When cars and heavy commercial vehicles crash, the consequences can be devastating. In the aftermath of a serious semi-truck accident, victims often struggle to overcome intense physical pain and immense financial hardship.
While no amount of money can compensate you for a life-changing injury, Iowa law gives you the right to file a claim for compensation. However, any settlement or court-ordered award could be subject to certain limitations.
Semi-Truck Accident Damages in Iowa
After an accident, victims have a legal right to file a claim for compensation against the person, or party, who caused their injuries. Your personal injury attorney will calculate your economic and non-economic damages and use that calculation to draft a demand letter, negotiate a settlement, or seek damages in court. Your truck accident compensation may include the following:
Economic damages are compensation for objective and verifiable financial losses. In general, economic damages correspond with set-dollar amounts—amounts that can be found on a bill or that are otherwise easily calculable.
Examples of economic damages could include past, current, and future:
- Medical expenses
- Physical rehabilitation
- Mental health counseling
- Disability-related home modifications
- Lost income from work
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
Iowa does not currently limit the economic damages available in semi-truck accident cases.
Non-economic damages compensate you for intangible losses. These damages do not correspond with a set-dollar amount but are very important to your recovery. Your Iowa truck accident lawyer will use proven strategies to calculate your non-economic damages and fight for your fair recovery.
Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Emotional suffering
- Physical pain
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Compensation for disfigurement
Iowa recently passed legislation that could cap personal injury plaintiffs’ non-economic damages in some circumstances.
The court may award punitive damages in egregious cases. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and deter future misconduct. While punitive damages are not meant to compensate you for your injuries, you will receive money.
Iowa’s Cap on Non-Economic Damages
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds recently signed Senate File 228, which limits non-economic compensation in claims involving semi-trucks and other heavy commercial vehicles to $5 million. This legislation was written to minimize employers’ liability when a company driver causes an accident in the course of their ordinary employment.
The law defines “heavy vehicles” as any of the following:
- A vehicle with a gross weight of 26,000 pounds or more
- Any vehicle transporting hazardous materials
- Certain types of service vehicles, including glider kit vehicles, road tractors, and tow trucks
However, Senate File 228 does establish several exemptions to the cap on non-economic damages.
The cap may not be applicable if the at-fault driver:
- Committed a felony offense involving a motor vehicle
- Was involved in manufacturing or delivering a controlled substance
- Was under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Was driving a vehicle involved in human trafficking
- Was driving without a valid license
- Was using a cellphone or other prohibited electronic device while driving
- Was going 15 mph or more over the speed limit
Semi-truck companies and their insurers are for-profit enterprises. Like other businesses, they may be reluctant to admit liability and want to minimize the compensation they pay you, whether or not the non-economic damages are capped by law.
How to Protect Your Iowa Truck Accident Recovery
Iowa truck accident cases can be complicated. Before you can get a fair settlement or court verdict, you need to:
- Gather evidence. You will need evidence to identify the liable party and calculate your damages. Evidence includes, but is not limited to, photographs, video surveillance, medical bills, eyewitness testimony, and expert witness testimony.
- Identify the right defendant. Semi-truck-related claims are often complex and involve multiple defendants. Potential defendants include the truck driver, logistics company, cargo shipper, truck manufacturer, and others.
- Make persuasive arguments. An experienced Iowa truck accident lawyer can help the insurance company or court understand the value of your claim.