Many victims have a lot on their plates after a truck accident. The thousands of people injured in truck accidents, or the surviving families of those killed in truck accidents, must deal with many issues: replacing or repairing a severely damaged vehicle, consulting with their insurance companies, and managing the medical details associated with their recoveries. For some, the details of the truck accident claim may fall through the cracks. Others may wait to file a claim until they know what their prognosis looks like. Just how long do you have to file a truck accident claim?
How Long Does the Statute of Limitations Provide for a Truck Accident Claim?
You suffered injuries in a truck accident in Florida and want to file a truck accident suit against the party responsible for your accident. In some cases, multiple parties may bear liability for your accident: the truck driver, the trucking company, or the manufacturer of the vehicle, depending on the circumstances that led to your accident, for example. You may discover, when you start working with an attorney, that more than one party bears legal liability for your accident—including a party you might not have expected to file a claim against previously.
The Florida statute of limitations generally allows four years after your truck accident to file your claim. Many exceptions to that rule, however, can help extend the time you have to file a truck accident claim. Even if the statute of limitations has expired, consult with an experienced truck accident attorney to determine whether you still have grounds to file your claim and how you can benefit.
When Should You File Your Truck Accident Claim?
Most victims of truck accidents want to maximize their financial compensation following their accidents as much as possible. These victims may have substantial medical bills to pay or find that their other bills are getting out of hand while they wait to return to work. Several factors, however, can contribute to when you should file your personal injury claim after a truck accident.
You may have serious injuries following a truck accident and therefore likely have substantial bills stemming from them. Why wait to file your claim? In some cases, your attorney may actually advise waiting to finalize your claim. Read on to find out why.
You do not yet know the full extent of your injuries. Your medical bills represent one of the biggest chunks of your settlement. The extent of your injuries can make a big difference in the cost of medical treatment. For example, non-surgical treatment of a broken bone can cost around $2,500. Surgical treatment of the same broken bone, on the other hand, will cost considerably more, depending on where you have your surgery and any complications involved in the surgical process.
In many cases, common complications related to your injuries can also extend the healing process and increase your medical costs. Burns, for example, frequently result in infections. Some skin grafts may fail, requiring more procedures or additional treatment—all of which will add to the cost of your medical bills.
When you do not know the full extent of your injuries and what they will cost, you may struggle to put together the medical expenses portion of your demand package. An experienced attorney can help you estimate the cost of your medical expenses, but that estimate may not represent your actual costs during recovery. By waiting until you have a better idea of your actual medical costs to file your truck accident claim, you may find that you have a much better idea of what your injuries cost and, therefore, what you should ask for in your demand package.
You have not moved far enough through the healing process to determine how your injuries will damage you long-term. Your attorney will take into account your long-term costs as you put together your demand package. For example, if you suffer the amputation of a limb because of your truck accident, you may need to install a wheelchair ramp or stairlift in your home. You may need to make modifications to your bathroom to make it possible for you to shower and care for yourself independently. Not only that, you may need to factor in the cost of a prosthesis that can require replacement every three to five years.
Immediately after your accident, however, you may not know what your long-term recovery will look like. Some victims require an amputation weeks after their accidents due to a lack of blood flow or necrotic tissue in a limb crushed in the accident. Victims of spinal cord damage, especially incomplete spinal cord damage, may have a better idea of how much mobility they will lose long-term around six months after the accident. By waiting to file your truck accident claim until you have a better idea of what your recovery will look like, your attorney can help you develop a strong estimate of your actual losses, both financial and physical, and calculate appropriate payment.
You have not yet identified everyone responsible for causing or contributing to your accident. Sometimes, it may take an extensive investigation to identify all parties responsible for a truck accident. In the case of mechanical failure, for example, it may take a full investigation of the vehicle to discover what part failed. Then, your attorney will ask several questions to determine who bears liability for that failed part.
- Is the part original to the truck? If the manufacturer of the truck put out a vehicle—or, in some cases, several vehicles—with defective parts, the manufacturer may bear liability for that error.
- Has the part been repaired recently? If a mechanic recently worked on a truck and certified it as roadworthy, but failed to adequately fix the truck, then the mechanic may share liability for the accident. If, on the other hand, the new part proves faulty, the manufacturer of that part may share liability for the accident.
- Did the driver or trucking company that owns the truck fail to complete proper maintenance on the vehicle? If the trucking company ignored needed tire replacement, leading to a tire blowout, for example, the trucking company may share liability for injuries caused in that accident.
It may take time to fully identify the cause of your truck accident and, therefore, find the parties liable for your injuries. If you do not yet know all of the factors that contributed to your accident, your attorney may advise you to wait to file your truck accident claim until he or she can conduct a thorough investigation.
When Should You Contact an Attorney?
Now you know that you may need to wait before filing your truck accident claim. That does not mean, however, that you should wait to contact an attorney regarding your accident. In fact, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible after your accident.
Even in the earliest days, an attorney can provide many benefits. For example, an attorney can:
- Prevent the clock from running out on the statute of limitations. An attorney can help you avoid missing the statutory deadline to file your case by beginning the process and filing with the court even if you need more time before progressing with the claim itself. As a result, you can avoid missing out on potential compensation due to a continuing investigation or other factors beyond your control.
- Help collect evidence about your accident. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner that attorney can start working to collect evidence about your accident. The longer you wait, the harder it can prove to collect that vital evidence. Witness statements, for example, often fade from memory quickly after a truck accident. Traumatic events, in particular, can become harder to recall with time. An attorney can collect those statements early, while the accident remains fresh in the minds of those witnesses.
Other evidence can also prove easier to find immediately after the truck accident than if you start seeking it months or years down the road. Depending on the circumstances of your accident or how the truck driver’s insurance company chooses to handle the settlement, you may need to access the truck driver’s logbook.
Generally, the company keeps those logbooks. Modern logs may even get stored virtually Some companies, however, may attempt to destroy or hide those logbooks, especially if they prove that the driver spent above the legal number of hours on the road. An attorney may also attempt to collect any video footage of the accident, including footage from traffic cameras and dash cameras. Security camera footage from local businesses can also help recreate the accident.
Provide advice that can help prevent you from limiting your settlement. You likely have a lot on your plate after a truck accident. The more you have to deal with, the harder you may find it to navigate your truck accident claim, including interactions with the insurance company liable for your injuries.
An attorney can provide valuable advice during this period that can prevent you from limiting your claim, including:
- Preventing you from accepting a low settlement offer. Many insurance companies will send you a settlement offer immediately after the truck accident, before you have a chance to evaluate your injuries and prepare for your recovery. If you accept that offer, it may prevent you from seeking future compensation.
- Helping with interactions with the insurance company liable for covering your injuries. Even small statements can have a big impact on your claim. Turn those interactions over to an attorney or seek an experienced truck accident attorney’s advice before answering questions from the insurance company.
- Assisting you as you navigate other areas that could impact your claim. What you post on social media, for example, could impact how the liable insurance company or entity handles your claim. An attorney can help you understand what you should post and what you shouldn’t, including how to answer questions and concerns from well-meaning friends and loved ones.
Four Things You Should Do After a Truck Accident
- Seek medical care. Make medical care your first priority after a truck accident. Seeking immediate medical care helps prevent you from missing the presence of any injuries, which can help speed up your recovery. When you seek medical care immediately after your truck accident, you will also create a valuable record of exactly how and when your injuries occurred, which can help with your claim later.
- Follow all advice given to you by your doctors and therapists. Your doctors and physical or occupational therapists will do their best to provide you with a care plan that will help maximize your recovery from your injuries. Following their advice will help improve your odds of making a full recovery and prevent the entity liable for your accident from claiming that you worsened or caused your own injuries or complications by failing to listen to your medical providers.
- Keep track of all of your medical bills. Start a separate file for all medical bills associated with your injuries from the accident. Include all medical care, including surgeries, treatments, therapies, and follow-up appointments. Keep in mind that multiple bills may arrive for the same procedure. For example, following surgery, you may need to pay a bill for the anesthesiologist, a bill for the hospital used in the surgery, and a bill for the doctor who actually performed the surgery. You should also track any durable medical equipment purchased to aid in your independence and recovery, from shower chairs to a wheelchair or prosthesis. These medical bills can help provide the foundation of your truck accident claim.
Contact an attorney. Get in touch with an experienced truck accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner that attorney can start working on your behalf. Even if you believe you need to wait to file your claim, consult an attorney to receive advice about your specific circumstances and your claim.
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