Pennsylvania Truck Accident Law & Settlements

Truck accident claims are markedly different than standard car accident lawsuits.  Truck accident lawyers face complexity with these claims that you do not see in car accident lawsuits.  If there is any takeaway from this page that you get, it should begin with someone with a history of handling car accident claims and is not necessarily a truck accident lawyer.  If you are in a truck accident, you need an experienced lawyer who knows how to handle the unique challenges of these cases to put you in the best position to maximize any truck accident settlement amount you may get as compensation for your injuries or the death of a loved one.

Pennsylvania Truck Accident Laws

In Pennsylvania, the motor vehicle laws follow a “no-fault” system for minor accidents. This means that regardless of who is at fault, individuals involved in minor accidents must turn to their own insurance companies for compensation of medical expenses and certain other economic losses, up to the limits of their personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.

However, the no-fault system doesn’t apply to severe accidents, including every truck accident claim our lawyers bring. So if you are involved in a serious truck accident, you can step outside the no-fault system and file a lawsuit against the at-fault party, often the truck driver, the trucking company, and other defendants such as brokers or sellers of the goods being transported.

Determining Fault and Liability

Determining fault in a truck accident can be more complicated than in a typical car accident. In many cases, liability may not lie solely with the truck driver but may also involve the trucking company, contractors, insurance companies, and truck manufacturers.

Truck drivers might be at fault if their negligence, such as speeding, distracted driving, or driving under the influence, caused the accident. Trucking companies can be held liable if they failed to conduct proper background checks on their drivers, encouraged violation of hours-of-service regulations, or failed to maintain their vehicles properly. Truck manufacturers or maintenance providers can be at fault if a defective or poorly maintained part contributed to the accident.

Negligence

In Pennsylvania, the legal concept of negligence plays a pivotal role in truck accident cases. To win a lawsuit, you must prove that the defendant acted negligently, their negligence directly caused the accident, and that you suffered damages as a result.

Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative negligence rule, which means that you can still recover damages even if you were partly at fault for the accident, as long as your share of fault is not greater than the defendant’s. However, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you’re found to be 20% at fault, your damage award will be reduced by 20%.

Pennsylvania Truck Accident Lawsuit Statute of Limitations

In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit, including a truck accident lawsuit, is two years from the date of the accident. If you fail to file your lawsuit within this timeframe, the court will likely refuse to hear your case, and you’ll lose your right to compensation.

Damages in Truck Accident Cases

Victims of truck accidents in Pennsylvania can seek various types of damages, including:

  • Economic Damages: These represent the quantifiable monetary losses resulting from the accident, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage.
  • Non-Economic Damages: These include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and other more subjective losses.
  • Punitive Damages: In cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly reckless or egregious, the court may award punitive damages to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.

Settlement Negotiations

After filing a lawsuit, many truck accident cases in Pennsylvania end in settlements rather than going to trial. This involves negotiations between your attorney and the defendant’s insurance company to reach an agreement on the amount of compensation you’ll receive.

During these negotiations, your attorney will present evidence of the defendant’s liability and the extent of your damages, and the insurance company will likely attempt to dispute your claims and offer a lower settlement. Having a skilled attorney can be crucial during this process to ensure your rights are protected and you receive fair compensation.

How Pennsylvania Truck Accident Settlements Are Calculated

Determining settlement amounts in truck accident cases in Pennsylvania involves several critical factors. These factors are assessed either during negotiations between the victim’s attorney and the defendant’s insurance company, or by a judge or jury if the case goes to trial. Below are the key factors considered:

  1. Liability: it all begins with a truck driver at fault for a crash.  You have to clearly establish the driver was negligent.
  2. Severity of Injuries: When negligence is established, the inquiry turns to the severity of the injuries suffered by the victim. That is the biggest driver of a Pennsylvania truck accidetn settlement amount. As you would think, more serious injuries like paralysis, traumatic brain injuries, or any injury leading to permanent disability generally result in higher compensation.
  3. Insurance or Assets: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates that all trucks maintain a minimum of $750,000 in insurance protection. Moreover, the FMCSA may also necessitate that specific trucking operations, such as those involved in car transportation, provide evidence of sufficient general liability insurance coverage. But this is not enough for many truck accident settlements in Pennsylvania.  Most trucking companies have larger insurance policies.  If they do not, you need to look to the brokers and sellers.  Again, this is something truck accident lawyers know that most car accident lawyers do not.  For example, brokers are responsible for hiring competent and qualified carriers to transport goods.  Brokers can be held liable for truck accidents if they failed to properly vet the carriers they hire.  Our lawyers have gotten settlement amounts in truck accident cases our clients never would have gotten if we did get a seller or broker to contribute to the settlement offer.
  4. Lost Income and Medical Expenses: This includes the cost of immediate medical care following the accident, ongoing treatment costs, rehabilitation expenses, and estimated future medical expenses related to the accident.If the victim’s injuries prevent them from returning to work—either temporarily or permanently—they can be compensated for lost wages and loss of earning capacity.
  5. Pain and Suffering:  This is a subset of the severity of the injuries discussed above. These are non-economic damages that compensate victims for physical pain and emotional distress caused by the accident. Calculating pain and suffering can be subjective and often depends on the specifics of the case. Pennsylvania has not cap on damages in truck accident cases.
  6. Venue: The location or venue of your truck accident case in Pennsylvania can also have a big impact on the potential settlement value. Certain jurisdictions, particularly Philadelphia County, are very plaintiff-friendly, and insurance companies factor this in when negotiating settlements.

Pennsylvania Truck Accident Settlements and Verdicts

One way to drill down on a Pennsylvania truck accident settlement amount is to look at compensation payouts in example cases.  This provides a ton of insight into how attorneys, insurance firms, and juries have assessed compensation values in claims similar to yours.  But only to a point. Example truck accident settlements and verdicts can help you better understand values but they cannot be used to definitively forecast the value of your individual case.  There are just too many variables at play.

Here are some sample cases:

$26.2 Million Verdict (Philadelphia 2024): On U.S. Route 30, a truck driver stopped on the side was rear-ended by an Ecore International Inc. tractor-trailer, claiming reckless driving and safety violations. He suffered neck, back, and concussion injuries. Despite denying recklessness, the jury, after two days of deliberations, awarded $26.2 million, including $25 million in punitive damages targeting Ecore’s conduct. The verdict vindicated the plaintiff’s decision to reject a $1.46 million settlement.

$2,530,000 Verdict (Lancaster County 2023): At a Family Dollar store in Reading, a 50-year-old truck driver was crushed by a Schneider National Inc. tractor-trailer, suffering major pelvic and sacrum fractures. He filed lawsuits against Schneider, Family Dollar, and others, citing negligence and dangerous conditions at the site. After deliberations, the jury largely blamed Family Dollar, and the truck driver was awarded $2,912,688.49, adjusted for comparative negligence.

$715,000 Settlement (Cumberland County 2023): a 21-year-old college student, suffered fatal injuries when, as he crossed a roadway on foot after checking on the driver of a vehicle that had just been struck by a vehicle driven by defendant Steven Rich, he was hit by a tractortrailer operated by defendant Duane Heilman and owned by defendant ABF Freight System Inc. The plaintiffs alleged that Rich was negligent in driving through a red light and Heilman was negligent in causing the accident in question.

$80,000 Arbitration (Philadelphia County 2022): The plaintiff stopped at an intersection when a Wawa tractor-trailer delivery truck allegedly attempted a turn, causing the trailer of the tractor-trailer to strike the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff asserted they incurred neck, back, and shoulder injuries.

$50,000 Arbitration (Philadelphia County 2022): The plaintiff was driving her vehicle northbound in the right turn lane when a northbound tractortrailer operated by defendant Robert Fruin struck her vehicle on the rear driver’s side. The plaintiff claimed she suffered injuries to her neck, back and right knee.

$19,100,000 Verdict (Philadelphia County 2021): This wrongful death action was brought when 3 people in their mid-fifties died in a multi-vehicle, chain reaction collision on an eastbound interstate, at or near a bridge maintenance project. The accident was caused by the defendant semi-truck driver rear-ending a vehicle as it stopped for traffic.

$825,000 Settlement (Philadelphia County 2021): A 25-year-old woman suffered fatal injuries when the vehicle she was a passenger in lost control, causing it to become stalled or otherwise disabled in the left travel lane of an interstate, and was subsequently struck by a tractortrailer operated by the defendant in the course and scope of his employment with defendant Lucas Trucking Corp.

$462,500 Settlement (Philadelphia County 2021): A 36-year-old female bicyclist, riding at night on a road with no bike lane, was allegedly struck and killed by a semi/tractortrailer operated by the defendant and owned by the defendant truck leasing company. The plaintiff’s estate contended the defendants were at fault for negligence, negligent hiring, training and supervision, and wrongful death.

Pennsylvania Truck Accident Statistics

The following truck accident statistics are based on the most recent data from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation which for 2021. There were just over 7,200 police-reported accidents involving big-rig or tractor-trailer trucks in Pennsylvania in 2021. That is the second-highest number of truck accidents since 2005.

Just over half (55%) of the trucking accidents in Pennsylvania in 2021 happened on state highways. Only 27% of truck accidents took place on interstate highways.

In the Pennsylvania truck accidents resulting in fatalities, only 2% of the fatalities occurred in the truck occupants. 98% of the deaths occurred in occupants of the other vehicles.

Taking a Truck Accident Lawsuit to Trial

If settlement negotiations fail, your case will proceed to trial. Here, your attorney and the defendant’s attorney will present their cases before a judge or jury, who will then decide whether the defendant is liable and, if so, how much compensation you’re entitled to.

A successful trial outcome requires strong evidence, expert testimony, and a compelling argument on your part, again underscoring the importance of experienced legal representation.

Contact Us About a Pennsylvania Truck Accident Case

If you have a Pennsylvania truck accident case involving serious personal injuries, contact our PA truck accident lawyers today at 800-553-8082.

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