Semi-Truck Accident Lawsuit Statute of Limitations
After an accident, it is normal to have questions. What do I do? Where do I go? What do I say? Dealing with the aftermath of any accident can be overwhelming. When it comes to truck accidents, it is an entirely different experience. No one ever expects to be in a truck accident, yet these accidents happen every day. In Florida, the number of accidents involving large trucks is staggeringly high. Being prepared and knowing what to do is the best way to stay protected.
It is easy to make decisions based on what other people say or experience, but when it comes to the law and a client’s legal rights, it is important to know the facts. The law outlines specific procedures a victim must take, not only to use insurance benefits, but also to file a claim against the other driver. There are a lot of questions after an accident. One of the most important factors an individual should pay attention to after a truck accident is timeliness. Timeliness in this context refers to how long an individual has to file a claim after a truck accident. Read on to learn more about truck accident law and your case from experienced truck accident attorneys.
Florida’s Rise in Large Truck Accidents
If you reside in Florida, you have likely noticed the rise in traffic over the past several years. Traffic on I-4 or I-75 can be chaotic at any time of the day. The state has seen steady population growth in recent years. A report shows that the population will only continue to grow over the next decade, estimating an average growth of 300,000 residents per year. This means that not only are there more cars on the road, there are also more large trucks on the road. Large trucks help transport food and goods throughout the state and across the country, and consequently, we depend on them.
Unfortunately, with this growth, there has been an increase in motor vehicle accidents, including large truck accidents. In 2018 there were 39 fatal accidents involving medium or large trucks. That has increased from 27 accidents the year prior. The total number of truck accidents also increased from 31,960 to 32,952.
Statistics show that accidents involving large trucks are more likely to kill the occupants of the passenger vehicle than they are the driver of the large truck. Large trucks exert more force on smaller vehicles and carry the risk of underride and override accidents. If you have been in a large truck accident, you have rights. Contact an experienced truck accident attorney to find out if you may be eligible for financial compensation.
How Long Do You Have to File a Truck Accident Claim?
Any accident is jarring. It takes time to process the event and begin to recover. You may wonder just how long do you have to file a claim after a truck accident. For every legal matter, there is a statute of limitations that dictates how long a party has to take action. For motor vehicle accidents, this time frame is four years. If you plan to pursue damages, you have four years from the date of the accident to file the proper paperwork with the court. After the four-year mark, you cannot recover damages.
There are a few exceptions to the statute of limitations:
- The injured party is a minor: Minor children are not legally permitted to initiate legal action. However, a parent or guardian can file a suit on their behalf. If the parent does not file a claim, the court may toll (pause) the statute of limitations until the child turns 18.
- The plaintiff is mentally disabled: The court may extend the statute of limitations if the victim is mentally disabled. However, the disability cannot be a result of the accident to qualify.
- The other driver is missing or lied about their identity: When you file a lawsuit you must serve the other party. If you cannot locate the other party or they lied about their identity, the court may allow you an exception.
It is always a good idea to file a claim sooner than later, especially for truck accidents that can involve complex circumstances. Additionally, there may be exceptions not listed above that may qualify for an exception. For this reason, you should always contact an experienced truck accident attorney to find out if you can file a claim.
Special Considerations for Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
If you have never been in an accident, you may not realize that there are special rules pertaining to how and if you can use your PIP benefits. Personal injury protection (PIP) covers medical costs and lost wages after an accident. The law requires all Florida drivers to carry $10,000 in PIP coverage. But while you have four years to file a personal injury claim, the timeframe is much shorter for PIP.
To be eligible to use your PIP coverage, you must see a qualified medical professional within 14 days of the accident. Additionally, the care provider must diagnose you with an emergency medical condition. If you do not receive this diagnosis, you can only use $2,500 of your PIP coverage.
PIP will only pay out 80 percent of medical costs and 60 percent of lost wages. For medical, you must pay the other 20 percent. Even if you do not use your PIP benefits within 14 days, you can still file a personal injury claim. However, you cannot use your PIP.
How Long Does It Take to File a Truck Accident Injury Claim?
As stated above, it is in your best interest to begin a claim sooner than later. This is because it can take a long time to build a case. A poorly constructed case will result in a much lower settlement. While the goal is to give you access to funds as soon as possible, we do not recommend rushing the process.
These factors can affect how long it takes to resolve your case:
- The degree of your injuries: The severity of your injuries will play the biggest role in your case. Not only will it affect the value of your case, but it can also affect how long it takes you to contact an attorney and begin a claim. In most cases, it is best to see the full extent of your injuries before issuing a demand for payment. For severe injuries, this may take longer.
- The number of parties involved: Truck accidents often involve more than one party. This may include the driver, the employer, the truck manufacturer, or, in rare cases, the government.
- Evidence: If evidence is clear cut, the insurance company may be willing to pay out sooner. If they think there is a question of fault, they may try to drag out the case.
- The willingness of both parties to settle: Regardless of all other circumstances, sometimes it comes down to how much each party wants to settle the case. For the insurance company, it may come down to bookkeeping; it may make more sense for them to pay out your case in one fiscal year versus another. For you, it will depend on if there are extenuating circumstances that require a quicker settlement.
How Much Is Your Truck Accident Claim Worth?
Any personal injury attorney will tell you that one of the most common questions they hear is, “How much is my case worth?” The simple fact is, it is impossible to tell. There are so many things that can affect your case and we’ve only mentioned a few. But in general, truck accident claims consider economic and non-economic damages. This includes:
Economic damages is another term for actual costs—how much did/would the accident cost you out of pocket? Generally, these come with a direct, quantifiable dollar amount. Economic damages may include:
- Medical bills: Large truck accidents can lead to serious injuries. This may include life-changing injuries like a traumatic brain injury or a spinal cord injury. Your PIP coverage is usually not enough to cover these costs. Commonly covered costs include doctor visits, medical transportation (including ambulance rides and normal transportation), medication, surgeries, and rehabilitation.
- Lost wages: Serious injuries can leave you unable to return to work. When this happens, it’s helpful to know that you’ll be able to replace this income. A personal injury suit can allow you to recover lost wages from the date of the accident to the time you return to work. If you cannot return to work, you may be eligible for future wages.
- Residential modifications: Serious injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, or broken bones can make it difficult to move around your own home. Without modifications, this can be limiting. When you file a personal injury suit, your attorney will likely ask to have these costs included in your settlement.
In general, non-economic costs are damages you cannot put a price on. You have likely heard these damages referred to as pain and suffering. These damages will vary on a case-by-case basis and will usually depend on the severity of your injuries. Non-economic damages may include:
- Physical pain: Severe injuries can cause permanent or long-term pain. We rarely think of pain as a “cost” but the pain from an injury is something you have to live with every day and can affect your quality of life.
- Mental distress: Traumatic accidents can lead to real mental health issues. Accident victims may have a hard time moving on from the accident or may suffer from anxiety or depression. In some cases, medication or therapy may be necessary.
- Loss of enjoyment: We often take for granted how much we enjoy the simple things – cooking dinner for the family, playing basketball with the children, etc. A serious injury can make these things painful or even impossible.
- Loss of companionship: Humans enjoy emotional and physical companionship. An accident can interfere with relationships and make it challenging for someone to talk, understand, or emotionally connect with another person.
In some cases, the court may award punitive damages. In legal terms, punitive damages are a punishment against the responsible party and not an award to the plaintiff. However, in practice, these damages get added to your final judgment. Punitive damages get awarded when the court finds that the other party has acted in an especially egregious manner, including drunk driving, texting and driving, and extreme negligence.
Why You Need an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney
There are some motor vehicle accidents where you will not need an attorney. This is almost never the case with large truck accidents. Even a minor bump from behind can cause severe whiplash and permanent pain. More severe accidents can be catastrophic. Trucking companies usually employ expensive, experienced attorneys. It is their job to discredit you and save the insurance company as much money as possible.
This is not a battle you want to fight alone.
An experienced truck accident attorney regularly helps injured victims gather evidence, prove fault, and calculate damages. They can also connect you with qualified care providers and may be able to defer medical bills until the end of the case. Unfortunately, most insurance companies offer far less to injured parties who are unrepresented. It is not always fair, but often true. Insurance company representatives are trained to maximize the company’s savings and sometimes will not have your best interest in mind.
Contact a Clearwater, Florida Truck Accident Attorney
Although the law allows four years to file a claim after a truck accident, the sooner a claim is filed, the sooner a client will be on the road to recovery. A personal injury claim can help you pay for your medical bills and allow you to take time off from work to recover. Truck accidents are scary. During uncertain times, it is important to surround yourself with people who are trustworthy and supportive. If you or a loved one were injured in a truck accident and have questions about your rights, contact an experienced truck accident attorney.