negligence. Use all the additional proof you can gather, but regulatory violations can be a deciding factor in your favor.
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