What is the Average Settlement of a Semi-Truck Accident Case?
Big rigs are much larger and heavier than regular motor vehicles. Because of this significant height and weight difference, when a semi-truck is involved in an accident with a passenger car, the outcome can devastating. Most regular size vehicles don't stand a chance when they are hit by a semi truck. Even if the accident occurs at relatively slow speeds, the damages and injuries can still be excessive.
Because of the higher likelihood of indisputable injury, commercial truck accident settlements tend to be higher than those concerning regular vehicle accidents. However, as with any case, to find out the average settlement of a truck accident, there are five factors that need to be considered:
Here are 5 Factors That Help Determine the Value of Your Settlement in a Commercial Truck Accident Case:
Liability - Who’s at fault?
Total Cost of Medical Expenses
Lost Wages, Impaired Earning Capacity
Pain and Suffering (“Noneconomic Damages”)
1. Liability - Who’s at Fault?
When making a claim for compensation after a truck accident, one factor that plays a big part in your settlement offer has to do with whether or not it can be proven that the truck driver did anything wrong to cause the collision. The stronger evidence there is to indicate that the truck driver was in the wrong, the less likely the insurer will take the position that the settlement amount must be adjusted down to take into account the risk the injured party will lose on liability at trial.
Just like a car accident, no two truck accidents are exactly the same. Sometimes, other issues might affect the liability picture, including whether or not the truck itself had an unforeseeable malfunction, whether another driver cut the truck off and caused the accident, or whether the injured party contributed in any way to the crash. As a result, it is important to collect as much evidence as possible at the scene - ideally through law enforcement - and later, consult with a law firm that is familiar with handling semi truck accident cases in Oregon.
The more likely the truck driver will be found at fault, the more likely the trucking insurer will be willing to settle at a higher figure. The more clouded the picture is concerning liability - particularly in a semi truck accident case - the more likely the insurer will offer lower figures, if anything at all.
2. Property Damage
When a tractor-trailer hits a regular size vehicle, it will often cause that vehicle to be “totaled” - meaning the insurer simply pays the fair market value of the vehicle instead of paying to have it repaired by an auto body shop. Generally, this occurs when the cost of repair is near, at or above the value of the vehicle itself.
Normally, if your vehicle is damaged, the insurance company will pay the cost of the repairs. That process is relatively simple - the trucking company’ insurance carrier will arrange to have your car inspected, and an estimated cost of repair will be created. Once the repair is complete, the truck insurer pays the bill. Sometimes, particularly if there is a disagreement on liability, the car owner’s insurance company will pay the repair bill, then will attempt to get reimbursed from the truck insurer later on.
On the other hand, if the vehicle is totaled, you will more than likely receive the blue book value of your car during the settlement process. There, the insurer’s obligation is only to pay “fair market value” for the car.
Just like everything else discussed above, not everyone owns the same make and model vehicle, so some people will receive less than others when it comes to vehicle damage, depending upon the value of the vehicle that was damaged. It doesn’t matter how much or how little is still owed on the vehicle - it only matters what the fair market value is. Thus, it is important to have that information handy if and when any discussion is had regarding replacement value of the car.
3. Total Cost of Medical Expenses
When making an insurance claim, or otherwise filing a lawsuit for compensation after a truck accident, one factor that plays a large part in your settlement offer is the total cost of your medical expenses. This includes both past medical bills you’ve incurred, as well as future medical bills you are expected to incur.
Oftentimes in a semi-truck accident, the injuries that are suffered by the folks in the passenger vehicles are severe or life-altering. Generally speaking, the worse you are injured, the higher your medical bills. Moreover, and generally, the higher your medical bills, the longer you have been required to treat. Sometimes, there is quite a bit of expected future treatment, which will affect the future medical expense claim. For example, if you will need ongoing treatment the rest of your life, this will play a huge part in determining your settlement amount.
That being said there is not a guaranteed amount that you can receive for your medical bills, as each amount is determined case by case. Sometimes, the semi truck insurer will take the position that your treatment was excessive, was unreasonably expensive, or is not related to the crash. This is a common tactic employed by adjusters to try to drive the settlement values down, so that the trucking insurer can save a buck.
Just like a car accident, no two truck accidents are the exact same. However, if you followed your doctor’s orders, and you have an experienced semi-truck accident attorney, you will likely be compensated for the full value of your medical costs.
4. Lost Wages, Impaired Earning Capacity
Because truck accidents involve a tremendous amount of force, the victims often miss time at work due to the injuries that they suffered. Depending on the type of work that you have, it may be impossible to ever return work until fully healed and able to pick up where you left off.
For hours of work actually missed at a job, you would have a claim to recover those “lost wages.” If you are so injured that it affects your employability at that, and other jobs, you have a claim to compensate you for your “impaired earning capacity.” In Oregon, you can be compensated for both lost wages and impaired earning capacity in the same claim, so long as the time period of each type of income loss don’t overlap with each other.
Normally, to prove your wage loss claim, your employer will need to present documentation of the normal hours that you worked, the wages associated with your work, and how much time you had to miss due to your injury. To prove your impaired earning capacity claim, your employer would need to verify that your injuries prevent you from returning to work at the same level you had prior to the crash, and your physical abilities would need to be compared to like employment you are otherwise qualified to do.
When seeking compensation your attorney will include your lost wages and/or impaired earning capacity into the settlement amount. Here is an informational piece that talks further about calculating wage losses. The calculation of impaired earning capacity is much more nuanced and complicated, as it takes into account your education, training, experience and physical abilities before versus after the crash, and translates that into employability in a particular job market at a particular time.
As discussed previously, each case will be different because not everyone works the same job or makes the same amount of money. Depending on the amount of time you missed at work, and the normal average wage that you receive, and what physical limitations you are left with will determine the amount of compensation you can receive for lost wages or impaired earning capacity during the settlement process.
5. Pain and Suffering
Unlike hard economic losses, an appropriate amount for pain and suffering compensation, also known as “noneconomic damages” is a bit harder to determine. Your attorney will need to take into account the severity of the injuries and damages that you suffered, along with how much time was missed at work, and what other things in your life that you had to miss on account of the injuries that you sustained, the physical pain you went through, the emotional strife you experienced, scarring, physical limitations, permanency, and so on.
If you are the caretaker of the family or if others rely on you, your attorney will also take into account how the accident affected their lives as a result of the injuries that you suffered, as well as their observations of your own pain and limitation.
Once your attorney has compiled all evidence, they can include an appropriate amount for pain and suffering. Oftentimes, the insurance company will fight this amount the hardest because it's not always as cut and dry as the economic damages, and is more subject to the whim of the particular jury that is seated at trial. Only attorneys with significant semi truck accident experience can truly steer the insurance carrier on the right course, as it is only the threat of litigation handled by an experienced trial attorney that keeps them honest.
Contact Dwyer Williams Cherkoss Attorneys, PC if you were Involved in a Truck Accident
When you become the victim of a Truck Accident, it's important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible for legal help.
Semi-truck Accident cases are much more difficult to handle than a regular motor vehicle crash. There are more parties that could be involved, complex paperwork, federal and state regulations, and a team of lawyers who are ready to fight against you when you file a claim against the truck driver or trucking company.
With the help of an experienced Truck Accident Lawyer from Dwyer Williams Cherkoss Attorneys, you can rest assured that your case is in the best hands. Our lawyers are determined to help you receive the maximum amount of compensation you are owed for the injuries and damages you suffered in the trucking crash.
If you are wondering what The Approximate Value of Your Truck Accident Case is, our attorneys can help you get an accurate estimate. We have over 100 years of combined experience representing the victims of truck accident injuries. We offer a free consultation to see how we can best assist with your truck accident case.