Medical bills are mounting.
Enforced time off work due to your injuries means you have reduced or no income coming in.
You need the funds from your semi truck accident settlement fast—but it seems as though those funds have taken forever to arrive. When you need funds in your hands fast, whether medical bill collectors have started calling or you need the funds to pay your other bills, you may start wondering how long it should take to settle after a semi truck accident. If you or a loved one are currently struggling to recover from a truck accident speak with an experienced truck accident attorney about your case.
The Fast Settlement
Often, immediately after a semi truck accident, the truck driver’s insurance company—whether that means the insurance company that represents the driver personally or the insurance company that represents the trucking company—will get in touch with you with a settlement offer. Sometimes, this offer can arrive within days of the accident. You might still have little or no idea what a full recovery from your accident will look like, including what medical expenses you will face throughout your recovery.
Do not accept this offer without talking to an experienced truck accident attorney.
Often, the initial settlement offered by an insurance company reflects, not the funds you deserve for your injuries, but an effort by the insurance company to reduce the costs associated with the accident. Some insurance companies may offer settlements that barely reflect the damages to your vehicle, much less your medical bills. Others will issue a settlement offer just high enough to look tempting, especially when you must already consider the medical bills you have already faced and those that will likely come in the future. Typically, this offer does not reflect the maximum amount allowed by the insurance policy, nor does it fully take into account the extent of your injuries.
If you sign and accept that settlement offer, it may relieve the insurance company of future financial obligations regarding your semi truck accident. Some accident victims find themselves scrambling to cover medical expenses or to make up for the income they lose during their recovery. Others may miss out on vital medical services that could improve their overall recovery. A fast settlement for a semi truck accident rarely reflects the full funds you deserve. Consulting with an attorney could give you a better idea of what you stand to miss out on, should you accept that offer.
Reaching a Reasonable Settlement After a Semi Truck Accident
Like so many other things in the semi truck accident settlement process, including the funds you ultimately receive, the timeline to settle your accident claim depends on a variety of factors—many of them beyond your control.
How long did you wait to contact an attorney?
Ideally, you should contact an attorney as soon after your semi truck accident as possible. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner that attorney can start working on your behalf: collecting evidence, submitting a reasonable claim to the insurance company, or negotiating with the insurance company for you.
Many accident victims, however, wait before they get in touch with an attorney. Some fail to realize that the insurance company will not automatically pay out the maximum amount they deserve for their injuries. Others find themselves consumed by the recovery process and do not contact an attorney until weeks or even months after the accident. Consider:
- Contacting an attorney early in the process makes it easier to gather evidence. An attorney should easily access the semi truck driver’s logs and data at any time after an accident. The longer you wait to contact an attorney, however, the harder it can be to gather other evidence. Many security cameras, for example, have their data deleted regularly. Starting the evidence collection process early makes it easier for an attorney to get their hands on that data.
- Immediately after the accident, witness statements agree more closely. The longer you wait to start talking to witnesses after your accident, the greater the likelihood that those witnesses will forget all about the accident. Details may shift in their minds, making them less reliable. Even your own statement about and memories of the accident may become less reliable as time goes on. In some cases, you may forget the accident entirely, even without traumatic brain injury entering the equation.
- The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner you start the clock on your settlement. Often, the settlement process cannot truly begin until you contact an attorney. The sooner you contact an attorney, therefore, the sooner that process can start, and the sooner you can get the funds you deserve for your accident in your hands.
What injuries did you suffer, and how long does your recovery timeline look?
Often, you need to fully understand the extent of your medical bills and the expenses associated with them before reaching a settlement after a semi truck accident. A complete spinal cord injury that results in high tetraplegia, for example, may cost $1 million or more in the first year after the accident alone.
In many cases, until you know what your recovery looks like, you may not have an accurate or realistic idea of what medical costs you will face—and those medical costs play a significant role in the settlement you receive. In other cases, you may not know how much mobility you will gain back, whether you can return to work after your injury, or how your injuries will limit you in the course of your everyday life until some time after the accident. Consult your attorney about when you should begin the claims process, including how far you should progress through your recovery before filing your claim.
Are you asking for a standard claim, or do other factors change your claim amounts?
In some cases, your lifestyle or activities may change the settlement you claim from an insurance company. For example, an actress who suffers severe burns during a semi truck accident may struggle to return to her former profession due to scarring, while an athlete paralyzed in a semi truck accident may have more emotional trauma than another individual.
Each semi truck accident claim has unique facets; however, if your claim goes far outside the norm, it may take longer to reach a settlement than if you need a fairly standard settlement from the insurance company.
What does the truck driver or trucking company’s insurance policy offer?
Many semi truck drivers carry higher-coverage insurance policies than other drivers. Not only does this help them remain compliant with government regulations, it can help provide for the more substantial damage often suffered by victims in semi truck accidents. The higher the coverage offered by the policy, however, the more the insurance company may work to protect its financial interests, leading to a longer fight to get the compensation you deserve after your accident.
Who contributed to your accident?
In a semi truck accident, many individuals and entities may bear partial liability for the accident. Consulting with a lawyer can help you better determine who bears liability for your accident; however, responsible parties could include:
The driver. When a truck driver causes your accident, that driver may bear primary or full liability for the accident and any injuries you suffer as a result. Truck drivers may bear liability for an accident when they drive distracted, including texting and driving, eating behind the wheel, or consulting a GPS device instead of paying attention to the road. They may also bear liability for the accident if they chose to drink and drive, drove recklessly, or failed to take proper precautions before changing lanes or turning.
The trucking company. In many cases, the trucking company carries an insurance policy that fully covers both driver and vehicles regardless of how the accident occurs. However, the trucking company may share liability for the accident if:
- The company asked the driver to falsify logs or go beyond the mandated maximum number of hours (11 hours driven in a 14-hour shift) the driver can legally drive.
- The company required the driver to continue driving in unsafe conditions or circumstances, including excessively bad weather or driver illness.
- The driver has a frequent history of accidents, but the company still employed that driver and allowed them to drive.
When the trucking company behaves unethically with regards to its drivers, it may share responsibility for the accident directly, rather than simply through the truck driver.
Bars and restaurants that overserved a drunk driver. Drunk drivers, including truck drivers, bear primary responsibility for their own actions. Bars and restaurants, however, also bear a legal and ethical responsibility to prevent customers from over-indulging when servers or staff can reasonably expect that the driver will get back on the road. If the bar or restaurant over-serves a truck driver with the full knowledge that the driver must get back on the road, the bar or restaurant may share liability for your accident.
Mechanics or companies that serviced the truck. Mechanical problems can pose serious hazards for big trucks. The mechanics who maintain and service those vehicles must remain alert to any potential problems with the vehicle, especially potential mechanical failures. When a mechanic fails to identify a mechanical problem he should have seen during a routine inspection or other repair, or when a mechanic fails to repair the vehicle properly, that mechanic or his company may bear liability for any accident caused by that mechanical failure.
Manufacturers of the trucks and their parts. Just like mechanics bear responsibility for maintaining the parts of the truck and trailer, manufacturers bear responsibility for producing and selling quality parts. When mechanical failure due to defective parts, including defective tires, causes an accident, the manufacturer may share liability for the accident.
When you have multiple parties who bear liability for your accident, it may take longer to reach a settlement. Each insurance company may argue that someone else bears part of the blame for the accident in an attempt to reduce the compensation the company owes you. The more factors contributed to your accident, the more time it may take to reach an agreement.
What Can You Do in the Meantime?
When it takes a long time to settle your semi truck accident claim, you may find yourself tempted to take a low settlement offer just to get funds in your hands. Fortunately, you can do several things in the meantime to minimize your financial burden.
- Check your employer’s policies. Many employers will allow you to take sick leave after an accident. You may also have the option to apply for short-term disability to help cover you while you recover from your injuries. Talk with your HR department to learn what options you have available after your accident.
- Get in touch with the hospital’s billing department. As medical bills mount, you may start to feel harassed by the various doctors and hospitals that contribute to your care. Consult with the billing department of each one. You may make arrangements to pay what you can afford each month, or you might explain the situation to the hospital and receive a grace period before your medical bills come due.
- Contact your creditors. Your regular bills do not disappear after a semi truck accident. In some cases, it may feel more difficult than ever to keep up with those payments. Contact your creditors, especially your mortgage lender and the lender responsible for your car loan. In many cases, you can reduce or renegotiate your payments while you wait for your settlement to arrive, especially if you have a good history with that particular provider.
- Let your lawyer know about financial difficulties. Often, personal injury attorneys know what resources you can use to help keep your finances moving smoothly while you recover from your injuries.
If you suffered serious injuries in a semi truck accident, contact a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. The sooner you connect with an attorney, the sooner that attorney can work on your behalf—and, in many cases, the sooner you will get the settlement you deserve.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765