A truck accident can have significant financial consequences, including medical bills, vehicle repairs, and lost earnings. The trucking company might owe you compensation if they or their driver was to blame for the crash. However, the semi truck accident claims process is a deliberately complicated one, preventing many deserving accident victims from getting the full value of the compensation they need.
These cases often involve complex evidence, such as trucking company records, accident reports, witness testimony, and expert opinions. As a result, settling a semi truck accident claim requires patience and perseverance.
Understanding the semi truck settlement process can reduce the anxiety and stress you might otherwise feel while waiting to recover compensation for your injuries.
This post will discuss:
- The steps you should take after suffering injuries in a semi truck accident
- The factors that affect the timeline of a semi truck case
- What goes into building an effective legal claim
- The process of negotiating a settlement
- How you might help speed up the process
Perhaps the single most important thing you can do to expedite your claim is to hire an experienced truck accident lawyer to prepare and pursue it for you. An attorney can investigate the accident, develop a case strategy, and negotiate with the trucking and insurance companies, all while you focus on recovering from your accident injuries.
What Actions Should You Take After Getting Into a Semi Truck Accident?
After a semi truck accident, protect your rights to financial compensation and:
- Call law enforcement to report the crash.
- Obtain the truck driver’s license, registration, employer, and insurance information.
- Get the contact information of any eyewitnesses to the crash.
- Take photos of the crash scene, including vehicle damage, skid marks, traffic signs and signals, and weather, lighting, traffic, and road conditions.
- See a doctor to get checked for injuries you sustained in the accident. You should do so even if you feel fine, as you might have suffered injuries you are unaware of.
- Follow your healthcare provider’s treatment recommendations. Do not put off treatment or end it early.
- Notify your auto insurance provider.
- Keep copies of bills and invoices from expenses you incurred due to the crash, including vehicle repairs and medical treatment.
- Gather your pay stubs or income statements if you take time off work or earn reduced income while you recover from your accident injuries.
- Start a diary or journal to document the pain and physical impairments you experience.
- Contact a truck accident lawyer to learn more about your legal options and the settlement process.
The Process of Settling a Semi Truck Accident Claim
Most successful truck accident claims end in a settlement, meaning the injured party receives compensation without going to court. Settling a semi truck accident case involves several steps, which we’ll explore in detail.
Before pursuing a settlement, you will need evidence to prove the truck driver or trucking company is at fault for the semi truck accident. An attorney will conduct an investigation to recover evidence to build your legal case.
This investigation may involve:
- Requesting documents and information from the trucking company
- Obtaining copies of the police accident report
- Speaking to eyewitnesses of the crash
- Hiring accident reconstruction experts
The goal of this investigation is to determine what happened and who is to blame.
Insurance Claims/Demand Letters
After completing an investigation of the semi truck accident, your attorney will draft a formal insurance claim or demand letter to send to the trucking company or their insurer.
An insurance claim or demand letter will detail the evidence proving the truck driver’s or the trucking company’s fault for the accident. It will also document your expenses and losses to establish the dollar amount you want in compensation. Alternatively, the trucking or insurance company may make the first settlement offer. You may need to continue negotiations if either side objects to the initial offer.
Whether you or the insurance company makes the first offer, the other party can counteroffer to start the negotiation process. Your lawyer and the trucking company’s representatives may trade settlement offers, supported by additional evidence, to reach a figure both sides find acceptable.
In some cases, parties in a semi truck accident case may pursue formal alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Typically, ADR involves either mediation or arbitration. In mediation, a neutral third party facilitates negotiations by helping each side evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their case and proposing solutions to both sides.
Arbitration involves a trial-like process where both parties present evidence or witnesses to a person or panel of neutral third parties called arbitrators, who issue a decision that resolves the outstanding issues in the case.
Every state has a statute of limitations on personal injury claims, establishing a deadline for filing lawsuits. For example, California generally gives you two years from the an accident to file suit against someone who injured you.
If the parties in a semi truck accident case cannot settle before the expiration of the statute of limitations, the injured accident victim will need to file suit to continue pursuing compensation. However, your attorney and the trucking companies can continue to discuss a settlement during the litigation process. In many cases, the prospect of trial often encourages trucking companies and their insurers to agree to settle.
What Factors Affect the Timeline of a Semi Truck Settlement?
A semi truck case usually takes a few months to a few years to settle.
Several factors will influence the timeline of your semi truck accident claim, including:
- The type and severity of injuries you sustained in the accident
- The duration of your medical recovery
- Whether you suffer permanent disabilities from the accident
- The number of other injured victims
- The number of potentially liable parties
- Whether you bear any responsibility for causing the accident
- The complexity of the evidence supporting your case
- The availability of insurance coverage
- The speed of the trucking or insurance company’s investigation and response to your claim
- Whether you must file a lawsuit in court to continue pursuing your claim
How Can an Attorney Help You Obtain a Semi Truck Accident Settlement?
An experienced semi truck accident lawyer can help you more efficiently obtain a settlement of your compensation claim. Your attorney can investigate and prepare your case so you can focus on healing and getting back to regular life.
Let a truck accident attorney help you by:
- Investigating the accident to secure evidence for your claim, including requesting documents from the trucking company or law enforcement and interviewing witnesses
- Identifying all liable parties and any applicable insurance coverages
- Gathering your medical records, bills, and invoices to document your injuries and losses to support your compensation claim
- Preparing and filing your insurance claims and demand letters
- Communicating with the trucking company representatives and insurance adjusters
- Keeping you updated on the progress of your claim and explaining your legal options to you at each stage of the case
- Representing you in mediation or arbitration
- Taking your case to court and trial if the trucking companies refuse to agree to a fair and full settlement of your claim
What Can Do You To Speed Up Your Truck Accident Claim?
The following tips can expedite your truck accident claim and potentially recover a settlement faster.
Hire an Experienced Semi Truck Accident Lawyer
Negotiating a semi truck accident settlement on your own is a risky move. When you have already dedicated much of your time and energy to your medical recovery, you may find it hard to keep up with the insurance company’s demands for records and information. Insurance companies also have tactics to induce accident victims to accept less than the fair value for their injury claims.
An attorney will ensure your compensation claim moves forward while you continue treatment and rehabilitation. Your lawyer can also protect your interests when the insurer tries to deny or devalue your claim. Best of all, they will handle everything for you so you can concentrate on other matters.
Gather Your Records
You can help your attorney pursue your claims by gathering helpful records you may already have in your possession.
Documents you can give to your lawyer to help them prepare your insurance or legal claim include:
- Medical records from the treatment of your injuries
- A copy of the police accident report
- Your pay stubs/income statements
- Copies of correspondence with the trucking or insurance company
- Contact information from any eyewitnesses at the scene of the accident
Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution Options
Finally, you might settle your semi truck accident claim more quickly by participating in an alternative dispute resolution process.
Informal settlement negotiations can reach an impasse if the trucking company and its insurer won’t accept liability for the crash or disputes the losses you have incurred. However, participating in mediation or non-binding arbitration can help move your case toward a settlement by highlighting the respective strength of both sides’ cases and identifying solutions both parties can accept.
What Financial Recovery Can You Obtain in a Semi Truck Settlement?
A semi truck accident settlement can compensate you for losses you have incurred or will incur in the future because of the crash.
A lawyer can help you maximize your financial recovery for:
- Costs of repairs for your vehicle or reimbursement for your car if the insurance company declared it a total loss after the accident
- Medical treatment and rehabilitation of your injuries, including emergency room/hospital care, surgeries, medical procedures, mobility equipment, prescriptions, and physical/occupational therapy
- Costs of home health care or support services you may need for permanent disabilities
- Loss of earnings/income if you take time off work or transfer to a part-time/light-duty role that pays you less than you earned before your injury
- Loss of future earning potential and job benefits if you become permanently disabled from working
- Physical pain and anguish
- Emotional trauma or distress from the accident or your injuries
- Loss of quality of life due to physical disabilities or permanent scarring/disfigurement that interferes with daily activities
Who Can You Hold at Fault for a Semi Truck Accident?
Obtaining a settlement of your semi truck accident claim will depend on which parties have liability for the crash and your injuries.
Potentially liable parties in a semi truck accident case include:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The owner of the truck (if not the truck driver or trucking company)
- The cargo/freight company
- The truck’s mechanic
- The truck/trailer manufacturer
- Manufacturers of parts used on the truck/trailer
Proving Liability for a Semi Truck Accident
Maximizing your financial recovery in a semi truck accident settlement requires strong evidence proving the opposing side’s liability for the crash and your injuries.
Some evidence that may prove valuable include:
- The truck driver’s hours-of-service logs, which record the hours the driver spent on duty and behind the wheel
- The truck’s load manifest listing the carried cargo
- The truck’s event data recorder (black box) logs
- Results of the truck driver’s post-accident alcohol/drug screen results
- The driver’s pre-trip inspection reports
- The truck’s maintenance records
- The trucking company’s dispatch logs
- The truck driver’s cell phone records
- In-cab camera footage from the truck
- Surveillance/traffic camera footage of the accident
- Eyewitness statements
- Accident scene photos or videos
- Police crash reports
- Post-accident vehicle inspection reports
- Accident reconstruction and engineering expert reports
When Does the Statute of Limitations Require Me to File a Lawsuit?
The statute of limitations in California generally gives you two years from a truck accident to file suit. If you file suit after the limitations period expires on your truck accident claim, the trial court can dismiss your case. An experienced attorney can avoid any potential issues with this deadline.
Legal Counsel Can Make the Truck Accident Settlement Process More Efficient
The length of a semi truck accident case will depend on many factors, including the steps you take after the crash, the severity of your injuries, the number of parties involved in the accident, and the complexity of the case.
Unfortunately, no one can predict how long it may take you to secure a settlement of your claims. But you should not rush to settle your case, as doing so can leave money on the table.
You can maximize the value of your financial recovery by working with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Bakersfield. An attorney can advocate for your interests and protect you from the trucking or insurance company’s efforts to minimize or deny your claim.