A truck accident can happen at any time, and it’s a frightening thought. If a car accident is devastating, a truck accident is downright catastrophic.
Commercial semi-trucks are large and heavy, even without the sometimes 48 thousand pound loads they often bear. As a result, they can cause monumental damage, including life-changing injuries or death.
If you’ve been in a truck accident, you may be entitled to claim compensation. But how much can you expect to receive from a semi-truck accident lawsuit?
We look at the types of damages you can receive in a personal injury claim and the various factors that can impact your compensation, such as who’s liable for your accident and whether or not your case goes to trial.
What Damages Can You Receive in a Semi-Truck Accident Lawsuit?
Damages are a sum of money awarded to compensate accident victims for their injuries.
Truck accident compensation can range from a few thousand dollars to seven or even eight figures, so it’s disingenuous to say that there is an “average” amount of compensation victims typically receive.
Every case is unique, as no two accidents are the same. However, damages are always split into the following categories:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
- Punitive damages.
Economic damages are quantifiable monetary losses you’ve experienced because of your injury. These comprise:
Your Medical Bills
Truck accidents can cause severe injuries that require extensive medical care, ranging from surgery and medication to long-term rehabilitation.
You are entitled to claim back all medical expenses associated with your injury, including treatment immediately after your accident, transport to and from hospital appointments, physiotherapy, caregiver services, and medical equipment. You can also claim future expenses. For example, if your injury means you need to take medication for the rest of your life or require treatment that will last several years, your personal injury lawyer — with the help of medical experts — can calculate how much your treatment will cost and include it in your truck accident compensation.
Your Loss of Earnings
If you’re working at the time of your accident and you require time off to recover, you can claim your lost earnings.
Make sure to retain your payslips, as these provide evidence of how much you earn. Your lost earnings can be calculated in one of two ways:
- Multiplying your hourly rate by the number of hours you cannot work.
- Dividing your annual salary by 365 to work out your daily rate, then multiplying this by the number of days you’re unable to work.
As with your medical bills, you can also claim for future lost earnings.
Costs of Repairing or Replacing Damaged Property
The size and weight of a semi-truck compared to a car are incredible, so it’s no surprise that a collision can cause severe damage to your vehicle, if not total it completely.
As part of your semi-truck accident lawsuit, you can recover the cost of repairing or replacing your damaged property.
Your personal injury claim also comprises non-economic damages. These aren’t as easy to quantify as economic damages, as they don’t have a definitive financial value.
Common non-economic damages you may be able to recover include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment.
For example, if your truck accident left you with a spinal injury that prevents you from playing football — something that you used to enjoy with your friends at the weekend — you could claim damages to compensate you for your loss of enjoyment.
Unlike medical expenses, where there’s no argument over how much they total because you have a physical bill, it’s far more difficult to quantify non-economic damages. Based on the above example, how can you put a price on the emotional and physical benefits of playing football with your friends?
How much you will receive in non-economic damages depends on your injuries and their impact on your life. They’re typically calculated by multiplying your total economic damages by a number between 1.5 and 5, although insurance adjusters use independent formulas to determine how much a case is worth.
As a general rule, the more your injury affects you over the long term, the more total damages you’ll be entitled to.
You can use a personal injury calculator to help determine how much truck accident compensation you can expect, but we always recommend speaking to our truck accident lawyers in Texas about your case, as they’ll be able to offer you a much more realistic estimate. Don’t forget that you don’t have to accept an initial offer made by an insurer — your personal injury attorney will negotiate with them to secure the best possible settlement.
Punitive damages are a third type of damages that may be awarded in a semi-truck accident lawsuit. Punitive damages — also called exemplary damages — are not for compensatory purposes and serve to punish (or make an example of) a defendant for particularly egregious behavior. A typical example is if a truck driver caused an accident because they had been taking stimulants to stay awake on a long shift. A jury may decide to award punitive damages to send a message that such conduct is unacceptable and deter others from doing the same.
Because a jury awards punitive damages, they only apply in personal injury cases that go to court.
How Liability Affects Your Semi-Truck Accident Lawsuit
Now you know how your truck accident compensation is calculated and what damages you can expect to receive, but there’s another factor that can significantly impact your claim: who is liable for your accident.
In some accidents, such as car accidents, liability is fairly clear-cut. If you were driving down the highway and a car intentionally turns into you, they’re likely responsible for the accident. But in a truck accident, multiple parties can be at fault.
The Truck Driver
Truck drivers are liable when their negligence or recklessness causes an accident. This might be by breaking federal laws such as driving while intoxicated or breaking state laws.
For example, it is illegal to text while driving in Texas. In some cities, cell phone use is completely prohibited. There are also specific trucking laws drivers must adhere to, such as being on the road for no more than 12 consecutive hours.
The Truck Company
If a truck accident happens while a driver is acting as an employee, their employer — the trucking company — may be liable. This is possible under the respondeat superior doctrine, where a truck accident victim often holds both the truck driver and their employer responsible. However, this can be difficult to prove. A truck accident company may argue that the driver was an independent contractor or that their employee was not acting under the scope of employment at the time of the accident.
The Cargo Company
Commercial semi-trucks carry heavy loads, and if cargo isn’t loaded correctly, it can spell disaster. Cargo can spill onto the road or tip the balance of a truck. It can also make a truck accident much worse. A shunt between a car and a semi-truck is dangerous enough, but if it leads to cargo coming loose because it wasn’t correctly loaded, it can cause severe injuries or even death.
Sometimes, semi-truck accidents happen because of a road defect, such as a missing guardrail or obstruction. If you’re driving a car and a truck crashes into you because they’ve hit a pothole and lost total control of their vehicle, you won’t necessarily be able to prove they were negligent.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to claim truck accident compensation. You may be able to hold the local authority responsible for maintaining the road liable for your accident.
Truck accidents are complicated, and any number of parties can be responsible. In some cases, you might even be partly liable for your accident, which could affect how much truck accident compensation you’ll receive.
Let’s look at an example. A truck driver crashes into you because they are checking their cell phone. However, you slowed your car until you were partly in the truck driver’s blind spot. The truck driver could be held liable because they were reckless — they weren’t fully concentrating on the road. But you could also be responsible because you were driving too slowly.
How much this impacts your compensation depends on two factors:
- The negligence laws
- Your level of culpability.
Let’s break those down. Negligence laws differ by state. In some states, you can claim compensation regardless of how at fault you are. In other states, you cannot claim if you are even 1% responsible.
In most states, the line falls somewhere along the middle. This includes Texas.
Texas has modified comparative negligence laws, which means you can file a semi-truck accident lawsuit if you are less than 51% at fault.
The amount of compensation you’ll receive is then reduced based on your level of fault. For example, if your total settlement amount is $100,000, but you were 50% responsible for your accident, you are entitled to the remaining 50%. This would result in a payout of $50,000.
How Litigation Impacts Your Truck Accident Compensation
Most personal injury cases settle outside of court. When you hire our Texas personal injury lawyers, we’ll fight to negotiate the best settlement possible, ensuring you receive fair compensation for your injuries.
However, you might want to take your case to court. The main advantage of this is that a judge and jury will determine how much compensation you should receive. This can be far more substantial than any offer put on the table during negotiations — especially if the person or party responsible for the accident refuses to take responsibility and isn’t willing to pay a fair settlement.
However, you also risk the judge finding in favor of the defendant, resulting in them not having to pay you a cent.
You should always consult your attorney before going to court in a semi-truck accident lawsuit, but the decision is ultimately yours to make.
If you’ve been in a truck accident and are wondering how much truck accident compensation you could receive, get in touch with our semi-truck accident lawyers in McAllen and San Antonio for a free, no-obligation case review.