One of the questions the firm gets a lot is "What is my truck accident case worth?" I wish I could say there's an easy answer to that, but as with most topics of law the answer depends on many factors. The simplest boiled-down answer we can provide is just below, but there's a great deal more nuance that we examine in the paragraphs beyond.
Answer: Many variables contribute to the valuation of a particular truck accident case, but many such cases can be very valuable if they are handled correctly.
In order to both help you figure out what your case is worth and avoid providing information that is so specific as to be inaccurate, in this article we will:
- Provide examples of cases we've resolved so you can see the broad spectrum of their values, and
- Explain the variables that affect the value of a case.
By the end of the article we hope to provide a clearer picture, or at least some helpful insights, about what a truck accident case might be worth.
We've literally represented hundreds of clients in commercial vehicle accident cases, so as you can imagine a broad range of case values have emerged over the years. The examples below were chosen because of their relevance to this topic and are neither our best nor our worst outcomes; rather, they are simply some of the most illustrative of how results can vary.
$900,000 - Back Injury with Surgery
We often cite this case because to us it perfectly illustrates the advantage of having a good lawyer on your side. The client was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler in a construction zone, in what most would consider a moderate impact. She was transported by ambulance to a hospital where they released her the same day.
During follow-up care, our client learned that her back pain was actually due to several bulging disks in her spine—a delayed but very painful effect of the crash with the 18-wheeler. She spent the better part of a year trying to negotiate with the trucking company's insurance provider, and the most they ever they offered her was $90,000. She eventually started shopping for lawyers and chose us for our track record versus stubborn insurers. By the time all was said and done, we settled her case for $900,000 and change.
$287,000 - Broken Arm
This case was relatively straightforward. Our client's vehicle was sideswiped by an 18-wheeler, causing him to break an arm. Fortunately the break was fairly minor and he didn't need surgery, just a cast on his arm for a while. His medical bills were fairly nominal and we settled his case in short order.
$7,500,000 - Wrongful Death
The accident leading up to this case was somewhat complex: An 18-wheeler sideswiped a car on the highway, and the impact sent the car out of control onto the shoulder. After leaving the travel lanes the car rear-ended a second tractor-trailer that was parked on the shoulder. The car's driver suffered fatal injuries in the accident.
While investigating on behalf of the victim's family, we found that the truck which started the whole thing did not have enough insurance coverage to adequately compensate the family for losing not only a loved one, but also a crucial source of income. The truck parked on the shoulder was covered by a far more substantial policy, but the company behind that truck maintained their innocence and fought any suggestion of liability all the way to the courthouse steps.
What eventually tipped the scales was the revelation that the parked truck driver was on the shoulder not due to a mechanical issue or emergency, but for other more, shall we say, "illicit" purposes.
$3,500,000 - Wrongful Death
In this case a gentleman in his 60s died as a result of a traumatic brain injury he sustained when he was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler in West Texas. The incident occurred in a construction zone; the trucking company argued that the construction company was to blame, but their arguments fell apart under scrutiny.
$1,025,000 - Brain Injury
A teen girl suffered a mild traumatic brain injury after the car she was a passenger in was hit head-on by an 18-wheeler. Her family originally hired an attorney to represent them in the matter, but the attorney realized he was in over his head when the defendants offered only $25,000 to settle the case at mediation.
The attorney brought our firm in to help, and our first act was to stop the mediation and regroup with a new strategy. With our assistance, the case settled several months later for significantly more than the defendants first suggested.
$575,000 - Broken Shoulder
Our client suffered a broken shoulder when an 18-wheeler made a wide right turn from a road's left lane, essentially blocking his lane of travel. We helped him hold the truck driver accountable for that dangerous traffic maneuver, and fortunately he made a full recovery.
Every one of our cases tells a story, and we could certainly re-hash many more of them, but the gist is this: The value of a case is dependent on the severity of the injuries or the damage done to relationships in case of a wrongful death.
Texan juries tend to put a lot of value on injuries and fatalities, and that means that practically speaking even a moderate truck accident is often a six-figure affair. It's also not uncommon for a fatality or catastrophic injury case to reach an eight-figure resolution.
What Determines the Value of a Case?
There are five main variables that determine the value of a case, all listed below:
Amount of Provable Losses
There are many types of losses that one can sue for in a personal injury or wrongful death case, such as pain and suffering, loss of earnings, and medical bills, just to name a few. Some of them are easy to assign a value to—if you prove you have $100,000 in lost wages, for example, you don't really have to guess what a jury might award for that.
Other types of losses are far more open to interpretation, such as pain and suffering or medical bills. You may be surprised to hear that medical bills aren't as concrete as they may seem; shouldn't it be as simple as adding up how much you owe a doctor or hospital for treatment? Well, it used to be, but Texas now has a rule called "Paid vs. Incurred" which basically means that lawyers for each side argue about the "true" cost of medical procedures. Nevertheless, one can usually get in the right ballpark for awarded damages just by adding up the provable and quantifiable losses.
Insurance Policy Limits
Imagine that an auto accident causes you $10,000,000 in losses and the person that ran a red light and hit you has $30,000 in car insurance. As a practical matter, that mean you have a case that's worth $30,000, not $10,000,000. Sure, you can sue the bad guy and the jury could make him give you what amounts to a big IOU, but if he's broke then he's broke. Realistically the only thing he may have is his $30,000 insurance policy.
Fortunately the situation is somewhat different for commercial vehicles. Federal and Texas law both impose minimum policy limits on those, to the tune of $750,000 and $1,000,000, respectively. That means if you're hit by an 18-wheeler in the state of Texas, its driver should have a mandatory minimum of a million dollars in coverage. That may not be as much as it sounds, however, as big trucks often cause devastating damages that exceed a minimum policy limits. If you have $10,000,000 in losses after a truck accident, and the truck has the minimum coverage of $1,000,000, there's still realistically a limit to what you can recover.
But wait: Can't you take money from the trucking company other than its insurance payout? Yes, absolutely—if they have any other money, and not every company does. Companies with a lot of cash on hand generally carry a lot of insurance, while those with fewer assets carry less. We've seen trucks with policies ranging from 1 million dollars to 150 million dollars, and much of the policy a given truck might have depends on the carrier who owns it.
Some communities in Texas furnish pools of jurors that are sympathetic to plaintiffs and will often render large jury verdicts. In other parts of the state, however, the total opposite is true. Despite that, people don't get to "venue shop" until they find the best place to file suit. Instead, Texas law generally forces them to file in a location that is most convenient for the defendant and/or the witnesses.
That's something of an oversimplification, but the general idea is that for reasons beyond your ability to control the value of your case can swing wildly. For example, if Bob Jones gets T-boned by an at-fault 18-wheeler at a stop sign in X County, he might get a jury verdict of $100,000 there. However, the exact same case might have been worth $500,000 in Y County.
Naturally we use every tool at our disposal to get our client's case into the court that will produce the best outcome, but for the most part this factor is wholly circumstantial.
Insurance Carrier and Defense Lawyers
Some insurance carriers are exceptionally tightfisted, while others pay fair market value. In a similar vein, some defense attorneys act in good faith but others tamper with evidence and play hardball over every minor issue.
The best solution to either problem is to take your case to trial and let the jury decide, rather than relying on the defendants to accept responsibility and do the right thing. That said, there's a long road from the accident scene to the courtroom. Some of the more combative defense lawyers can and will drag the whole thing out and make it take far longer than it should.
As you probably were able to discern from the above factors, there is a lot to argue about in a truck accident case. The amount of your losses, where the case is filed, and how aggressively you respond to potential hardball tactics by an insurance company or defense lawyers can have a major impact on the outcome of your claim, so of course the biggest factor in whether you get top or bottom dollar is the law firm you choose to stand beside you.
Grossman Law is Here To Help
As we mentioned at the start, it can be quite tricky to determine the precise value of a truck accident case. However, the Texas truck accident lawyers at Grossman Law have won so many that we can often put together a fair estimate once we know enough details. We've recovered more than our fair share of six, seven, and eight-figure settlements for a variety of injuries ranging from soft-tissue damage all the way to multiple fatalities. If you want to explore in more detail what the value of your specific truck accident may be, call any time to speak to one of our lawyers in a free and confidential consultation.