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How Are Settlements Calculated for Commercial Vehicle Accidents?

When you or your loved one has been hit by a commercial vehicle, it’s unlikely that the first thing on your mind is money. As the scope of the damages and your injuries become clearer, though, you may find yourself with the added stress of worrying about how to pay your bills and medical expenses — maybe permanently. But there is relief.

Victims of commercial accidents have the right to seek compensation. Estimating the amount of compensation in a commercial injury case is extremely difficult. But when you know which factors go into calculating the value of a commercial vehicle accident settlement, and you have an experienced legal team on your side, you can fight for the full value of your case to help you on your road to recovery.

What Kinds of Vehicles Count as Commercial Vehicles?

From Amazon trucks to big rigs, a commercial vehicle is any motor vehicle being used to transport goods or paying passengers. If the vehicle is owned by a company and used for business purposes, it’s probably a commercial vehicle. Commercial vehicles often have substantial insurance policies, but that doesn’t mean their insurance companies are going to willingly accept liability and pay for your damages.

What Kinds of Accidents Are Common with Commercial Vehicles?

Unfortunately, commercial vehicle accidents are far too common. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported that over 4,000 people were killed in crashes involving a large truck or bus in 2011, and more than 112,000 were injured in that same year. 

In 2007, the FMCSA conducted a massive analysis of large truck accidents that resulted in either fatalities or injuries. They found that there were three major types of events that contributed to these accidents:

  • Running out of the travel lane
  • Losing control of the vehicle 
  • Crashing into another vehicle from behind

While the reasons for these events were varied, the FMCSA found that an astounding 87 percent of crashes were due to driver-controlled factors, such as:

Only 13 percent of the more than 100,000 large truck crashes examined by the FMCSA were caused by factors out of the driver’s control. Even then, 10 percent of those were due to vehicle-specific factors, many of which are also preventable. Only 3 percent of injury- or fatality-causing crashes involving large trucks were attributed to environmental factors. 

What Factors Affect Commercial Vehicle Settlements?

The primary factor in determining a commercial vehicle settlement comes down to liability and how serious or habitual the crash-causing behavior is. Before the amount of damages can be calculated, your attorney must first determine what happened and who is responsible. In commercial vehicle accidents, multiple parties might be responsible, which might increase the amount of the settlement but also complicates the case and often extends the process.

Ultimately, your lawyer will need to determine the answers to some complex questions.

  1. What caused the accident? Reconstructing the accident, interviewing witnesses, and reviewing the black box data are all ways your lawyer can work to best determine who was doing what at the time of the collision. Knowing what happened to cause your accident is crucial to understanding who is liable — and to what degree negligence played a part. 
  2. Who is liable? If a semi truck’s poor maintenance was to blame for the vehicle’s brakes not functioning properly, but speeding contributed to the driver’s inability to stop in time to avoid the collision, the trucking company that was responsible for the maintenance and the driver may share liability. Even in the cases where the victim might be found partially liable — say, for going five miles over the speed limit — that does not nullify the accountability of the other parties. 
  3. Is the driver an employee? Some companies contract drivers instead of hiring them as employees. This counts for semi trucks as well as rideshare drivers, delivery drivers, and even some USPS carriers. 
  4. Is there an ongoing criminal investigation? If the driver who hit you was engaged in criminal behavior, such as drunk driving, there may be a criminal investigation of the crash. An ongoing criminal investigation can delay access to certain kinds of evidence under public information requests and extend the timeline of your case. However, evidence of gross negligence can also result in substantial punitive damages, which will increase the amount you are awarded in damages. 
  5. How severe are the damages? Major injuries mean major medical expenses. Unfortunately, they also mean increased physical and emotional pain and, often, a reduction in quality of life and ability to work. For these devastating reasons, the more severe the injuries and property damage, the higher the amount of compensation generally awarded to victims. 

How Can FVF Help If You’ve Been Hurt in a Commercial Vehicle Accident?

Even if you believe your injuries truly were no one’s fault, contacting a lawyer is always a good idea as soon as possible after your accident. For one, you may not realize that, while the driver who hit you may not be morally or ethically responsible for the crash, they may be legally responsible — or their employer may be. 

And while commercial insurance has much higher limits than personal liability policies, getting a fair settlement from an insurance company can still be tricky. Speaking to a lawyer can help you protect your rights when it comes to filing an insurance claim, even with your own insurance company.

A commercial vehicle accident lawyer is there to honestly assess your circumstances and provide the information you need to decide your best options moving forward. If you decide to file a lawsuit, and FVF determines that their representation of your case will increase the value of your case enough to cover their fee (and then some), then the next step becomes investigating and litigating your case. 

What Kind of Recovery Might Be Available in a Commercial Vehicle Accident Case?

The recovery available in any personal injury case is for the damages inflicted on you by the responsible party or parties. The amount of damages awarded is impacted by what are known as value drivers. These are factors that add value to your case, and this is what will be used to calculate the amount of your compensation, regardless of whether that amount is decided by a settlement agreement or a jury trial. 

These are also what will be used by the at-fault parties’ insurance companies to try to get you to accept a too-low settlement offer. In fact, some reports suggest that many insurance companies even use software that is designed to recommend the “actual” value of a case as the high-end value. This process means that, without intervention by someone who can provide support in understanding the value of the case, victims of commercial vehicle accidents are almost always going to walk away from negotiations with less than even the insurance company believes they are entitled to based on the value drivers.

Even when insurance companies and trucking companies fight back, the law allows for victims of car accidents to include multiple factors when seeking compensation, such as the:

  • Extent of their injuries
  • Recovery time or permanence of injury
  • Costs of current and future medical expenses
  • Wages lost, current and future
  • Pain and suffering, including emotional
  • Strength of evidence against the driver
  • Number of violations by the driver or company

Preparing you for seeking recovery in a commercial vehicle accident settlement or jury trial is exactly why FVF Law offers a free initial case consultation.  If you’ve been injured in an accident, we want you to feel equipped to make decisions that are in your best interest, regardless of what insurance companies may try to pressure you into or whether you choose to hire us. Contact us today so we can get started on reviewing your case.



Fogelman & Von Flatern is a personal injury law firm that believes it matters why we practice law: to make sure good people in unfair circumstances who want reasonable options are taken seriously, especially by their attorney. We value transparency, compassion, and justice, and we strive to embody that in our practice. At FVF, you can trust that you've got the best people on your case, for the right reasons.

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