In rare cases, you may also recover punitive damages. What you can collect, though, can be reduced by your share of fault and limited by the trucking company’s insurance coverage.
What types of compensation am I entitled to in a truck accident claim?
In a truck accident claim, you are entitled to financial compensation for all of your losses sustained in the crash. This includes both your:
- economic damages, and
- non-economic damages.
Your economic damages are losses that are easy to state in a dollar amount. This includes obvious expenses, like
- the medical bills for the medical treatment that you have received, and
- the costs to repair the property damage done to your vehicle.
However, it also includes less apparent losses, like your lost wages and the diminished value of your car. It even includes losses that you have not experienced yet, like your reduced earning capacity and future medical expenses.
Your non-economic damages are those that are not easy to state in a dollar amount. They includes compensation for things like
It also includes the loss of consortium that your family members or loved ones have suffered because of the crash. Just because these losses are difficult to put in a dollar amount does not mean that you did not suffer them. You deserve compensation for them.
Can I calculate how much compensation I can collect in a personal injury case?
There are a couple of ways to calculate how much compensation you can expect in a personal injury case. The most common accident settlement formula to use is the multiplier method.
The multiplier method uses the following formula: Economic damages + (economic damages x multiplier).
The multiplier is a number between 1 and 5. The more the truck accident affected your life, the higher the number. Your total economic damages are multiplied by that number. This estimates your non-economic damages. The result is then added to your economic damages.
For example: Jennifer is in a T-bone accident with a truck. She suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that leaves her incapacitated. Her economic damages are $2 million. Because the motor vehicle accident was so severe, the insurance adjuster and Jennifer’s personal injury lawyer agree that the appropriate multiplier to use is a 4.5. This estimates her non-economic damages at $9 million. Added to her economic damages, a fair compensation offer would be $11 million.
However, if there is evidence that you were partially to blame for the accident, you may not get the full amount produced by the multiplier method. Additionally, the available insurance coverage can limit what you can collect.
Are punitive damages possible in truck accident cases?
Punitive damages are possible in truck accident cases. However, they are extremely rare.
Punitive damages are awarded in personal injury cases, including those involving truck accidents, to punish the liable parties for wrongful conduct. They are almost never awarded when the accident was a result of negligence. However, if there is evidence that the trucking company took steps to increase its profits at the expense of the safety of the public, you might get them.
For example: Part of the training that Trucking Company X provides to its truckers includes lessons on how to get around the Department of Transportation’s hours of service rules by turning off the vehicle’s electronic logging device. This helps the company’s truckers ignore truck driving rules set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and reach their destination faster. One of the company’s drivers does this and then causes a wrongful death crash because of driver fatigue.
Will the truck driver be held liable or the trucking company?
It will depend on the employment relationship between the trucker that hit you and the trucking company that he or she was working for. In many cases, liability will reach through the trucker and to the trucking company. This is an application of vicarious liability known as respondeat superior.
However, the trucking company will not be held liable in several situations, like if the trucker was:
- an independent contractor,
- driving personal errands at the time of the crash, or
- was engaging in conduct that was outside the scope of his or her employment, like driving under the influence (DUI), and the employer did not negligently hire them.
Holding the trucking company liable is very important. It gives you access to deeper pockets and more extensive insurance coverage. This can make it far more likely that you recover the compensation that you deserve. The individual commercial driver is unlikely to have enough insurance coverage to fully compensate you.
Will the insurance company’s coverage limit what I can collect?
Yes, especially if the commercial truck accident was a severe one. However, you may still have other legal options.
When you get hit by a truck and hurt, you make a demand for compensation to the insurance company of the trucker or trucking company. The liability insurance policy will cover the costs of the accident. This coverage has a policy limit, though. Once the policy limit is reached, the insurance company will pay no more. You and your personal injury attorney then have to find other sources of compensation. Once the policy limit has been reached, common sources of compensation can be:
- your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, if you have it,
- your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, if you have any, and
- the defendant’s assets.
An experienced truck accident lawyer can help you make these insurance claims to get what you deserve. The injuries that truck accident victims tend to suffer in crashes with commercial vehicles are severe. In the most serious accidents, the injuries lead to a fatality. The safety protections afforded by passenger vehicles are rarely enough when a large truck hits them. The injuries that you suffer often require lots of expensive medical care. Getting compensated for your losses is essential.
What if I was partially to blame for the semi-truck accident?
If you were partially to blame for a car accident with a commercial truck, your compensation may be reduced or your may be barred from recovering any compensation, at all. State personal injury law will determine what happens in these shared fault situations.
A couple of states, like Virginia,1 use the doctrine of contributory negligence. This is the harshest shared fault rule. If you contribute any fault to the accident, you will be barred from recovering any compensation.
Most states, however, use a form of comparative negligence when fault is shared. Under this rule, the jury rendering a verdict in a personal injury trial would assign a portion of fault to each party. Your compensation would then be reduced by your percentage of fault. There are 2 types of comparative negligence states:
- pure comparative negligence states, like Florida and California,2 which reduce your compensation by your percentage of fault, no matter how high, and
- modified comparative negligence states, like Texas,3 which reduce your compensation by your percentage of fault, but bar you from recovering anything if you were more than half at fault.
For example: Dale is driving a passenger car that is involved in a truck crash with a tractor-trailer. He suffers serious injuries, including disfigurements, which require extensive medical attention. However, the police report of the accident scene shows that he merged his vehicle unsafely into one of the big rig’s blind spots. The jury says that Dale suffered $500,000 in legal damages. However, it also says that his driver error made him 55 percent at fault. In a pure comparative negligence state, Dale would recover $225,000. If he was in a contributory negligence state or one that used modified comparative negligence, he would recover nothing.
How can a truck accident lawyer help?
A truck accident attorney from a reputable law firm can help in 5 ways. The lawyer and his or her legal team can:
- maximize the settlement offers that you receive,
- give you legal advice about what you are entitled to receive,
- file a personal injury claim on your behalf if no fair settlement offer is made before the statute of limitations approaches,
- find other sources of compensation for you, if the defendant’s liability insurance is going to be inadequate, and
- present your case during trial, if no settlement is reached.
- Coutlakis v. CSX Transportation, Inc., 796 S.E.2d 556 (2017).
- Li v. Yellow Cab Co., 13 Cal.3d 804 (1975) (California) and Florida Statutes 768.81.
- Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 33.001.