A truck collision can happen anytime and anywhere, and the resulting injuries are often severe. Property damage, too, can be extensive, as smaller automobiles are vulnerable to the weight and size of a truck. The injuries and property damage can have lasting effects on the victims, both mental and physical.
If you have been in an accident, do not go through the after-effects alone. The crash may have been due to the truck driver's actions or lack thereof. Whether or not you think you have a valid case, seek legal counsel from a skilled truck accident injury lawyer. An attorney may find that you qualify to sue the responsible party for various damages.
The Three Types of Damages You Can Sue for in a Truck Accident Case
If you are involved in a truck accident and sustain injuries or losses, you can sue for three kinds of damages: special, general, and punitive. Some states may have caps on these damages, but California does not limit what you can recover for any of these damages.
Generally, when you file a truck collision lawsuit to collect damages, you must prove the at-fault party's negligence and your damages by demonstrating that:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care, such as driving cautiously.
- They violated that duty; for example, they failed to stop.
- Their violation of the duty of care was the direct reason for the crash.
- You suffered damages as a direct consequence of their violation of the duty of care.
The lawsuit you file is an official complaint that adheres to court guidelines and requirements. You are the plaintiff, while the negligent party is the defendant. In the complaint, you explain the liability matters and ask for special, general, and, if applicable, punitive damages. You need a lawyer's help filing your complaint. The lawyer can help you with legal and technical matters and maximize your recovery.
Special or Economic Damages
Special damages can easily be proven. They represent actual, tangible, and easily calculable losses you suffered in the accident. Evidence of these damages may include documentation such as wage statements and paid invoices. Types of economic damages you can sue for include:
You can pursue damages for any medical expenses you incur during recovery. ER visits and hospitalization mean a costly bill. The average charge to stay in a hospital in the U.S. is approximately $2,600 daily, and some hospitals charge more. Specific medication and procedures, X-rays and diagnostic tests, doctor visits, and lab work may add to your list of expenses.
Also, you may have to pay for occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and other future medical bills. You can recover ongoing, past, and future medical expenses if you prove the defendant was at fault.
Past and Future Lost Wages Due to Missed Work Days
Your injury may result in you missing work for weeks or days. Not earning your wages makes life challenging, especially when paying bills and groceries. You could claim lost wages if you were not to blame for the crash.
Lost wages compensate for all the income you lost due to missing work, which you would have earned were it not for the accident. If you do not work for one month due to your injuries, you can sue for the actual wages you would have made. If you earn bonuses or tips, you can also sue for them.
Past and future lost income should be the kind of damages to which you can allocate a fixed dollar amount. In short, your lost income is what you did not earn between the date you sustained your accident-related injury and the date you either resumed work fully or resolved your case. Pay stubs will help prove how much your lost wages should be.
Lost or Diminished Earning Capacity
Severe, debilitating truck accident injuries can prevent you from returning to work in the same capacity as before the collision. Or, you may return to work in the same capacity but be limited to doing only specific duties. For example, due to your injury, you may not be able to do the heavy lifting as before, as your job description demands.
In both cases, you can sue for lost or diminished earning capacity. If you will miss out on promotions or must transition to a new low-paying line of work, you could factor in reduced wages when suing for lost or diminished earning capacity.
You may need help from an occupational expert to calculate an accurate amount for lost or diminished earning capacity. The value of diminished or reduced earning capacity can be determined by factoring in your age, health, vocational training, occupational skills, talents, and life expectancy. An experienced truck accident attorney will also guide you through suing for lost or diminished earning capacity, as these damages are critically essential for your future well-being and financial recovery.
Out-of-pocket costs are any expenses you pay out of your pocket related to the truck accident. They are costs you pay during your recovery that you would not have incurred were it not for the injuries from your accident. Most people overlook out-of-pocket expenses when seeking to recover damages. Sadly, it means they will not receive the full value of their personal injury claim. Examples of out-of-pocket expenses include:
- Modifications to the vehicle and home.
- Travel expenses.
- Household and childcare services.
- Vehicle removal and storage: your vehicle was likely towed and stored after the accident if you could not drive it home. These services cost cash.
- Nursing and personal care: if you cannot dress, bathe, or feed yourself, you may need someone to take care of you and pay them from your pocket.
If you sustain severe injuries following a truck collision, there is a high chance your car was seriously damaged too. In that case, you will likely need to pay an auto repair shop to fix your car. In many cases, big trucks easily total smaller vehicles. If that were the case, you would have to spend cash to buy an entirely new car.
If you did not resolve your claim for property damage with the liable driver's insurance company, you could include it when you file your suit. As much as you may have cherished your automobile, it is easy to forget to include it in your insurance claim when severely injured.
If you have been in an accident with a semi- or large truck, your injuries often come before your destroyed vehicle. Your car does not seem that important when you are in an ER or ambulance. The car will concern you even less when you are released from the hospital to recuperate at home. That is particularly true if you are experiencing pain and cannot drive.
Sometimes the Insurer Does Not Make a Just Settlement for Your Vehicle
Sometimes auto damage claims go unresolved as the insurance company tries to pay a small amount. This frequently occurs with inexperienced insurance adjusters who do not see the bigger picture. An experienced insurance adjuster understands that offering a generous settlement for property damage shows goodwill. They sometimes offer more than an automobile is valued at to minimize future disagreements when it is time to negotiate the injury claim.
When an insurance company is not reasonable in seeking to settle your claim for property damage, it usually becomes an obstacle that impacts future negotiations. When filing your lawsuit, your lawyer can always include that you seek compensation for vehicle damage.
When your pet suffers injuries while riding in your vehicle, you could sue for its treatment expenses. Pets are deemed personal property; therefore, you usually cannot recover compensation for their suffering and pain. So, if they sustain an injury, the negligent party should be liable for the veterinary expenses and related bills. Your lawyer can recover these costs from the at-fault party’s insurance company or by filing a suit.
Personal Effects and Property
When your vehicle is seriously damaged, everything in it is usually destroyed or damaged. If you are like most motorists, you bring along personal belongings and effects like a smartphone, purse, briefcase, laptop, and newly bought items. And if you wear eyeglasses, a collision impact can eject them from your face, breaking them. Even your wristwatch could be damaged during a truck collision.
Although these costs appear minor, they can add up to a substantial amount. If the insurer did not compensate you for these items, your lawyer could include them in your suit under property damage. Keep all the receipts, as they will assist you in calculating the compensation amount you deserve.
General or Non-Economic Damages
General damages compensate for the intangible loss you suffered from the truck accident. They are more subjective and challenging to prove than special damages. Usually, no bill supports your claim, and the court may require expert testimony. Nevertheless, general damages are actual and can represent a significant part of your recovery. Types of non-economic damages for which you can sue include:
Pain and Suffering
The damages for pain and suffering compensate victims for the physical, mental, and emotional anguish the crash and resulting injuries caused. You may be eligible for these damages if you experience chronic pain, depression, anxiety, or stress. Your attorney will use your rehabilitation and medical therapy records and statements that corroborate your current condition and anticipated recovery plan to understand the value of future and current pain and suffering.
Diminished Quality of Life
Severe injuries can negatively affect you mentally and physically. For example, you may be incapable of doing daily duties you could perform before the crash. Another effect is the change in your emotional health. For example, you may experience less joy in your favorite activities, and depression may develop. In that case, you can sue for the reduced quality of life.
If you have permanent injuries or scars from your truck accident, you can sue for the disfigurement you have suffered. Even though you may not suffer monetary losses due to permanent mobility impairment or scarring, it can substantially change your life.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life
When you sustain injuries after a truck collision, you may be incapable of doing the activities you used to enjoy. You may have long-term or short-term interruptions to your usual routine. For example, if you can no longer play a musical instrument or go skiing as you did before the accident, you can sue for damages for the loss of enjoyment in these activities.
Other types of non-economic damages you can recover include:
- Emotional distress.
- Permanent or temporary disabilities and the rehab required to cope with them.
- Loss of companionship.
- Loss of cognitive function.
- Loss of motor function.
The general damages part of your lawsuit is where your lawyer factors in your lifestyle, recovery, and emotional changes. They may consider medical reports and treatment histories to substantiate general damages, for example:
- Your rehab and medication histories provide clues concerning pain and suffering. When you are injured and do not take pain medication or stop seeing the doctor, it will devalue your pain and suffering claim.
- Counselors and psychologists help substantiate the value of general damages depending on their observations of your psychological and emotional issues and documented concerns.
- Medical reports raise awareness of issues and conditions foreign to those who do not regularly assess injury-related damages.
- Sometimes medical reports also document what your lawyer, the jury, and the insurance company already know as inherently painful conditions.
- Treatment notes, surgical accounts, and doctor reports can help verify the degree of your injuries and estimate your discomfort and pain levels.
The court rarely awards punitive damages in truck accident lawsuits since the law necessitates evidence of the negligent party's indifference or reckless disregard towards other people's welfare to a high enough extent to constitute deliberate misconduct.
These damages are not awarded to reimburse the victim for their loss but to punish the negligent party and discourage similar conduct from others. However, when the court awards punitive damages, they could be substantial. You should have a lawyer review your case to determine whether you qualify to sue for punitive damages.
Wrongful Death Damages
The last consideration after any truck accident is whether your loved one died. If that is the case, you can sue for wrongful death damages. Generally, you are entitled to all lawfully recoverable damages due to the negligent party's actions. Your wrongful death settlement can include the following:
- Burial and funeral costs.
- Loss of earnings and financial support.
- If the deceased succumbed to their injuries a few days after an accident, you may recover medical expenses accumulated during that period.
- Loss of spousal and parental services.
- Loss of consortium.
- Loss of companionship, protection, and counsel.
- The pain and suffering the deceased experienced before their death.
- Loss of emotional support.
Note that not everyone is allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit after a loved one's death. Only a few people are eligible, including:
- The deceased's surviving spouse or domestic partner.
- The decedent's children.
- The deceased's grandchildren, if all the children are deceased.
- Siblings or parents of the deceased.
- The deceased's grandparents.
- Minors who lived in the decedent's household and depended on the decedent for financial support.
- Other parties who would be entitled to the decedent's property under California's law of intestate succession.
Speak to your attorney before filing your wrongful death lawsuit to determine your eligibility.
In a wrongful death claim, you are required to prove that:
- The wrongful action would have qualified the deceased to sue the negligent party for damages had they not died.
- There are qualified survivors eligible for a share of the damages.
- Financial damages resulted from the deceased's death.
If you are the personal representative of the deceased's estate, you can file a survival action lawsuit seeking compensation for the decedent's estate for two kinds of losses:
- Damages for the injury that led to the demise, as long as the deceased survived those injuries for at least a short period (regardless of how short).
- Damages not related to the demise and for which the decedent had the right to sue as of the date of demise.
Unfortunately, with the death of your loved one, insurance providers and their attorneys know it is not the time you wish to fight for compensation. They will exploit your emotional and mental vulnerability, confusing and delaying the settlement process, hoping you will accept a low settlement. Contact a truck accident lawyer experienced in wrongful death cases who will fight for you and leave you to your physical and emotional recovery.
Find an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney Near Me
Recovering fair compensation after a truck collision is not easy, whether you decide to file a lawsuit or settle an insurance claim. Either action you take, knowing what damages to claim or sue for, and the compensation amount you deserve is a good start. Consequently, never file a claim or lawsuit without a truck collision attorney assessing your losses and advising you on your legal rights. Sometimes taking a case to trial can be daunting, but it is the only way to recover the full extent of your damages.
At the Truck Accident Injury Attorney Law Firm, we boast attorneys with several years of experience with truck accident cases. We understand the specific challenges these cases come with and how we can resolve them through negotiations, settlement, or suing the negligent party. Do not hesitate to call us at 888-511-3139 for a consultation if you have been involved in a truck accident anywhere in California.