Truck accidents often cause a lot of damage, which is unsurprising when you consider the fact that they can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Unfortunately, the damage that does occur is often to other vehicles on the road. Passenger vehicles and even pickup trucks don’t stand a chance against an 18-wheeler, and they usually bear the brunt of the damages caused by an accident with a tractor-trailer.
Of course, when this does happen, and it was caused by the negligence of the truck driver or another party, the accident victim should not be responsible for the damages caused as a result. After all, they might be facing hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in medical bills, property damage, and lost pay from time away from work.
These types of damages – actual bills in the mail that must be paid – are what we call special damages or economic damages. But there are other types of damages that aren’t economic, including pain and suffering damages and punitive damages.
Pain and suffering refers to mental stress and anxiety, such as PTSD or depression, that is caused by an accident. These kinds of damages can be serious and diminish one’s quality of life. This is why the law allows truck accident victims to seek compensation.
Punitive damages, on the other hand, are more about the negligent party than the victim. They are designed to punish defendants who acted in an egregious way in causing the accident. Examples of this conduct include drunk driving or having an intent to cause harm.
Let’s take a closer look at the different types of compensation you might be eligible for below, including punitive damages.
But first, if you have been in a serious truck accident in Ohio, don’t hesitate to reach out to the attorneys at Colombo Law for a free case review. We are passionate about helping accident victims obtain the compensation they need and deserve after being involved in accidents, and we’d be happy to sit down to discuss your situation. Get in touch to learn more.
Actual Damages After a Truck Accident
Calculating economic damages might sound straightforward, but there’s more to it than simply breaking out a calculator and doing the math.
When negotiating with insurance companies or making a case in court, you will need to be able to prove that the amount you’re asking for is correct and tied to real expenses. This means you need to keep all of your medical records, vehicle reports, and whatever else you can gather to establish proof for each and every cent you are requesting in compensation.
And yet, it gets more complicated still.
Sometimes, when an injury is serious, the dollar amount you ask for might include estimates for future costs, such as the cost of ongoing physical therapy. To determine this amount, you’ll need to rely on the opinions of expert witnesses and proven calculation methods.
If you don’t do this, it will be very easy for insurance lawyers to poke holes in your case, hurting your chance of receiving the compensation you need and deserve.
This is one of the many reasons it’s so beneficial to work with an experienced, trusted truck accident attorney who can guide your case, front the bill, and fight for your rights.
Sometimes, truck accident victims attempt to handle their cases on their own. However, doing so means you could be missing out on potential compensation.
Pain and Suffering Damages After a Truck Accident
We’ve spent enough time with truck accident victims to know that you don’t really understand what it’s like unless you’ve dealt with it yourself. A truck accident is often the most traumatic experience that a person will face in their lives, and it can lead to some serious issues – both physical and psychological.
If you or a loved one is dealing with this, it makes sense for the person or persons responsible for the accident to pay for its ramifications, even if it isn’t a physical injury. After all, managing the psychological effects of an accident can also cost money in therapy, medication, and other expenses. As with physical damages, truck accident victims should not be required to pay for the costs associated with this pain and suffering on their own.
And yet, this doesn’t mean you won’t have to prove that the pain and suffering exists. Unlike physical injuries, psychological injury is not visible, meaning you’ll likely need mental health professionals to testify to the reality of your pain and suffering.
In addition, it’s important that truck accident victims don’t act in a way that is contrary to their claims of pain and suffering. If, for example, you claim that the accident has irreparably harmed your quality of life, but then shortly thereafter post pictures of fun events and activities you were involved in on Facebook, this could be used as evidence against you in court.
Punitive Damages After A Truck Accident
Unlike other forms of damages, punitive damages aren’t related to a real cost – past or future – that an accident victim incurs. Instead, they are related to the nature of the negligence that led to the accident, generally when the defendant acted in a way that was intentional, malicious, or reckless.
Simply put, it’s about punishing the defendant above and beyond the economic costs associated with the accident, with the goal of discouraging others from engaging in the same behavior in the future:
- If the defendant is the truck driver, this could entail acts such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which – especially for truck drivers – is an extremely reckless, dangerous thing to do.
- If the defendant is the trucking company, punitive damages could come into play if the company showed a pattern of dangerous behavior, such as routinely encouraging drivers to break the law and stay on the road longer than they’re allowed.
- If the defendant is a parts manufacturer, punitive damages may be awarded if the company knowingly released defective parts to the market, resulting in unsafe semi trucks.
- If the defendant is a third-party mechanic or fleet maintenance garage, punitive damages may be available if the owner knowingly hired unqualified workers to work on big rigs or used faulty parts and fluids to save money on inventory.
- If the defendant is responsible for loading cargo on a truck that tipped over or crashed due to poorly balanced or secured freight, punitive damages may be recoverable if the company fails to train workers on the proper way to load trucks and/or uses worn straps and other devices.
Insurance companies and big corporations do not like punitive damages. After all, not only is the amount of money they have to pay as part of these judgments often steep, but such a finding for the plaintiff casts an unflattering light on the actions of the company.
Trucking accidents tend to be a complex web of negligence, rather than the error of a single person. In order to attain all of the damages you deserve for your injuries, it is crucial to work with a law firm that has the experience and resources to investigate all of the “links in the chain” that led to the crash.
Choosing a Truck Accident Lawyer
Finding the right truck accident lawyer can feel a bit daunting to some, but it’s important not to wait. The sooner you start working with an attorney, the more likely you are to win your case.
A few vital things a good truck accident lawyer will do for you:
- Prepare your case: Most truck accident victims don’t have a good sense of how likely they are to receive compensation for an accident, how much that compensation should be, or how hard they should push insurance companies. It’s something that takes a good deal of experience to handle correctly, which most accident victims simply don’t have.
- Find and collect all relevant evidence: As discussed above, it’s vital to an accident case to be able to back up all of your claims with hard evidence. This includes medical bills, estimates from expert witnesses, accident reconstruction, visual demonstrations, and more.
- Negotiate with insurance companies: Claims adjusters are very good at making accident victims feel safe and comfortable, but make no mistake – their number one goal is to pay you as little as possible in compensation. The same is true of insurance lawyers, who will do what they can to fight your claim for compensation. Oftentimes, this means you will need to negotiate to attempt to settle your claim. Handling these negotiations properly and understanding your rights can be complicated, and whether or not you should accept a settlement or file a lawsuit can be a difficult decision. A lawyer will be able to analyze the strengths of your case to determine how to handle insurance companies while also knowing whether you should accept an offer or go to court.
- Hold the guilty party (or parties) responsible: One of the reasons truck accident cases can get so complicated is because of the number of parties that can be involved in them. The defendant could be the truck driver, the trucking company, or a parts manufacturer. It could even be the government if the accident was caused by hazardous road conditions that should have been fixed. Figuring out responsibility and making sure that the right person or persons are held accountable is difficult to manage without an attorney, but it is absolutely vital to the success of your case.
Ultimately, our goal at Colombo Law is to help accident victims make the right decisions, manage the legwork and heavy lifting for them, and represent them in negotiations or court. Nobody should have to handle the financial and emotional difficulties from an accident they didn’t cause, and we’re here to make sure our clients receive maximum compensation.
For a free case review, reach out to our attorneys in Columbus, Ohio, today at (614) 362-7000. We are happy to sit down to discuss your situation, including what you should do next.