As parents and spouses, we worry about what would become of our families in a worst-case scenario. We ask ourselves: “If I died in a truck accident, would my husband/wife have the financial resources they would need to pay for necessities? Would my children have the money to afford a college education? A funeral? A wedding?” These worries keep us up at night. After all, you never know when tragedy can strike.
The fortunate among us have the wherewithal to purchase life insurance. However, even those benefits might not cover every expense our families may need in a future that does not have us in it. Also, truck accidents can also leave accident victims alive, but catastrophically, permanently disabled, with no life insurance benefits to help pay the bills. That is why it can help to have an idea of what other sources of income and financial support our families might tap in the event of a tragic truck crash.
Truck Accidents: Unexpected, Deadly, and Expensive
Thousands of people die, and hundreds of thousands more suffer injuries, every year in Florida traffic accidents. Among these incidents, truck crashes inflict some of the most deadly and devastating consequences. In a collision between a large truck and a passenger vehicle (much less a motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian), the smaller vehicle and its occupants virtually always sustain the worst of the damage. The disparity in size and weight between a big rig and a sedan, for example, is so large that a crash can flatten, mangle, or tear the car in two.
Drivers and passengers in a passenger vehicle are lucky to escape a truck crash with their lives. Many do not. Those who do often face catastrophic, life-altering injuries that inflict permanent disabilities. The injury toll of a large truck crash frequently includes:
- Spinal cord injuries that leave victims permanently paralyzed and facing the massive challenge of adapting to an altered existence.
- Traumatic brain injuries that cause permanent cognitive, motor, and emotional impairments, or worse, plunge victims into a coma or state of semi-consciousness from which they might never emerge.
- Crushed and traumatically amputated limbs that require multiple surgeries and prosthetics to treat, and still leave a victim facing a lifetime of chronic pain.
- Neck and back injuries that never truly heal, and instead leave a person in a state of permanent, debilitating discomfort.
- Burns that cause agonizing pain, disfiguring scars, and lasting emotional trauma.
Victims of Florida truck accidents and their families suffer not just physical and emotional pain from these injuries and deaths, but also untold expense. Medical bills to treat catastrophic injuries from a truck accident can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least, whether or not the accident victim survives the trauma of the crash. Accident victims who survive miss months of work at a minimum, and often never return to a job in their former capacity, or at all, robbing their families of important income.
Every aspect of life becomes more difficult and expensive. Victims and grieving families need help with day-to-day tasks the injured truck accident victim used to handle, like childcare, transportation, keeping a home, and managing finances. Bankruptcy and financial ruin constitute a very real, and very sad, toll of a truck accident for many families who do not plan for a rainy day or know where to turn for help.
Insurance Resources for Your Family After a Truck Accident
As bleak as life can seem after a truck accident, victims and their families often have greater financial resources to turn to than they might first imagine.
If you were to sustain catastrophic or fatal injuries in a Florida large truck crash, your family might have the option of obtaining compensation from a variety of sources:
- Auto insurance. Florida requires all registered vehicle owners to purchase and carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage, also known as “no fault” coverage. PIP insurance covers the driver’s own costs of medical care for an injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident, no matter who was at fault for the accident. PIP also offers a death benefit to people covered by the policy. The minimum amount of PIP coverage a Florida driver must carry is not particularly large – just $10,000 in injury benefits, and $5,000 in death benefits – but you always have the option of purchasing higher coverage amounts if you can afford them, and even the minimum benefit can provide a little help with expenses after a catastrophic truck accident.
- Health insurance. If you carry health insurance, it will likely cover some of the expenses for your medical care after a Florida truck accident, subject to any co-payments, deductibles, and coverage limits. So, with any luck, your family will have some protection against bearing the full brunt of the massive healthcare-related costs of treating your injuries in a truck crash.
- Workers’ compensation insurance. If you suffer devastating or fatal injuries in a Florida truck crash while working, then chances are you and/or your family will have the right to receive Florida workers’ compensation insurance benefits. Workers’ comp in Florida covers costs of medical care and lost wages due to a disability because of a work-related injury, regardless of fault. Families of workers who die on the job can also access death benefits of up to $150,000, including $7,500 in funeral expenses.
- Supplemental (long-term disability) insurance. Some people carry, or receive as a work benefit, a form of private insurance that covers additional costs of missing work because of a long-term disability. This is the type of insurance advertised on TV by AFLAC and its talking duck mascot.
- Life insurance. Some people also carry private life insurance, or receive life insurance coverage as a work benefit. This coverage typically pays a lump-sum benefit if the insured dies in a Florida truck accident.
This list does not necessarily cover all of the potential insurance benefits your family might tap in the event of getting catastrophically or fatally injured in a Florida truck crash. It might, however, give you an idea of the range of insurance options potentially available to your family in a worst-case scenario, so that you can do a little more research and make sure your loved ones know where to turn if tragedy strikes.
Legal Recourse for Your Family After a Truck Accident
Insurance, however, represents only one of the potential avenues your family might have for financial support after a tragic Florida truck crash leaves you catastrophically or fatally injured. You and your family may also have rights to pursue legal remedies against anyone whose poor decisions or careless actions caused the truck crash that did you harm. Here is how.
Beyond PIP Coverage
Many Florida drivers have the mistaken impression that the state’s no fault insurance laws mean that they cannot sue an at fault party for injuries and losses sustained because of a motor vehicle accident. That is not true. In fact, Florida law makes clear that if you sustain truly serious injuries in a truck crash, you have the right to take legal action against the individuals and entities who caused your accident and injuries—injuries like the ones listed above that leave you permanently disabled, disfigured, or dead.
Who Has Liability?
Who might have liability to you and your family for causing your catastrophic or fatal truck accident injuries? Lots of people. Experienced Florida truck accident injury lawyers usually explore whether any of the following “usual suspects” may have liability for a crash, for example:
- Truck drivers, if their careless or reckless actions behind the wheel caused the collision that left you badly injured.
- Trucking companies that employ truck drivers or operate the truck involved in the crash, especially if their actions ignored warning signals that the driver or the equipment were not fit for the road.
- Shippers who load cargo into large trucks without taking care to secure it, running the risk that the cargo could shift in transit and cause the truck driver to lose control.
- Mechanics who fail to maintain trucks in proper working order.
- Manufacturers of trucks and truck parts, if they sell defective products that lead to mechanical failure and a crash.
- Medical professionals who prescribe prescription medications to truck drivers without warning about potentially dangerous side effects that could cause the trucker to lose focus or control behind the wheel.
- Government agencies tasked with designing, building, and maintaining safe roads for truckers and the general public to use, if they fail in their mission and cause an accident.
These are examples, only. Every truck accident has its own unique facts and circumstances that dictate who might have legal liability to you and your family. The most reliable way to figure out who might have legal liability to you and your family after a truck crash is to work with an experienced truck accident injury lawyer.
How Much Money?
The legal remedies you or your family might pursue in the aftermath of a tragic truck crash often entitle you to receive substantial compensation. No two truck crash cases are exactly alike, so it is impossible to say for certain how much money you or your family might expect to recover. However, typically the victims of a catastrophic truck accident caused by someone else’s careless, reckless, or intentionally harmful actions have the legal right to pursue compensation for:
- Medical bills and other expenses related to treatment of truck accident injuries, whether or not the victim survives them.
- Lost past and future wages the accident victim cannot earn because of truck accident injuries or death.
- Physical pain and emotional suffering inflicted by the injury or death.
- Loss of companionship, emotional support, and other relationships because of the injuries or death.
- Property damage.
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- In rare cases, punitive damages to punish the parties who caused your injuries or death.
As you can imagine, from case to case the amount of money required to compensate for each of these categories can vary widely. No one can guarantee in advance that all (or any) of these categories will apply in any particular truck accident. However, these represent the most typical categories of money damages available for truck accident victims and their families, and in some cases they can amount to very large sums.
The most important thing for you and your family to understand about taking legal action for money damages after a truck accident is that it takes an experienced truck accident injury attorney to give you the best chance possible of recovering maximum compensation. Lawyers who represent clients in truck accident cases know the critical importance of getting to work right away, and of investigating the facts in detail to identify all individuals and entities who may have legal liability to the victim and the victim’s family.
Why? Because as a practical matter, the amount of money your family might receive if you get badly hurt in a truck accident can depend, in part, on how many parties have liability for your injuries, and what financial resources those parties have available to pay damages with. The more individuals and companies an attorney can find who might owe you and your family monetary damages, the better the chance of getting paid because the more insurance policies and assets potentially available to tap.
Line up a Lawyer
So, if you lose sleep at night worrying about what might happen to your family if you get catastrophically or fatally injured in a truck accident, here is what we suggest you do:
- Research your insurance coverages and prepare a list that your family can consult in an emergency.
- Locate an experienced Florida truck accident injury attorney who your family can call if you sustain serious injuries.
With that little bit of advance planning, you can rest easier knowing that if you get hurt in a truck accident, your family will know where to turn for the help they need.