Bagen Law Firm | May 6, 2023 | Truck Accidents
You deserve compensation if you or someone you love recently suffered injuries in a truck accident due to another party’s negligence. Unfortunately, no matter the type of injury, insurance companies frequently refuse to settle claims for what they are actually worth.
Sometimes the only way to get them to take your claim seriously is to hire a truck accident attorney. Your attorney can help negotiate a settlement. Suppose a full and fair settlement isn’t possible through negotiations. In that case, your attorney can file a lawsuit seeking a jury award for compensation on your behalf.
Truck accident victims must understand that settling a semi-truck accident case can take quite some time. These are complex cases, often with multiple parties that can be at fault.
Sometimes, in cases involving obvious liability, cases can resolve sooner. But injured victims may often wait a year or longer for their claim to settle. To get the best estimate of how long your claim might take to settle, meet with a truck accident attorney as soon as possible.
Is an Injury Lawsuit Necessary?
Most of the time, insurance companies protect their bottom line, not yours. This is especially true when it comes to truck accident cases. They generally don’t care if you receive a settlement representing the full extent of your damages. The more they pay injured parties for their claims, the less they can profit. So it only makes sense that they will do all they can to protect their financial interests.
The insurance company might deny your claim because:
- They blame you or someone else for the accident instead of their insured
- Delays in seeking necessary medical treatment
- Ruling that your medical needs are due to pre-existing conditions
- Low-speed, low-impact collisions (they don’t believe you have injuries or that they are severe enough to warrant compensation)
- Missing the deadline to file an insurance claim
Sometimes, you must choose between accepting that the insurance company denied your claim or your settlement isn’t fair and hiring an attorney and pursuing legal action. If you choose the former, you can sell yourself short of what you deserve.
Depending on your damages, this can cause financial hardship for you and your family. The latter might seem daunting, but with an experienced lawyer on your side, you don’t need to worry about all of the ins and outs of a legal claim. Your attorney takes care of the necessary steps with your help along the way.
The Length of Your Semi-Truck Accident Lawsuit
All injury claims are unique. There is no blanket answer for how long your semi-truck accident settlement or lawsuit will take. It’s a process that entails several steps. Some cases might end sooner, and others might take far longer.
It will depend on your injuries and damages, the strength of the evidence in your case, and the court schedule, among others. For example, cases with more significant injuries and of higher value generally take longer. If your case involves multiple parties, it might also be lengthy.
Unfortunately, if you want fair compensation, patience is often required. Waiting for compensation can be challenging. You should never give up the compensation you are entitled to just because you want your case resolved quickly. This is precisely what the insurance company wants.
That’s not to say you aren’t under financial pressure right now. It can be difficult to keep paying your everyday expenses and bills and have looming medical bills while not earning income.
The good news is that a lawyer knows alternatives to an early and low settlement if you need help paying for medical expenses before your case resolves. For example, your lawyer may explore healthcare liens to provide you with additional time to pay.
This will involve the care provider offering to provide care now in exchange for a claim on your future compensation. When your case resolves through negotiations for a settlement or a court award, they will receive payment for their services. This way, you don’t have to worry about paying your medical bills while waiting for compensation.
Understanding how a legal injury claim works, why it takes time, and what to expect can help you feel more comfortable speaking to an attorney and with the entire case process.
Negotiating a Settlement
A settlement is an agreement between an insurance company or party responsible for the accident and the injured individual. In a settlement agreement, the liable party or their insurance company agrees to pay the other party a specific amount of money for their damages. Neither side is right nor wrong, and no one wins or loses. It’s merely an agreement.
Once the injured party officially accepts the settlement amount, they sign a release agreeing to drop the lawsuit and refrain from further civil legal action regarding the incident. However, settlements are not successful if the injured party doesn’t agree with them.
It’s common for insurance companies to make a small settlement offer soon after the accident. They hope the injured party will accept their small offer and the claim will be over quickly and with minimal effort and expense.
Most of the time, you do not want to accept these offers because:
- You might not know what your claim is worth without speaking to an attorney
- You might not know the full extent of your injuries, which can increase the value of your claim in the future
- You may make decisions for the wrong reasons, like a rush to pay medical or other expenses
- You cannot always think clearly shortly after your injury, especially if your doctor puts you on certain medications
Settlements generally happen through negotiations between the two parties or their lawyers. Usually, the settlement negotiation process begins with the injured party making a demand for a specific amount of money. In return, the defendant will make an offer for less than the requested sum. The parties will go back and forth. The plaintiff will gradually decrease their demand while the defendant gradually increases their offer.
You want to reach a mutually agreeable amount to settle the claim. In most personal injury cases, the parties reach a settlement agreement before the case goes to trial.
Both the plaintiff and the defendant can benefit from a settlement agreement instead of going to trial and letting the court decide the outcome. A trial presents risks for both sides. It can also drag the case out. By settling the claim, each side has more control over the outcome of the case and saves time and money.
However, if the injured party doesn’t feel the defendant’s settlement is fair or will completely compensate them for their injuries, they do not have to accept it. Instead, they can take their case to trial, hoping the court will grant them fair compensation.
They cannot change their mind if the court favors the defendant or awards them a smaller sum than their settlement offer. Therefore, the decision of the court will be final.
How Does a Lawyer Help with Negotiating a Fair Settlement?
A lawyer helps with this process by assessing how the accident occurred and caused their client’s injuries. They will consider liability for the injury. Lawyers can obtain medical records that document the injuries and treatments to prove the severity of the injuries as well as their damages.
Involving a legal team in your claim also ensures that you consider any future medical expenses and changes to your ability to earn an income during settlement negotiations.
Experienced attorneys have excellent negotiation skills and can scrutinize settlement offers compared to what a jury will likely award if the case were to go to trial. Attorneys can analyze these offers based on their experience with prior settlements and jury verdicts of similar types of semi-truck accident cases.
Using Mediation to Help Settle Your Lawsuit
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can help your case settle sooner. In these sessions, a neutral third party called a mediator helps both sides attempt to resolve their disputes. If successful, mediation will lead to a settlement agreement. In fact, some states require mediation before the two parties go to trial.
Mediation is not part of a trial and is an informal process. The mediator must keep what is said in the session confidential. Settlement offers and discussions about a settlement are not admissible at trial, encouraging cooperation at mediation. Mediators simply lead the discussion; they can’t make decisions or force either side to settle.
Typically, during a mediation session, you and your lawyer are in one room while the at-fault party, their insurance adjuster, and their attorney are in another. The mediator goes between the two rooms helping each side understand the pros and cons of the case and how it relates to the settlement they receive. Seeing the situation from the other side’s point of view can help the two parties reach a resolution.
If Your Case Goes to Trial
Four to five percent of the personal injury cases in the U.S. end up at trial. The rest settle at some point in the pretrial process.
Before the trial, your lawyer will have already completed:
- Depositions (testimony taken under oath) of the other side and any witnesses
- Both sides answer written questions under oath (interrogatories)
- Doctor depositions are complete
- The judge decides on motions over what evidence will be part of the case
- Several rounds of settlement negotiations
Even with all this work complete, your case can still take a year or more to get to trial. The court’s schedule will dictate how long you must wait for a trial date. A trial is likely to take anywhere from one day to several weeks. This will depend on the number of witnesses each party calls, the length of their testimonies, and the intricacy of the evidence.
Trials with expert witnesses are likely to last longer. Trials can be stressful, especially if you testify. However, your personal injury attorney will prepare you for the big day so you know what to expect.
Once it is time for your trial, it will begin with jury selection. When the jury is selected, both sides will present their arguments, evidence, and witness testimony. When both sides finish presenting, the court requires the jury to answer a special verdict. The special verdict will ask if the defendant was negligent and if their negligence injured you.
What You Can Do to Ensure Your Semi-Truck Lawsuit Doesn’t Take Longer Than Needed
While many aspects of your case and its time frame are out of your control, you can ensure that you don’t personally contribute to any delays if you:
- Cooperate with your lawyer
- Respond quickly to their communications and requests
- If they ask you for documents, to complete forms, or for evidence, do so as soon as you can
- Ask questions so you understand the process
- Clear your schedule and prioritize meeting with your attorney and completing other legal tasks
- Have patience—this process might seem like it is taking a long time, but it will eventually come to an end
Semi-truck accident lawsuits are lengthy for many reasons. One of the most critical reasons is that it takes time to heal and undergo medical treatment. Skipping over this time can be detrimental to your compensation. If you don’t know to what extent your injuries will heal or if they will permanently impact your life, you can’t maximize your compensation.
The most important step you can take to expedite your semi-truck accident case and ensure you receive the best outcome possible is to meet with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the accident.