One of the first questions accident victims often ask an attorney is “How much is my case worth?” There’s no magic truck accident settlement calculator to get an instant answer. Each case is different. There are different types of damages involved. A number of factors go into the calculation of each to determine the overall value of your case. The best way to get answers is by talking to a personal injury attorney about your case. However, there are some common factors that you might want to consider as you go into this process.
Why Truck Accidents Matter
We rely on big trucks to transport all kinds of goods to every corner of the country. Without them, you wouldn’t have access to groceries, clothing, or even the US Mail. Trucks transport raw materials to manufacturers to keep them in business. Laws pertaining to truck safety help us balance the necessity of the services they provide while protecting the truck driver and other drivers on the roads. When the truck driver or trucking company doesn’t obey the laws, accidents are more likely to happen. When they do, the damage is going to be a lot more severe.
There are more than 15.5 million trucks on the U.S. roads. Of that number, two million are tractor trailers. These trucks carry all kinds of cargo with a legal weight of 80,000 pounds. That’s about sixteen times the weight of the average passenger vehicle.
When you consider the high speeds that these trucks travel, it’s easy to see the potential danger. The faster they are traveling, the greater the impact is when they hit another vehicle. An impact between a truck and a passenger vehicle often has severe consequences. It’s difficult to imagine the kind of terror a person experiences when an eighteen-wheeler is coming at them. Even more difficult to understand is the type of pain and loss that they feel after a serious accident. The severity of a truck accident typically causes more time off from work, more expensive medical treatment, and diminished quality of life.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
There’s an old saying that “There’s no such thing as an accident.” While this may not be 100% true in all cases, it’s reasonably close. Most accidents could have been prevented if someone had taken a different action than they did. When trucking accidents happen, it’s usually the fault of the driver. These are some of the most common reasons that truck accidents occur:
- Driving While Tired – Truckers have deadlines, sometimes because of carrying perishable items. Sometimes they risk not getting paid if they don’t arrive with their load on-schedule. In the past, truck drivers were known for taking products like No-Doz and other stimulants to help keep them awake. Today, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) places Hours-of-Service rules to prevent the problem of driving while tired. This includes the maximum number of hours the driver can drive. It also enforces time off and rest breaks. Still, some drivers keep inaccurate logbooks and fail to abide by these rules.
- Cell Phone Use While Driving – The entire country seems to be obsessed with their cell phones. Truck drivers are no exception. While the FMCSA strictly forbids texting while driving, many drivers use their phones to stay in contact with friends and family. Using their cell phone to talk is permitted if they use a hands-free device. There are limitations here as well. The driver is required to stay in a seat-belted position and can’t push more than one button to answer, call, or hang up the phone. Too often, the driver’s confidence in his/her skills overrides common sense and the law. Distracted driving remains one of the leading causes of big-rig accidents.
- Reckless Driving– The risk of accidents gives truck drivers an even greater responsibility to watch out for the other guy. Reckless driving includes taking unnecessary risks, turning too quickly, or failing to check for traffic before switching lanes. These are just some of the careless mistakes that lead to accidents.
- Driving Under the Influence– The idea of a truck driver being intoxicated while on the road is frightening enough. Today, a large number of truck drivers are using mind-altering drugs. Many cite poor working conditions as the reason. Some skip the No-Doz to help them stay awake and use amphetamines or cocaine instead. These drugs can change the driver’s perceptions and their reactions times. They also cause vertigo, mood swings, and even hallucinations. Perhaps most frightening of all is the use of opioids while driving. Opioid use, in general, has grown to serious proportions. It’s also hitting the trucking industry. The Department of Transportation (DOT) tests for these other drugs, but opioids have long been overlooked. As of January of this year, that is no longer the case. Testing is expected to deter opioid use. Even so, the issue of drivers who have valid prescriptions will still be a debate for the courts. Don’t take any chances if you suspect the driver who hit you was under the influence. It’s important to have a good personal injury attorney to prove it.
- Speeding – Speeding is one of the factors that an attorney may put into the truck accident settlement calculator. Speeding reduces the amount of control the driver has over the rig. When driving on wet or icy roads, speeding is an even greater safety risk. It also requires more time for him to stop.
- Overloaded Trucks– This is another factor that reduces the control the driver has over the truck. There are weight limitations on every truck. The specific limit depends on its braking system, frame, quality of suspension, and more. Failing to follow these limitations increases the chance of getting into an accident.
Sometimes the trucking company is equally to blame. The employer might hire a driver who has an unsafe driving record and/or a long history of previous accidents. They may have poorly maintained tractor-trailers or practice policies that result in unsafe driving practices. Some go even further and manipulate their logbooks to cover up hours of service violations.
A truck accident attorney needs to prove both the driver’s and the trucking company’s fault in your accident case. Most insurance policies have an upper limit of one million dollars. Because of the severity of many truck accidents, the damages and injuries often exceed this amount. The truck driver probably can’t afford to pay a judgment that goes above the limit. The majority of large corporations have cash and assets to cover the entire judgment amount.
Factors That Go into the Truck Accident Settlement Calculator
– Cost of Medical Treatment – This number starts with your trip to the emergency room immediately after the accident. If you were taken by ambulance or airlifted, these costs are included. In addition, any diagnostic procedures, emergency medical treatment, hospital stay, surgeries, or care by specialists are considered part of your medical treatment expenses.
– Future Medical Expenses – Sometimes it is difficult to predict how much your medical expenses will be in the future. You may learn early on that you require medication, physical therapy, or that you will require additional surgeries down the road.
There’s also the potential for your injury to get worse instead of better. You could develop a secondary condition or injury that stems from the original one. The cost of any future medical treatment needs to be figured into the cost too. Your attorney will help you make an estimate based on your current situation and the potential for ongoing treatment.
– Loss of Income – All of the income you lost due to your truck accident injuries go into the truck accident settlement calculator. You and your attorney can determine the right amount based on your pay stubs. Determine your rate of pay and multiply it by the time you had to be away. This includes sick days or vacation days you took off to heal.
If you have serious injuries, you may not be able to return to work. You could also be ‘partially disabled’ and have to take a position that pays less. Any income that you won’t be able to earn in the future because of your injuries is considered as damages.
– Property Damage – When you look at a vehicle that’s been struck by an 18-wheeler, it isn’t hard to see the degree of damage they do. Property damage includes your vehicle and any property on you or in your vehicle that was damaged or lost. If the amount of damage to your car costs more to replace than to repair, it is considered ‘totaled.’ If you don’t know your vehicle’s value, check a guide like Kelley Blue Book to get an accurate figure.
–Pain and Suffering – Determining a fair value for the person’s pain and suffering is more challenging than other factors. Unlike the value of property damages, it is hard to decide on a number that is based on the individual traits of the person. People react differently to an accident and to the injuries they receive. Some manage their physical injuries and move forward without additional complications. Others may develop physical complications like infections that also require medical treatment.
There’s also the emotional impact an accident can cause. Some accident victims develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and relive the accident. They may have difficulty driving or even riding in a vehicle with another driver.
Others may have depression because of their injuries. More serious injuries might prevent them from doing things they enjoyed before the accident. These experiences and others are part of the pain and suffering that your attorney will figure into the value of your case. Some attorneys use a formula that assigns your injury a number between 1.5 and 5, depending on the severity of your pain. This number is then multiplied times the sum of your economic damages.
When a Loved One’s Accident Results in Death
When a loved one’s injuries are so severe that they result in death, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim. Dealing with the loss of your loved one can be devastating. You shouldn’t be left worrying about your finances and caring for your family.
When an accident occurs, someone is at fault. If that accident results in a wrongful death, the at-fault party is liable for all the losses that result. You can’t put a price on the loss of someone important in your life. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get the compensation you need to take some of the financial burden off of your shoulders.
Why You Need an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney
There’s no simple way to calculate your losses from a truck accident. It takes an experienced truck accident attorney who has gone through the same process many times before. Depending on his ability to prove the value of your case, the value could be six figures or higher. It depends on the total cost of your damages combined.
It doesn’t cost anything to talk with an attorney for an evaluation of your case. An initial consultation is your chance to learn more about the laws and your rights. Your attorney will help you understand the potential value of your case. He will also advise you on whether you have enough evidence to go forward.
If you decide to pursue your case, your attorney will begin to collect evidence. You never have to worry that your legal fees will only add to your financial problems. Your truck accident attorney won’t charge any fees unless you win. He will only pursue those cases that he feels he has a good chance of winning.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident in the Fort Worth area, contact Attorney Bill Berenson to schedule an evaluation. He has nearly forty years of experience helping injured victims and he only handles motor vehicle accident cases. He can explain to you the damages that will go into your truck accident settlement calculator and the possible value of your case. Let Berenson Injury Law help you get compensation for your truck accident injuries.