One question we are often asked whenever a potential client calls our firms is: “What is my tractor-trailer accident case worth?” This is a great question and we can certainly understand why clients would want to know the answer.
Their lives have been turned upside down because of someone else’s negligence. They want to know whether or not their bills will be paid, or whether they will be reimbursed for their lost wages, or compensated for their pain and emotional suffering.
But the only honest answer that any tractor-trailer attorney can give to this question, especially if the wreck was very recent, is: “We do not know.”
However, we follow it up with this statement: “There are too many questions that still need to be answered before we can put a value on your truck wreck claim.”
Gathering the Facts After a Truck Accident
It is very important to explain the “we do not know” in more detail. We have to prove the following three elements in a claim before our client can recover for their injuries:
- That someone other than our client was at-fault for the wreck.
- That the defendant’s negligence (or fault) was the proximate cause of our client’s injuries and damages.
If an attorney does not do a complete investigation about what happened in the wreck, they will not be able to fully understand who is at fault. The defendant and the defendant’s insurance company may try and place fault on someone else, or even the potential client.
The extent of our client’s injuries and damages, including:
- Past, present, and future medical bills
- Past, present, and future lost wages
- The severity of the injuries and whether they are permanent or disabling
- The option to pursue punitive damages against the defendant because the defendant’s conduct was egregious, or willful and wanton (e.g. driving while drunk, high, distracted, etc.)
If the wreck that injured the client was recent and the client is still treating, there is no way to fully answer these questions until we know:
- the dollar amount of medical treatment as they are still treating;
- whether or not the injuries will be permanent;
- how long the client will be disabled from work;
- or what future medical treatment, including potential physical therapy, surgery, prescriptions, etc., will be needed, if any.
Investigating a Tractor-Trailer Accident Is Crucial
There is another important factor that we must investigate before we can arrive at a value range of the personal injury claim. We have to know what insurance policies are available to help pay for the claim.
The defendant truck driver runs a red light and crashes into our client’s car on the driver’s side. Witnesses at the scene confirm that the defendant was at-fault for the wreck and they get the ticket.
Our client sustains several injuries, including:
- a fractured left hip;
- a broken left arm;
- a broken left leg;
- several deep gashes to the entire body, including facial lacerations requiring multiple stitches; and
there is a concern about internal injuries as there is blood in the urine.
Our client’s spouse calls us from the hospital. The client is in surgery as the orthopedic surgeon is attempting to repair the hip. They are distraught about their partner and concerned about how well they will recover from the injuries. They are also worried about the exorbitant medical bills that will result from the medical treatments.
We share their concern about their spouse’s injuries and recovery and immediately begin investigating the claim to focus on how the bills will be paid to give the family peace of mind.
We find that the defendant was driving a tractor-trailer for their employer. They were in the course and scope of their employment when they ran the red light and caused the wreck and injuries. This means there will be a company/commercial insurance policy available for coverage. These policies often carry much higher limits than regular personal policies.
What other options are available? We would also look at our client’s insurance policies, as well as the policies of any other relative that may be living at their home. Our clients may have purchased UM/UIM coverage on their automobile policies.
Whenever a potential client calls us for their free initial consultation regarding their wreck, we will ask a lot of questions about insurance, the defendant driver, and our client’s own policies and those of any resident relatives.
Often, we may not have the answers to these questions for some time. This is yet another factor that must be reviewed when trying to assign a value range to a claim.
9 Factors We Consider When Evaluating a Truck Accident Claim
It is difficult to list all of the items we consider when we put a “value on a claim.” Our evaluations are not just based on the facts and the law but upon jury verdict research, as well as our multiple years of experience handling claims for injured victims and their families here in Georgia and across the Southeast.
Here are some of the more important factors:
- The Impact of the Crash
- How much property damage to the vehicles?
- Photos of the crash scene?
- Did the airbag deploy?
- Was the vehicle(s) towed from the scene?
- Witnesses to the crash?
- Size of the vehicles involved?
- Time of the crash?
- The Severity of the Injuries
- Were the injuries visible at the scene?
- Was the injured victim treated at the scene?
- Was the injured victim transported by ambulance?
- Witness statements regarding visible injuries at the scene?
- Any broken bones, scarring?
- Surgeries or surgical recommendations?
- Are the injuries permanent?
- Are the injuries disabling?
- Photographs of the injuries?
- The Amount of Special Damages
- How much in medical bills?
- Estimate of future medical treatment?
- How much in lost wages?
- Estimate of future lost wages?
- Can the lost wages be credibly documented?
- Any permanent impairment from the injuries?
- The type of medical treatment sought for the injuries?
- The credibility of the doctor(s) involved?
- The Parties Involved
- How likable is the plaintiff?
- How likable is the defendant?
- Age of the plaintiff?
- Occupation of parties?
- Can a jury identify with either party?
- How credible are the parties?
- Can the injured victim be painted as a malingerer, or will a jury believe the need for the treatment
- and the disability period?
- Prior accidents and injuries?
- Were any of the parties on the job when the wreck occurred?
- Potential Punitive Damages
- Conduct of the parties at the scene of the wreck?
- Were drugs and/or alcohol involved?
- Any witness statements regarding the parties at the scene of the wreck?
- Driving history of the defendant?
- Did the defendant attempt to flee or actually flee the scene of the wreck?
- The Tractor-Trailer
- Is commercial insurance coverage available?
- Did the truck driver or trucking company violate any of the federal motor carrier safety regulations?
- Was driver fatigue involved?
- Did the driver have a valid CDL?
- Do we have the driver’s logs/trip reports?
- Can we pursue potential claims against the trucking company for negligent hiring, negligent retention, or negligent supervision?
- Was the trailer properly loaded?
- Was the tractor/trailer in proper working condition?
- Was the equipment inspected before the truck driver started operating it?
- The Defendant’s Insurance Company
- What insurance company provides coverage for the defendant?
- What does the defendant have in liability coverage?
- Has the insurance company accepted responsibility for the wreck?
- Has the insurance company paid for the property damage to the plaintiff’s vehicle?
- The Plaintiff’s Insurance Company
- What insurance company provides UM/UIM coverage for the plaintiff, if any?
- What are the UM/UIM limits?
- Any med pay coverage?
- The Lawsuit Location
- Is it an urban or rural area?
- What verdicts have been rendered in this county under similar circumstances?
- How often are civil jury trials held in this county?
- Will the plaintiff present well in this venue?
- Will the defendant present well in this venue?
- Are either party well known in this county?
If You Settle, It’s Over
Too many times we receive calls from potential clients. They were involved in a truck wreck and they thought their injuries were minor and would resolve quickly. The person just assumed they were “sore” and would get better.
The insurance adjuster even told them: “Of course you are just sore. You will be fine in no time.” And then the adjuster acts like their long-lost friend who is here to help.
The adjuster offers them money for their trouble and inconvenience. The injured victim takes the check, signs the release, and then tries to move on with their life.
But then things start to unravel. The nagging neck injury becomes more painful. An MRI confirms that the injury is not just a sprain, but the person has a herniated cervical disk that will require surgery.
This procedure, the hospitalization, the anesthesia, the physical therapy, the prescription costs, etc., will be tens of thousands of dollars.
But here’s the problem: the case has been settled. Period. Over. No one forced that caller to settle. They did it of their own free will and accord.
They knew the risks when they took the money, or they should have known the risks. Yet they were “hoodwinked” by the adjuster, and now they are faced with the real consequences.
It is a difficult conversation to have when we tell these potential clients there is nothing that can be done because they already settled their claim. It doesn’t matter how much they will incur in bills, lost wages, or the pain and suffering they will experience.
Always Talk to a Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorney First
In all personal injury claims, we highly recommend you have your case investigated and evaluated by an experienced personal injury attorney.
It is never a good idea to try and settle your claim with an insurance adjuster on your own, especially if you do not have any idea about the full nature and severity of your injuries. They are not in business to try and give you all the cash and benefits you are entitled to receive.
You have absolutely nothing to lose by speaking with an attorney for your free consultation on a claim. Contact Gary Martin Hays & Associates today to speak with our experienced truck accident lawyers to get the legal help you need.