Having to wait is the worst. If you or a loved one has been injured in a semi-truck accident, waiting on a settlement can feel like it drags on forever. However, knowing why things take the time that they do can help ease the mental burden. As it turns out, there are many reasons why semi-truck accidents can take a long time to settle—and often take longer than a simple car accident.
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Why Semi-Truck Accidents Are Complex
The unfortunate reality is that semi-truck accidents are often more complicated than accidents between private individuals. For one, commercial trucks are much larger and heavier than private vehicles, which means that accidents involving more than one other party are more likely. That’s part of why the federal government requires commercial trucks to carry a minimum of $750,000 in insurance. However, that number may increase to $1 or $5 million if the truck carries oil or hazardous materials.
At first, $750,000 sounds like a lot of money. But in a multi-vehicle accident, it may not go far. Suppose one of the drivers injured by the truck was a construction foreman. He probably drives a nice vehicle himself, so chalk up $40,000 to replace it. Maybe he gets severe whiplash and incurs $100,000 in medical and rehabilitation bills over the next year, plus is unable to work over the duration, losing out on his $100,000 salary. You’re already at $240,000 in damages, and that’s just for one person in one vehicle, and that’s before pain and suffering get factored in. Other vehicles might have more occupants, dramatically increasing medical expenses. A family of four that was severely injured could easily rack up half a million dollars of medical and rehabilitation costs.
Worse, someone might be paralyzed or otherwise rendered unable to work for the rest of their lives, which could lead to millions of dollars of lost wages. The $750,000 in insurance wouldn’t be sufficient compared to that expense. To reach a settlement that provides fair and equitable recompense, lawyers often have to look beyond the insurance company.
In commercial trucking, it’s common for liability to extend beyond the truck driver. Was the company negligent in hiring or continuing to employ a driver with a history of accidents or driving while impaired? Was the truck maintained by a company that used substandard parts? Did the local, state, or federal government fail to properly maintain roads, creating conditions that contributed to the accident?
It might seem like overkill to examine these possibilities. However, with so much on the line in serious commercial trucking accidents, it’s often necessary to explore these angles to ensure that the settlement covers all expenses incurred by the victim.
The Steps Leading to a Settlement
Like in nearly all accidents, the worst time to accept a settlement from a trucking or insurance company is immediately after an accident. The fact that they’re eager to settle is a strong sign that you have a good case against them, but more often than not, the initial offer is a serious lowball. Taking it will usually mean relinquishing your rights to further legal action, and the sum offered ultimately might not cover all your expenses. What should you do instead?
The ideal situation for getting your recompense as quickly as possible is to hire a lawyer to negotiate a settlement. Yes, having your case go to trial will almost certainly take longer to resolve…but getting the best settlement—and sometimes, getting a settlement at all—can depend on preparing for a trial. Right after your accident, you or your lawyer must start collecting evidence before it is lost. Local security cameras may overwrite their storage after 30 days, or physical evidence could be lost to rain or wind. Moving quickly is essential to having a stronger case down the line.
After evidence is collected, it’s time to heal. It’s inadvisable to send a demand letter before healing has reached its maximum level, as you won’t know how much to demand. In some cases, your health could completely return. In others, you or a loved one may be impaired for the rest of your lives. Getting to the point where your long-term medical prognosis is known can take months or sometimes years.
Once the outcome is known, your lawyer can send a demand letter. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that the party or parties at fault will agree to the settlement immediately. While it’s rare that these kinds of accidents go to trial, it does sometimes happen. More commonly, these companies settle as the trial date approaches, as the penalty for losing at trial could be larger than what the settlement could cost them. Once both parties are in alignment, the settlement agreement can be completed.
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How Long Semi-Truck Accident Settlements Take in New Mexico
In short, the time that settlements take depends on how long it takes for a victim to heal, how long it takes to gather evidence to prepare the demand letter, and how willing the other party is to settle. We’d love to provide a specific number here, but the reality is that a number of variables will be unique to each case.
The worst thing that you can do is wait to contact a lawyer. For once, promptly collecting evidence is key to a successful case. But if you go with a lawyer with experience in truck accident cases, you get more than legal help. Your lawyer can help connect you with the very best medical specialists for the medical issues you may be facing. These specialists will be the very best at helping you understand your long-term prospects for recovery and provide insight into possible timelines for healing. At the same time, your lawyer can collect evidence and evaluate your case, giving you a sense of how long the legal process may take.
If you’re looking for the peace of mind that comes with knowing how long it might take, give us a call. At Kane personal injury, we’ve represented clients like you in semi-truck accident cases for nearly 20 years. Contact us today for a free consultation. And remember, if you don’t win, we don’t make a dime.
Please note that this article was created for advertisement purposes, and it does not constitute any contractual legal relationship, nor imply one.