How do I Know to Hire a Truck Accident Attorney?
You may think that if you are involved in a truck accident in Florida, then you do not need an attorney. Largely, this is because people generally believe that they have no options except to use their own insurance limits since Florida is a no-fault state. This mistaken belief is that because of the state’s no-fault laws, injured individuals have no option but to accept their insurance company’s settlement offer. This is not the case, however, and hiring a truck accident attorney is a must to avoid this and similar mistakes.
Florida No-Fault Insurance Laws
Many states have what is called no-fault insurance. This means if you are involved in an accident, and your car is registered and insured in compliance with state rules, you should submit a claim to your own insurance company. However, this does not mean that you waive your rights to potentially file a personal injury lawsuit after a truck accident.
Specific situations may allow you to file a truck accident injury lawsuit, including:
- You have broken bones as a result of the accident.
- You sustained serious scarring in the accident.
- Your injury will result in 90 days or more of disability.
- You sustained other serious injuries from the accident.
If you are uncertain if your injuries rise to the level of serious, you should contact an experienced truck accident lawyer who can answer your questions.
Motor Vehicle Insurance Requirements
If you are operating a motor vehicle on Florida roadways, you are required to carry both Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage Liability (PDL) coverage. Unless you are operating a taxicab, the minimum requirements are $10,000 in PIP and a minimum of $10,000 in PDL. Clearly, if you suffer life-changing injuries this may only scratch the surface of the financial costs of your injury. Keep in mind, only actual approved medical expenses are covered under PIP, and the maximum coverage is 80 percent of your costs.
Trucks that operate on Florida roadways are subject to higher insurance requirements. These requirements are different depending on whether a truck travels across state lines. For trucks registered in Florida that do not cross state lines, the liability insurance requirements are as follows:
- Trucks carrying household goods – $300,000
- Trucks carrying general freight – $750,000
- Trucks carrying oil – $1,000,000
- Trucks carrying hazardous materials – $5,000,000
Trucks that operate across state lines must be insured to these limits, but face additional requirements from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These requirements include minimum liability coverage between $750,000 and $5,000,000 based on the material that the truck is carrying.
Truck Accidents Involve Higher Costs Than Other Accidents
The reason understanding PIP coverage and trucks’ required insurance minimums is so important is that chances are that if you are injured in a truck accident, you will have extremely high expenses. For example, if a doctor determines you need an MRI brain scan, that test alone could cost you in excess of $1,500. This does not include any treatment, cost of the physician’s fee, or hospitalization costs, which can mean that you are facing a $30,000 bill for a mere three-day stay. As you can see from reviewing the Florida Health Price Finder, the costs of injury are lower than in other places in the United States, but they are still higher than many people can afford, even if they have private insurance.
Complex Negotiations as a Result of a Truck Accident
There are challenges negotiating settlements after any type of an accident that was not your fault. However, negotiations can be even more complicated after a truck accident, because there may be more than one liable party.
Some examples of who may be at fault include:
- Truck driver
- Employer of the truck driver
- Person or company responsible for loading the truck
- Truck manufacturer
- Parties responsible for maintaining the truck
Therefore, you should contact an attorney as soon after a truck accident as possible. There are so many potentially liable parties that you may not be certain who you should speak to or what rights you have. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the better off you will be in the long run.
Truck Accident Lawyer Role After an Accident
You may think that there is no reason to hire a truck accident attorney. The fact is, you could be making a serious mistake if you fail to hire a lawyer. An experienced lawyer can help you in several ways, including:
- Answer your questions – There is little doubt that you will have questions that you may be unable to answer after a truck accident. An attorney can help answer those questions for you.
- Protect your rights – Once you hire a truck accident lawyer, you can leave the negotiations up to them. This will help ensure an insurance adjuster does not try to get you to accept an unfairly low settlement offer.
- Investigating the accident – Truck accident lawyers can review police reports, accident reconstruction reports, and all medical records to get a complete overview of the cause and severity of the accident.
- Negotiate with insurance companies – Since there may be more than one party responsible for your injuries, dealing with insurance companies may prove complicated. A lawyer who has experience handling truck accident lawsuits can make those negotiations easier.
- Serving as your advocate – While your attorney will serve as your advocate while negotiations are ongoing, he or she can be a stronger advocate should the negotiations fail. If your case ends up going to court, an experienced lawyer will be right by your side making sure that the facts of the case are presented in a straightforward manner, and your attorney will fight for the best possible outcome on your behalf.
These are just a few of the good reasons why you should consider hiring an attorney to handle your truck accident case as quickly as possible.
Timing Matters With Truck Accident Lawsuits
The statute of limitations varies from state to state. For instance, while have four years to file a personal injury lawsuit in Florida when you are injured, this is not as much time as you might think it is. An attorney can help you understand the details that go into this timing. Keep in mind, your injuries may not manifest themselves immediately. For example, back injuries may show up days or weeks after the accident. You may be unaware that you will have permanent scars for several weeks following a truck accident. These can all determine when the clock starts running on your personal injury claim.
Truck accident legal issues are very complex, and the fact is that without an attorney working on your behalf, you may fail to protect all of your rights. An attorney can inform you of when you must file your claim, when negotiations with an insurance company are fruitful, and when it is time to decide to go to court because negotiations are failing.
Recovery Times Vary After a Truck Accident
Another issue that you may face, which an attorney can help you make sense of, is determining recovery times. Since suffering a 90-day disability allows you to file a personal injury lawsuit, you may have questions about this aspect of no-fault insurance. While 90 days may seem like a long time, this time will actually go by very quickly, and you may not know at the beginning of your recovery process if your injury will actually keep you from working for 90 days. An experienced attorney who has handled truck accidents in the past can provide you some additional information based on prior cases.
Every accident victim has a different experience because everyone starts from a different point in their personal health. For example, an older driver with underlying health issues may take longer to recover than a twentysomething driver with no complicating factors. The severity of injuries is different in every case, as well. Injuries will vary depending on factors like the speed the vehicles were traveling, where your car was struck in the accident, and even the condition of the roadways you were traveling on at the time of the accident.
Protect Yourself and Your Interests After a Truck Accident
The most important thing to keep in mind following a truck accident is to protect yourself and do nothing that may potentially jeopardize your rights. You should make sure you do the following:
- Seek immediate medical attention after an accident.
- Write down all details of the accident as soon as possible after the accident while it seems fresh in your mind. If additional details come to you within a couple of days, jot them down.
- Avoid talking to accident witnesses.
- Avoid answering questions posed by insurance adjusters.
- Follow all doctors’ instructions, including following through on future appointments.
- Keep an accurate record of your physical health during your recovery.
- Keep accurate records of all expenses involved in your care, including mileage to and from doctors’ visits.
- Keep accurate records regarding any costs incurred as a result of your injury, such as additional daycare costs, at-home nursing care, housekeeping expenses, etc.
- Do not rush back to work. Make sure that you are completely healed before you return to your job.
You must care for both your physical and mental health to ensure that you are able to get back to your normal daily routine as much as possible. Once you have hired a truck accident attorney, you can focus on your recovery and leave the legal negotiations to someone with experience.
Don’t Worry About Finances When Hiring an Attorney
One reason that many people fail to hire a Florida truck accident lawyer is their belief that retaining an attorney is not affordable. In fact, your insurance adjuster may even tell you that in order to dissuade you from filing a personal injury claim. However, there are a few things you should know, including the fact that you can get a free consultation from a skilled truck accident lawyer . Furthermore, you can feel confident you will not have to drain your savings to hire a lawyer, as truck accident attorneys generally work on what is known as a contingency fee. Contingency fees mean the lawyer that takes your case will only charge you attorney fees if he or she is successful in securing a settlement on your behalf.
Preparation for a Legal Consultation
Naturally, you want to be as prepared as possible for the initial consultation with a truck accident attorney. Prepare a list of questions to ask at that consultation; writing them down is the best way to make sure you do not forget to ask something that you feel is important. For example, you will want to discuss the attorney’s fees with them, you will want to know all of your legal options, and you should also ask about the lawyer’s track record handling complicated claims.
Remember, the more information that you can provide to an attorney during the initial consultation, the better that he or she can advise you. Copies of accident reports, names and contact information of witnesses, and copies of your medical records are all helpful. You should also be aware that you may not have to visit with the attorney in his or her office. In many cases, you can conduct your free consultation over the phone or web.
Remember, the more information that you have available at an initial consultation, the better information your truck accident attorney can provide to you. Nothing is immaterial, including your injury details, costs associated with your treatment, changes in your daily routine as a result of your injury, and a detailed accounting of any changes in your household because of your injury.
Rather than trying to decipher legal codes or guessing about whether you may file a personal injury lawsuit, contact an attorney immediately following your accident. Should the attorney advise you that you have the grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit, and you are comfortable with your review of that attorney’s history, you should consider retaining them early on in the process. You should seek out a truck accident attorney who will fight for your rights and work to maximize your compensation. To schedule a free consultation with Dolman Law Group either call our Clearwater office at (727) 451-6900 or fill out a contact form online.