Every year in the United States, over 15.5 million trucks carry nearly 70 percent of all freight transported annually—a whopping $1 trillion worth of goods inside the country, and between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. In Florida in the last year for which Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has complete statistics, trucks were in 38,808 accidents on our roads.
With so many trucks on the road, it’s not surprising that they end up in accidents with passenger vehicles. Unfortunately for those in cars, the sheer size difference between their vehicles and trucks means that the damage they sustain both in terms of bodily injury and property damage is almost always significantly greater than that of truck drivers and their vehicles.
The injuries victims of truck accidents sustain can be severe, and even fatal. With injury comes both physical and financial pain as medical bills pile up and victims feel like there’s no way out from under the burden of ever-increasing costs. Even with medical insurance, the bills may feel insurmountable as the victim is responsible for deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance. And for those who have no insurance or for whom their no-fault personal injury protection insurance won’t cover all their costs, the result can cause financial catastrophe, as they are on the hook for every dollar of medical care they receive to diagnose, treat, and recover from their injuries.
When injuries are serious enough, they can cause lifelong pain and major life changes that can be costly. Some victims lose their ability to work at all. Some cannot return to their pre-accident work due to physical or mental health disabilities suffered in their accidents. Still others are dependent on expensive medical equipment or medication regimens.
If you have suffered an injury in a truck accident there is hope to overcome the financial hurdles you face. Contact a Florida truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Florida law allows you to seek monetary compensation from an at-fault truck driver in the form of a personal injury lawsuit. But you have to file your suit within four years of your accident. This is known as the statute of limitations and it is a firm date. Regardless of how legally sound your claims are or how seriously you have been injured, if you fail to file within four years, your suit will be dismissed (tossed out) by the court, and you will be left with no legal means of recovery at all.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that four years is a long time. While you focus on your recovery, the time can pass quickly. These suits are complicated and the sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner you can be on your way to receiving the compensation you deserve. Bill collectors will continue to call until you pay them, and they’re certainly not going to wait four years to take the most drastic measures they can—turning you over to collections or getting a civil judgment against you to garnish your wages.
How a Florida Truck Accident Attorney Can Help
You might be wondering if you need an attorney at all to help you pursue your legal remedies through a truck accident lawsuit. Let’s clear that up right away—yes! Personal injury law is complex and there are always multiple parties and moving parts. When insurance companies are involved (as they almost always are), they have teams of attorneys whose only job is to ensure that their employers pay you the absolute least amount of money as possible.
Those attorneys know the law and would love nothing more than to go up against an unrepresented party who doesn’t know their tricks and who may not understand the full amount of damages they might be entitled to. You deserve a competent and experienced attorney in your corner fighting to get you every dollar of compensation the law allows you to recover. But what, exactly, can your attorney do for you?
Filing Your Lawsuit
Who should you claim against in your lawsuit? It seems like a simple inquiry, but it can get complicated quickly. The driver, of course, and his or her insurance compnay, will be a defendant, but what about his or her employer? Possibly, but not always. Insurance companies, both yours and the other drivers? Almost guaranteed to be involved. Were there bad road conditions or unmarked hazards? Maybe it’s appropriate to hold accountable those who were responsible for road maintenance.
An experienced attorney can evaluate the facts of your case and determine who the appropriate defendants are in your particular situation. Just like failing to file within the statute of limitations, suing the wrong party can get your suit tossed as well. Because these suits take time to prepare, having to start over can mean bumping up against or, in the worst-case scenario, missing the statute of limitations completely.
While it might seem like basic good lawyering to file a lawsuit on time and against the right defendants (and it certainly is), suits get dismissed all the time for these things.
Negotiating on Your Behalf
The majority of personal injury suits are resolved with pretrial negotiations and never get to a courtroom in front of a jury. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that the attorney you’ve chosen has handled truck accident lawsuits before, and understands the types of damages you are entitled to and how to deal with the insurance company attorneys who are looking to pay you the bare minimum.
Negotiations can continue all the way up until the minute a jury gets your case for deliberation if a resolution is not reached before then. A good attorney will know how to push for what you’re owed without alienating the other party and closing the door to future negotiations. It’s always smart to leave the door open for a settlement offer and almost always a bad one to walk away completely.
Throughout the pendency of your case, your attorney will almost certainly bring an investigator on to your case to interview witnesses and others involved, review records, and visit the accident scene if necessary. As new information is discovered, it may be useful and improve your negotiating position. Remember keeping that door open? This is a major reason why. You’ll never know all the information an investigator will discover pertaining to the case at the time you file, so being able to go back with new helpful information can increase the settlement offer you receive.
Taking Your Case to Trial
At all times during your case, you are the final decision maker. You decide whether to accept a settlement offer and you decide whether or not to take your case to a jury trial. Your attorney has a legal obligation to bring you every offer from the defendant, and they will certainly give you an opinion as to how good the offer is and what they think your recovery at trial might be, but you make the decision. It’s your case and ultimately, the resolution affects you and the rest of your life, so you are the captain of the ship.
If you get to the point that settlement negotiations are not getting anywhere and that it is time to take your case to trial, your attorney’s experience is critical. Not all attorneys are good litigators and that’s fine. Unless you need a strong litigator in your corner. Trials require skills that many attorneys simply don’t have. Knowing how to select and then relate to a jury, understanding how hard to push sympathetic witnesses, and being able to break complicated medical terminology and information down into simple language lay jurors can understand are all critical.
Beyond those soft skills, a trial attorney must have a thorough understanding of the rules of evidence and civil procedure, be familiar with the practices of the jurisdiction hearing your suit, and fully understand the nuances of Florida truck accident law.
In selecting an attorney to represent you in this, likely the most important legal matter you will ever encounter, be sure to find out about their trial experience and specifically truck accident trial experience. While all attorneys go to law school and pass the bar exam, they then typically go on to focus on a particular area of law. You wouldn’t see a neurosurgeon to operate on your foot and you shouldn’t see an attorney with no experience dealing with truck accident law—from filing to jury verdict and every step in between—for your truck accident lawsuit.
Types of Damages
Florida law provides for three types of damages (monetary payment) that victims of truck accidents may recover—economic, non-economic, and punitive. Each case is unique and requires its own legal analysis. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be entitled to some or all of the damages below.
If you settle your case, economic damages and non-economic damages will be negotiated, but punitive damages can only be awarded by a jury and then approved by the court.
Think of economic damages as those costs for which you receive a bill or that you pay for and then receive a receipt. They are tangible costs with an easily calculable amount associated with them.
The most common one is medical expenses. They include things like the cost of ambulance transportation to a medical facility, your initial stay in the hospital (surgeries, lab tests, X-rays, diagnostic testing, doctors’ fees, medications, and the costs of other items used to treat you), follow up appointments and additional surgeries, medication, therapy (physical, speech, occupational, mental health), and rehabilitation services.
Lost wages are another type of economic damage. The wages you lose out on from your initial stay and any subsequent time taken off work for appointments can become significant in a hurry. You may also miss out on commissions, retirement contributions, or tips because you have to be gone from work.
Future wages are those you will lose in the future because of your injuries. If you can’t return to work or have to take a job in which you’re underemployed compared to what you did before your accident, you are losing wages for the rest of your life. While more difficult to calculate than wages you are currently losing or have already lost, an actuary can calculate the number based on things like your current age and life expectancy, previous wages, the possibility for advancement you had previously, your level of education or professional training, and the time value of money.
Because economic damages are easily provable, you must prove them. That means you need to document very well all of the costs you incur. Keep all of your bills and receipts. Track your missed work time.
As you may guess, non-economic damages are intended to compensate victims for those losses that, while very real, are less tangible and do not come with a price tag. You may recover compensation for disfigurement, physical pain and suffering, physical impairment or mental anguish. In addition, if you have a spouse, they may file a claim for loss of consortium as part of your lawsuit and receive damages for things such as loss of companionship.
Although rarely awarded in Florida personal injury suits, punitive damages may be appropriate in your case. Rather than compensate victims, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for especially unethical or egregious behavior and to discourage others from engaging in the same behavior. Under Florida law, punitive damages are limited to three times the sum of economic and non-economic damages (together known as compensatory damages) or $500,000, whichever is greater.
If you were injured in a truck accident and have bills and costs you cannot cover, a trusted truck accident attorney can help you fight for the compensation you deserve. See if you can find someone who offers free initial case evaluations and who takes cases on a contingency basis, and who will answer all of your questions.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765