What Is the Average Settlement for an 18 Wheeler Accident?

August 8, 2022

Truck drivers play an important role in the national supply chain. They deliver necessary goods from central warehouses to the supermarket where you do your shopping in Natick, MA. Unfortunately, they are frequently subject to unreasonable schedules by trucking companies or even unfit for driving a large and fully loaded commercial vehicle. This is why we hear of terrible trucking accidents almost on a daily basis all over the US and in Massachusetts. If you or a loved one was injured in an 18 wheeler accident, a Natick truck accident injury lawyer at Michael Kelly is prepared to analyze your case to see if we can help you file your personal injury claim.

Our experienced personal injury lawyers know that fighting a battle against big trucking companies and their insurers is extremely difficult. They have many experienced lawyers and other specialists on their payroll and will do anything to deny liability for the bodily injury and property damage you suffered as a result of their driver’s negligence. Thus, hiring an experienced Natick truck accident injury lawyer may help you win a fair settlement for your economic and non-economic damages.

Statistics on Commercial Truck Accidents

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) centralizes data from the commercial vehicle crash reporting system established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The most recent available data at a national level is from 2020, and it indicates a slight decrease in fatalities caused by an 18 wheeler or tractor trailer compared to the previous two years.

Yet, 4,014 people lost their lives in an automobile accident with a large truck, and the vast majority of them – 97% – were occupants of passenger cars. This indicates just how terrible a collision with a large truck can be, and how little protection the average vehicle offers to the driver and their passengers.

The IIHS statistics also note that most trucking accidents happen on interstates and major roads and during the following hours:

  • 18% – 6 pm to 9 pm
  • 16% – 9 pm to midnight
  • 16% – 3 am to 6 am

These time intervals are relevant because they indicate one of the most frequent causes of truck crashes: driver fatigue. We will discuss this aspect in more detail later, but now let us look at what kind of insurance policy trucking companies must provide for their drivers in Massachusetts.

Commercial Insurance Requirements for Truck Drivers

In order to drive in a commercial truck in Massachusetts, a truck must have a minimum amount of liability insurance, which is determined by the type of freight the truck is carrying.

The minimum coverage requirements are:

  • $300,000 for non-hazardous freight in trucks under 10,001 lbs
  • $750,000 for non-hazardous freight in trucks over 10,001 lbs
  • $1,000,000 for oil transported by for-hire or private carriers
  • $5,000,000 for other hazardous materials transported by for-hire or private carriers

These property damage and bodily injury liability limits may or may not be adequate to cover all situations. For this reason, trucking companies typically carry more than the minimum required coverage amount. However, this does not mean that they are keen to pay up when accident victims file truck accident claims against their insurance policy.

And this is one of the main reasons why truck accident attorneys are always ready to take up cases and fight to win the maximum personal injury settlement for people injured by negligent truck drivers.

What Are the Main Causes of an 18 Wheeler Accident?

Driver error is the number one cause of these terrible accidents, resulting in horrific injuries from spine injuries to traumatic brain injuries, severe burns, and loss of limb. In most of the cases handled by a Natick truck accident injury lawyer at our law firm, accident victims were involved in a crash caused by:

Distracted Driving

Long hours behind the wheel can cause truck drivers to become bored. However, this does not excuse or justify in any way not being 100% focused on driving. Yet, many drivers are guilty of texting and driving, changing music tracks on the entertainment system, or chatting via radio with other drivers.

This may not appear to take more than a few seconds – but it only takes a few seconds to lose control over a vehicle and crash it into oncoming traffic.

Drunk Driving

A drunk driver should never be on the road behind the wheel. Alcohol impairs the perception of visual and audio stimuli and delays reflexes and responses. Unfortunately, many truck drivers operate large and fully loaded 18 wheeler trucks after having one or several drinks, with a BAC above the legal threshold.

In this case, the trucking company may deny liability to pay you fair compensation. But experienced truck accident attorneys can find whether the respective driver had a history of DUI, which the company failed to check for when they hired that person.

Reckless Driving

Carrying a heavy load and operating a very large vehicle should require special care and diligence. But this is not always true – many truck drivers tailgate other vehicles, change lanes frequently and exceed the maximum speed limit. Together with driver distraction, this is a perfect recipe for disaster.

Driver Fatigue

Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This particular cause of traffic accidents is mostly seen in crashes involving large commercial vehicles. Although the FMCSA has clear rules for hours of service and mandatory breaks, many trucking companies give their drivers very short delivery deadlines and push them to skip these breaks.

In this instance, a Natick truck accident injury lawyer will pursue not only the fault driver, but also the parent company of the trucking service. These companies should provide additional drivers for long journeys, but they prefer putting their profits above road safety and people’s lives. For this reason, truck accident attorneys do their best to win the largest settlement possible for your economic and non-economic damages – a fair amount of money for pain and suffering.

How Much Money Can You Obtain in an 18 Wheeler Accident Claim?

Typically, law firm websites will advertise hundreds of thousands of dollars won on behalf of clients in 18 wheeler accident settlements. The reality is that each case has its own particularities. And there are various factors that influence the total amount you stand to collect in the end.

These factors are:

1. The Extent of Your Injuries

Most truck accidents result in a wide range of severe injuries including:

  • spinal cord injury, including disc injuries
  • leg injuries (fractures of the leg bones, soft tissue damage), sometimes loss of limb
  • neck injuries (including cervical disc injury leading to paralysis)
  • head and brain injury

This means that accident victims may have to spend a long time in hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Some never make a full recovery and are left either with a permanent injury, chronic back pain, recurring headaches caused by head injuries, memory loss, and PTSD symptoms. They may need physical therapy and chiropractic treatment to manage constant pain and stiffness in the limbs and joints.

All these aspects will be evaluated by your Natick truck accident injury lawyer and included in the claim as economic damages.

2. The Ability to Return to Work

Many accident victims lose wages while they undergo medical treatment for their injuries. However, those who are left with a permanent injury or disability may not be able to continue doing their job at all. Broken bones and spine injuries may prevent them from walking or even leave them paralyzed for the rest of their lives.

In this case, the settlement amounts for economic damages will contain an item called “loss of earning capacity.”

3. Your Percentage of Fault for the Accident

Accident victims may be partially responsible for the severity of their accident injuries, for example, if they were not wearing the seat belt at the moment of the crash. However, this does not mean that the person is not eligible to receive fair compensation.

Massachusetts relies on the comparative negligence principle in personal injury law. This principle states that you must be less than 51% at fault for your accident in order to have the legal right to recover damages. An experienced attorney will be able to prove that drunk or careless driving by the truck driver represents the largest percentage of fault in the respective crash.

However, your entire settlement will be reduced by your own percentage of fault. For instance, a person who calculates a fair accident settlement of $100,000 but is 10% at fault will actually collect $90,000 as compensation for pain, suffering, and economic losses.

4. The Value of Property Damage

An auto wreck after a truck crash may be impossible to repair, so you will have to write it off as total damage. Also, other valuables may be lost or damaged beyond repair in such a bad wreck, so your lawyer will duly add them to your 18 wheeler accident claim amount.

5. The Impact of the Crash on Your Life

Accident victims deserve a fair payout for pain and suffering. This is the standard definition of non-economic damages, but it involves much more than the physical pain and shock you experience after the crash. A truck accident victim may be left with long-term consequences that have a negative impact on their quality of life, such as:

  • sleep issues
  • concentration issues at work
  • recurring nightmares
  • constant neck pain, shoulder pain, and other forms of chronic pain
  • sounds and images triggering the mental anguish experienced at the accident scene.

6. The Likelihood of Collecting Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are sometimes awarded after a personal injury lawsuit. In this case, the victim must prove that their accident was not caused by a careless driver, but a driver who acted with malicious intent or gross negligence.

Let an Experienced Natick Truck Accident Injury Lawyer Help

At Michael Kelly, you will find an experienced team of truck accident attorneys who have won many 18 wheeler accident cases. We know how to deal with big insurance companies working for the trucking industry and how to deal with complex situations, including uninsured motorist claims.

We will strive to win the maximum settlements for pain, economic losses, and other eligible damages you suffered. Do not forget that the statute of limitations for personal injury matters in our state is three years after the date of your accident, so schedule a free case review with us as soon as possible: 1-800-LAW-GUYS!

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MEET YOUR LAW GUYMICHAEL D. KELLY, ESQ.

Michael D. Kelly has a diverse background that provides a breadth of legal knowledge that he draws upon in serving his clients. Kelly compiled an excellent academic record during his three years at New England Law in Boston.