How Insurance Companies Handle Truck Accident Claims

insurance adjuster inspecting wrecked 18-wheeler on the side of a road
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18-wheeler wrecks can be all-out disasters. 18-wheelers are huge and difficult to manage. When up to 80,000 pounds of metal and cargo (perhaps hazardous) hurtles at passenger cars, motorcycles, and pedestrians, the damages can be catastrophic and the victims numerous.

For that reason, truck drivers are expected to have specialized training and certifications, and trucking companies are expected to carry a minimum of insurance on their drivers that far exceeds the usual minimums on, say, a passenger car. Yet, these minimums haven’t been updated in almost 40 years.

Inflation and the skyrocketing costs of healthcare have created a situation. The cost of victims’ medical bills can easily surpass those insurance coverage minimums, leaving multiple victims battling trucking company lawyers and insurance adjusters for compensation. It can be scary and overwhelming, but we’ll let you in on some tricks these bigwigs might use to limit their liability.

Luckily, there is a truck accident attorney like Patrick Daniel to fight for your losses. If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed in an 18-wheeler wreck, you need someone who cares and has the experience and skill to go up against trucking and insurance companies.

Call Patrick Daniel Law at (713) 999-6666 today for a FREE consultation. We serve clients in Houston, all of Texas, and throughout the United States.

What Insurance Is Required for Trucking?

Due to the severity of injuries and vast destruction of property involved in 18-wheeler wrecks, federal and state safety regulations have been implemented. These regulations ensure that truck drivers are trained and qualified and that trucking companies are properly insured.

Section 383.1 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) attempts to ensure that those driving large commercial trucks are qualified, licensed, and safe. This statute:

  • “Establishes testing and licensing requirements for commercial motor vehicle operators” (§ 383.1(b)(6)).
  • “Requires States to give knowledge and skills tests to all qualified applicants for commercial drivers’ licenses” (§ 383.1(b)(7)).
  • “Prohibits an employer from allowing a person with a suspended license to operate a commercial motor vehicle” (§ 383.1(b)(4)).
  • Requires that drivers provide their employers with previous employment information and notify them of certain convictions, among other things.

Education, licensing, and strict standards are a good start to limiting driver negligence, but accidents will still happen. Due to the sheer magnitude of potential damages in an 18-wheeler wreck, trucking companies are also required, under § 387.9 of the FMCSR, to carry a minimum level of insurance coverage for large commercial trucks. These federally required minimum liability limits are split into four categories:

  • “For-hire (In interstate or foreign commerce, with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds),” carrying nonhazardous property
    • $750,000 minimum
  • “For-hire and Private (In interstate, foreign, or intrastate commerce, with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds),” carrying hazardous substances
    • $5 million minimum
  • “For-hire and Private (In interstate or foreign commerce, in any quantity; or in intrastate commerce, in bulk only; with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds),” carrying oil or hazardous waste, materials, or substances
    • $1 million minimum
  • “For-hire and Private (In interstate or foreign commerce, with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 10,001 pounds),” carrying hazardous materials
    • $5 million minimum

These minimums were set on January 1st, 1985. Almost 40 years later, they just don’t cut it. One victim’s medical bills over time could easily reach $750,000. In a multi-vehicle accident, that minimum could be exceeded quickly, making the trucking company and insurance adjusters much more eager to settle for less than a claim is worth.

Read More: Average 18-Wheeler Accident Settlement

How Does Truck Accident Insurance Work?

18-wheeler insurance works the same as your car insurance, just with higher minimums. The trucking company pays a premium to the insurance company, and the insurer is responsible for paying out on claims.

Premiums will increase if the trucking company is liable for the accident, as they often do with car insurance. Since 18-wheeler wrecks tend to have multiple victims with more serious injuries and property damage than in a two-car collision, the claims are often much larger. This motivates the claims adjuster to convince a victim to settle for a smaller amount and forfeit the option to sue.

Tips on Dealing with the Insurance Company Handling Your 18-Wheeler Wreck

Don’t ever doubt that an insurance company’s primary concern is its own bottom line. They want to settle quickly, before any long-term health issues arise, and will employ whatever tactics they can to keep their payouts below the claim’s actual value. Combine this with the trucking company’s desire to avoid responsibility and keep their premiums down, and you’re fighting two powerful entities just to get fair compensation for your losses.

Don’t Accept Apologies as Payment

After you’ve been in a horrifying 18-wheeler wreck or lost a family member to one, kind words can be a soothing salve. However, insurance adjusters are trained to use their words to convince you to settle for less than you deserve.

Studies have found that an apology from a defendant that has wronged a victim can result in the victim accepting a smaller amount for their suffering. When it comes to legal settlements, Jennifer K. Robbennolt’s study published in Court Review found “there were circumstances under which claimants who received an apology had lower aspirations and set lower values for their judgments about what would be a fair settlement value.”

The trucking company’s claims adjuster may attempt to get in touch with you as soon as possible, offering what could sound like a great deal of money. They aim to use their seeming apologies to get you to accept their lowball settlement. And if you do, they’ll also have you sign a document that waives your right to sue the company.

In these cases, it is crucial that you have a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer in your corner. Always consult your attorney before accepting a settlement offer. They can advise you on how to handle the insurance company’s representatives and help you pursue the appropriate compensation for your accident.

Watch What You Say

The trucking company’s claims adjuster is listening. They may seem genuinely worried about you, but they really want to hear that obligatory “fine, thanks” when they ask how you’re doing. That “fine” can later haunt you in settlement negotiations or in court.

The trucking company’s adjuster might also ask you to make a formal statement after the accident. DO NOT make a statement without consulting your lawyer. These statements are not required and could be used against you in court. The claims adjusters will ask you leading questions to shift blame for the accident and/or minimize the seriousness of your injuries.

It’s unfortunate that you have to be so guarded after you’ve already been through a shocking life event. That’s one of the many reasons it can be invaluable to have an experienced truck accident attorney in your corner.

Your Insurance Company Is Not Your Lawyer

Your insurance company wants to pay out as little as possible, so they may go to bat for you liability-wise. It is beneficial to them if you are not responsible for the accident. However, they are still always looking out for their best interest. If you need an advocate, look to an experienced, empathetic truck accident attorney.

A truck accident lawyer is there to pursue compensation for you. They don’t make a dime unless you make several. We know the medical bills, paperwork, and phone calls are overwhelming, especially if you are recovering from an injury or mourning the loss of a loved one. Put your trust in the people who want what’s best for you, not those who pretend to care but only have their own bottom line in mind.

Read More: Do I Need a Lawyer After a Truck Accident? 

Contact a Houston 18-Wheeler Wreck Lawyer Today

Even if the truck driver and trucking company are clearly at fault, collecting fair compensation in 18-wheeler wrecks can be agony. Don’t do it alone.

If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one in an accident with a large commercial truck, call a lawyer to preserve your right to pursue maximum compensation for your losses. The team at Patrick Daniel Law will go on the offensive against all liable parties. Whether we can achieve a favorable settlement or have to go to court, we are with you every step of the way.

Contact us today for a free review of your truck accident case. Our law firm serves clients in trucking accidents throughout the Greater Houston area, all of Texas, and the United States.

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