Getting what you deserve after being hurt in a semi-truck accident is not as simple as filing a claim and receiving your check. The gatekeeper to this system, the insurance company, is a self-interested business with its own motivations. They will not make it easy for you to get a large amount of their money.
Maximizing your settlement requires forethought, strategy, and a lot of hard work. These are not things you can do on your own when you do not know the legal system and are dealing with serious injuries. An experienced attorney will work with you to put you in the best possible position to recover the total value of your claim. In the meantime, here are some steps that you have control over that can help your legal situation after a truck accident crash.
To maximize your recovery, it is best to begin working on your claim as early as possible. Without even thinking about the statute of limitations, there are reasons why you should start quickly. It will take some time to investigate the accident and prepare your claim. Truck accident damages can be high, and these are high-stakes matters. Come to the table prepared.
There is a difference between beginning early and rushing to file a claim. The latter option is counterproductive. However, begin working on your claim or lawsuit as soon as possible. If you have suffered significant damages, it may take some time to develop a specific number you should seek in a settlement.
Allow your attorney time to work with relevant experts to establish a number in damages without being rushed by time deadlines. They can be as comprehensive as possible when evaluating your situation to value your claim.
When seeking a semi-truck accident settlement, you will deal with an insurance company or corporate defense attorneys. These people know their business, and they are skilled at protecting themselves from injured people like you who are simply seeking the damages they deserve. Their allegiance is to their profit and loss statement, and they do not care about your financial difficulties.
Do so with an experienced attorney who knows how to handle claims like yours when you come to the table. They understand the extent of your damages and what it takes to get compensation. At the same time, your lawyer will also help protect you from some of the tricks that insurance companies and defendants like to use to avoid paying you.
After the accident, one of your first calls (or that your family should make on your behalf) should be to a lawyer. The insurance company can go to work immediately after the crash to try to reduce your recovery, and you cannot exist unprotected for any length of time. Give an insurance company a little bit of time to work, and they can undermine your claim quickly.
Know the Value of Your Claim
The only way to get the settlement check you deserve is to know how much you should get. Otherwise, you are flying blind when negotiating with an insurance company that can see very clearly. The insurance company is pleased when claimants do not know the total value of their claim because the insurer certainly does. This negotiating is what they do, all day, every day.
Your lawyer will also know how to value your claim because this is also what your lawyer does.
Specifically, when you suffer an injury in a semi-truck crash, you may recover:
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Wrongful death damages (if your family member died)
Not only can you receive money for damages that you have already incurred, but also for those that you will suffer in the future. Estimating future damages is perhaps the most challenging part of your claim and where you may have the most significant difference of opinion with the insurance company. If your injuries were substantial, you will need to gauge the future with as much certainty as possible.
When you know the total value of your claim, you are prepared to say no when the insurance company tries to offer less to settle it., as opposed to being tempted to take an immediate lowball offer.
Preserve All the Documentation of Your Damages
In any truck accident case, you have the burden of proof to show that the other party was liable for your accident. After you prove your entitlement to damages, you must also prove your damages. The insurance company will not pay you for something that they cannot see very clearly in front of them on paper. They will not draw you any favorable inferences.
From your perspective, the best thing that you can do is keep track of all your damages to present them at the right time to an insurance company or jury in a very orderly and compelling fashion.
You should have evidence of:
- Your pay from work
- Medical bills
- Medical expenses and prescriptions
- Property damage
In addition, you also should have testimony and descriptions of what you have been going through since the accident. Your pain and suffering can be a large part of your truck accident damages. The insurance company will use an “objective” shorthand measure to shortchange you for your damages without more specific information.
You should keep a log and journal of your damages daily if you can show exactly what you have endured and what your life has been like since the truck accident. In addition, statements from witnesses can detail what your life was like before the accident compared to what it is now.
Go After All Responsible Parties
In some cases, more than one party was responsible for the accident. For example, a maintenance issue on the truck can have caused the accident. Not only will the trucking company potentially bear responsibility, but you could also sue a third party if they outsourced their maintenance functions.
The more defendants you can sue, the more insurance policies against which you can file a claim. While this has nothing to do with the value of your claim, it does mean that more parties can pay your damages. This way, you do not have to go after the defendant’s assets if they lack sufficient insurance coverage to pay your damages.
Your lawyer will perform a full investigation of your case before making your legal move. They will learn of all potentially responsible parties so that you can file claims against all of them. Otherwise, you may be leaving money on the table if you settle a claim for the policy limit when there are other potential policies to claim against. Nobody should be allowed to get away with their role in contributing to your injuries.
Prepare Yourself for a Fight
If this is not the first legal blog or article that you have read about a truck accident, you have probably seen the word “fight” used a time or two. This statement is not an exaggeration. You must prepare for a complex process that can take some time.
You must fight when you file a claim or lawsuit because they are a zero-sum game. Any dollar you get comes out of someone’s pocket, either the insurance company or the trucking company. This is not something they like. The last thing they want to do is pay you, no matter what their driver did.
In many cases, the fight is not to get a settlement offer in the first place. The battle is to get the correct settlement check. You may need to progress little by little as the insurance company or defendant progressively raises their settlement offer. In many cases, you will be successful, but it will take some time to reach that point.
Do Not Make Any Mistakes
The insurance company is just waiting for you to make an unforced error, so they can try to deny your claim or cut the value of your settlement. The best thing to say in your case is absolutely nothing. Let your lawyer do all the talking for you. If the insurance company tries to talk to you, refer them to your lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer yet, do not talk to the insurance company and get a lawyer. Even a seemingly innocent answer to what looks like a harmless question can be used against you if it suits the insurance company and its purposes.
Another common error to avoid is posting anything on social media about your accident while your claim is pending. If you post pictures of you enjoying a nice day, it can contradict your claims of pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. Silence is the best policy when you are trying to get accident damages.
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make in a truck accident case is to go it alone and not hire an attorney thinking it will save money. That can cost you far more than you can ever save.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
Some claimants are very grateful when the first settlement offer comes in, thinking they have won their case. If you take the first offer you receive, the insurance company is the one who has won your case because they will get away with paying you far less than you deserve.
If an offer does not pay the damages you legally deserve, you may want to reject it and come back with a counteroffer. This action takes the insurance company’s offer off the table, but the offer is not good if it underpays your damages. An insurance company will not walk away if you reject an offer because you can still sue them.
File a Lawsuit if Necessary
Insurance companies do not like lawsuits, nor will their insured trucking company. There have been numerous instances of trucking companies forced to go out of business because they were hit with massive verdicts by a jury. This result is the last thing that the trucking company wants, especially when you or a family member have suffered severe injuries.
Insurance companies also do not like lawsuits because they need to spend money to defend them. While they will try to push their luck as far as they possibly can, there is a point where you can no longer wait for them to get their act together and do what is right.
If you have to file a lawsuit, know that you are not ruling out a settlement at some point. Taking your case to court does not guarantee that your case will go to trial. If the court doesn’t dismiss your case, you are guaranteed a trial, and you still cannot agree on a settlement. However, an overwhelming majority of truck accident lawsuits will settle before they reach trial. Each party risks too much when going before a jury, so they will likely meet somewhere in the middle.
The best way to start on your claim or lawsuit and maximize your damages is to call an attorney as soon as possible and let them work on your behalf. It will make your life far easier when you are already dealing with enough.
Never Accept Less than You Deserve
Far too many semi-truck accident victims end up with inadequate settlements, which leaves them with unpaid bills and future expenses with no coverage. When a negligent truck driver hits you and causes injuries, you should not be responsible for paying anything. The best way to avoid this is by hiring an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible following your crash.