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Your Legal Options After a Commercial Vehicle Accident

An accident with an 18-wheeler (sometimes also referred to as a large commercial vehicle or a semi-truck) can be devastating. Commercial vehicle accidents account for a significant number of fatalities each year on the roads, and an even larger number of injuries. If you are lucky enough to survive the collision, you could be in for a long road of recovery, medical bills, and other costs following the accident.

Since the operator of a large commercial vehicle is doing it as part of his or her job, a driver whose negligence leads to an accident could be held responsible for the resulting injuries and costs. If you have been involved in this type of accident and you believe the driver or carrier was at fault, you have the option to file a lawsuit to recoup some of the costs. The amount of compensation, types of compensation, and legal outcomes are not guaranteed in any situation, and will vary based on the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident. Here are a few of the most common types of compensation and legal outcomes that a judge or jury will consider.

LEGAL OUTCOMES

When someone decides to file a lawsuit against a semi-truck driver, carrier, or both, there are essentially three outcomes:

1. The lawsuit could be dismissed with no action
2. The case may be settled out of court with both parties agreeing on a specific settlement amount
3. The case may go to trial, and the plaintiff could be awarded monetary or other compensation by a judge or jury

While there is no guarantee in any case what the outcome will be, it is something any accident victim should discuss with an attorney to decide whether to file the lawsuit, and what types of compensation to pursue.

POTENTIAL COMPENSATION

There are a wide variety of compensation types that an accident victim may seek, and the specific compensation will differ depending on the circumstances of the accident; however, the common goal of any lawsuit or settlement is to get the victim back to the point he or she was at before the accident occurred. Here are some of the most common types of compensation that people pursue when filing a lawsuit.

HOSPITAL BILLS

After a serious accident with a semi-truck, most people will likely end up in the hospital. Depending on the extent of the injuries, the hospital stay could be relatively short (one day or less), or it could extend for several weeks past the date of the accident. In either case, the costs of staying at the hospital can be extremely high, particularly if the injuries are extensive and require significant surgery, tests, scans, or other treatments.

MEDICAL BILLS

Even after the initial hospital stay, the medical bills can continue to pile up after a serious accident. This may include follow-up visits after surgery, consultations with doctors or specialists who assist with different areas of the recovery process, as well as rehabilitation or physical therapy if a person suffered significant injury or damage to the body. Even people who have good insurance coverage may still find these costs to be overwhelming.

ECONOMIC DAMAGES

Other economic damages that may be considered in addition to past and future medical or hospital bills include lost earning capacity. In cases of serious accidents, a person may be injured badly enough that he or she cannot return to work for a significant period of time, or at all. In these cases, the person may receive compensation for future wages that are lost as a result of the injury. Additionally, in cases of fatal semi-truck accidents, a victim’s family may decide to file a lawsuit in order to recover economic damages that result from a person’s inability to provide for the family.

LOST WAGES

Most people—even those who have some money in savings for emergencies—are unprepared to go without income for a significant period of time while recovering from accident-related injuries. In addition, some people who suffer injuries from an accident may find that they no longer have a job to return to when they recover. These individuals will often file a lawsuit to recover the money lost from inability to work during rehabilitation and recovery.

OTHER DAMAGES/PUNITIVE DAMAGES

Some states may allow a plaintiff to sue for punitive damages or other special damages. Generally, punitive damages are only applicable in cases of extreme negligence on the part of the truck driver. If a person can prove that the driver broke the law or disregarded a regulation intended to increase safe vehicle operation, this may be applicable. An example of an applicable punitive damages case would be if a truck driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the crash occurred. In addition, some people may pursue punitive damages against the truck driver’s company if they can prove the company was willfully negligent.

PAIN AND SUFFERING

This category of award is difficult to define, but is intended to compensate individuals for the emotional toll that a serious accident can take. Some of the factors courts consider when calculating pain and suffering awards include:

  • Seriousness or extent of injuries
  • The affect of an injury on a person’s day-to-day life and activities
  • Recovery time
  • Treatment process
  • Emotional trauma
  • The permanence, or residual effects, of the injury
  • Pain and suffering that the person will likely experience in the future

The short- and long-term effects of an accident involving semi-trucks can be devastating. In some cases, the only option to recover some of the monetary and non-monetary damages that you suffer is through legal action, and an experienced attorney can help you decide the best options for your specific situation.

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