A semi truck accident can leave you with serious injuries that require substantial and costly medical treatment. You may also lose wages or income from missing work while healing from your injuries. But you may have the right to pursue compensation for your expenses and losses from the truck driver or company at fault for the accident.
Most truck accident victims seek compensation through a settlement with the trucking companies and insurers. However, waiting to get a settlement in your truck accident case can cause anxiety and stress as you watch your bills continue to pile up. Although no one can definitively predict how long it will take you to settle a semi truck accident case, a knowledgeable Miami truck accident attorney can give you an estimate. Continue reading to learn more about the settlement process and what can affect the duration and timeline of your truck accident case.
Settling your truck accident claim can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on multiple circumstances and factors, including:
How Long Do You Have to File a Truck Accident Claim?
Under Florida Statutes Section 95.11, you must file a lawsuit against the at-fault parties within four years after a truck accident. Filing a lawsuit after the deadline gives the court a basis to dismiss your case permanently, which means you could lose your right to seek compensation in civil court. However, you can continue to pursue a settlement with the trucking companies and insurers after the statutory deadline.
The Semi Truck Accident Settlement Process
Obtaining a settlement after suffering injuries in a truck crash often involves:
- Investigation. First, your attorney will need to investigate the accident to recover evidence to help prove your right to compensation for your injuries. An investigation may involve taking accident scene photos, talking to witnesses, requesting copies of police crash reports, obtaining surveillance/traffic camera footage of the crash, and getting records and information from the trucking company. The evidence should indicate which party or parties are liable for your injuries and losses. An investigation will also involve identifying applicable insurance policies that may cover your losses.
- Notifying insurers. You will also want to inform the insurance companies about the accident as soon as possible. Insurance policies may have deadlines for giving the insurer notice of an accident.
- Preparing a demand letter. Your lawyer might draft a demand letter, which serves as your formal claim against the liable parties and their insurers. The demand letter will set forth your allegations against the responsible parties, the evidence supporting your claims, and documentation of the expenses and losses for which you seek compensation.
- Negotiation. After receiving your formal claim or demand letter, the insurance company will either accept your claim and pay you the requested amount or make a counteroffer, starting the process of settlement negotiations. In negotiation, the parties try to reach a mutually acceptable compensation amount. Negotiations may occur informally between the parties and their lawyers, or the parties may pursue a more formal negotiation structure, such as mediation.
Types of Semi Truck Accidents
The type of semi truck crash can affect the timeline of a settlement.
Common truck accidents include:
- Rear end collisions happen when the front of a truck crashes into the rear of another vehicle
- Head on collisions occur when the front of a truck and the front of another vehicle collide
- Sideswipe collisions are where the sides of a truck and another vehicle hit or scrape against one another
- Side impact or T bone collisions occur when the front of a truck crashes into the side of another vehicle, usually at an intersection
- Underride accidents are when a vehicle gets caught underneath the side or rear overhang of a truck trailer
- Rollover accidents, which involve a truck flipping over onto its side or roof
- Jackknife accidents, which involve a trailer swinging forward toward the truck cab and causing the trailer and cab to fold in on each other
- Cargo accidents, which involve cargo falling from a truck or a driver’s loss of control of their vehicle due to improperly loaded cargo
Common Causes of Semi Truck Accidents
Some common causes of truck accidents include:
- Reckless driving
- Aggressive driving/road rage
- Tailgating/following too closely
- Not signaling or checking mirrors before turning or changing lanes
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Running red lights/stop signs
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy/fatigued driving
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Failing to conduct pre-trip inspections
- Inadequate truck maintenance
- Unsafe loading of cargo, including overloading, failing to balance the load, or not securing the load from shifting
- Truck driver inexperience or unfamiliarity with delivery routes
How Do You Prove Liability for a Truck Accident?
Settling your truck accident claim largely depends on proving the truck driver’s, trucking company’s, or another party’s liability for the crash.
Evidence that can demonstrate fault for a truck accident includes:
- The truck driver’s hours-of-service (HOS) logs
- The truck driver’s employment/driving records
- Results of the truck driver’s alcohol/drug testing
- Logs from the truck’s event data recorder (“black box”)
- The truck’s inspections and maintenance records
- The truck driver’s pre-trip inspection reports
- The cargo/load manifest
- The trucking company’s radio logs/recordings
- Accident scene photos and videos
- Police accident reports
- Surveillance/traffic camera footage
- Eyewitness testimony
- Expert accident reconstruction reports
What Injuries Occur in Semi Truck Accidents?
The severity of the injuries you suffer in a truck crash will also affect the duration of your accident claim.
Injuries that may occur due to truck accidents include:
- Abrasions and degloving injuries
- Burns and road rash
- Dislocated joints
- Broken bones
- Ligament sprains/tears
- Muscle and tendon strains/tears
- Whiplash injury
- Nerve damage
- Herniated spinal discs
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Internal injuries and bleeding
- Facial injuries and scarring
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Traumatic amputation or limb loss
What Makes Semi Truck Accident Cases Different From Other Motor Vehicle Accidents?
Semi truck accident cases differ from other motor vehicle accident cases in several ways.
The factors that can make settling a truck accident claim more complex than other accident cases include:
- Truck accidents tend to cause serious injuries. The sheer size of a semi-truck often results in significant injuries for accident victims. Severe injuries can extend the settlement process if the injured victim chooses to wait until they finish treatment to file a claim and pursue a settlement. Serious injuries also typically result in more significant financial and personal losses, complicating settlement negotiations as the accident victim will seek more substantial compensation.
- Truck accidents can injure multiple victims. Settling a truck accident case can also take longer if multiple people suffered injuries in the crash. The trucking company and its insurer may need to split their time and effort investigating and negotiating numerous injury claims. Alternatively, the insurance company may wish to pursue a global settlement with all accident victims at once, which can involve a complicated negotiation process.
- Multiple parties can have liability for the crash. Settling your truck accident claim can become complicated if multiple parties bear fault for the collision. These parties may shift blame for the accident onto each other to minimize their financial liability to you.
- Truck accident cases can involve complex evidence. You may face delays in filing your truck accident claim if your case involves a substantial amount of complicated evidence, which your attorney must sift through to prepare a persuasive case.
- Trucking companies may have complicated insurance coverage. You might also experience obstacles in settlement negotiations after a truck accident if the trucking company tries to hide the total amount of insurance coverage it has through layered insurance policies.
What Steps Do You Need To Take After Suffering Injuries in a Semi Truck Accident?
Before your attorney can begin negotiating a settlement, you can:
- Contact law enforcement to report the truck accident
- Get the employer and insurance information of the truck driver and the insurance information of any other drivers involved in the accident
- Take photos and videos of the accident scene, ideally as soon as possible after the accident
- Seek prompt medical attention to get examined for any injuries you may have suffered in the crash
- Follow your doctor’s treatment plan and instructions; do not put off treatment
- Gather records of your expenses and financial losses, including bills, invoices, receipts, and your pay stubs or income statements
- Request copies of any police accident reports and your medical records from your treatment
- Document the pain and physical impairment you experience during your recovery by keeping a diary or journal
- Avoid discussing the accident or your injuries on social media, and refrain from posting or tagging yourself in photos and videos while you treat and rehab your injuries
Finally, reach out to a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible to get started on preparing your case and pursuing a settlement.
How Can a Lawyer Help You Settle a Semi Truck Accident Claim?
A lawyer can move along the process of settling your truck accident claim by handling all the details of your case, including:
- Thoroughly investigating the crash to secure evidence for your case
- Reviewing the facts and evidence to determine what caused the crash and who may have liability to compensate you for your injuries and losses
- Evaluating claim options in your case, including identifying applicable insurance coverage
- Collaborating with expert witnesses when opinion testimony can help strengthen your claim
- Documenting your injuries and other losses to determine the amount of compensation you should pursue
What Compensation Can You Recover in a Semi Truck Accident Settlement?
A settlement can provide you with financial relief for the losses you sustained due to a truck accident, including for:
- Car repair bills or reimbursement of your totaled vehicle’s value
- Medical and rehabilitation expenses, including hospital bills, surgeries, prescription costs, doctor’s appointments, and physical/occupational therapy appointments
- Costs of long-term care for permanent disabilities you may have suffered, including home health services, housekeeping, or purchases of medical/mobility equipment
- Lost earnings after missing work or going on light/modified duty
- Loss of future earning capacity and employment benefits after suffering a permanent disability
- Pain and suffering
- Lost enjoyment and quality of life
Types of Semi Truck Accident Settlements
Injury settlements typically fall under the following two categories:
- Lump-sum settlements. A lump-sum settlement pays the entire settlement amount in one payment. A lump-sum settlement can benefit truck accident victims by providing them with substantial financial resources to help pay off debts that may have accrued due to the accident.
- Structured settlements. A structured settlement pays the settlement amount over multiple payments, usually monthly, quarterly, or annual. Structured settlements may have large upfront or final balloon payments, or payments may increase during the settlement. Although a structured settlement means an accident victim must wait for full payment, it can offer several benefits. First, truck accident victims may benefit from regular payments by having a steady stream of income to help make up for an inability to work. Structured settlements can also provide accident victims with more compensation than a lump-sum settlement since liable parties may afford to pay more significant compensation over a long period.
Contact a truck accident attorney to learn more about your legal rights and which type of settlement is best for your case.