Clay County Personal Injury Attorney is an acclaimed personal injury firm that serves clients in and around the Clay County area. The attorneys at the firm fully understand Florida's personal injury law and will help you to get compensation for your truck accident injury. The injury claims process in Florida is intricate and can be confusing, especially to outsiders. Therefore, hiring an in-state attorney who fully understands the law is crucial.
An Overview of Truck Accidents Under Florida Law
In the recent past, truck accidents have been common in Florida and truck accidents are among the leading cause of fatalities in the state. You may think that dealing with a truck accident is the same as dealing with a car accident only on a larger scale. However, truck accidents are unique as trucks have multiple insurance policies and in most cases, the truck owners employ commercial drivers to handle the vehicles. Truck accidents are often catastrophic due to the bulky nature of heavy commercial vehicles. In some instances, trucks carry hazardous products such as petroleum. If an accident occurs, harmful products can accelerate the damages.
If a truck is involved in an accident with a passenger vehicle, the passenger vehicle occupants are more likely to suffer severe injuries. Trucks are typically large and have undercarriage clearance, and in case of an accident, passenger vehicles can get trapped underneath them. Mainly when rain or snow affects the roads, trucks take a longer time to stop compared to other automobiles. The situation may be worse if the truck driver is exhausted. In Florida, federal law allows truck drivers to work for eleven hours continuously, and this may lead to exhaustion.
Every year, numerous people succumb to truck accident injuries in Florida. Of all the deaths, the majority are passenger vehicle occupants and several truck occupants. Truck accidents also lead to the demise of riders and pedestrians. It is clear that in case of a crash, passenger vehicle occupants suffer the most. If you or your loved ones get involved in an accident with a commercial truck, you can seek compensation for the damages incurred. You can achieve this by filing a legal claim against the involved parties.
What Qualifies to be a Truck?
A truck is a vehicle used for the transportation of commercial goods. Some good examples include large freight trucks, delivery vehicles, tanker trucks, and tractor-trailers. Some businesses may use smaller pickup vehicles for business. However, in most cases, trucks are much larger and serve a specific line of business. For instance, trucks may ferry products such as cement, building materials, or farm products. To operate a commercial vehicle, a driver needs to have a commercial driver's license.
Why are Truck Accidents so Fatal?
Fully loaded big trucks weigh more than 80,000 pounds. On average, passenger vehicles weigh around 3000 pounds. Therefore, trucks are many times heavier than passenger vehicles. Due to the significant difference in size and weight, an accident between a commercial truck and a passenger vehicle is always disastrous and in most cases fatal. In case of an accident, the smaller vehicle cannot withstand the impact.
In most cases, truck accidents result in multi-car pile-ups. When a big truck slides on the highway, it is likely to block the roads, and many other vehicles may ram on it. Due to its big size, a truck may also hit other objects such as trees, buildings, and other cars making the accident worse.
The Main Causes of Truck Accidents
Statistics show that truck drivers are more careful on the roads than passenger vehicle drivers are. Studies indicate that it is rare to get a truck driver operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, yet it is a common occurrence with passenger vehicle drivers. However, truck accidents still cause many injuries and fatalities. Truck vehicle drivers have to understand the dangers posed by their large vehicles and learn to use extra caution. A minor driver error by a truck driver such as failing to signal before making a turn could have adverse effects. Truck accidents may result from the negligence of truck drivers or passenger vehicle drivers' negligence:
Passenger Vehicle Drivers' Negligence
Some of the common mistakes made by passenger vehicles' drivers include:
Driving in "No Zone Areas." Truck drivers have minimal or zero visibility of areas behind or beside the truck. If a commercial vehicle drives on such areas, the truck driver may not see it, and this could lead to an accident.
Making U-turns in front of a moving truck or changing lanes abruptly after overtaking a commercial vehicle for instance
A passenger vehicle driver may miscalculate the speed of a truck and make an abrupt left turn in front of it
Driving in between two large trucks or pulling into traffic from the side of the road in front of a truck without adequate acceleration.
Failing to slow down when a truck is changing lanes or overtaking a truck without considering crosswind or turbulence.
Failing to get a faulty vehicle off the road or leaving a passenger vehicle on a travel lane
Truck Accidents Caused by Truck Drivers
Some factors that may make a truck driver cause an accident include:
Inadequately trained truck driver with poor driving techniques, and poor awareness of safety concerns
A compensation system that could encourage hasty driving; For instance, if a truck driver is paid depending on the miles covered in a certain period, he may need to drive very fast to earn higher wages and end up causing an accident
Operating a truck for long hours without rest; if a truck driver has been driving for a long period, exhaustion may make him less careful on the roads.
Unrealistic expectations and work schedules set for truck drivers may make them careless on the roads as they seek to meet the demands of their employer.
Proving Your Case in a Truck Accident
As in other vehicle accidents cases, there must be proof of negligence in a truck accident case. If you or your loved one sustains an injury in a truck accident, you have to prove that:
That the driver or the trucking company owed you a duty to exercise a reasonable degree of care; all drivers in a road owe a duty of care to other road users such as drivers and pedestrians and have an obligation to exercise such care to prevent accidents
The truck driver or the trucking company failed to exercise reasonable care. If the truck driver, breached the duty of care, you will be at an advantage
The failure of the truck driver or the trucking company to exercise a duty of care caused the injury
Possible Defense in a Truck Accident Case
In truck accident cases, the trucking company, insurance company, or contractors pay for the damages sustained. However, for this to happen, an employment relationship between the truck driver and the trucking company or contractor must exist. Your Clay County Personal Injury Attorney has to prove that the company involved exercised some degree of control over the truck driver. The attorney also has to prove that the injury occurred when the driver was still in the employment relationship.
There may be some challenges seeking compensation if the driver is an independent contractor serving a larger company. In this case, the attorney must determine the degree of supervision done by the company. This will help determine the degree of liability of the company involved.
In some instances, the manufacturers of hazardous products carried by trucks may be liable and required to compensate the injured party. To escape from such blames, a manufacturer or a shipper has to inform the trucking company of the hazardous nature of the products in the truck.
Pure Comparative Negligence
Under Florida law, the theory of pure comparative negligence is common. Florida joined thirteen other states in 1973 in embracing this law. This law involves dividing negligence amongst various parties involved based on the degree of fault. For example, if you sustain injuries and you are 99% at fault, you will still receive compensation for 1% negligence of the other party. This law receives immense critics, as people cannot understand why the person responsible for causing an accident should receive any compensation. However, it is justifiable because the victim, though he may be at fault, is still the one who experiences the most pain and incurs medical bills, among other costs.
How to Avoid Fault in Truck Accidents
As a driver, you can avoid being at fault in case of a truck accident:
It is important to remember that especially in instances where the roads are slick, trucks are less maneuverable compared to other passenger vehicles.
It is also important to keep in mind that trucks often have a problem stopping, especially in case of an emergency. You should, therefore, maintain a safe distance if you are driving behind a truck.
Know the blind spots of truck drivers and avoid them. If you drive close behind or right next to a big truck, you may be invisible to them, and this could result in accidents
On the highway, be very cautious and avoid driving next to trucks for too long. A truck may bring commotion when turning or when trying to maneuver through bends
If you decide to pull, ensure that you are completely outside the travel lane to avoid encountering a truck. You may pull over to change a flat or to amend something on your vehicle. If you are not careful, a truck driver may slam into you
Do not involve yourself in road range battles with truck drivers, as you may get hurt. For instance, a truck may get a tire burst when you are right there next to it.
By observing proper road usage and safety, you will not be liable if you face a truck accident.
Exceptions in Truck Accident Cases
While operating large trucks, especially trailers, drivers face some unique risks that are not common when operating smaller vehicles. A truck driver is not negligent in cases of:
Jackknifing-Big vehicles and particularly trailers have a high risk of jackknifing, especially due to sudden braking or if a driver makes an emergency turn. For instance, a truck driver is not negligent if he jackknifes due to unexpected slipperiness on the road. A truck driver is also not negligent if he makes a sudden turn to avoid slamming into a stalled vehicle.
Turning Accidents- Due to their large size, commercial vehicles often have a rough time turning. At times, the truck driver may have to occupy two lanes to be able to turn. A truck driver may claim innocence on such grounds.
What to Do After a Truck Accident
Assess Your Injuries
The most important step after being involved in a truck accident is to assess your injuries. Due to the great commotion that surrounds an accident scene, you are likely to be very confused immediately after an accident. After coming back to your senses, you should do a full body scan and identify the injuries you have sustained. If you are greatly injured, wait for medical attention and remain calm. It is important to fill an accident report form capturing the details of the accident as soon as possible.
Inform the Police
If you are involved in a truck accident, you can be sure that the damage will be great. Unlike regular vehicle accident where your vehicle may sustain a small dent, and you decide to settle the case out of court, a truck accident will have a major impact. Therefore, you have to involve the police immediately. The police will record an official report, and this will play a main role in your claim. Your insurance company and that of the truck will also need the written police report. As you wait for the police, you may opt to move your car from the road to avoid blocking traffic. If your vehicle is a wreck and you are unable to move, you may opt to turn on the hazard lights to warn other drivers as you wait for the police to arrive.
You should limit the exchange of information with the truck driver as the trucking company may use the information you disclose against you. Try to get as much information as possible from the scene. For instance, you may note the make and the model of the truck, the license plate, the trucking company information, and if possible, the name of the driver.
Take Some Photos
If you have the ability, you may take some photos of the scene and your injuries. This evidence will be crucial for your case. Injuries sustained may heal fast, and it may be hard to prove later that you indeed suffered injuries. With some photos, however, you can prove that you indeed suffered the injuries. Take as many photos as possible. You may take photos of your car wreckage, the truck, the license plate, witnesses, and your cuts or bruises.
Capture Information from Witnesses
Witnesses who may be at the scene are likely to leave, and you may never see them again. It is, therefore, prudent to note down the witness information. You may write down their contact details just in case your attorney finds it important to contact them.
Seek a Personal Medical Report
After an accident, you will receive immediate first aid and medical report. However, it is important to follow up with your doctor after the incident. This way, the insurance company cannot deny you compensation based on the medical gaps that may be present.
Scope of Compensation in a Truck Accident Case
If you suffer harm in a truck accident, you may receive compensation from the third parties at fault. The compensation will depend on the kind of injuries you sustain both during and after the accident. In some instances, your family members may also receive compensation based on their relationship to you. You may access compensation for:
A truck accident may inflict injuries that lead to total deformity. You may sustain permanent scars and marks that may affect your life forever. You may receive compensation for such damages that are likely to have a big effect on your self-esteem, for instance.
Future Medical Treatment
After undergoing the initial treatment after an accident, you may need additional treatment in the future. You must provide enough proof to help the jury estimate the applicable future medical costs.
Loss of Consortium
After sustain injuries in an accident, your marriage may be affected. You may also face ridicule from society. Your spouse may claim compensation for lost companionship, solace, comfort, and conjugal rights. When evaluating the damage, certain factors such as the couple's prior relationship are considered. For instance, the jury will evaluate whether the couple was in a happy relationship before the accident.
Hired Household Labor
After an accident injury, you may lose the ability to perform household duties forcing you to hire someone to assist you around the house as you recuperate. You may seek compensation for these costs when filing a truck accident claim. Such costs at times fall under the medical expenses.
After sustaining injuries, you may lose your ability to go to work. Lost wages cover all the money a victim would have earned from the time the accident occurred to the time when the case ends in court. If you are unemployed, you can still claim compensation for lost wages if you can prove about what you could have earned in the period under evaluation.
Loss of Earning Capacity
A victim gets compensation for loss of earning capacity if there is proof of impairment of his ability to earn money in the future. When examining this compensation, some factors are put into consideration include the victim's remaining time to retirement. The life expectancy, health, skills, and expertise of the plaintiff also influence the compensation. This compensation goes hand in hand with permanent disability compensation. For a permanent disability proof, a plaintiff must provide a medical report from a reliable medical practitioner.
Emotional Distress and Pain
Emotional distress associated with the truck accident may include anxiety, terror, mortification, humiliation, self-pity, and a feeling or lost dignity. You may also receive compensation for physical pain suffered during the accident and after the accident before full recovery.
What to Expect During a Truck Accident Trial
If you are involved in a truck accident, you will have four years to file a claim and seek compensation. If you fail to file a claim within four years, you may lose the case. This period is adequate, and you will have all the time you need to gather information relating to the accident and update your attorney. Steps followed include:
Preparation of Initial Paperwork by the Attorney
Your attorney will prepare a demand letter and serve to the trucking company, and any other party involved to inform them that you intend to file a claim.
After receiving the demand letter, the defendant will answer, and this may create room for negotiations. This process may take long, months, or even years, as many factors have to be completed. At this point, your attorney will gather enough information and also contact witnesses to get enough evidence for your case.
The parties involved may attempt to settle the case out of court. There are two methods of solving a case out of court: arbitration or mediation. If the parties do not reach a consensus at this stage, the case proceeds to court.
In court, the attorney presents the case to a jury. The jury may either be in accord with the claim or deny compensation to the victim
Find a Clay County Personal Injury Attorney Specializing in Truck Accident Cases Near Me
For you to get the best compensation for a truck accident case, you will need the expertise and experience of a firm like Clay County Personal Injury Attorney. We have attorneys who can comfortably maneuver the ins and outs of a truck accident case to ensure that you receive the right compensation. Call our Clay County Personal Injury Attorney at 904-494-8242 and speak to one of our expert attorneys about your case. You should not let a truck accident devastate or permanently ruin your life. We are here to walk with you and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.