A common question from our clients who were struck by a semi-truck driver is "How much should I expect to receive from my settlement?"
Fortunately, they have retained the services of an experienced Keller & Keller lawyer to help them answer this question. (There are several examples of people in our client's shoes who did NOT retain or consult with an attorney first and were left in a terrible situation because they received bad or false information from someone who does NOT have several years of actual legal experience.)
Assuming the accident was fairly recent, the answer we often give our client is "There's simply no way to know how much your claim is worth at this time." Why is that?
4 Factors for Determining the Value of a Truck Accident Claim
Semi-truck accidents are often times devastating. The injuries (both physical and emotional) are usually significant and require long-term treatment, assuming the accident didn't involve a death, which is not at all uncommon. The treatment/prognosis, medical bills, missed days at work, and pain and suffering will all be factors in determing how much your claim is worth, and the problem is that in the vast majority of instances we don't have all of the necessary information to determine the value of your case.
As stated above, the violent nature of a semi-truck accident case, coupled with the obvious mismatch of size and force, can easily leave you with injuries that require progressive, sometimes long-term treatment. And depending on whether you were lifelined and confined to an ICU, or at the very least taken by ambulance to a local hospital for evaluation, it may be several months before you and/or our office will have a clear picture regarding the totality of your injuries, whether or not they are permanent, and how it is believed they will impact your life going forward.
It's not uncommon for victims of a semi-truck accident to sustain permanent injury and receive what is known as a PPI rating, or Permanent Partial Impairment. (It's important for you to note that every state will have its own guidleines with regard to PPI ratings, so you'll want to consult with our lawyers to help you better understand the rating scales that apply to New Mexico residents.) In instances like this, a case can become worth substantially more should the rating imply that your whole body function is severely affected.
However, not every semi-truck accident claim we work for our clients will involve a PPI rating or life-altering injuries. Some clients are fortunate enought to escape traumatic injury, yet have still suffered from soft-tissue injuries and/or emotional scarring. These clients will often also have a case that Keller & Keller can evaluate and help to determine a value, but not until we have a clear summary of all the events surrounding your particular claim.
In short, treatment and prognosis will typically play a large factor in determining the value of your case, and every case, no matter how similar, will have unique medical factors involved. Retaining our services so that we can monitor your progress will be imperative so that we can help you put a dollar amount on your claim as soon as possible.
Recovering for the total of your medical bills is not only your right as a victim, it's also a large factor in determing the value of your semi-accident claim. The total bills will usually mirror the seriousness of the injuries you sustained and serve as another indicator that your claim is either more or less valuable, depending on whether the treatment was related and how long you required medical care.
(Often a client will call our offices and tell us that they've "heard from someone" that they can expect to receive a settlement that's 3x's the total of their medical bills, i.e., $100 in bills ='s a $300 settlement. This is simply untrue. Claims can be worth more or less than 3x's your medical bills depending on your individual circumstances.)
If you were employed at the time of the accident, you have the right to recover for any documented wage loss you've incurred, assuming that your doctor declared you unable to work for a specific period of time and your wage loss can indeed be documented. Self-employed clients can sometimes have a more difficult time documenting wage loss, however, our lawyer will work with you to estimate your losses as best as possible through the use of prior tax returns, etc.
Pain and Suffering:
A client's pain and suffering can vary widely depending on several factors, some of which include the client's age, injuries, loss of employment, ongoing nightmares, inability to ride in a car, and overall effect the accident had on your life. This will be the most subjective portion of your claim, and the value will directly relate to your individual circumstances.
Often times, depending on the severity of the accident and its effect on you, your lawyer might ask you to document your daily experiences through the use of a written or audio journal. This will help us better track your recovery process and submit a demand that gives the insurance company a much better picture of the problems this accident has created for you and/or your family.
As you can see determining the value of your claim is not a simple math problem. There are no two accidents that are alike, no matter how similar they may seem ont he surface, and you'll be working closely with your paralegal and lawyer for several months to help determine the highest possible value we can assign to your injury claim.