Thousands of tractor-trailer accidents occur in Florida every year. Tractor trailers are large trucks with trailers attached to the back. They are also known as semi-trucks, semi-trailer trucks, semis, 18-wheelers, or big rigs. They often result in catastrophic injuries or death. Even if truck accident victims recover from injuries, it’s possible they will be neck-deep in medical bills. In other cases, the injury victim might have a life-changing permanent disability from accident-related injuries.
Injury victims of truck accidents caused by a negligent truck driver may be eligible to seek compensation for damages. However, truck accident claims are more complex than regular car accident claims. Here’s what you need to know if you were injured in a Florida truck accident.
Tractor-Trailer Accidents Are Not the Same as Car Accidents: What You Need to Know
There are a few ways tractor-trailer accidents are different from regular car accidents. For starters, injuries are often much more substantial due to trucks’ massive size and weight. Compared to passenger vehicles, tractor-trailers and commercial trucks cause far more disastrous outcomes.
Second, tractor-trailer accidents result in more extensive damage and cost more than passenger vehicle accidents. Injury victims often face hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses. Additionally, they may face lost wages and earning capacity if they experience permanent or long-term disabilities. Consequently, they may lose the ability to provide for themselves and their families. These are damages that injury victims can recover after a debilitating truck accident.
Since truck companies use tractor-trailers to transport cargo, they carry commercial products. When an accident occurs, this causes financial losses in addition to crash damage and injury expenses. Thus, after an accident, the trucking company or company that owns the cargo also takes a financial blow due to damaged or lost goods.
The process to recover compensation through insurance companies is also more complex than a regular car accident. Normal car accidents require injury victims to go through individual car insurance policies. However, it’s not always clear who is liable after a tractor-trailer accident, so it may not be obvious from who or which party to pursue recompense.
To pursue the appropriate parties, injury victims must establish liability first. For example, should the injury victim seek reimbursement from the driver’s insurance, the truck company’s insurance, or a combination of both?
Legal cases involving more than two insurance policies, which is often the case for trucking accidents, are more complex and more difficult to negotiate. To make matters worse, each insurance company will likely try to deflect financial responsibility by pointing fingers at the other parties involved.
Tractor-Trailer Insurance Claims Are Complicated
It can work to your advantage to hire a Florida tractor-trailer accident lawyer. Their services can help you establish and hold all liable parties accountable. If multiple parties are responsible for your injuries, you might need to seek recovery from multiple parties. The bottom line, an attorney can help you get the maximum compensation possible. They will also be familiar with state and federal regulations that affect truck regulations that can affect your claim and your settlement amount.
Steps to Take After a Tractor-Trailer Accident in Florida
You will undoubtedly experience shock, fear, and confusion after a Florida truck accident. However, knowing the right steps to take will make you feel more in control. Furthermore, taking the right steps can significantly help you protect your finances and your quality of life in the long run.
Move to a Safe Place
Your priority after any accident should be your and all passengers’ safety. Move out of the way of oncoming traffic and leave the vehicle where it is. Even if you have personal belongings in the car, refrain from putting yourself in harm’s way or running out in front of oncoming traffic.
Contact Local Law Enforcement and File an Official Incident Report
Always call the police after an accident, no matter how minor your severe you believe it is. When you call the police, they will make an official accident report which will be crucial for your insurance claim. Furthermore, if you need to take legal action later, an official accident report will serve as evidence to support your claim.
Under Florida law, calling the police is mandatory, especially if anyone is injured or killed or property damage exceeds $500.
Get Medical Care
Any person involved in a tractor-trailer accident has probably sustained serious injuries. Rarely is medical attention an option after crashing with a truck. Instead, it’s usually necessary, especially if anyone has life-threatening injuries. Even if you are able to get up and walk away from the accident, don’t skip the doctor’s appointment. It’s possible for truck accident injuries to not be immediately obvious or apparent after the crash. The adrenaline and shock can dull your paint or mask injury symptoms.
See a doctorASAP to protect your health and finances after a truck accident. A proper medical assessment will help rule out serious injuries like internal bleeding or head injuries. Additionally, it will establish documentation of medical care for your claim. This might be particularly helpful if you experience a delayed onset of symptoms and find out a while after the accident that you sustained injuries in the accident.
Evidence is the backbone of any strong case. For example, you’ll need to establish fault if you wish to seek compensation after a tractor-trailer accident. Doing so requires evidence like police reports, witness testimonies, video footage, and more. Take pictures at the accident scene if you can.
Sometimes, attorneys will work with an accident reconstruction specialist to reconstruct the case. Through accident reconstruction, you can identify and testify about the conditions and circumstances of the accident. All of this will support your case and help establish the negligence or legal liability of the truck driver.
Don’t Discuss the Accident
Be careful what you say and who you speak to about the accident. Insurance companies may use your words to undervalue or deny your claim. Also, do not apologize or admit fault.
It’s important to stay off of social media during your claims process. The last thing you want is to accidentally overshare or say something to contract yourself or jeopardize your case.
Lastly, Speak with your attorney before communicating with the insurance company.
Contact a Florida Truck Accident Lawyer
Your best chance at winning fair compensation for your truck accident injuries is through a truck accident lawyer. They can help you understand your legal options and how much you stand to gain from damage compensation.
The best part is that most personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation where they review your case details to determine if you have a valid case. Then, they will handle the case from top to bottom on your behalf so you can focus on healing.
How Trucking Employment Models Can Complicate Your Personal Injury Claim
The employment models of truck drivers are not always the same across the board. For example, while some truck drivers work as employees, others might employ drivers as independent contractors. This can complicate coverage options and make your claims process more difficult.
When a trucking company functions as the employer and the driver is an employee, it usually carries insurance to cover its driver. In this case, insurance is rather straightforward, and you can seek compensation from the company’s insurance, the driver’s insurance, or both.
However, if the driver is an independent contractor, the company might have coverage for the truck and cargo but not for the driver. In that case, the truck driver would be on the hook for damage compensation through their insurance policy.
Furthermore, some truck drivers operate as owner-operators, meaning they work under contracts with trucking companies but own their trucks. In this situation, the driver is responsible for getting their own insurance coverage.
Trucking insurance is expensive, so truck drivers and companies often opt for the cheapest coverage. Therefore, sometimes accidents that result in severe injury are not fully covered by their insurance policies.
Truck Accident Liability and Truck Insurance Regulations
A few other factors can affect insurance coverage after a tractor-trailer accident. For example, what caused the accident, and is it considered negligence? Was the accident caused by overloaded cargo, improperly loaded cargo, construction on the road, or failure to properly maintain the truck? All of these are examples of when a party other than the driver might be liable for damages.
As such, it’s essential to establish all liable parties and provide clear and convincing evidence accordingly. In addition, such evidence will help determine which insurance company you need to pursue damages from.
Federal and state-level regulations are in place to ensure truck drivers are working under safe conditions and carrying sufficient coverage. However, insurance limits and regulations will vary based on the truck’s size, weight, and cargo type.
Many states set their additional legal requirements for commercial trucking insurance. For example, in Florida, commercial trucks must carry a minimum of $300,000 in property damage and bodily injury coverage if they weigh over 44,000 pounds.
In addition to legal minimum coverage amounts, there are various types of insurance coverage for trucks. The amount and type of coverage the driver and their company carry will affect how much you can seek damage compensation. Sometimes, drivers or companies voluntarily add coverage for severe injuries in an accident.
Am I Entitled to Compensation if My Loved One Died in a Tractor-Trailer Accident
In the worst of truck accidents, the results are beyond injury. Sometimes accidents end in fatalities. According to data, fatal truck accidents are up by 31 percent compared to ten years ago. In 2020, 4842 trucks were involved in a fatal crash in the US. That means large trucks accounted for almost 10% of all traffic deaths in 2020. According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles data, Florida has almost 32,000 large truck crashes annually.
Unfortunately, due to the massive size and weight of tractor-trailers, they are more likely to cause fatalities than other traffic accidents. However, surviving family members don’t need to accept their deceased loved one as a tragic loss.
They should know that they have legal recourse and can seek to recover damages and losses related to their loved one’s death. While the last thing a grieving family member probably wants to do is pursue legal action, taking steps to protect their rights is crucial. However hard it may seem to do so while grieving and adjusting to life without their loved one, family members should contact an attorney.
That’s the best way to prevent the surviving family members from getting stuck with overwhelming financial burdens. A truck accident attorney can help families file a wrongful death claim for their deceased loved one. The hardest part is contacting a lawyer. Then, they can handle all the work for you.
Your Florida truck accident lawyer will handle insurance communications on your behalf and give you space to grieve your lost loved one. You may be eligible to seek compensation for the following losses in a wrongful death claim:
- Funeral expenses
- Burial costs
- Medical expenses your loved one incurred before their death
- Loss of future earnings
- Loss of health benefits and retirement
- Emotional anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship
Seeking compensation through a wrongful death action can be life-changing for surviving family members. It will make all the difference for the family’s finances and standard of living, especially if the deceased person was the breadwinner for the family.
Close relatives, including spouses, children, parents, or legal guardians, can take legal action to recover wrongful death damages.
The Benefits of Hiring A Florida Truck Accident Lawyer
Recovering compensation after a truck accident is far more complicated than filing an insurance claim. If you have severe injuries and require ongoing medical care, you will certainly need a legal professional to fight on your behalf.
A Florida truck accident lawyer can benefit injury victims seeking compensation in many ways. They have the knowledge and experience relevant to truck accidents, insurance policies, and the law. Other ways an attorney can help you get a successful outcome from your truck accident claim include:
- Helping you determine a reasonable and fair value for your claim
- Ensuring you get the full compensation you deserve
- Protecting you from making any incriminating or inconsistent statements
- Helping you identify damages you didn’t consider or know you can recover
- Handling communications with insurance companies and courts
- Understanding the trucking companies’ insurance policies
- Negotiating a fair settlement amount for you
- And representing you in court
Call a Truck Accident Attorney Today
Attempting to take on a Florida truck accident claim without proper legal representation can be tiresome and discouraging. Rather than guessing your way through the complex legal process after a truck accident, hire a legal professional with experience. You’ll save yourself stress and confusion and be able to focus on recovering from your injuries.
Contact us today for a free, no-risk initial consultation.