Many victims who are injured or affected by a semi-truck accident wonder what they can expect from their settlement. However, estimating the value of a personal injury case is very difficult to do without a nuanced understanding of the circumstances, how the accident is likely to affect your future, and what the law allows for in cases like yours.
Therefore, before you can begin to understand what kind of compensation you’ll need to recover from your injuries and what you may be entitled to under the law, it’s important to closely evaluate the who, what, when, where, and why of your accident. Specifically, here are some questions you’ll want to consider.
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Liability obviously impacts who can seek damages and who is responsible for paying for them. But the issue of who is liable is often hotly contested in personal injury cases. This is because liability is not always a clear-cut matter; it may be the shared responsibility of multiple parties.
For instance, if you were hit by a commercial driver who was speeding, the other driver would typically be responsible for damages. However, if you were unable to react in time because you were texting and driving, you may share some of the blame.
Another thing that can complicate liability is the issue of third-party involvement. For example, if you were hit by another driver in a passenger vehicle, the claim will typically go to his or her personal insurance policy. However, in a semi-truck accident settlement, the employer may share some liability, particularly if lack of training or poor management practices played a part in the accident. Seeking legal action against an employer for negligent management is a much larger case than a relatively straightforward accident claim.
The relationship between various involved parties and how they contributed to your accident will vastly impact both your legal strategy and the value of your case.
What Is the Driver’s Employment Status?
Because employers are typically responsible for employees’ actions while on the job, it is absolutely crucial that you understand the driver’s relationship to the commercial carrier that hired them. A driver who operates as an independent contractor, for instance, may be found to be solely liable for an accident, whereas with a direct employee, the burden may fall to the commercial carrier and its insurance policy. This isn’t always the case, but it’s a good example of how employee status can impact your settlement.
How Severe Were Your Injuries?
The goal of most damage claims is to award compensation for your harms and losses, financial and otherwise. Therefore, the severity of your injuries is naturally going to dictate the value of your case.
If you fractured your collarbone in a car accident and missed two weeks of work through no fault of your own, you will likely be entitled to damages for your medical expenses and lost earnings. However, a very severe condition, such as a permanent spinal injury, may require years of medical treatment. There may also be other expenses, such as caretakers or service providers that must be hired to help manage everyday tasks. And there may be more nuanced — but no less harmful — impacts to your or your loved one’s life, such as loss of companionship, quality of life, and earning ability.
Ultimately, the cost to treat a particular injury and its effect on your life will play a big part in your personal injury settlement.
How Has the Accident Affected Your Life?
Semi-truck accidents have consequences that extend beyond medical and household expenses. An injury may affect your future financial stability by limiting your potential to earn a living. It may impact your quality of life if you are unable to enjoy activities you once took pleasure in. And it may change the nature of your relationships if you are no longer able to offer the same type of companionship and support to spouses and children after an accident. Accidents also sometimes cause emotional trauma and grief, necessitating professional care.
All of these are examples of possible damages in semi-truck accident cases. Determining the long-term effect of your accident on your finances, health, and well-being will be integral to estimating the value of your case.
What Was the Driver Doing at the Time of Your Accident?
Every semi-truck accident case is unique; however, when you examine the various causes of these collisions, you begin to see some trends. For instance, many semi-truck accidents occur due to driver fatigue or drug and alcohol use. These are known issues with the commercial trucking industry and could potentially be a factor in your personal injury case.
For instance, a commercial driver who falls asleep at the wheel and causes an accident may not be solely liable for the accident if they have been pressured by an employer to break federal regulations dictating shift lengths and breaks for drivers. At the same time, if the same driver was off duty at the time of the accident, it will be much harder to determine whether their employer is responsible.
Was There Gross Negligence Involved?
Gross negligence — behavior that can be classified as intentionally harmful — sometimes plays a part in personal injury cases and can ultimately impact the amount of compensation the injured victim can recover.
If the other party can be proven to have behaved in a way that is grossly negligent — for instance, a driver who causes an accident after a night of drinking — you may be able to seek punitive damages. These damages exist simply to punish the other party for their behavior and are not determined by your financial situation or damages.
The success of a punitive damage claim typically depends on just how reckless and willfully negligent the other party was, as well as the consequences of the accident. For example, if a vehicle malfunction caused your semi-truck accident, the commercial carrier could be assigned punitive damages if it is found to have willfully ignored badly needed maintenance and has a history of doing so. That carrier is certainly much more likely to face punitive consequences than a carrier that performs regular maintenance on its vehicles.
When punitive damages are warranted, they can certainly affect the amount of compensation an injured party may claim.
As you may have gathered from the information above, estimating the value of a semi-truck accident settlement or claim can be quite challenging. That’s why many accident victims choose to consult with an experienced commercial vehicle accident lawyer before deciding how to proceed with their case. A law firm that specializes in semi-truck accident cases can help you determine who or what caused your accident and how it will impact your life in the long term.
At FVF, our semi-truck accident lawyers are eager to help as you begin the difficult process of assessing your legal options. We offer a free case evaluation to accident victims like you, where we’ll discuss your rights and the best path forward for your case. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.