How Long Does a Truck Accident Lawsuit Take? - Hensley Legal Group, PC

How Long Does a Truck Accident Lawsuit Take?

A collision with a semi truck can turn your world upside down, overwhelming you with astronomical medical bills while making it harder to earn a living, though you may be able recover the resources you need to get back on track by filing a lawsuit. But how long does a truck accident lawsuit take? Join […]

April 4, 2024

A collision with a semi truck can turn your world upside down, overwhelming you with astronomical medical bills while making it harder to earn a living, though you may be able recover the resources you need to get back on track by filing a lawsuit. But how long does a truck accident lawsuit take? Join us as we discuss the timeline for a semi truck accident lawsuit and what you can expect if you pursue a case.

The Impact of Truck Accidents

There are approximately 13.5 million trucks weighing at least 10,000 pounds in the United States, nearly all of them utilized for the commercial transportation of goods. With 11.46 billion tons of domestic freight hauled by trucks in 2022 alone (about 72.6 percent of the tonnage shipped nationwide), not to mention $940.8 billion in gross freight revenues posted in the most recent year on record, trucking is a booming industry whose growth seems to be in no danger of slowing down.

But just as trucks have an undeniable impact on our economy, they have an undeniable impact on those who have been hurt by truck accidents, whose ranks are unfortunately growing as well. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,788 Americans were killed in truck accidents in 2021, marking a 17 percent increase in a single year, while the number of truck and semi-trailer accidents resulting in injury swelled to 117,300, up 12 percent from 2020.

And when semi trucks and passenger vehicles collide, the occupants of the smaller vehicles will probably suffer the brunt of the consequences, making up 72 percent of the decedents. Even the survivors of truck accidents may be saddled with extreme injuries, such as:

· Head and brain damage

· Concussion and post-concussion syndrome

· Loss of memory/amnesia

· Spinal trauma

· Paralysis

· Broken bones

· Disc herniation

· Amputation of limbs

· Burns and disfigurement

· Lacerated or compromised organs

· Prolonged loss of consciousness/coma

The financial toll of truck accidents can be as heavy as the physical toll. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) estimates that a truck accident resulting in non-fatal injuries costs $195,258.00 on average, including “medically related costs, emergency services costs, property damage costs, lost productivity, and the monetized value of the pain, suffering, and quality of life that the family loses” over the course of a victim’s expected lifespan – costs that very few could handle without help.

How a Truck Accident Lawsuit Can Help

That help may take the form of a truck accident lawsuit. If you find yourself on the brink of ruin because of a truck accident caused by the negligence of other parties, a lawsuit against those parties could get you compensated for all of your losses, including:

· Past and projected medical expenses

· Lost wages and diminished earning capacity

· Pain and suffering

· Psychological and emotional trauma

· Reduced quality of living

· Permanent impairment

· Loss of consortium

· Punitive and wrongful death damages (if applicable)

Every truck accident is unique, though commercial truck accident settlements may be quite substantial because of the insurance policy limits required on commercial vehicles. The FMCSA mandates minimum coverage of $750,000.00 on trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds that transport non-hazardous property and up to $5 million on comparable trucks moving hazardous cargo. Policy limits such as these could allow for major truck accident settlements and verdicts when the damages merit them.

The Timeline for a Truck Accident Lawsuit Depends on Many Factors

The promise of a sizeable truck accident settlement can give you hope, but it might not alleviate your current anxieties if the bill collectors won’t stop calling and the insurance companies won’t call you back. In an environment this stressful, it is only natural to wonder how long your truck accident lawsuit will take.

As frustrating as this answer may be, the reality is that there is no way to know up front exactly how long a lawsuit for your truck accident will take because every case is different, with different circumstances leading up to the accident, different injuries sustained, different defendants, and different liability insurance companies with different policy limits and different inclinations about paying them out. With so many variables, you cannot say with any certainty when a case will be settled, or even if will be settled at all. Some truck accident lawsuits may need to go to trial before a judge and jury, where what happens could be even more unpredictable.

To some extent, the timeline for your truck accident lawsuit will be influenced by the Statute of Limitations. This is the maximum time that plaintiffs have after an accident to file a lawsuit over it. In Indiana, for instance, plaintiffs typically have as long as two years after a truck accident to file a lawsuit, though the window can be narrower in cases against the government, with further requirements that may need to be met. If the Statute expires before a truck accident lawsuit is filed or the case is otherwise concluded, the plaintiff could be forever barred from total recovery.

But while the Statute of Limitations dictates how much time might pass before a lawsuit is filed, it does not determine how long it will take to resolve a truck accident lawsuit to your satisfaction, whether through settlement negotiations or a trial. Justice is not always swift, and you may have a long road ahead of you before you can bring this troubling chapter in your life to a close.

Should You Hire a Truck Accident Attorney?

When faced with that long road, many plaintiffs may decide that they could benefit from the wisdom of a knowledgeable legal practitioner at their side. While you are entitled to represent yourself for your truck accident and even to file a lawsuit on your own, you may be at a serious disadvantage in doing so if you are not a seasoned truck accident lawyer.

First, there can be numerous defendants for a truck accident case, all of whom must be identified before the Statute of Limitations runs. If you have not investigated a truck accident before, you may not know how to find all of the liable parties and their insurance companies, much less how to file suit against them.

Even if you clear that hurdle, your lawsuit could be dismissed if it is not filed in the appropriate venue and in the appropriate way, which could prove challenging for a novice with no legal training.

And should you manage to file your truck accident lawsuit properly and name everyone who may be responsible, you will still need to negotiate a settlement with the insurance companies for the defendants, all of whom will be able to exploit your relative inexperience to minimize the value of your truck accident case, either by making tiny settlement offers or refusing to settle altogether. This would leave you with no recourse other than taking your case to trial, where plaintiffs who represent themselves only win about 4 percent of the time, whereas plaintiffs with attorneys win at trial more often than not.

The decision is yours, but you may want to meet with a lawyer before you make it.

What to Expect If You Initiate a Truck Accident Lawsuit

Whether you represent yourself or retain an attorney, what can you expect if you initiate a truck accident lawsuit? As stated above, every case is different, though most truck accident lawsuits follow a similar path, which we shall examine in greater detail.

An Investigation Must Be Conducted

Like any personal injury lawsuit, your truck accident lawsuit will need to be filed against the defendant or defendants whose negligence caused you damages – specifically, by causing a truck accident that injured you. Before you file that lawsuit, an investigation should be conducted to uncover the negligence that led to your truck accident and every defendant who contributed to it.

It is worth noting that there could be a wide range of defendants in a truck accident lawsuit, given how many individuals and entities routinely take part in completing shipments by truck. For example, a truck’s driver, its owner (if separate from the driver), and the company making use of the truck (if separate from the owner) could all bear responsibility.

Additionally, if an outside company loads or secures the cargo being hauled, it could be culpable for a truck accident caused by improperly loaded or secured cargo. If a mechanical breakdown causes a truck to crash, a servicing agent could be held accountable. If that breakdown is linked to a design or manufacturing defect in the truck or one of its components, the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of the defective truck or component could share blame. And if a truck accident is brought about by unsafe conditions on a poorly maintained public highway, a government body could be at fault, as could any contractors hired by that body to perform work on the highway.

In some situations, multiple parties might have varying degrees of legal liability simultaneously, for which they might have varying degrees of fiscal liability – fiscal liability which they could escape entirely if they are not included in your truck accident lawsuit. For this reason, a painstaking investigation will need to be carried out if you are to get comprehensive remuneration for your truck accident.

A Complaint Has to Be Filed

After unearthing the root causes of your truck accident and every potential defendant, you will then have to file a complaint at law in a court that has the power to hear your case and issue a binding judgment. The complaint must name all of the defendants and lay out all of the allegations of misconduct that you are making against them, and each defendant needs to be served with a copy of this complaint in a timely fashion.

If your complaint is not filed in the appropriate venue in accordance with the laws of the state, it could be dismissed, thereby dooming your truck accident lawsuit before it has even begun. It is therefore vital that you and your attorney make sure to dot every “i” and cross every “t” at this stage of the litigation process.

Evidence Needs to Be Secured

Your truck accident lawsuit may allege negligence on the part of the defendants and the damages that you have incurred because of that negligence, but your allegations will have to be proven if you wish to get the compensation that your case warrants.

To that end, you need to secure the evidence to substantiate your claims, which has to be done promptly before that evidence gets misplaced or destroyed. Evidence of negligence in a truck accident case may include:

· Police reports

· Tickets and dispositions

· Witness statements

· Crash scene photos

· Dash cam, traffic light, and surveillance footage

· Black box data

· Cellphone records

· Hours of Service (HOS) and vehicular inspection logs

· Accident reconstruction and forensic analysis

Proof of your damages could include:

· Medical records and bills

· Pay stubs and employer correspondence

· Receipts for out-of-pocket expenses

· Provider testimonials

· Independent evaluations and examinations

In some cases, experts may need to be consulted to prepare reports or give sworn testimony during depositions or in court. The more compellingly you can convey both the defendants’ guilt and your own losses, the more likely you are to be successful during the next phase of your case.

Negotiations May Be Conducted

Most personal injury lawsuits are settled prior to trial through negotiations with the at-fault parties’ liability insurance companies. An airtight truck accident case will put you in a much stronger position at this critical juncture, during which an adjuster must be convinced that it is in the insurance company’s best interest to tender a healthy settlement rather than risk a much larger verdict at trial.

A veteran truck accident lawyer who is already familiar with the tricks of the trade that insurance companies deploy will be able meet the adjuster on an even playing field, which is why plaintiffs with attorneys statistically receive notably higher results. A study by the Insurance Research Council found that the awards for plaintiffs with lawyers are 3.5 times higher than the ones obtained by plaintiffs who represent themselves, while another study revealed that 85 percent of the funds paid out by insurance companies go to claimants with legal representation.

Your Case Might Go to Trial

Chances are that your case will be settled outside of the courtroom, though sometimes your truck accident lawsuit will have to go to trial, particularly if you are dealing with a stubborn adjuster who refuses to negotiate with you and your attorney in good faith. Far too many insurance companies will opt to come back with consistently lowball offers so that they can settle cases for less than they are worth – a strategy that can pay off when a plaintiff either has no lawyer or that lawyer is reluctant to go to court.

A trial can be daunting, but it can also be an opportunity for a verdict that might even exceed what you would have gotten with a negotiated settlement, especially if a sympathetic jury is presented with a vivid picture of your losses by a skilled litigator, much like the trial-tested truck accident lawyers at Hensley Legal Group.

How to Bring the Collection Notices to a Halt

You may now understand why a truck accident lawsuit might not be settled as quickly as you would like it to be. However, that understanding may not bring you much comfort when you are being deluged with collection notices regularly. What can you do to bring these notices to a halt and preserve your credit rating until your case is resolved?

The good news is that your creditors may agree to give you a break in the present day if they know that they can be repaid out of your future settlement by asserting a lien on your file.

A lien is a legal right to someone else’s assets. A debtor who owes a creditor can grant a lien to that creditor to guarantee repayment of his or her debt. The assets can be a concrete piece of property, like a debtor’s house, or they can be something less tangible from which recovery could still be drawn, like a personal injury settlement for a truck accident. The geographic location of a truck accident may dictate who is permitted to establish a lien and how to go about doing so, though creditors who could be repaid out of a truck accident settlement may include:

· Hospitals and caregivers providing treatment

· Insurance companies paying accident-related claims (like auto, health, and workers’ compensation carriers)

· Lenders approving pre-settlement loans

· Government agencies seeking delinquent child support, back taxes, and other monetary obligations

Liens are mechanisms by which you can put off repayment of the costs associated with your truck accident while you are waiting for your lawsuit to come to a resolution, which may allow you to breathe a bit easier until that day arrives.

Granted, these liens will have to be addressed before you can touch your truck accident settlement, but creditors are frequently willing to accept partial payment that is reasonable instead of holding out for full payment that they might never get. With this in mind, your lawyer may be able to negotiate your liens down considerably so that you can walk away from your truck accident lawsuit with more money in your pocket.

Nothing can ever truly prepare you for a truck accident, but with a little patience, and more than a little assistance from a capable attorney, a truck accident lawsuit can provide you with the means to become whole again.

Standing Up for the Everyday People of Indiana

If you are struggling to make ends meet after a truck accident, turn to the dedicated truck accident lawyers at Hensley Legal Group, who have been standing up for the everyday people of Indiana for more than a quarter century.

You can call or text us at (317) 472-3333, chat with us online, or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with one of our accomplished Indiana truck accident attorneys today.