If you’ve been hurt in a truck accident, there’s a strong likelihood your case will settle with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Settlement should always be considered as an option, provided the insurer negotiates in good faith, because it can save the time and stress of a trial. Knowing how much truck accident settlements are potentially worth can help you understand the process better as you work with your attorney to pursue your claim. Were you or a family member injured in a truck wreck? Reach out to our experienced Santa Ana truck accident attorneys at Attorney Jeff Injury Lawyers.
What are the Minimum Liability Requirements for Truck Insurance?
The amount of insurance covering a truck helps potential victims know, as a baseline, how much money could be available in the event of an accident. California law sets varying minimum amounts of liability coverage for trucks and semi-trucks. These amounts reflect the fact that not all commercial vehicles are alike. Some trucks, for instance, carry substances and materials that could result in significant numbers of severe injuries and deaths in the event of a crash. Conversely, other trucks are less likely to get into such catastrophic accidents.
The type of freight being transported and the weight of the vehicle affect the minimum coverage requirements. If a truck weighs more than 10,000 pounds it must be insured up to the following amounts, based on what it is carrying:
- Household goods: $300,000
- General freight: $750,000
- Oil: $1,000,000
- Hazardous materials: $5,000,000
Trucks that travel across state lines generally must carry liability insurance that meets federal requirements set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These coverage levels are similar to those required by California, although state law usually mandates higher dollar figures. The federal insurance coverage amounts are:
- Household goods (per truck): $5,000
- Household goods (per accident): $10,000
- Vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds: $300,000
- Vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds: $750,000 to $5,000,000
Additional amounts may apply when hazardous material trucks cross state lines, regardless of weight. As a practical matter, however, the coverage required by state law will likely be more relevant to victims in determining the amount of California trucking accident settlements.
What Other Factors Influence Settlement Amounts?
Truck accident settlements can range from the thousands to the millions of dollars. But it is more helpful to the victim to consider the various factors (other than insurance coverage) that may affect the settlement amount. Your ultimate dollar figure will depend on:
The severity of the victim’s injuries
Severe accident injuries translate to substantial medical bills, and they don’t necessarily end at the time of settlement. A victim may require months or even years of treatments, rehabilitation, and other medical expenses long after the accident. The estimated amount of these future damages, determined with the aid of an expert witness, will affect the value of the settlement.
Whether the victim can work again, and at the same level
A major collision can cause permanent disability, destroying a once-promising career. Even if the victim is able to work again, it might not be at the same occupation as before the accident or even at the same productivity level. Related factors like the victim’s age and level of education are also relevant. The victim could suffer lost future earnings, promotions, bonuses, and other benefits, all of which must be considered in truck accident settlement negotiations.
Whether fault was shared
If a truck accident case goes to trial, and a jury determines that the victim was partially at fault (for instance, by running a red light), jurors will need to assign a percentage of liability to the victim. The final damages award will then be reduced by this percentage. Insurance companies are aware of this rule, which in California is known as pure comparative liability, and they factor it into trucking accident settlements.
The behavior of the trucking company
Punitive damages are designed to punish especially wrongful conduct. As an example, a trucking company that repeatedly violated the same safety regulations that were breached at the time of the accident could be subject to punitive damages. The victim’s attorney will present evidence of this to the insurance company and seek a larger settlement figure.
The victim dies
If the victim dies from his or her injuries, eligible survivors can bring a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party. This type of lawsuit is similar to a personal injury lawsuit but involves different types of damages such as loss of consortium and loss of the deceased victim’s financial support for the family. If several family members (such as multiple children) are able to pursue a wrongful death claim, this could push the settlement value higher.
How Long Does It Take to Settle a Semi-Truck Accident?
Truck accident settlements can happen anytime, even up to the day of trial. Settlement negotiations may take place over the course of a few months or a few years. Many of the above factors can speed up or delay the settlement process, as can the following:
- The number of individuals, companies, and other entities (including accident victims and trucking companies) involved
- The willingness of all parties to negotiate a settlement in good faith
- Any state or federal accident investigations that need to be conducted
- The skill, effectiveness, and experience of the attorneys representing the parties
- Any trial preparations and related procedural matters, such as discovery and court hearings, that have already begun or need to take place
Your attorney will attempt to come up with a reasonable projection of the settlement timeline, but bear in mind it is an estimate that is subject to change. The most important thing to remember is that once you settle a truck accident case, you will not have another chance to request more compensation if the amount you received proves to be insufficient to cover your damages. Having the right legal counsel will make a difference in the value of your case.
Let Us Put Our Experience to Work For You
Trucking accident settlements are complicated, but a seasoned attorney will understand the procedures involved. When you retain Attorney Jeff Injury Lawyers, you have a dedicated advocate who will work to maximize the potential settlement amount. Our Santa Ana personal injury firm will also be ready to take your case in front of a jury if the at-fault parties refuse to settle for a fair amount. Reach out to us today to learn more.