Following a semi-truck accident, you deserve compensation: funds that will help pay for your medical expenses, cover your lost wages, and provide compensation for the pain and suffering that you’ve experienced as a result of the accident. Many victims, however, have one clear question: How can I maximize my compensation in a semi-truck accident settlement so that I can pay for all of my bills?
Tip #1: Contact an attorney as soon after your accident as possible.
If you suffer severe injuries in a semi-truck accident, an attorney can become your first and most valuable line of defense as you work to file your claim. An attorney can not only help fight for the compensation that you deserve, including presenting your arguments and evidence if your claim goes to court, but an attorney can also help give you a better understanding of how much compensation you deserve after your semi-truck accident.
Furthermore, an experienced attorney can also help you:
- Collect evidence. In a personal injury claim after a semi-truck accident, you may assume that the semi-truck driver bears liability for any accident that takes place. While the truck driver bears primary liability for what happens on the road, other factors may also influence your claim. For example, a faulty part or lack of maintenance on the truck could place liability on the manufacturer or the company that owns the truck, while a company that forces a truck driver to exceed the legally mandated maximum number of hours on the road may share liability for the accident. A personal injury attorney can help you collect valuable evidence concerning your claim.
- Negotiate. In some cases, simply having a lawyer on your side can help convince a truck driver’s insurance company, or the insurance company associated with other liable entities, to increase the compensation offered to you. In others, an attorney can help point out evidence that supports your claim or uncover elements of compensation that you might not have considered on your own.
Tip #2: Understand the full value of your claim.
When you talk with an experienced personal injury attorney, your lawyer will give you a solid idea of what compensation you deserve for your injuries. To help you fully calculate the settlement that you deserve, however, your attorney will need some information from you. By keeping track of that information and providing it to your attorney, you can get a better assessment of the settlement that you deserve.
Keep track of all medical bills related to your accident. Your medical bills may represent a large portion of the insurance company’s settlement offer. By tracking your medical bills and supplying them to your attorney on request, you can get a better idea of how to itemize those expenses. Your medical expenses may include:
Emergency treatment. Even the cost of an ambulance ride can cost more than $2,000, depending on the company that provides the ride and how far you have to go. Treatment in the emergency room can also add up fast, especially if you require multiple scans and tests to determine the full extent of your injuries.
Hospitalization. The average cost of a hospital stay clocks in at around $10,000. If you require a long-term stay, especially a stay in the ICU or another specialty care unit, like a burn unit, after your semi-truck accident, your bills may end up being substantially higher.
Surgeries and procedures. Surgical bills often arrive in waves. You may think you paid for the initial cost of surgery, only to discover that you have not yet paid for the anesthesiologist or for the doctor who actually performed the surgery, depending on the hospital’s policies. You can include immediate surgical treatment for your injuries and future surgeries, including future anticipated surgeries, as part of your claim. If you suffer burns or other disfiguring injuries, you may also want to include the cost of plastic surgery.
Durable medical equipment. If you suffer serious injuries that cause mobility complications, durable medical equipment can help you get around. You may, for example, need a wheelchair or crutches. If you suffer amputation after your truck accident, you may need a prosthetic device to replace the missing limb. Each prosthesis can cost between $5,000 and $50,000. Victims who need prosthetic devices can expect that cost to continue to add up over a lifetime, too; on average, a prosthetic limb requires replacement every three to five years.
Modifications to your home. When you have serious injuries, especially those that impact your mobility, you may need to make changes to your home to make it easier for you to get around. You can include those costs as part of your personal injury claim, making it easier for you to maintain your independence after the accident. You may need to:
- Install a wheelchair ramp or ramps
- Add a lift system to your stairs
- Widen doorways
- Modify your kitchen to make it wheelchair accessible
- Modify your bathroom with a special toilet, shower, or grab bars
Therapies. The cost of various therapies can add up substantially after a truck accident. You may need psychological therapy to help cope with trauma from the accident itself and your changed life as a result of your injuries. Many victims require physical therapy to help restore strength and flexibility after the accident. You may also need occupational therapy to help you relearn how to walk, how to feed yourself, or how to handle other self-care tasks following severe injuries with mobility challenges.
For many victims of semi-truck accidents, lost wages cause a substantial amount of anxiety. You can claim lost wages for all hours that you miss at work due to your injuries, including hours lost to recovery, hours lost when you return on a modified schedule, and hours missed for appointments and procedures. If you lose your ability to work in your profession permanently due to your injuries, you can also claim lost earning potential.
Pain and Suffering
Most insurance companies and attorneys base awards for pain and suffering on a percentage of your medical costs following a truck accident. In some cases, however, special circumstances can increase the compensation that you can receive for pain and suffering: extended, ongoing pain from your injuries or severe emotional distress, for example. Discuss those circumstances openly with your attorney so that you can include them in your demand package.
Tip #3: Do not accept the insurance company’s initial settlement offer without discussing it with an attorney.
When you have serious issues to deal with or want the claim to end as soon as possible, you may face substantial temptation to accept the first offer the insurance company sends your way. Often, after a semi-truck accident, the company that represents the truck driver or the trucking company will send you a settlement offer soon after the accident. You may not yet know the full extent of your injuries or what compensation you deserve for them. Some victims might not yet have retained an attorney.
When that offer arrives, take time to think and discuss the offer with an attorney before accepting it. In many cases, the insurance adjuster may attempt to minimize the company’s financial liability after your accident, sending out a low settlement offer in hopes that you will accept it quickly. In many cases, you may have room to negotiate.
Tip #4: Plan for your claim to take time.
Your bills often add up fast after a semi-truck accident. You have medical bills to think about, and you may lose income due to your inability to return to work after the accident. Many clients struggle with the need for fast funds. You must, however, prepare for your claim to take time. If you feel rushed, you may accept a settlement offer that does not reflect the funds you really deserve for your injuries, especially if the insurance company or liable entity attempts to drag out proceedings.
Assume that you will need time to settle your claim. The more severe your injuries and limitations—and, therefore, the more funds you ask for in compensation—the longer it may take to receive an accident settlement. Notify your medical providers of the conditions of your accident so that they understand you must wait for compensation.
Often, hospitals and doctors will work with you so that you get the treatment you need while setting up a payment arrangement that will allow you to take care of the bills when you receive your settlement. You may also need to notify creditors of your current situation to help alleviate some financial pressure. Your truck accident lawyer can take care of many of these tasks for you.
By assuming it will take time to settle your claim, you can often decrease your stress as you work to reach a resolution.
Tip #5: Follow your attorney’s advice.
Your attorney wants your claim to succeed and for you to receive the maximum compensation possible for your semi-truck accident injuries. Therefore, when your attorney offers advice concerning your claim or your behavior surrounding the claim, you should follow it to the best of your ability. Such advice might include:
- Moderating what you post on social media. Today’s social media platforms encourage users to share all of the details of their lives, including their injuries, the activities that they participate in, and even discussions about your claim. When it comes to your semi-truck accident claim, however, keeping information off social media could make a big difference in how the company handles your claim. Discuss what you can safely post with your attorney, and follow his advice. You may also need to limit what you share about other activities on social media during your recovery.
- Monitoring interactions with the liable party’s insurance company. Sometimes, even seemingly small statements can change the balance of liability in an accident claim. Your attorney may offer advice about how or when to communicate with the insurance company, including statements that you should avoid making.
- Knowing when to accept a settlement offer. There may come a time when your lawyer advises you to accept a settlement offer. That offer may not reflect the funds you originally thought you deserved for your accident. However, your attorney usually has your best interests in mind and will not advise taking a settlement without good reason.
Tip #6: Identify all liable parties.
In many semi-truck accidents, multiple factors contribute to the accident. To maximize your compensation, work with your attorney to identify all parties who share liability for the accident. You can file a personal injury claim against all parties who contributed to the accident, which can, in many cases, increase the compensation that you receive.
In addition to the truck driver, you may need to consider the following parties as potential defendants:
- The trucking company. The trucking company must maintain responsible, ethical driving practices, as well as safely maintaining all of its vehicles, to keep everyone on the road safe. When a trucking company violates this duty of care, it may share liability for the accident.
- Truck or part manufacturers. When faulty parts cause an accident, the manufacturer of those parts may share liability.
- The company that loaded the truck. Some companies prefer to take care of their own loading. When shifting loads or improperly-loaded materials cause an accident, the company that loaded the truck may share liability.
Tip #7: Start your claim as soon as possible.
The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner you can get the ball moving on your personal injury claim. While exceptions to the statute of limitations exist, you do not want to wait too long to start your claim. Not only that, the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to collect vital evidence related to your truck accident claim, including witness statements and trucker logs. The sooner you start your claim, the better the odds that you will get compensation for the full cost of your injuries.
After a semi-truck accident, you likely want to maximize your compensation. With these tips, you can increase the odds of recovering compensation for the full cost of your injuries.