Most truck accidents take a few weeks or a few months to settle. In rare cases, settlement negotiations drag on for years. Nevertheless, no two truck accident claims are alike, and no honest lawyer will offer you a guaranteed result. Consequently, this post explains the relevant factors so that you can apply them to your particular case.
Factors That Affect the Time It Takes To Settle
The following factors all play a role in the time it takes you to settle an 18-wheeler accident claim.
How Long It Takes You To Reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
MMI is the point determined by your doctor at which further medical treatment is unlikely to improve your condition. This might mean you made a full recovery, or it might mean that you suffer permanent disability. An 18-wheeler accident could cause catastrophic injuries that will require lifetime medical treatment. Alternatively, you might reach MMI after a few days, weeks, months, or years.
Since it will be difficult for you to calculate your damages before MMI, it is best to delay negotiating a settlement until you reach MMI. Of course, if waiting until you reach MMI will cause you to miss the statute of limitations deadline for filing a lawsuit, you will have no choice but to estimate your future expenses and negotiate your claim accordingly. This might require the help of an expert.
The Size of Your Claim
Put yourself in the shoes of the opposing party. Wouldn’t you fight harder to avoid paying a large claim than to avoid paying a small one? The larger the amount of your claim, the more resistance you can expect.
Your Lawyer’s Negotiating Skill
The vast majority of 18-wheeler accident claims settle—only a small percentage go to trial. That means you (or your lawyer) will probably negotiate your claim rather than litigate it. Insurance adjusters are skilled negotiators, but so are the best personal injury lawyers. Don’t underestimate the influence of negotiating skills on the time it takes to settle your claim.
Whether Negligence Per Se Applies
Negligence per se is a shortcut to proving negligence. It applies if you prove that the truck driver violated a safety regulation. Without negligence per se, you would have to prove that the driver acted in a manner that a “reasonably prudent” driver would not have. Precisely what constitutes “reasonably prudent?” Usually, that is a question for a jury to decide or for negotiators to debate.
Violating a safety regulation removes ambiguity from your negligence claim because, in most cases, New York treats negligence as automatic once you prove the truck driver violated a safety regulation. However, proving negligence per se doesn’t win your claim on its own. You must still prove that you suffered damages caused by the regulatory violation.
The Weight of the Evidence
The stronger your evidence, the easier it is to win your claim, and the quicker you are likely to settle it. After all, if your evidence is strong, the opposing party won’t want to risk losing at trial.
In many cases, however, the defendant holds critical evidence you need to win. A commercial truck, for example, contains an event data recorder that records essential data about the accident.
To obtain evidence in the opposing party’s possession, you might have to file a lawsuit, commence the pretrial discovery process, demand access to the missing evidence, appeal to the court if the defendant refuses to provide it, and examine the evidence. All of this can take several weeks.
Your claim will become more complicated if the accident was partly your fault. A court will divide liability based on each party’s percentage of fault. In settlement negotiations, you will have to agree with the opposing party on how a court will likely distribute compensation.
This calculation might require some haggling, and haggling takes time. Even if you were not at fault, the opposing party will probably try to pin at least some of the blame on you.
A Seasoned Personal Injury Lawyer Can Multiply Your Compensation
The Insurance Research Council estimates that injury victims who hire lawyers end up with about 3.5 times as much compensation as victims who represent themselves. This amount is enough to pay your legal fees and still leaves you with much more compensation than you would obtain if you represented yourself. Hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer is a good investment.
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