Those enormous 18-wheeler trucks you see on the roads of Texas daily are impressive, given their size, 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 or even be fatal.
It’s not the high speeds 18-wheeler trucks reach that causes problems — like every other vehicle on the road, drivers must comply with state speed limits. Instead, it’s the size and weight of these trucks which makes them hard to slow down quickly.
In an emergency or urgent situation, like a sudden traffic jam ahead, it can be difficult 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 compensation could I get?”
What Is an 18-Wheeler?
An 18-wheeler is also known as a semi-truck. 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 40 tons when fully loaded, taking 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 also 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 jack-knifing, where the truck 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. Trains also deliver products, but 18-wheelers are more flexible, as they can go directly to specific places instead of to a train station and then on to their destination. It amounts to a lot of driving, so it’s not surprising that accidents result in injuries and, tragically, deaths.
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. 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.
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, making you feel as though there’s no 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 cuts and are awaiting medical treatment at the scene or later at the hospital — try to take photos of the accident using your phone. These will be invaluable in showing an insurance company or a court what happened. If there are witnesses at the accident site, 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.
It’s also highly recommended that you discuss your case with a personal injury attorney. They will have the expertise you need to gather all the evidence that proves you were not at fault, negotiate with an insurance company, and — if necessary — prepare an 18-wheeler lawsuit and represent you in court. Trying to do all this yourself would only create more stress and frustration, and you might end up with nothing after all your efforts.
So How Long Does an 18-Wheeler Lawsuit Take?
No two 18-wheeler accidents are the same, as they all have different causes and results. Ultimately, how long your 18-wheeler lawsuit will take depends 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 lawyers will need a substantial amount of time to investigate, negotiate and potentially prepare an 18-wheeler lawsuit for your day in court. This could mean your case could take a year or more before it’s resolved and you get a financial settlement.
The upside is that 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, which often means receiving far less than you’re entitled to. That’s because insurance companies’ interests lie in preserving their cash and not paying it out.
How Much Compensation Could You Receive?
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 bills and lost wages. With a personal injury claim, you can recover past costs in addition to anticipated expenses or losses. For example, suppose you’ve sustained a spinal cord injury that prevents you from working and requires regular rehabilitation over several years. In that case, you can claim the wages you would have received in future years had you not sustained the injury along with the costs of your physical therapy.
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. Because it’s tough to put a price on physical pain or loss — how can anyone say how much a life is worth? — it can be difficult to predict how much non-economic damages you might receive.
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, suppose you sustain an injury that makes you reliant on another person to perform daily tasks and completely prevents you from being independent. In that case, 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 the 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 files an 18-wheeler accident lawsuit to take your case to trial. An award of punitive damages is determined by the jury. It is 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 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 Texas are wise to the ways of insurance companies and how they try to avoid paying settlements 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.
Hiring a professional 18-wheeler accident lawyer is the only way to protect your rights and get the justice and compensation you deserve.
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.