The average settlement in a vehicle collision matter is like the average price of a new car. There’s so much difference between a basic Honda and a luxury Range Rover that the “average” price is basically meaningless.
Speaking of vehicle costs, property damage is one of the largest components of an 18-wheeler accident settlement. Medical bills, which average between $50,000 and $100,000 in such cases, are usually even larger. Other components of an accident settlement include lost wages and lost personal property, including pets, in the vehicle. These victims also deserve compensation for their pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other noneconomic losses.
About the only thing for sure is that the claim will probably settle out of court. Nationwide, only about 1 percent of civil cases go to trial. Some claims settle right away. However, as outlined below, the process is usually long and rather frustrating.
An injury claim’s settlement value is like a used couch’s asking price. Both figures serve as a negotiation starting point. Whether you’re a lawyer settling an 18-wheeler accident claim or a family selling a used sofa on Craigslist, compromise is part of the process.
Newer couches in good condition usually fetch high prices. Likewise, injury claims backed by solid evidence usually have high settlement values.
Evidence could be a problem in large truck collisions. Typically, 18-wheeler wrecks are so destructive that little physical evidence remains at the scene. Fortunately, every large truck has an Event Data Recorder, a gadget which resembles the black box flight data recorder in a commercial jet. Like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, a lawyer puts the bits of information that these devices record, like vehicle speed and steering angle, together into a clear picture.
Other electronic evidence may be useful as well. Surveillance cameras often give jurors a front-row seat to a wreck. Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) measure and record driver HOS (hours of service). So, these devices are very useful in fatigued trucker claims.
The evidence in a crash claim must also be strong enough to refute contributory negligence and other common insurance company defenses. Comparative fault basically shifts blame for the wreck from the truck driver to the victim.
Other factors, like party motivation, might apply as well. If a family wants to sell a couch quickly, or a victim wants to settle a case quickly, the asking price/settlement demand may drop.
Sellers don’t list items until they’re ready to sell them, and lawyers don’t send demand letters until they’re ready to settle cases. The injuries in 18-wheeler accidents are so severe that victims usually require future medical treatment. If a lawyer settles a case before these costs are clear, the victim will almost certainly be financially responsible for them.
Therefore, most personal injury claims settle during mediation. During a special negotiation session, a third-party mediator, who’s usually an unaffiliated personal injury lawyer, ensures both sides negotiate in good faith. Making a low-ball offer isn’t negotiating in good faith. Neither is a take-it-or-leave-it offer.
As a result, civil mediation works. This process is about 90 percent successful in many jurisdictions.
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