18-wheeler trucks are a common sight on Texas roads, but they can be intimidating if you’re driving alongside one. If you’re involved in an accident with one of these massive vehicles, the force of the impact can cause devastating injuries and even death.
It’s not the high speeds 18-wheeler trucks can reach that causes problems. Like every other vehicle on the road, truck drivers must comply with state speed limits. So what makes them so dangerous? The answer is — perhaps unsurprisingly — their size and weight, which makes it hard for truckers to slow down quickly in reaction to a hazard on the road.
In an emergency or urgent situation, like a sudden traffic jam ahead, it can be near impossible for an 18-wheeler driver to stop in time before colliding with other vehicles. This can cause mass casualties and extensive property damage, which is why trucking firms are required to carry higher-than-usual insurance coverage.
To proceed with a personal injury claim and get justice and compensation, it’s vital to consult a specialist truck accident lawyer familiar with these rigs and Texas’s complex trucking laws.
These cases can be complex and lengthy, and as the months and even years go by without a settlement, victims may ask themselves, “How long does an 18-wheeler lawsuit take, and how much will I get?”.
What Is an 18-Wheeler?
An 18-wheeler is also known as a semi-truck, big rig, or tractor-trailer. It consists of a tractor or cab (which contains the engine) and a trailer. Altogether, both parts have 18 wheels that carry the heavy weight of the trailer and any cargo on board. Typical 18-wheelers on Texas roads can weigh an incredible 80 thousand pounds when fully loaded, carrying anything from produce to building materials, clothing, new vehicles, and just about any other product that needs to be shipped to a store or distribution center.
As well as being heavy, 18-wheelers are long. Different models come in varying lengths, but on average, an 18-wheeler measures between 70 and 80 feet. This can make them challenging to maneuver and lead to jackknifing, where the truck’s trailer juts out at a sharp angle to the cab, rendering the vehicle immobile and potentially causing a pile-up of vehicles around it.
There are almost two million 18-wheelers around the United States, driving an estimated 140 billion miles each year, so it’s no surprise that accidents result in injuries and, tragically, deaths.
What Are Some Common Injuries after an 18-Wheeler Accident?
Because of the pure difference in size between an 18-wheeler and the average passenger car, truck accidents often result in severe, even life-threatening, injuries.
Physical injuries can include head trauma (ranging from a concussion to a skull fracture or brain bleed), whiplash and other neck injuries, spinal cord injuries, and internal organ damage.
You might also sustain emotional or psychological injuries. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common after a traumatic event like a semi-truck accident, and it can cause fear, anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, and flashbacks long after the event. Psychological injuries can also be a symptom of a physical injury. For example, if you sustain a traumatic brain injury, you might be irritable and have trouble regulating your emotions or slurred speech, causing you to struggle to communicate with others. If you have severe burns or facial trauma, you might become withdrawn and develop extreme anxiety and depression.
Responsible Parties in an 18-Wheeler Accident
To file an 18-wheeler accident lawsuit, you must know who is at fault. However, unlike in a car accident involving two people, where determining liability is usually straightforward, truck accidents are more complex. This is because multiple parties might be liable for your injuries and losses.
The person or party at fault for your truck accident could be:
The truck driver: You may be able to hold the truck driver responsible if they were intoxicated, fatigued, or otherwise behaving negligently at the time of the accident.
The trucking company: As the truck driver’s employer, the trucking company may be held responsible for their employee’s negligent actions. You may also be able to recover compensation from the trucking company if they’ve failed to properly maintain the truck, provide training, or ensure truckers have the appropriate qualifications, or if they encourage or incentivize drivers to work longer than legally allowed.
The manufacturer: A parts manufacturer can be liable when an auto defect causes an 18-wheeler accident.
The cargo loading company: Truckers may hire a third-party cargo company to load materials. If cargo isn’t properly secured or if the weight of cargo exceeds legal limits, causing it to come loose and injure others, the company responsible for the cargo may be liable. However, other parties, such as the driver and trucking company, may be partly at fault for failing to check the cargo was secure.
Government agencies: If an accident is caused by poor road conditions, such as potholes, obscured signage, or obstructions, the government agency responsible for maintaining the road may be held responsible.
In some cases, you might be entitled to claim compensation from more than one of the above. Every accident is unique and your personal injury lawyer will need to conduct a thorough investigation to determine who’s responsible. Then, they are fully equipped to secure the 18-wheeler lawsuit settlement you deserve.
Steps to Take after an 18-Wheeler Accident
If you’re involved in an 18-wheeler accident, you must do several things to ensure your safety and that of those around you.
Call the Police
First, call 911 if officers are not already on the scene. If you’re unsure if anyone else has called the police, call anyway, and they’ll tell you if units have been dispatched to the accident site and any ambulances. Once on-site, the police will compile a crash report, which is major evidence for your claim.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Even if you have no visible injuries, you must get checked out by a doctor. You could have internal injuries that have not yet presented any symptoms due to adrenaline, which decreases your ability to feel pain. Looking after yourself is your top priority after an 18-wheeler accident. Your doctor’s report will also form part of your personal injury claim, as it contains details about any injuries and treatment.
If you’re not injured — or have minor injuries and you’re awaiting medical treatment at the scene or later at the hospital — try to take photos of the accident using your phone. These will help show the insurance company — and the court, if necessary — what happened. If there are witnesses to the accident, ask them if they’d be willing to give a statement — or at least ask for their contact details so that you can follow up at a later stage.
Act Now: The Statute of Limitations Is Two Years
You should also discuss your accident with a personal injury lawyer. If you have a claim, they can gather evidence that proves you were not at fault, negotiate with insurance companies, and — if necessary — prepare an 18-wheeler lawsuit and represent you in court. You can do this yourself, but trucking law is particularly complex, so trying to take everything on will likely only create more stress and frustration.
However, you must act fast, as the statute of limitations — how long you have to claim — for truck accident claims in Texas is two years from the date of your accident. The sooner you act, the better, as evidence can fade or even be erased or altered by the liable party.
How Long Does an 18-Wheeler Accident Lawsuit Take?
No two 18-wheeler accidents are the same, so the length of an 18-wheeler lawsuit will ultimately depend on the circumstances of the accident and who’s at fault. In many cases, multiple parties may be at fault and blame each other, dragging out the process.
In most cases, truck accident attorneys need a substantial amount of time to investigate, negotiate, and prepare an 18-wheeler lawsuit. It’s not uncommon to have to wait a year or more to successfully resolve your case and receive a settlement.
The upside is there’s often a lot of money at stake, so you could be entitled to a massive payout. You always have the option of settling quickly and without legal counsel, but there is a compromise — you’ll usually receive far less than you’re entitled to. That’s because insurance companies’ interests lie in preserving their cash and not paying it out.
Calculating Damages in Your 18-Wheeler Lawsuit Settlement
As we’ve said, every truck accident is unique, so how much compensation you could receive from an 18-wheeler accident lawsuit will depend on several factors, including the severity of your injuries and the evidence supporting your claim.
To understand how much compensation you could get, we first need to look at the different types of damages you can claim for.
The first is called economic damages. These are the quantifiable costs you incur and have receipts or documentation for, such as medical expenses and lost wages. With a personal injury claim, you can recover past costs in addition to anticipated expenses or losses. Suppose you suffer a spinal cord injury that prevents you from working and requires regular rehabilitation over several years. You’d be able to recover the costs of your physical therapy and the wages you would have received in future years had you not sustained the injury.
You can also receive non-economic damages. These cover pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, mental anguish, and loss of companionship or consortium if you’ve lost a loved one or partner. It can be difficult to predict how much non-economic damages you might receive, as it’s tough to put a price on physical pain or loss — how can anyone say how much a life is worth?
Generally, these are calculated by applying a multiplier to your economic damages. This multiplier ranges from one to five, with one representing a minor impact on your life and five having a life-altering effect.
For example, if you sustain an injury that makes you reliant on another person to perform daily tasks and completely prevents you from being independent, you can expect a higher multiplier.
To illustrate this with an example, if your economic damages total $50,000 and the insurance company of the person or party that caused your accident applies a multiplier of two, you will receive $150,000 in total — $50,000 in economic damages and $100,000 in non-economic damages.
The formulas for calculating non-economic damages vary by insurance company. Still, you can use our personal injury calculator and speak to our truck accident lawyers to get a rough idea of how much compensation you could get.
There is a third type of damages you can receive: punitive damages. Also called exemplary damages, these only apply if settlement negotiations fail and your attorney takes your case to trial. An award of punitive damages is determined by the jury and designed to punish the defendant or make an example of them to deter others from similar behavior, such as if an 18-wheeler trucker was speeding when they caused your crash.
Early in the process, an insurance adjuster will contact you and likely make an offer to settle your claim. This can be tempting, especially if you have bills to pay and are concerned about your 18-wheeler accident lawsuit taking a long time to resolve. As we’ve stated, this is rarely in your best interests, and if you have severe injuries that require further treatment, it could result in you not receiving enough money to cover all your expenses.
Fortunately, our truck accident lawyers in San Antonio and McAllen are wise to the ways of insurance companies and how they try to avoid liability or make offers that are far too low. We’ll handle all contact and negotiations with insurance companies for you and fight to get what’s right for your injuries. Because we work on a contingency basis — meaning there’s no upfront fee, and we don’t get paid unless we win — you can be sure we’ll do our utmost to get a big win for you.
18-Wheeler Accident Settlements: What You Can Expect
So now you know how damages are calculated, but what can you expect in an 18-wheeler lawsuit settlement?
What Are Some Examples of Actual Truck Accident Settlements in Texas?
We’ve drawn on our experience achieving 18-wheeler lawsuit settlements for our clients. These two cases illustrate how we can help you get justice and compensation after your truck accident.
18-Wheeler Accident Lawsuit Case Study 1
In this case, our client was hit by an individual in a company vehicle who fell asleep behind the wheel after working a long shift into the early morning hours. The driver’s insurance company initially refused to negotiate, claiming the driver was not acting within the scope of employment during the accident.
We filed a lawsuit and, after extensive negotiations, secured our client $4.95 million.
18-Wheeler Accident Lawsuit Case Study 2
Our client sustained severe injuries after the driver of an 18-wheeler truck crashed into the side of their car. The insurance company offered our client $250,000 to settle the case, but we knew they were entitled to much more. After filing a lawsuit, we secured $1.4 million.
An 18-wheeler accident lawsuit can be a complex and lengthy process, but a settlement — fought for by attorneys who have your best interests at heart — can be truly life-changing.
To find out if you can file an 18-wheeler accident lawsuit, schedule a free, no-obligation case review with our experienced truck accident lawyers in McAllen and San Antonio. We don’t take any fees unless we win your case, so you have nothing to lose.