Florida Truck Driver Hit and Runs
Florida law allows those who have been injured by negligent truck drivers to receive damages (monetary compensation) through a personal injury lawsuit. When filed within four years from the date of the accident (the statute of limitations), victims may receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, future wages, pain and suffering, or mental anguish. Spouses of injured victims may also be able to recover damages for the loss of his or her relationship with the victim, and families may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
But to file a lawsuit, you have to know who is responsible for your injuries. What happens if the truck driver who hurt you leaves the scene of the accident? If you or a loved one is currently struggling with a truck accident speak with a truck accident lawyer about your case.
Victims of truck accidents can suffer serious injuries that lead to lifelong physical pain. Bills pile up and leave victims feeling overwhelmed and hopeless, even when they have insurance. Copays, deductibles, and coinsurance payments can still leave accident victims with stacks of bills they can’t pay. And those who don’t have insurance are even worse off, because they’re responsible for every penny of care necessary to diagnose, treat, and recover from their injuries.
Big trucks (nearly 15.5 million of them) transport almost a trillion dollars worth of retail and manufactured goods within the United States, and between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico, each year. In one recent year, in Florida alone, nearly 32,000 accidents involved big trucks. The vast number of trucks on our roads unfortunately makes it a virtual certainty that collisions between trucks and passenger cars will happen. And the size differential between the two means that in accidents with trucks, cars—and their occupants—almost always come out on the losing end. Cars experience more damage than trucks, and both drivers and passengers in cars receive more severe injuries.
Truck Driver Obligations
All drivers in the state of Florida, including truck drivers with licenses from other states, have a legal duty to stop and stay at the scene if they are involved in an accident. In addition, they must call 911 and wait for and cooperate with law enforcement, and exchange personal and insurance information with other drivers on the scene.
Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime known as a hit and run, and can come with criminal penalties as severe as 30 years in prison if the driver caused a fatality.
Your recourse under a civil personal injury lawsuit is entirely separate from any criminal liability that may be imposed in a criminal case—they are two completely different proceedings. In a criminal case, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver did, in fact, leave the scene of the accident and cause the injuries or death. In a civil case, your burden of proof is much lower—you must only show that the driver is more likely than not to have been the cause of your injuries. That means that even if the driver is charged with crimes and is found not guilty, you can still pursue—and be successful in recovering damages through—a personal injury lawsuit.
After a Truck Driver Hit-And-Run
Accidents in which one driver leaves the scene are known as hit-and-runs. The driver who remains on-scene should take certain steps both at the time of the accident and in the following days and weeks. If your injuries are serious, they may prevent you from completing some of these tasks right away, but do them as soon as you can or enlist the help of someone you trust to do them for you.
At the Scene of a Truck Accident
If you were in a truck hit-and-run accident, immediately record anything you saw and any information you remember about the other vehicle and its driver while the details are still fresh in your mind. You can create a video on your phone, jot things on a piece of paper, or make a digital note. Document everything you may have noticed, including any markings on the truck or trailer which may indicate which company the driver was working for, characteristics of the driver, and license plate number and state if you were able to see them.
If other people saw your accident, try to get their contact information. You should do this even though law enforcement will conduct its own investigation and information-gathering. Even knowing the name of the trucking company, if you don’t see a license plate or didn’t get a good look at the driver, can be hugely beneficial; trucking companies are required to keep detailed records about their drivers.
What You Should Do After a Truck Accident
Just as in an accident where both parties stay put, if you are involved in a hit-and-run, you should immediately call 911. When medical responders arrive, even if you don’t think you or the people with you have any injuries, be sure to get a medical exam anyway and encourage others to do the same. Some injuries may not be noticeable to you if you are in shock, and the symptoms of certain serious injuries may seem minor at the time but increase in severity over the next few days or weeks. If paramedics recommend you be transported to a hospital or emergent care facility, follow their advice and go. Creating a complete record of your injuries is necessary to your ability to recover their costs in a lawsuit.
Law enforcement officers will also come to the scene. It is their job to collect information, speak with witnesses, and then write a report. Throughout this process, they will take photos and want to speak to you, your passengers, and any bystanders. Cooperate with them and encourage those around you too. Although you may have already documented certain information yourself, provide any information to the police that they request. This information will be included in their report and may be helpful in any lawsuit you file down the road.
Once the officers leave the scene, they will then compile a report. You are legally entitled to a copy of this report, so ask for it and make sure you receive it. The process of obtaining the police report can take a while, which is why you will want to document the facts of the case by taking photos and shooting video. You can provide your notes to your attorney right away without any of the details having faded.
In the Following Days and Weeks After the Truck Accident
The time following your accident can be a blur of confusion and pain. You may be in a hospital and require surgery. Hospital stays require that you miss work. You may have children or pets you need to find care for. You may need to undergo physical or other types of therapy. And before you even get out of the hospital, you may start receiving bills for medical care. If you are severely injured, you may be facing the daunting prospect of a life that is forever changed due to injuries caused by a negligent truck driver.
Still, if at all possible, take the steps necessary to ensure that you are not left without recourse against the driver.
- Contact a truck driver hit-and-run attorney – While you should contact an attorney as soon as possible after any kind of accident, when you’ve been injured in a hit-and-run, it is particularly critical to do so. Locating the driver can be an arduous task and one you don’t want to face alone. An established truck accident law firm will likely have investigators on staff who can begin the work of tracking down the truck driver who hurt you and finding out who his or her employer is. Because you don’t want to run up against or entirely miss the statute of limitations, these people need to begin work on your case as soon as possible. They can begin with your notes from the scene and utilize the police report once law enforcement releases it to speak with witnesses and gather additional information, pour over public records based on vehicle’s description, and try to track down the name of the company the driver was working for at the time. It is almost always a very bad idea to try to pursue a personal injury lawsuit alone. In addition to there being a huge amount of investigation involved in these cases, the people and companies you are suing will almost certainly come at your case fully lawyered-up. Trying to represent yourself against experienced personal injury lawyers could easily result in you receiving an inadequate settlement or none at all.
- File your insurance claim – Most auto insurance companies have time frames in which you have to file a claim to receive payment for the damage to your vehicle. Make sure you keep good records of when your claim was submitted, any communications you have with your carrier, whether it was totaled and if not, where and when the damage was repaired, and how long you were without a vehicle.
- Document your medical costs – As daunting as opening bills is, it’s not an obligation you can ignore. Check the mail and open bills. Then store them in a safe spot so that they can be used to prove the amount of damages you are entitled to. Because damages for medical costs are based on costs you actually incurred, if you don’t have proof of it, you likely won’t be able to recover for it.
- Track missed work time – Lost wages are recoverable damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Like medical costs, though, you have to be able to prove how much you have lost. Keep track of not just days and hours you have to be absent from work because of your injuries, but also any commissions, retirement contributions, or tips your injuries cause you to miss out on.
In a truck hit-and-run accident, you may recover damages from not only the driver but also the driver’s employer. This is why any description of the truck that hit you is so important—it helps to identify the company that may bear responsibility for the negligent hiring, training, or supervision of the driver. Each case is different and requires a unique legal analysis, but victims of these kinds of accidents may be entitled to receive several types of damages.
Nearly all costs you incur to diagnose, treat, and recover from your injuries are recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit. This includes the cost of your initial treatment, ambulance transportation, surgeries, follow-up appointments, therapy (physical, speech, occupational, or mental health), medications, rehabilitation treatment, and medical devices and equipment such as canes, walkers, oxygen tanks, or prosthetic devices.
Lost Present And Future Wages
As mentioned above, track your missed work time because the income associated with it is a recoverable damage. In addition to wages you presently lose, you may also be able to recover lost future wages. While the amount of this loss is more difficult to calculate that wages you have already lost, an actuary can determine a reliable amount by considering your age, life expectancy, education and professional training, and potential for advancement.
Non-economic damages compensate victims for damages that do not have fixed monetary costs attached to them—things you don’t get a bill for but are nonetheless very real costs of your accident. They include physical pain and suffering, impairment, mental anguish, and disfigurement. In some cases, spouses of victims may be able to recover damages for the suffering they’ve endured, in the form of compensation for the loss of the victim’s love and companionship or the inability to engage in sexual relations with the victim.
When a person’s actions are especially egregious or unethical, his or her victim may be able to recover punitive damages. While not often awarded in Florida personal injury suits, the purpose is to punish the at-fault party (rather than compensate the victim) and to discourage the same behavior from others in the future.
How a Dolman Law Truck Accident Attorney Can Help
Tuck hit-and-run accident injuries can be life-changing, but a competent truck accident attorney may be able to help you track down the driver and receive the compensation you deserve. If you have questions regarding your rights as an accident victim or aren’t sure what to do next following a truck hit-and-run accident, consider speaking with an experienced hit-and-run accident attorney as soon as possible. To schedule your free consultation with Dolman Law Group you can either call our Clearwater office at (727) 451-6900 or reach us online.