Chapter Three What Damages Can I Recover In My Truck Crash Case And Who Can I Recover From?
A truck accident can leave survivors with expensive medical bills, loss of work and wages, permanent injuries with chronic symptoms, and pain and suffering. All these damages can continue in the future as well. Injuries can be life-changing and there can be other costs related to a truck crash as well. To determine what damages a person is entitled to, we look to a state’s damages law. We file our cases in state court and usually fight removal to federal court. We have litigated cases in states all across the country. In each state, the damage law is usually condensed most relevantly in a jury instruction. These are court-approved instructions given to juries accurately stating the law. Using Missouri and Illinois jury instructions will illustrate the variety of possible damages for which you can recover.
The Missouri Approved Jury Instructions state, “If you find in favor of the plaintiff, then you must award plaintiff such sum as you believe will fairly and justly compensate the plaintiff for any damages you believe plaintiff sustained [and is reasonably certain to sustain in the future] as a direct result of the occurrence mentioned in the evidence.” (MAI 4.01 [2002 Revision]). The Missouri Supreme Court has explained, “It is Missouri’s well-settled rule that a plaintiff is entitled to full compensation for past or present injuries that the plaintiff has shown by a preponderance of the evidence were caused by the defendant.” Swartz v. Gale Webb Transp. Co., 215 S.W.3d 127, 130-31 (MO.Banc 2007).
The Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions state, “If you decide for the plaintiff on the question of liability, you must then fix the amount of money which will reasonably and fairly compensate him for any of the following elements of damages proved by the evidence to have resulted from the [negligence] [wrongful conduct] [of the defendant], [taking into consideration (the nature, extent, and duration of the injury) (and) (the aggravation of any pre-existing ailment or condition)]. (IPI 30.01). The elements of damages are then listed in IPI 30.04 through IPI 30.20 as follows: disfigurement; disability/loss of normal life; increased risk of future harm; shortened life expectancy; past and future pain and suffering; emotional distress; past and future medical expenses; past and future loss of earnings or profits; past and future caretaking expenses; damage to personal property; and damage to real property. Illinois damage instructions contain more detail and guidance for juries in assessing damages.
I understand that reading the Missouri and Illinois jury instructions can be cumbersome, but here is the main takeaway: when you have been injured in a truck crash, you should be compensated for all of your injuries and expenses resulting from the negligence of the truck driver and the trucking company. Not just 50% or 75%. The damages available for claimants in a truck crash case are medical bills or expenses, lost wages or future earning capacity, pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, emotional trauma, and sometimes punitive damages.
- Medical Expenses – how much you paid for medical care and medical accessories associated with treating injuries from the accident
- Lost Wages – how much did you make before the accident? How many hours did you miss out on while recovering from your injuries?
- Pain and Suffering – have you paid for therapy to cope with the aftermath of the accident? Do you have PTSD or another emotional or
mental condition as the result of the accident?
- Disability/Disfigurement – compensation that can’t take away the immeasurable pain of living with a permanent disability, but can help make chronic pain, disabilities, and other conditions more manageable
Medical expenses can include a visit to the emergency department, the ambulance or air flight ride, a hospital stay, surgery and anesthesia costs, hardware implanted, physical therapy and rehabilitative resources, diagnostic tests, pain management, or necessary in-home care services. Under Missouri and Illinois law, you can financially recover any costs that you incurred while seeking medical care that is appropriate and necessary for the treatment of your injuries.
Lost wages include any income you were not paid as a result of missing time from work due to your injuries from the truck crash. Additionally, you may recover the value of your future earning capacity that is diminished due to any disability you suffer because of your injuries caused by the truck driver’s negligence. We usually do not need an economist to prove these but sometimes we ask experts to help in more complicated analysis.
You may also recover money for the pain and suffering that you experienced due to the truck crash. This category of damages encompasses physical pain, trauma, and stress that so many truck accident victims experience long after the date of the accident. This usually should be the biggest component of damages and what causes the most anguish. Pain can be intense, chronic, unabating, and can destroy lives or the things people love to do in life. Sometimes good pain management, surgery, and medication can alleviate pain, but sometimes not. Even if abated, intense pain for long periods warrants compensation to make amends.
Disability is what a person can no longer do because of the truck crash. These include paralysis, limps, lack of full use of a limb, brain and memory problems, chronic pain that prevents activity, loss of muscle strength, loss of range of motion, depression, and PTSD. And disfigurement is scarring or other visible signs of injury (amputation).
Property damage for which you can recover after a truck crash includes damage to your vehicle caused by the truck driver’s negligence, as well as any other property of value that is lost or damaged in the crash. We encourage clients to resolve their own property damage claims as we do not like to take a contingency fee in cases where the client is already not going to get good value for their vehicle.
In the unfortunate and devastating event that a spouse, parent, or child has been killed in a truck crash, the surviving spouse, parent, or child may recover damages for wrongful death. The Missouri Approved Jury Instruction on Wrongful Death provides, “If you find in favor of the plaintiff, then you must award plaintiff such sum as you believe will fairly and justly compensate the plaintiff for any damages you believe plaintiff [and decedent] sustained [and the plaintiff is reasonably certain to sustain in the future] as a direct result of the fatal injury to [the decedent].” (MAI 5.01).
The Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction on Wrongful Death states, “If you decide for the plaintiff on the question of liability, you must then fix the amount of money which will reasonably and fairly compensate the lineal next of kin, e.g. parent of the decedent for the pecuniary loss proved by the evidence to have resulted to the lineal next of kin from the death of the decedent.” (IPI 31.01). The jury instruction goes on to state that “pecuniary loss” may include loss of money, benefits, goods, services, and society. Factors that an Illinois jury may consider when determining the pecuniary loss include: what money, benefits, goods, and services the decedent customarily contributed in the past; what money, benefits, goods and services the decedent was likely to have contributed in the future; the decedent’s age; the decedent’s sex; the decedent’s health; the decedent’s physical and mental characteristics; the decedent’s habits of industry, sobriety, and thrift; the decedent’s occupational abilities; the grief, sorrow, and mental suffering of next of kin; and the relationship between lineal next of kin and the decedent. (IPI 31.01).
Now that you know what damages you can recover, you may be wondering who will be responsible for paying your damages resulting from a truck crash. In any truck accident, there are two main target defendants – the driver and the company he is driving for. The truck driver could have been negligent in operating the truck, exceeding federal restrictions regarding hours of service, carelessly transporting hazardous materials, or
overloading cargo. What’s more, the truck company who employs the truck driver also
could be responsible for paying your damages.
Truck companies may be held liable for negligently failing to properly train the truck driver, failing to follow licensing requirements, or failing to conduct background checks and confirming employee driving records, among other reasons. Even if the trucking company was not itself negligent, it can be held vicariously liable for the acts of its truck driver if the truck driver was negligent in performing his or her job duties. Finally, the truck manufacturer may be responsible for paying your damages if the truck accident was caused by faulty parts or equipment installed by the manufacturer.
When it comes to your recovery from a truck crash, here is the bottom line: while the law can never ensure that you fully heal from your injuries or losses, it can be used as a mechanism to recover money that will compensate you for your injuries and losses. The truck crash lawyers at Burger Law will vigorously fight for you to ensure that you get the maximum recovery. We will also aggressively investigate your case to make sure all negligent parties are held responsible and fairly compensate you for your injuries.