If you suffered injuries in a semi-truck accident, seeking medical treatment, filing insurance claims, and possibly filing a lawsuit may prove complicated and difficult. Unlike some car accident cases, semi-truck accident cases aren’t typically easy due to the large amounts of property damage, severe injury, and the potential involvement of multiple parties associated with these cases.
You may expect your semi-truck accident case to settle quickly, but it could take longer than you think. Below we outline several factors that can influence how long it takes to settle a semi-truck accident case.
Let’s start with the biggest way to quickly resolve your case: Hire a semi-truck lawyer to represent you. An experienced truck accident lawyer knows how to efficiently investigate a claim, collect and present evidence, and argue in negotiations and court with the insurance companies and at-fault parties. Then do your best to remain patient, let your truck accident lawyer go to work for you, and focus on recovering from your injuries.
Factors That Affect the Settlement Time of a Truck Accident Claim
The time it takes to settle a semi-truck accident varies widely, but you should expect it to take longer than you want it to. Some of the factors that affect settlement time include:
Severity and Nature of Your Injuries
Most accident settlements cannot occur until an accident victim makes a full recovery or reaches his or her maximum medical improvement. THat’s the point when an injured individual and his or her attorney will have a clearer picture of the economic and non-economic losses that the individual has incurred. Semi-trucks weigh as much as 80,000 pounds when they are fully loaded. This creates a massive force upon the impact of a collision that usually leads to more severe injuries than the average traffic accident. Of course, the more severe an injury, the longer it takes to heal. Some injuries will require surgery, which may add more time to the clock.
The trucking company’s insurance carrier or the carrier of the driver if he is an owner/operator will spend an ample amount of time investigating the semi-truck accident. Insurance companies do not stay in business by paying out every claim that comes their way, so they will do what they can to avoid all liability or reduce the value of your claim. If they deny your claim, you will have to file a lawsuit to continue pursuing compensation, which increases the time it will take to settle your accident.
Your lawyer might even have to litigate your case all the way to trial before you see any compensation. Truck accidents can also make it tricky to determine liability. Assuming you aren’t at fault, the driver, trucking company, or even a third party may be liable, or they may all share in liability. Teasing out who did what and who is responsible for what can be time-consuming and sometimes requires the assistance of experts and accident reconstruction specialists.
Number of Parties Involved in the Claim or Lawsuit
When semi-truck accident claims and lawsuits involve more than two parties, the time to settle will significantly increase. As mentioned above, several different parties may share liability for a semi-truck accident. You can expect that when multiple parties are involved, each party will play “pass the buck” and try to shift blame to the other party. This also includes trying to blame you for the accident and your injuries.
More parties increase the paperwork and the coordination required, but even more importantly, having to deal with many different parties makes it difficult to negotiate when parties are fighting over liability. When parties cannot come to an agreement, litigation is likely, which can add months to the time it takes for your semi-truck accident case to settle.
Expert Witness Availability
Placing the appropriate value on your claim sometimes means that your attorney needs to consult with specialists and experts, such as life care planners, doctors, forensic scientists, and accident reconstructionists. These experts can provide statements and testimony that are crucial to your case. Personal and professional obligations can interfere with their availability, which pushes back any chance for negotiation until they are available.
Once your lawyer presents statements from specialists and experts, the insurance company or the defense team will likely have its own experts review the information and provide additional statements. All of this back and forth is necessary to ensure that you are seeking the appropriate amount of damages, but it adds months to the settlement timeclock.
Truckers, trucking companies, and their insurance carriers can create multiple types of delays at different points throughout the settlement of your semi-truck accident case. Fortunately, it’s difficult for a truck driver to give false information and flee the scene of an accident due to the size of a rig and how slowly semis travel when they take off from a stopped position. However, truckers and trucking companies who anticipate a claim or lawsuit can hide out or leave the state, making it difficult to serve papers and difficult for insurance companies to investigate an accident.
Insurance companies can drag their feet, too, but fortunately, the law is on your side. In Texas, insurance companies must accept or deny your claim within 15 days of receiving the information that they need from you. They may take up to 45 days to make a decision, but they must inform you in writing of the reason for their delay.
Hiring a Semi-Truck Accident Lawyer
Some truck accident victims assume that they don’t need to hire a lawyer to recover compensation and don’t want to take the extra step and add time to the settlement process by hiring an attorney. If you negotiate a quick settlement on your own with the trucking company’s insurance carrier, in most cases, this means you will miss out on a lot of compensation. Insurance companies like to offer quick settlements to accident victims to get them to waive their future right to sue for damages. These offers typically won’t cover all of your costs—in many cases, not even close.
In most situations, an attorney can negotiate a higher settlement than you could on your own. Other, your lack of legal representation may signal to insurance companies that they don’t need to take you seriously, causing them to drag out the claims process as long as they can and play games. To reiterate: An experienced semi-truck accident attorney understands the settlement process and can help speed up the resolution of your claim.