If you’ve spent time driving on Texas highways, you know that driving near or around semi trucks is unavoidable. A collision with an 18-wheeler or even a smaller truck can lead to serious damage or destruction to your vehicle, as well as severe injuries and even death to passengers involved in the accident.
Due to the catastrophic damage a truck accident is capable of causing, the average settlements for these types of accidents tends to be higher than many other motor vehicle accidents. 18-wheeler truck accidents can result in multi-million-dollar settlements if the accident causes death or a life-altering injury. Even less substantial injuries can result in settlements of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How much can I settle for after a truck accident?
It is important to note that if you are injured in an accident with a semi or another large truck, your ability to recover damages and the amount of damages you will be able to recover is determined the same way it would be in any personal injury case. The fact that the other vehicle involved in the accident was a truck does not in and of itself automatically increase the value of your claim.
The value of your claim will be based on the laws governing fault and negligence in Texas, a determination of what caused the accident (i.e. whether the tractor-trailer truck was driving negligently or recklessly under the circumstances), the nature and extent of your injuries, and any other damages you suffered.
In Texas, the law applies a modified comparative fault rule when determining who is at fault for an accident and to what extent. Under this rule, you will not be able to recover any damages from the other party if the court determines that you were 51% or more at fault for causing the accident. If you are found to be 50% or less at fault, your amount of recovery will be reduced by the percentage of which you contributed to the accident.
If you are entitled to recover damages, the compensation you receive in a settlement or court judgment could include damages for:
Physical injuries – The amount of money you receive for your injuries will depend on their nature and extent, which means the type of injury you suffered and how bad it was. To determine this, you will likely need an expert medical opinion.
If there is any disagreement between the parties involved as to the nature and extent of the injuries, it is common to undergo one or more independent medical examinations (IME). During an IME, a doctor will conduct a physical exam, perform relevant tests, and review your medical records including recent treatment records. The doctor will analyze this information an issue an opinion regarding the likely cause, diagnosis and degree of permanent or temporary disability for each injury.
After a car accident, particularly one involving an 18-wheeler or similar truck, it is common for drivers and passengers to suffer injuries to their neck and back. Since many people also suffer from neck and back problems due to degenerative conditions caused by the aging process, it is common for insurance defense lawyers to try to argue that the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by the motor vehicle accident, but that they existed beforehand. This is called a “preexisting injury” defense.
Another common defense relating to the nature and extent of your injuries is simply that you are not hurt as badly as you say you are and, therefore, your claim is worth less than you are demanding.
An insurance defense lawyer may also argue that, even if you are injured, your injuries occurred after the date of the accident and were not caused by the accident in question. This is called a “subsequent injury” defense.
The best way to prove your case and overcome these potential defenses is with strong medical evidence and expert medical opinions that clearly state the nature, extent, and cause of your injuries, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty.
Medical expenses – The medical expenses you are entitled to will depend on whether they were incurred to treat injuries caused by the accident in question. The insurance company may also try to fight medical expenses they argue were unnecessary.
Lost wages – In a personal injury claim based on negligence, you are entitled to compensation that would put you in the same position as if the injury never occurred. If the accident, recovery time, treatment, or medical appointments cause you to miss work, you may be entitled to recover lost wages.
When your lawyer prepares your demand letter, they will include these details, along with proof of your most recent wages and absences from work.
Lost earning potential – Similarly, if your injuries caused you to become permanently disabled in some way or require physician-imposed restrictions that limit your ability to do certain tasks at work, causing you to leave the workforce or change careers, you may also be able to recover your lost earning potential.
In calculating your lost earning potential, a court will consider your education, skills, past employment, work performance history and recent evaluations to try to estimate your career trajectory and the value of your future earning potential.
Pain and suffering – Many people incorrectly assume that damages for pain and suffering can be tacked on to any lawsuit, however, the law sets forth somewhat limited circumstances for recovering damages for pain and suffering.
In Texas, there is a cap of $250,000 on the amount of non-economic damages, including those for pain and suffering, that you can recover. You may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering caused by medical treatments, the trauma of the accident, the interference of and limitations caused by physical pain in your everyday life, change in quality of life, or long-term and chronic pain.
Loss of consortium (loss of companionship) – If an 18-wheeler truck accident caused death or a life-altering injury to a loved one, you may be able to recover damages due to your loss of companionship and close relationship with that person.
If you have recently been involved in a truck accident in Texas, you may be entitled to substantial damages, depending on the factors described above. Contact our team of knowledgeable personal injury lawyers today for an assessment of your claim.