If you have a family to support, you may worry about what it will mean for your family if you suffer severe injuries or die in a truck accident.
Consider these options.
Your Insurance Policies
The insurance policies you carry can have a substantial impact on the compensation and assistance you receive following an accident with a big truck.
Your Life Insurance Policy
An average of 59 percent of Americans carries life insurance policies. Half of those do not carry adequate life insurance to protect their families. When choosing a life insurance policy, insured individuals should consider:
What does your life insurance policy cover? Some employers, for example, offer life insurance policies that provide coverage only if the individual dies performing work responsibilities: while at work, traveling to and from work, or attending a work-sponsored event, for example. Employer-sponsored insurance may also fail to provide adequate coverage.
How much coverage do you really need? What does your life insurance policy need to cover? Carefully consider the income you provide to help support your family as well as the tasks you perform for your family. A stay-at-home parent, for example, may not contribute substantially to the family income, but may provide vital childcare services that significantly cut the family’s costs.
Make sure to factor in:
- Care for elderly parents
- Keeping up with the yard
- Cooking and grocery shopping
- Transportation for children
- After-school care
You should also consider the bills your spouse may face in the event of your death: not just funeral and burial expenses, but the various expenses your family may need to handle to maintain quality of life. You may, for example, want a life insurance policy that will pay off the mortgage. Will your spouse need to return to school or acquire new certifications to support the family? Consider how long your life insurance policy should provide for the family and what expenses your spouse will need to cover during that time.
Your Health Insurance Policy
Your health insurance policy will provide important coverage for your medical expenses if you suffer severe injuries in an accident with a big truck. Injuries like traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and amputation, for example, can lead to lifelong medical costs. You may lack the ability to work while receiving care for severe injuries, or they can prevent you from working permanently. If you suffer serious injuries in a truck accident, contact your health insurance company.
You will need to:
Notify your health insurance company about the accident. Your health insurance company needs to know about your accident to approve treatment for your medical expenses. Contacting the insurance company yourself, rather than waiting for approval to come through, can help you get approval for those bills faster.
Ask about your coverage. Many people have a vague idea of what their health insurance will cover in the event of a serious truck accident, but may have no idea about the specifics. In your everyday life, you do not need to know how many therapy visits your insurance company will cover or whether the company will offer coverage for durable medical equipment.
After serious injuries, however, you may need to ask:
- What do your copays and deductibles look like?
- Which providers for specific services, including therapy, surgical treatment, or long-term care, are covered by your insurance provider?
- Does your provider offer coverage for in-home care or a stay in an extended care facility? How long will that coverage extend?
- What is your out of pocket maximum, or the maximum amount you will have to pay for your medical expenses, each year? What happens when you hit that amount?
- How many physical therapy sessions does your policy cover each year?
- Do you need approval or a referral to see a specialist? What if you need a second opinion: will your health insurance provider cover that appointment?
Understanding your health insurance coverage and your policy limits can help you make more effective decisions about your medical care and your budget moving forward.
Your Personal Injury Protection Insurance
In no-fault states such as Florida, drivers who own their own vehicle must carry personal injury protection insurance, which provides a critical level of protection for initial medical expenses and lost wages related to an injury. PIP insurance usually provides $10,000 of immediate assistance with medical bills, which can make it easier for you to take care of those initial appointments and medical treatments after your accident. Notify your PIP insurance provider about the circumstances of your accident.
Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Insurance
Severe injuries also bring with them substantial medical bills. Most truck drivers and the companies that employ them carry bodily injury protection policies that offer a high degree of protection when an accident occurs. Unfortunately, sometimes, the cost of your medical bills may exceed the protection offered by the truck driver’s insurance. In a worst-case scenario, a truck driver could even take to the road without adequate insurance.
Your underinsured and uninsured motorist policies can provide some degree of protection after a serious accident with a truck driver who does not carry adequate insurance or who does not carry insurance at all. Review your policy to see how much protection it offers. Often, adding underinsured or uninsured motorist insurance will provide a vital increase in protection at a relatively low expense when compared to the overall amount of your policy.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
If you suffer serious injuries in an accident with a big truck, once the cost of your injuries exceeds the protection offered by your personal injury protection insurance, you can file a personal injury claim. This truck accident claim can help provide vital financial protection for your family. A truck accident attorney can evaluate your injuries and your accident and give you a better idea of how much compensation you deserve, including the compensation typically offered by the truck driver’s policy.
Truck drivers must carry higher insurance coverage than private drivers. While the average Florida driver may carry insurance that offers just $10,000 in compensation for serious injury, a truck driver may carry between $750,000 and $1,000,000 in coverage for accidents caused by that driver.
By working with an attorney, you may also identify additional parties that contributed to your truck accident. You can then file a personal injury claim against those parties, which can ultimately increase the compensation you receive after an accident.
Liable parties may include:
- The truck driver’s employer. Strict rules govern commercial drivers’ actions on the road, including the number of hours each driver can spend behind the wheel each day and each week. An employer who forces the driver to exceed those hours can bear liability for the accident. The employer may also share liability for a truck owned by the company that does not receive adequate maintenance; requiring the driver to continue driving in spite of dangerous weather conditions, inebriation, or illness; or failing to adequately track driver records, allowing a driver who has racked up a substantial accident count to continue driving for the company.
- The vehicle manufacturer. Big trucks see a lot of hours on the road. Sometimes, mechanical failures occur due to overuse, which leaves liability in the hands of the party that caused the accident. In other cases, however, those failures may occur due to manufacturer error. In this case, liability for the accident may rest with that manufacturer.
- A mechanic who recently worked on or certified the vehicle. Some fleets employ their own mechanics. Others, however, outsource the vehicle’s mechanical needs. If the mechanic that worked on the vehicle most recently certified it as road-safe, but failed to adequately fix a problem, the mechanic may share liability for the accident.
- The company that loaded the cargo. Shifting load accidents can cause jackknifes, cargo slipping off the truck completely, or cause the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle. If the company that loaded the cargo did so incorrectly, causing a severe accident, that party may bear liability for any accident caused by shifting cargo.
Claiming Your Medical Expenses
Your medical expenses represent one of the primary elements of your truck accident claim. An attorney cannot guarantee how much compensation you will receive when you claim medical expenses, but can offer critical advice about elements like the expenses you should include as part of that claim.
You can claim your medical expenses as part of your truck accident claim, including:
- Emergency treatment. Ambulance transport from the scene of the accident alone can add up. Then, you must consider any treatment you receive in the emergency room, including emergency surgery or treatment of broken limbs.
- Hospitalization. Some injuries may require a long period of hospitalization for you to recover as fully as possible. You can include the cost of hospitalization as part of your truck accident claim.
- Ongoing treatment. You may need to see your doctor repeatedly for followup visits, including evaluation of the progression of your healing. You may also require multiple surgeries or tests and procedures to help treat your injuries.
- Durable medical equipment. Some injuries may require you to use durable medical equipment to help you get around after your injuries or to improve your independence. You may require a wheelchair, crutches and braces, or a prosthetic device.
- Therapy. Truck accident victims may need physical, psychological, and occupational therapy to recover as much as possible from their injuries.
- The cost of modifications to your home. Home modifications can add up after a serious accident. You may, for example, need to renovate your bathroom to add grab bars or put in a walk-in shower or a tub that accommodates wheelchair needs. You may need to add a wheelchair ramp to your home’s entrance or widen the doorways to make it easier to get around.
Your family may struggle under the weight of those medical expenses when you face them alone. Filing a personal injury claim, on the other hand, can give you the assistance you need to manage those expenses.
Including Lost Wages
In addition to your medical expenses, you may struggle with the loss of your wages. If you provide the primary source of income for your family, losing your wages could leave you wondering how to pay your regular bills, much less the added bills that may come with serious medical expenses. Providing for your family may feel impossible.
Fortunately, you can include your lost wages as part of your truck accident claim. You can calculate all income lost as a result of your injury, including the time when you could not work in the hospital or reduced hours when you could return to work. If you lost the ability to work in your field as a result of your injuries, you can also include lost earning potential.
Wrongful Death Claims and How They Provide for Your Family
If a truck accident takes your life or the life of a loved one, and the living party would have had grounds for a personal injury claim, the surviving family can file a wrongful death claim to help seek compensation for that loss. A wrongful death claim can provide compensation for the deceased individual’s final medical expenses as well as providing compensation for the loss that can help the family recover financially from that loss.
More than 4,000 people die in truck accidents across the United States every year. Thousands more suffer severe, life-altering injuries. If you suffered serious injuries or lost a loved one in a truck accident, a personal injury attorney can help you understand your legal rights and the compensation you deserve. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon after the accident as possible to help you get quality advice about how to provide for your family after an accident.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814