People who have suffered life-altering injuries or lost a loved one in a collision between a large truck and passenger car understandably wonder, “What is a semi truck accident settlement worth?” While no financial award can compensate for the loss of a loved one or a permanent injury or impairment, learning the factors considered in evaluating in a commercial truck accident settlement may help victims or surviving family members understand what to expect.
If you’ve been injured in a collision with a commercial vehicle and the other driver was at fault, hiring an experienced truck injury lawyer is a crucial step in achieving your optimum financial recovery. Semi crash injury cases can involve multiple defendants, from the owner-driver to the company that employs the driver, or even the manufacturer of a faulty part. A good truck injury attorney will investigate to determine liable parties, a key factor in settlements. Depending on specific business relationships, there may be several insurance carriers involved. Just as important, an experienced personal injury attorney is fully prepared to take your case to trial against the largest corporate defendants if necessary.
While every wreck is different, there are reasons why average semi truck accident settlements may be higher than is generally true for collisions between passenger vehicles. There are several reasons why this is the case, including the extent of injuries or loss of life and the fact that multiple parties may be liable, or financially responsible, for the crash. While there may be multiple defendants in a case, it is important to acknowledge the reality that the amount of insurance carried by those liable may set a ceiling for how much can be recovered.
Serious Injury or Wrongful Death
Determining the value of a claim starts with looking at the victim’s losses: Past and future medical bills, past and future wage loss if the victim can’t return to previous employment, compensation for permanent impairment and pain and suffering, and other losses. If someone was killed in a crash, that person’s next of kin can seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages. For example, if the deceased is a 35-year-old mother who would have been expected to contribute many more years to her family’s financial well-being through a job, a claim can also take those expected earnings into account, as well as seek compensation for loss of companionship.
Some long-haul truck drivers own their big rig and work as independent contractors, in which case the driver may be the only liable party. Many semi drivers are employed by shipping companies or hired on through agencies. Generally, a company is responsible for the actions of its employees. Companies are supposed to make sure drivers are properly trained and must take steps not to hire unfit drivers. In other instances, the way cargo is loaded or strapped down can play a crucial role in a collision. In such a case, the company whose employees loaded the cargo may also be held responsible.
While several parties may be liable in a crash, they may not be equally at fault. Minnesota has a comparative fault law, which means that when a case goes to trial in our state, juries have the task of assigning percentages of fault to all parties. Even when an injured person contributed to a crash, that person may still be able to recover damages as long as he or she wasn’t more at fault than others. In a two-party accident, as long as the victim wasn’t more than 50% at fault, he or she may recover financial compensation. However, the percentage of fault assigned to the victim reduces his or her financial award.
Each collision is different, but depending upon what actually happened in a given claim, a jury might decide the semi driver is mostly at fault, or that the crash almost certainly wouldn’t have happened if not for the actions of the trucking company. What each side thinks a jury is likely to believe about who is at fault will strongly influence settlement negotiations. Each defendant’s insurance carrier is likely to argue that blame lies with the victim or with the other defendants. Insurance carrier lawyers’ goal is to pay out as little as possible, which means that a truck accident lawyer must negotiate skillfully with each party to achieve a just and fair financial award for the client.
The final consideration when it comes to commercial truck accident * settlements is the amount of insurance coverage held by each defendant. When it comes to commercial vehicles, there are different minimum insurance requirements than are in place for passenger cars. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets insurance requirements for interstate truckers at various dollar amounts depending on the size of the truck and what it’s hauling; however, most shippers and brokers require a bare minimum of $1 million liability coverage on trucks that they hire. Vehicles hauling hazardous materials must be covered by a $5 million policy.
While these minimum insurance coverage requirements might seem high, the truth is that the catastrophic injuries that often result when a large commercial vehicle collides with a passenger vehicle can lead to losses far exceeding any insurance policy limits. If there are two or more injured victims, medical bills and lost wages can tally up very quickly.
In any given claim, both experienced truck accident injury lawyers and their counterpart insurance defense attorneys will consider the specific facts of the case and then estimate how much a jury might be likely to award a victim were the case to proceed to trial. While many accident claims are settled during back-and-forth negotiations between attorneys, insurance carriers for large companies may be more likely to let a case go to trial. If you hire an attorney, look for one with the financial resources to take a case to trial, and with a proven track record of achieving verdicts that provide fair compensation for clients.
Suk Law Firm has focused exclusively on personal injury and wrongful death cases since 1988. Attorney Jim Suk has achieved record verdicts for clients in southeast Minnesota, including a $15 million verdict in 2016. Contact us today – we are ready to assist you.
Besides Rochester, we serve the following major southeast Minnesota cities: Red Wing, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna, and all outlying communities, as well as the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. We also serve the Iowa cities of Mason City, Charles City, Osage, Spencer, Garner, Forest City, and Northwood and the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Viroqua, River Falls, Ellsworth, Whitehall, and Black River Falls.
*A note about language:
Federal agencies involved in traffic safety have banned use of the word “accident” for more than 20 years, and with good reason. However, we use the word “accident” on our website, even though we know it has implications that run contrary to our professional thinking and training, because we recognize that “accident” is the word most commonly used in online searches when people are looking for help after being injured in a crash. If you’d like more information about this topic, please see our blog, “Car Accident or Car Crash?”