No one wants to end up in an accident with a semi-truck. The size and weight of these large trucks mean that the people in smaller passenger vehicles sustain most of the damage when an accident happens.
There's nothing good about a semi-accident, but truck drivers have a heightened responsibility to follow laws and regulations and care for other drivers.
When an accident does occur, the insurance policies that cover trucking companies can offer generous payouts for injuries. However, making a trucking insurance policy work for you requires the expertise of a skilled truck accident lawyer. Learn below on how to get compensation for a semi-truck accident.
Semi Accidents Lead to Serious Injuries
You’re more likely to be involved in a car accident with another passenger vehicle than with a commercial semi-truck. But don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. There are simply fewer semi-trucks operating on the roadways than other types of cars and trucks, so statistically, it makes sense that there are fewer accidents involving big trucks.
The real problem with semi-truck accidents is that the injuries can be extreme when they do happen.
Common injuries that result from semi-truck accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Crushed or fractured bones
- Burns and lacerations
Semi-truck accidents can dramatically alter a person’s quality of life, often impacting a victim’s ability to hold a job or participate in family life. These types of injuries are also expensive. The lifetime cost of care for a traumatic brain injury can range from $85,000 to $3 million.
The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that in 2020, large truck accidents injured 147,000 people, and around 5,000 died in accidents. NSC data also shows that over the past decade, the rate of fatalities in large truck crashes has increased by 33 percent, and the injury rate has increased by 18 percent.
The Main Reasons Semi-Truck Accidents Happen
Trucking accidents happen for many reasons. Sometimes a truck accident occurs due to poor weather that results in slippery roads or bad visibility. However, semi accidents are often the result of a failure to follow laws and regulations on the part of the driver, the trucking company, or both.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that one recent year saw a 26 percent increase in fatal accidents involving large trucks and alcohol-impaired drivers. Data also consistently shows that police only test truck drivers for drug use around 40 percent of the time after a fatal semi-truck accident.
Common causes that lead to a collision with a semi-truck include:
- Driver impairment
- Driver fatigue
- Undertrained or inexperienced driver
- Overloaded trucks
- Unsafely maintained trucks
These are all avoidable causes of semi accidents, and the fault lies squarely on the driver or trucking company that put the driver on the road.
Proving that issues like these caused an accident is central to gaining compensation. Success depends on quickly contacting a trucking accident lawyer.
Why You Need a Semi-Truck Lawyer
A truck accident victim needs to work with an experienced truck accident attorney to ensure that investigations are thorough and negligent drivers are held financially responsible for the damage they cause to other drivers.
A semi-truck accident lawyer plays many roles as they work toward gaining compensation for your injuries.
A lawyer might:
- Assess damage and form a compensation target
- Conduct an independent accident investigation
- Collect witness testimony
- Hire an accident reconstruction specialist
- Negotiate with insurance agents
- Initiate a lawsuit
- Represent you in court
An individual without legal training and experience cannot hope to achieve the same results as a truck accident attorney. If you hope to gain compensation, you must begin working with a lawyer as quickly as possible.
Semi-Truck Accident Compensation
There’s no one average settlement amount for semi-truck accident compensation. The overall compensation is composed of a few different considerations.
First is economic damages, which reimburses you for financial costs like medical bills or lost wages. You can pursue economic compensation for any amount, as long as you can produce bills, receipts, or pay stubs proving that the accident caused you to lose money.
Some injuries, like a traumatic brain injury, might lead to lifelong medical care or leave a family’s primary earner unable to work. In these cases, economic compensation can reach high amounts.
You can also ask for money for damages that don't have a dollar value. Legal concepts like emotional anguish, pain, suffering, and loss of consortium provide an avenue for financial compensation when a semi-accident causes non-financial forms of damage.
Finally, in some states, it’s also possible to receive punitive damages. Punitive damages are only an option when a case goes to court. Judges sometimes order punitive damages after an excessive truck driver or trucking company negligence.
Regarding semi-accident compensation, the law tries to make the compensation equal to the amount of damage done. Since semi accidents can lead to death and life-altering injury, settlement and verdict amounts often reach seven figures or higher.
What to Do After a Semi-Truck Accident
How you respond after a semi-truck accident directly affects your chances of recovering significant compensation.
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, you should ensure that you and everyone else involved is safe. When an accident involves severe injury, you can't take action and may not even remain conscious. If you can, move away from traffic and call the police. Don't apologize or admit fault for the accident.
The police will write up an official accident report. You should always call the police after a semi-accident, even if there are no apparent injuries.
See a doctor after a truck accident, even if you don't think the crash hurt you. It's not uncommon to experience serious delayed injuries after an accident, like internal bleeding, organ damage, or a spinal fracture.
Calling the police and seeing a doctor are two essential steps that can greatly impact your eligible compensation. Both actions establish official documentation, which you’ll need for insurance negotiations and court proceedings.
Finally, don’t speak to an insurance company until you’ve consulted with a truck accident attorney. These companies are always eager to get victims to quickly and unwittingly agree to a low settlement.
Why Speaking to an Insurance Company Is a Mistake
You’ve probably had plenty of dealings with insurance agents in the past. When you renew your car insurance, update your homeowner’s insurance, or have a question about your health insurance coverage, the person who helps you is an insurance agent.
Usually, insurance agents are friendly and helpful. After a semi-accident, picking up the phone to report the accident or submit a claim seems like the natural thing to do. However, it’s a grave error.
An insurance agent’s job is not to help you. No matter how good they may be at expressing sympathy or building rapport, their job is to save money for the insurance company. Some companies even offer their agents a commission based on how much money they save through reduced or denied claims.
If you call to report a semi-truck accident, the agent will ask you a list of prepared questions. These questions attempt to make you admit fault for the accident, thereby reducing the payout amount you’re eligible for. Once you admit fault, there’s little a truck accident lawyer can do to overturn the information you’ve given an insurance agent.
Simply put, an insurance agent’s job is to reduce your compensation, while a truck accident lawyer’s job is to maximize it.
Don’t speak with an insurance agent until you consult a lawyer. If a truck accident lawyer agrees to take your case, they’ll handle communication with the insurance companies to protect you from accidentally giving responses that cause you to lose money.
Liability for a Semi-Truck Accident
Legally, the person who causes an accident is financially responsible for the damage that comes out of it. This is why it’s important not to unintentionally admit fault to an insurance agent, the police, or any other party.
To gain compensation for a semi-truck accident, your truck accident lawyer must build a case showing that the truck driver or trucking company acted negligently and directly caused the accident and subsequent damage.
Once negligence is proven, the trucker or trucking company is legally responsible for paying for the damage. In some cases, both parties may bear some responsibility. The laws about shared fault and compensation differ by state.
For example, Florida recognizes comparative fault. Each driver is assigned a percentage of the fault. You can still recover damages if the truck driver bears a higher portion of fault. However, the compensation awarded gets reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does a Semi-Truck Lawyer Cost?
The overall cost of a lawyer differs by case, as the cost depends on how difficult a case is, how long it lasts, and how much work a lawyer will need to do.
Fortunately, truck accident lawyers are a type of personal injury lawyer. Usually, these lawyers work with clients on a contingency basis. Payment comes from the final compensation award. You don’t have to pay if your lawyer doesn’t win your case.
Can You Gain Compensation for a Semi-Truck Accident Without a Lawyer?
No. Successfully gaining truck accident compensation requires the skill and expertise of an experienced truck accident attorney. Without legal knowledge, it’s impossible to know how to proceed correctly or to recognize when you’re getting cheated out of compensation money owed to you.
How Much Money Can You Gain from a Semi-Truck Accident Settlement?
It’s hard to say in advance just how much money you can gain from a semi-truck accident settlement. At a minimum, your settlement should fairly compensate you for any costs incurred through the accident, like medical bills and lost wages.
With serious semi-truck accident injuries, where significant damage has occurred, settlement figures often reach seven figures.
How Do You Choose a Good Truck Accident Lawyer?
The number one sign of a good truck accident lawyer is their track record. When trying to choose a lawyer, check their website or call the firm and ask about the settlement amounts they’ve earned for past clients in semi-truck accident cases.
It’s also good to check their online reviews and see what former clients say about working with the firm. Make sure to check more than one online review site.
Most truck accident lawyers also offer free consultations. During your consultation, pay attention to a lawyer’s communication style and interest level. If they’re engaged, ask questions, and can clearly explain your legal options, it’s a sign they’ll take your case seriously and maintain clear communication as you work together.
Can You Receive Money If Your Family Member Died in a Semi-Truck Accident?
If you lost a loved one in a semi-truck accident, you could file a wrongful death suit. Wrongful death settlements can bring substantial compensation to the loved ones left behind. Only parents, children, and spouses are typically eligible to file for wrongful death settlements.
Don’t Miss the Time Limit for Truck Accident Compensation
You have limited time to take legal action over a trucking accident. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. Statute of limitations vary by state and depend on your reason for seeking compensation.
A personal injury case might have a different time limit than a wrongful death suit, which is what you would pursue if a loved one died due to a semi-accident.
It takes time for a lawyer to build a case, move through negotiations, and file a lawsuit. When you delay contacting a lawyer, you risk missing the opportunity to claim the money you deserve.