In the US in 2021, 5,700 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes. 18-wheelers are larger than the average vehicle by about 20%. Due to their size and clearance from the ground, there are many dangerous ways for another vehicle to interact with them on the road. Beyond the physical dangers of a truck, drivers are able to drive for up to 11 hours at a time. Those long stretches behind the wheel and the idea that companies push their drivers to the limit have resulted in the worrisome statistics mentioned throughout this article.
If you have found yourself left with financial and physical burdens as a result of an 18-wheeler accident, you can seek compensation through the legal system. This article will discuss some of the typical settlements seen in 18-wheeler accidents and the factors that influence the final settlement amount to provide a clearer picture of truck accident settlements.
Average 18-Wheeler Accident Settlement Amounts
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), over 2,400 truck accidents occurred in 2021. The most common type is head-on collisions that result in injury. Large trucks cause a lot of damage, and getting into an accident with one can result in life-altering injuries. The following section breaks down the most common types of crashes, the average settlement and how injuries are categorized.
Rear-end Collision: $25,000 - $60,000
Due to the heavy weight of trucks and their driving speeds, it takes longer for them to stop. This leads to an increased number of trucks colliding with passenger vehicles and other trucks from behind. The damages that result from these accidents rely heavily on how fast the truck was going and how long it had to break. Whiplash and other soft tissue injuries are common in minor accidents, whereas broken bones and brain injuries commonly occur in more severe cases.
Everyone knows that anxious feeling that overcomes a driver when a large truck pulls up next to them on the freeway. Large trucks come with equally large blind spots. It is not uncommon to see cars get sideswiped by 18-wheelers. In fact, according to the IIHS, 24% of truck accidents in 2021 were sideswipe accidents making this the second most common type of truck accident. This can happen for a number of reasons, such as changing lanes, drifting over the lines, and merging lanes. There is a large range in settlements due to the varying outcomes of this type of accident. Collisions with minor injuries and vehicle damage are likely to settle for less, while severe injuries, on average, settle for $60,000+.
Head-on Collision: $40,000+
The most common and ultimately most terrifying crash reported between passenger vehicles and 18-wheelers is a head-on collision. Drowsy truck drivers may drift over the median right into your path or fail to stop at a light and meet another vehicle in the intersection. Whatever the case, this type of collision often results in serious injuries and totaled vehicles. Head-on collisions bring about larger settlements because the medical bills and repair costs are higher.
Minor Injury: $3,000 to $10,000
If you were injured in a truck accident, even if the damage was minor, you deserve compensation for your pain. Even if minor injuries aren't visible, it's crucial to keep a record of any injuries sustained during an accident and all subsequent treatments. Some common minor injuries include:
Soft tissue injuries (think bruises and bumps)
Neck and shoulder injuries
Minor broken bones (broken fingers or fractures)
Severe Injury: $50,000+
Severe injuries often settle for higher amounts due to the time and permanence of the injury. If the course of your life has been altered as a result of a truck driver’s negligence, they are liable for your injuries. As with minor injuries, it is important to have evidence to support your case. Doctors’ visits, medical care, surgeries, missed work, and changes in your relationship as a result of your injury can all be included in your claim. The most common types of severe injuries that result from 18-wheeler accidents are:
Spinal Cord Injury
Loss of Limb
Traumatic Brain Injury
Factors That Influence Truck Accident Settlement Amounts
As you may have noticed in the previous section, several factors can affect the settlement amount of your case. Below we dive deeper into the most common factors that influence settlement amounts.
The first point to consider when estimating your settlement will be determining who was at fault for the accident. Though many states operate under different laws of determining fault, most settlements follow the rule: the less at fault you are found, the more damages you recover. Fault is often determined in court and will need sufficient evidence to support it. Evidence may come from law enforcement, insurance, witnesses, and traffic footage, but also from the statements that are made following the accident.
Negligence & Liability
Accidents involving truck drivers have a higher level of liability because the truck driver is considered to be on the job. That means that the driver of the 18-wheeler must perform their job safely and within the standards set by the state, or they can be held responsible for the damages caused by an accident. Operating outside of the safety guidelines is called negligence in legalese (legal language). Some examples of truck driver negligence are driving while drowsy, making unsafe lane changes, aggressive driving, driving under the influence, and speeding.
It is important to note whether the driver is an independent contractor or employed by a trucking company. If they are employed, the company may be held responsible if the accident was caused as a result of the company not properly maintaining the truck to the guidelines set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These guidelines regulate a driver’s hours of service and how long their breaks must be. For instance, a driver must take ten straight hours off before they are permitted to drive their 11-hour shifts. Operating outside of any of the set guidelines is described as negligent action.
Extent of Injury
Typically, the more severe the injury, the higher the damages awarded. Higher medical bills, potential life changes such as income loss, permanent injury, and longer recovery times accompany severe injuries. No matter the severity of the injury, it is important to see a doctor immediately. The sooner the injuries are documented, the more thoroughly the recovery process can be tracked, and those losses can be used as evidence in your settlement case.
Economic losses are described as the verifiable monetary losses a person has suffered due to another's negligence. For example, monetary losses include medical expenses, loss of property, costs of repairs or replacements, and loss of earnings due to recovery time or a change in the ability to perform your job as a result of the accident. As with the other factors, the greater the economic loss, the higher number you can submit for recovery. All reported losses would need to be supported with evidence and be justifiable.
Most states operate under some form of the comparative negligence rule. Comparative negligence dictates that the fault of the accident will be shared between the two parties. For example, the judge could dictate that one party was at 30% fault and the other at 70%. The damages paid by the at-fault party will be reduced by the others percentage (in this case, 30%). Certain states dictate that if you are deemed over 50% at fault, the other party may not have to pay at all. It is best to check in with a local lawyer to understand how comparative negligence is laid out in your state.
When truckers are on the road, they are on the job. Therefore, throughout most states and federally, they are required to carry liability insurance. According to the FMCSA, the minimum liability limit is $750,000 to $1 Million. While that might seem like a high number, it does not automatically mean that money is available to pay you. In fact, severe trucking accidents can result in damages that exceed those amounts and may be limited by the coverage available.
How a Truck Accident Attorney Can Help Recover Compensation
The aftermath of an accident can be overwhelming with calls, appointments, bills, and paperwork. No matter the extent of the damage, adding a legal case on top of it is stressful. Truck Accident Attorneys are there to help ease the stress and support you as you deal with various aspects of your recovery, and below we’ll break down the reasons why they are worth it.
Navigating Legal Process
The legal process is complex and emotionally draining, particularly when recovering from an accident. Skilled lawyers are versed in all aspects of legal procedure and can help lighten the burden by supporting you through every turn. Lawyers have your best interest in mind and are there to protect your rights. In addition to checking all the right boxes and keeping up with deadlines, they are experienced in guiding you toward your desired outcome. Lawyers have a network of experts and a team to ensure every anxiety is dealt with compassionately.
Determining fault in a truck accident can be complex. An experienced lawyer knows how to look at all the evidence, identify the at-fault parties and then clearly articulate why they are not only responsible for the accident but for your damages as well. Your lawyer will need to prove that the truck driver owed you a duty of care to drive safely and responsibly, then ultimately breached it, resulting in the accident, injuries, and damages. Lawyers have a network of expert witnesses to provide context and recreate accidents. Further, they know what evidence to request from law enforcement and doctors to best ensure you get the settlement you are owed.
Communicating with Insurance
Most people don’t realize that their settlement starts long before they ever submit their claim. Insurance companies are always looking for ways to minimize their payout on claims. Any statements (written or recorded) can ultimately be used to minimize their liability.
This is where a skilled lawyer can really aid your case. An experienced lawyer will handle all communications from the other party’s insurance company and can coach you through what to say in your own statement. Additionally, once all of the evidence has been compiled, the lawyer will begin negotiating your claim and settlement. Having a skilled lawyer on your side can significantly increase your settlement with insurance companies.
An attorney will compile various pieces of evidence documenting the total sum of your financial losses and translate non-physical damages as well. These are called economic and non-economic damages. Economic loss includes medical bills, repair costs, and lost wages, while non-economic loss includes emotional trauma, physical pain, or permanent disfigurement. Attorneys have experience justifying their estimates and ensuring no stone goes unturned when recovering your losses.
Ryan Zehl is one of the country’s most accomplished trial lawyers, with a winning track record that has gained him national media acclaim and the esteem of the legal field. He is an advocate for the catastrophically injured and those who have met tragic deaths due to the negligence of others. As founder of the firm Zehl & Associates, he leads an undefeated personal injury law firm that has recovered billions of dollars in due compensation for accident victims across Texas and the United States. Ryan Zehl holds the record for securing the largest truck accident settlement in Texas at $23.5 million—a recent achievement in a long case history of record-setting settlements and verdicts.