In truck accidents, negligence is the main liability theory. If you suffer injuries, there are several elements you must prove before the court for you to qualify for compensation from the liable parties. You must prove that either the trucking company or the truck driver, among other liable parties, owed you a duty of care. The truck drivers on Florida roads owe other road users a duty of care while driving, including passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers. Also, the trucking company, the truck driver, or other liable parties did not accord you the necessary duty of care, resulting in the accident, which caused your injuries. Get in touch with us at the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney for help in proving these elements so that you can possibly receive fair compensation.
There are several elements of truck accident cases under Florida law. The main elements are:
- Existence of a Duty of Care
- Breach of Duty of Care
- Causation — the accident should have occurred due to the defendant's breach of duty of care
- Damages — the victim should have suffered damages due to the defendant’s breach of duty of care.
Duty of Care
Truck accidents occur every day, and unfortunately, the majority of accidents occur due to negligence. If you have suffered injuries in an accident and need to seek compensation, you have to understand the first element of a trucking accident case; duty of care.
In Florida, every person has to act reasonably to avoid causing injuries to other people. If a person fails to act with this duty of care and causes injuries to another person, he/she could be liable for the injuries of the victims.
Truck drivers have a duty of care to ensure that they safely operate trucks. Drivers owe a duty of care to pedestrians, other drivers, and any other road user.
The trucking company has a duty of care to ensure that it employs qualified truck drivers who can operate trucks safely. The company also has the responsibility of ensuring that the trucks are in good condition to operate on the roads without posing risks to other road users. Trucking companies have a duty of care to ensure that they set reasonable work schedules for drivers to avoid driver fatigue.
The company responsible for repairing and maintaining trucks has a duty of care to ensure that trucks are always in good condition. If a trucking accident occurs due to an obvious mechanical defect that the repair experts failed to identify, the experts might be to blame for the accident.
Truck manufacturers also have a duty of care to ensure that they release safe trucks, free from mechanical problems, into the market. If a trucking accident occurs due to a manufacturing defect in trucks, the truck manufacturer might be liable.
Breach of Duty of Care/ Negligence
After proving that a duty of care existed, you need to show that the defendant breached his/her duty of care. This means that the defendant acted negligently.
Negligence by Truck Company
In most cases, when a trucking accident happens, full or shared responsibility can lie on a trucking company; however, the process of proving that the trucking company is at fault can be tricky. Legal responsibility for truck accidents is not always clear. Revealing the truth requires competent investigators, lawyers, and expert witnesses to help you.
Trucking companies that coerce their drivers to meet unrealistic expectations and deadlines, cut safety-related corners to increase the speed of delivery, or carry out incomplete inspections could be liable for an accident. At this point, you will need to provide evidence of negligence or liability.
To increase their profit margins, trucking companies tend to violate safety requirements and transportation rules. If these violations contribute to a trucking accident, the trucking company may be liable for the injuries and damages that result. If a trucking company allows truck drivers to overload or carry unbalanced cargo, the company might be liable for the accident. A truck company has a responsibility to ensure that a driver abides by all traffic laws when operating a truck. Failure of the truck company to ensure a driver's compliance with the law could lead to liability.
The trucking company has carried out proper hiring and adequate training of its employees. Negligent hiring or failing to orient employees could lead to the company's liability for the truck accident. If a company retains a problematic truck driver and the driver causes an accident, it could lead to liability. It is the duty of the truck company to ensure that its drivers get enough sleep and do not violate sleep regulations.
Florida laws are clear regarding the size, weight, and route designations for trucks. A truck company fails to abide by the set requirements or falsifies some documents; it might be to blame for an accident. A trucking company should avoid all types of violations to avoid exposure to liability in case of an accident.
The trucking company may be liable for the truck accident because of overloading or having overweight vehicles to precede on a journey against the Florida laws.
Even if the truck accident occurred because of the driver's fault, the trucking company could be liable if the accident, according to Florida's legal claim of respondent superior. To prevail on this claim, you would have to prove the following:
- Your injuries occurred due to the truck driver’s actions.
- The truck company is the employer of the truck driver.
- At the time of the accident, the truck driver acted in the scope of her or his employment.
The truck company may have larger insurance policies and more money than its driver to influence the outcome of the case. However, as long as the truck driver was on duty when the accident occurred, the truck company will be responsible for your injuries.
Strict Products Liability
The truck manufacturer could be responsible for strict product liability in Florida, should the truck accident occur due to a defective truck. You should file your claim with the following proof:
- Your injuries or damages were because of the truck's defects.
- The truck already had the defects when it left the hands of the truck manufacturer.
- The truck’s defect occurred because of the manufacturing or design defect.
- The manufacturer did not issue a warning regarding the defect.
Breaching Duty of Care by the Truck Driver
Under Florida law, to prove that the truck driver acted negligently and led to the truck accident, you would have to provide the following proof:
- The driver owed you a duty of care.
- The driver breached his/her duty of care.
- The driver’s breach of his/her duty of care made you suffer injuries.
The truck driver should offer a safe drive and take care of other road users. If the truck driver gets distracted and hits you, he/she is negligent against you.
Negligence Per se
All truck drivers should follow the Florida traffic laws, such as avoiding driving while intoxicated and speeding. These laws are meant to protect pedestrians, other drivers, and passengers. If a truck driver violates these traffic laws, and he/she hits you, he/she acts in negligence per se against you. To prove that a truck driver is liable for negligence per se in Florida, you would have to prove the following:
- The truck driver violated negligence per se law
- The truck driver was under obligation to follow certain traffic laws.
- Your injuries were as a result of the truck driver’s violation of the law.
- You are among the people the law of negligence per se protects
A truck driver can engage in specific negligent acts and lead to an accident in various ways:
There is a problem of distracted driving everywhere in Florida, and it is a more prevalent issue on the local roads, and on the highways. Distracted driving diverts the attention of a truck driver away from the normal driving responsibility. It could be boring for a truck driver to drive for a long distance, especially in rural areas where there is not much entertainment. Because of boredom, the truck driver may be tempted to start eating while driving, texting on the phone, or doing anything to stay occupied. If a driver looks at the phone or eats while driving, it might take the truck driver’s concentration and lead toa trucking accident.
When a person goes for a driving course, there are requirements and regulations for the time he/she must take to become a qualified truck driver. Most truck drivers begin driving on the road without attaining the set requirements. Florida experiences bad weather; it could be snow, rain, or wind. It takes a truck driver with proper training and enough experience to drive in bad weather, especially when he/she is driving a large truck. The truck driver must slow down in bad weather to avoid skidding or hydroplaning of the truck. A truck driver without experience and poor training on how to drive in bad weather could cause the accident.
It is common for truck accidents to occur when a driver is overworked or exhausted. An exhausted driver is not likely to pay attention while on the road. The driver might fall asleep behind the wheel, leading to a trucking accident. At times, driver fatigue is the fault of the trucking company if the company sets unrealistic expectations for drivers. However, an accident could also be the fault of a driver, especially if a driver overworks to earn more income.
If a truck driver feels that he/she will earn more by driving for long hours or by running errands fast, she/he may cause an accident. Truck accidents may occur due to improper systems of compensation. For instance, some trucking companies' compensation policy may encourage over speeding by a truck driver and driving for long consecutive hours.
The third element in truck accident cases is causation. This means that the truck accident must have occurred due to the negligence of the defendant. You must be able to prove that if the defendant had acted with reasonable care, the truck accident would not have occurred. Sometimes, defendants in truck accidents might attempt to deny responsibility or attempt to blame you for the accident. To avoid these scenarios, you should have a competent attorney to fight for your legal rights. Your personal injury attorney will gather the necessary facts to show that the defendant caused the truck accident.
You can’t seek compensation after a trucking accident unless it is evident that you suffered injuries in the truck accident. It is important to ensure that you have the right supporting documents to prove that you have indeed suffered damages:
You could seek compensation for medical damages to cover the cost of seeking medical treatment after an accident. Even if you feel okay after the accident, you should still undergo a medical evaluation. Some injuries might not show immediately after the accident.
Physical Injuries in Truck Accidents
If you get involved in truck accidents, some of the critical physical injuries you may suffer and seek compensation for under Florida law include:
Torso and Rib Injuries
Truck accident injuries to the torso and the ribs can be fatal, as the important body organs are protected by the ribcage. A healthy person has 24 ribs in his/her body in total. If you sustain blunt force trauma on the chest, you are likely to suffer rib fracture. Torso and rib injuries are more painful, and they can make you have trouble breathing. If you suffer torso and rib injuries due to the negligence of another party, you can file a compensation claim.
Seat Belt Injuries
If you are a car driver and you get involved in a trucking accident, the seat belt you wear can cause serious injury. Though these seat belts are meant to protect you, you may suffer whiplash injury in case of a trucking accident.
If you are involved in a fatal truck accident, you can suffer internal bleeding. The organs that are likely to get affected include the liver, spleen, bladder, pancreas, and kidney. The damages on these organs are very difficult to treat, and most victims succumb.
Neck and Back Injuries
Neck and back injuries may be more serious or lead to minor neck pains. Because your neck and back play an important role in everything a person does, the neck and back injuries may prevent you from attending to your daily activities or resuming work. You may also suffer dislocated discs in the spine.
You could also prove that you have lost income because of the truck accident. Lost income mainly consisted of lost wages and lost earning capacity. After suffering injuries, it would be hard to continue engaging in economic activities like employment. You are not likely to be productive like the way you were before the occurrence of the accident.
You can support that you have suffered lost income by obtaining employment documents from your employer. You could also get your tax documents as evidence of the income you used to make before the accident.
You can also prove that you have suffered pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment in life, and other intangible damages after a trucking accident. Unlike economic damages that are easy to express in monetary terms, non-economic damages are not easy to quantify. You will need a competent attorney to help prove the value of non-economic damages occurring due to the truck accident.
You could claim punitive damages if it was evident the defendant was extremely negligent or that the defendant acted intentionally and caused your injuries. The court awards punitive damages to punish the defendant for negligent conduct. Punitive damages ensure that the defendant will not repeat the same offense in the future.
Proving Damages In Truck Accidents
When a trucking accident occurs, the truck driver may blame you for the accident, even if you are not at fault. Most truck drivers always deny responsibility. The steps you take after involvement in truck accidents in Florida will determine your ability to prove that you have suffered damages, for which you should receive compensation. Some of the steps you should take after the truck accident include:
Get Witness Contact Details
When a trucking accident occurs, witnesses may gather around the scene of the accident. When the police come, and the people disperse, you may not be able to reassess the witnesses. It is good to ensure that you gather the witnesses' details, including their phone numbers. Your injury lawyer will have an easy time contacting the clients and requesting information about the truck accident. You should gather information on the truck driver, and write down the registration number of the truck. You should also write down other essential details like the truck model and its color.
Avoid Exchanging Information
After getting involved in an accident, you should avoid exchanging information, especially with the truck company, the truck driver, and the insurers. Do not apologize even if you feel you may be partly to blame for the accident. Apologizing may be a sign of admitting fault and could make the other parties think that you are responsible even when you are innocent. It is also good to avoid explaining your injuries to the insurance company. Even if you feel as if your injuries are not fatal, you should not disclose the details to the defendant or the insurance company. Instead, contact your injury attorney. The attorney may have handled numerous cases in the past. She/he is in a better position to deal with the insurance companies and the defendants.
Do Not Leave the Scene of the Accident
After a trucking accident in Florida, you should not leave the accident scene before the law enforcers come. If you are severely injured, you may leave the scene to seek medical treatment. You should ensure that you leave behind your contact with the other parties involved in the truck accident. Ensure that you gather some evidence from the accident scene. You may request another person to take photos of your injuries and the accident scene if you cannot do so.
Call the Police
If you are not severely injured and are in a position to call the police, it is good to do so immediately after the accident. The police can help to collect valuable evidence, which your injury attorney may use to come up with a strong compensation claim. The police will draft a report outlining the facts about the truck accident. You can use the report to prove what happened at the scene of the accident. If you cannot call the police, you may request another person to call the police for you.
The state of Florida operates under the pure comparative negligence law. This means that the state apportions fault among the parties at fault, depending on the degree of fault. Therefore, if you were partially negligent or partly to blame for the truck accident, you will receive less of your degree of fault. Therefore, if you are suing the trucking company and are 20% to blame for the accident, you will receive 80% compensation.
Florida accepted the concept of comparative fault in 1973. The rationale behind this acceptance was that in most accidents, the causes of accidents are not always clear. In some instances, multiple parties contribute to the occurrence of accidents. The concept of comparative negligence ensures that every party carries its portion of the blame. If various parties are to blame for the accident, every party will be liable, depending on the degree of fault.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If you have suffered injuries in an accident in Florida, you must prove the various elements of the case to get compensation. It might be hard to go at it alone; you need the assistance of a competent personal injury attorney. Clay County Personal Injury Attorney can evaluate your case and help you seek compensation. Contact us at 904-494-8242 and speak to one of our attorneys today.