Unfortunately, the demands of commercial trucking create a high-risk environment. Sometimes, the environment is made more dangerous by unscrupulous behavior on the part of drivers or business owners. Even if the behavior is unintentional, negligent acts that can result in accidents include:
- Driver fatigue. Drivers often work long hours without adequate rest, causing them to be fatigued or even fall asleep at the wheel. When an accident results from driver fatigue, the damage can be quite serious. While fatigue alone is a serious risk factor, the combination of fatigue with other conditions, such as poor weather, unfamiliar roadways, or traffic congestion, can be a recipe for disaster.
- Distracted driving. While the FMCSA (the lead federal government agency that regulates commercial motor vehicles) requires drivers to be hands-free when it comes to mobile devices, distractions may still impede a driver’s ability to drive safely. From the use of GPS to eating on the road, any diversion from 100 percent attentiveness can be dangerous.
- Driving under the influence. The use of some form of substance, whether illegal substances, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter medications that should have reasonably been avoided before driving — such as medications that cause drowsiness — is a top 10 associated factor for large truck accidents. A meta-analysis of worldwide commercial driving studies found alcohol and amphetamine use was rampant among drivers.
- Lack of proper training. Just as with any skill, the more training and experience 18-wheeler drivers have, the better they will be able to make crucial safety decisions in less-than-ideal conditions and more skillfully anticipate other drivers’ actions in order to drive their large vehicles defensively, thus reducing the risk of collision. Some companies fail to offer adequate training, or even “train” their drivers to break the rules, increasing the risk of accidents.
- Improper vehicle maintenance. Some mechanical failures are unavoidable, even when it comes to 18-wheeler trucks. However, truck drivers and their companies are responsible for doing their due diligence to ensure they have the safest vehicle possible on the road. When maintenance issues were the result of human negligence and caused your accident, you may be entitled to compensation.
- Distracted driving. Distracted driving is a factor in a huge number of motor vehicle accidents, and commercial drivers are not immune. Phone calls, texting, and cell phone use — as well as eating and other distracting behaviors — can sometimes cause commercial vehicle accidents.
- Improper vehicle loads. Commercial trucking accidents can occur when cargo is improperly loaded or secured. Overweight and poorly loaded vehicles can become top-heavy and difficult to maneuver, resulting in jackknifing, reduced braking time, and other hazardous scenarios. Inadequately secured cargo can fall, colliding with surrounding vehicles.
The average settlement for 18-wheeler accidents is generally higher than that for other types of collisions, mainly because damages in these cases can be so extensive, but also because juries are not afraid to hold commercial trucking companies accountable for their misconduct. These accidents result in serious, catastrophic injuries or even death with a startling frequency, and the road is full of semi trucks.
While specific compensation amounts will vary depending on the circumstances of your case — particularly with regard to your role in and responsibility for the accident in question — there are several types of damages you may be able to recover.
- Health care costs. A serious accident often results in serious medical bills, and in the case of a permanent or catastrophic injury, these costs can last a lifetime.
- Lost wages and future earnings. Victims qualify to recover damages if an injury caused them to lose work or reduced their potential for future earnings. An injury that permanently affects an individual’s ability to do their job may serve as grounds for compensation for future lost wages.
- Loss of quality of life. A serious accident can temporarily or permanently alter a victim’s quality of life. In some cases, plaintiffs in a Florida personal injury case may be able to sue for their pain, emotional trauma, and general inability to live their life to the fullest.
- Other expenses. Living with an accident injury, whether temporary or permanent, may result in additional care costs. For instance, injured parties may need to pay others to assist them with day-to-day tasks, such as a grocery delivery service, cleaning service, or transportation provider.
Settlement figures are not always made publicly available, and even when they are, it is difficult to point to an 18-wheeler accident compensation amount. Many factors can affect your individual case and the amount of compensation you receive. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand how the different variables of your case may impact both your ability to seek recovery and the type of damages you are able to claim. Here are some factors to consider that can influence compensation amounts:
- Party responsibility. Culpability is a vital part of any motor vehicle accident case. Your lawyer will thoroughly investigate the accident to determine who was at fault. If you share some of the blame for the incident, it will impact your ability to seek damages. On the other hand, if others are to blame for your accident, they can be held liable for your damages and even punished with punitive damages if extreme recklessness can be proven. Examples of reckless conduct would include drunk driving or falsifying driver logs to increase driving time in pace of required rest.
- Extent of damages. How severely you were injured and how significantly it is impacting your life, both now and in the future, will also play a role in your settlement. Costs associated with medical treatment of your injury, loss of quality of life, and lost past or future earnings are all damages for which you may be entitled to receive compensation.
- Failure to observe, or abuse of, driving regulations. If your lawyer is able to prove that carrier negligence either directly or indirectly caused your accident, that carrier business may be designated a public hazard, which could impact the compensation you receive.
- Insurance policy details. An individual or organization’s ability to pay for damages sometimes depends on their depth of coverage with insurance providers. A personal injury law firm can help you uncover the details of those policies and seek appropriate compensation.
- Your lawyer’s willingness to fight for you. Insurance companies are in the business of avoiding risk and keeping payouts low. If your personal injury lawyer has the resources and experience to work your case in a manner that could result in a large jury verdict at trial, the insurance companies will pay you more to settle your case to avoid those risks.
The length of time it takes from filing to recovery depends on a variety of factors. Some of the factors that determine how long your 18-wheeler accident case settlement will take include:
- The number of people injured. The large size and heavy weight of 18-wheelers can result in a number of people being injured, possibly in more than one vehicle. In many 18-wheeler accident injury cases, several victims are simultaneously negotiating and discussing compensation options with the at-fault party and their insurers. Multiple plaintiffs cause settlements to take much longer.
- The discovery process. In semi-truck accident cases, “discovery” is the process by which your legal team thoroughly investigates the accident to prove negligence and win your case. This process can be complicated and lengthy.
- The severity of your injuries. While it may seem counterintuitive, if your injuries are very serious, it may take much longer to receive compensation. Severe injuries can take longer to diagnose and treat, and it can take time to determine just how severely impacted your life will be by your accident injury. An experienced legal team knows how to navigate these cases in order to ensure that your case is not delayed and important evidence is not overlooked.
- The responsiveness and compliance of other parties. Commercial truck accidents involve many parties, especially when the truck driver is employed by a company rather than operating independently. The parties involved include the truck driver, their employer, the trucking company’s insurance provider, and more. Each party may have their own representatives, and communication timelines can vary greatly.
- The litigation process. All personal injury cases require negotiation between the victim’s and the at-fault party’s legal team. If an acceptable settlement cannot be reached through negotiations, your case could go to a jury trial.
Regardless of the specific details of your case, it’s important to speak to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Attorneys can help you understand your rights and options as well as file suit when you have a legal claim. A client-centered Orlando law firm like FVF can also provide resources to help you seek medical care while protecting your rights and documenting your case. We investigate your case thoroughly and fight for your rights when negligence or recklessness is a contributing factor.
We believe that personal injury compensation is about people, not cases, and our philosophy is that we accept only cases that we believe we will be able to add substantial value to. Because of this, we operate on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid only when the case resolves in your favor.
The first step is to speak with an attorney at FVF — the sooner, the better. Whether you ultimately choose to hire us or not, you will walk away from that initial conversation with one of our attorneys feeling more prepared to make a decision about your next steps. When you are ready to speak to an attorney about your case, contact us for a free consultation.