Auto accidents in general can result in severe and life-altering injuries. But when an auto accident involves a big rig, the outcome can be devastating for the occupants of the passenger vehicle.
Due to the size and weight of semi-trucks, it is not uncommon for truck accident victims to sustain debilitating injuries and to require extensive and ongoing medical care and rehabilitation. Though not an exhaustive list, some common types of trucking accident injuries include spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, lacerations, broken bones, internal injuries, paralysis, and even death. Of the approximately 510,000 reportable truck crashes that occur each year, about one percent — or 4,479 — are fatal and another 29 percent — or 114,000 — result in serious injuries.
Given these statistics, it is not unthinkable that you may have sustained serious and life-changing injuries in your accident. If you did, you may be able to pursue compensation for your damages via a trucking accident claim. The types of damages and amount of compensation you may recover depend largely on the type of damages you sustained, the extent of your injuries, and to what degree they affect your life. By partnering with an experienced Indiana trucking accident lawyer, you can be sure to recover full and fair compensation.
The 6 Types of Damages Available in Indiana Trucking Accident Claims
Generally, there are six types of damages you may recover in an Indiana auto accident claim, whether it involves a tractor-trailer or not. Those are as follows:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Punitive damages
Medical expenses are the most common and straightforward type of damages you can recover via an Indiana truck accident claim. Compensation for medical expenses should cover everything from the initial emergency room treatment to your hospital stay to the cost of prescriptions. It should also cover physical therapy costs, chiropractic care, medical devices, and in-home care.
In addition to compensation for past medical expenses, you may also be able to recover for future medical expenses. It is not uncommon for accident victims to require ongoing care for years following their crashes, if not for the rest of their lives. You should refrain from accepting a settlement until you have peace of mind that it includes all possible future expenses in addition to those you already incurred.
If your injuries require you to miss out on work for any length of time — whether it is for a couple of days, a few weeks, or even several years — you may be able to recover compensation for lost wages. You can also claim lost wages if your injuries required you to reduce your hours to part-time. However, to have a successful lost wages claim, your doctor must indicate in your medical records that you either cannot return to work due to your injuries, or that your injuries hinder you from working part-time. If you failed to or refuse to go to the doctor, you will have no evidence that you qualify for lost wages and, therefore, may have to forfeit your right to these types of damages.
Loss of Earning Capacity
Many times, accident victims can still work but, because of their injuries, are limited in the type of work they can do. If this is the case with you, and if the jobs you can perform pay significantly less than the position you held pre-injury, you may be able to cite loss of earning capacity in your claim. The amount you stand to recover for these types of damages depends on how much you earned pre-injury and how much you can earn now. If your claim is successful, the insurance company or jurors may award you the difference between your pre-injury and post-injury earnings, for the amount of time your earning capacity is impaired.
It is important to note that your ability to recover for loss of earning capacity depends on the type of injury you sustained and how or whether it affects your ability to perform your pre-injury job. For instance, if you were a gym teacher and you lost the use of your legs, your ability to continue to teach gym becomes greatly diminished.
However, if you have always held a desk job, the loss of use of your legs does not greatly interfere with your work, meaning you may not have a successful claim for loss of earning capacity.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering refers to the level and expected duration of pain you experience as a result of your injuries. Because pain and suffering is subjective, the law considers it a “non-economic” damage, meaning there are no receipts or standard prices to guide the awarding of compensation for these types of losses. Moreover, a universal formula does not exist to help the courts. For these reasons, it is very helpful to consult with an experienced attorney to determine what your pain and suffering claim might be worth.
Many accident victims — particularly victims of such catastrophic accidents as truck accidents — live with severe psychological distress following the incident. This distress can cause depression, anxiety, headaches, difficulty sleeping, lack of energy, trouble concentrating and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. It can also prevent one from getting behind the wheel again.
Just like physical injuries, emotional injuries require adequate treatment. If you suffer emotional injuries, you may be able to pursue compensation for those injuries and the losses that stem from them.
In cases in which a trucker’s conduct was egregious — meaning the conduct was so negligent that it was either intentional or outrageous — the jurors may award punitive damages. Unlike the other categories of damages, the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant rather than compensate the victim. The courts also use punitive damages to make examples out of particularly reckless individuals.
Indiana law places caps on punitive damages. Per Indiana Code § 34-51-3-4, juries may not award more than three times the amount of compensatory damages or $50,000, whichever is greater. However, only a portion of punitive damages are awarded to the injured party.
Why Work With an Experienced Indiana Trucking Accident Attorney
Though the law entitles you to recover these types of damages, there is no guarantee that you will recover under each category, or that you will be able to recover at all. For this reason, it is imperative that you do not approach the legal process without legal help. A skilled and aggressive trucking accident lawyer in Indiana understands personal injury law and how it may apply to your situation. Furthermore, he or she can help you understand your rights, assert your rights and advise you on everything you need to do to increase your chances of recovering the maximum amount of compensation.
If you or a loved one sustained serious injuries in a trucking accident in Indiana, do not hesitate. Contact Hensley Legal Group for the representation and advocacy you need and deserve. You can schedule your free case review online or by calling our office at (317) 943-3897 today.