Commercial motor vehicles—also known as semi-trucks or tractor-trailers—are a vital part of the economy. We depend on these vehicles and their drivers to deliver the products we use in our daily lives. However, the size and weight of these trucks can pose a danger to other travelers on the roadway. About 3,000 accidents involve commercial motor vehicles in Orange County alone each year, resulting in 15 or more fatalities and hundreds of injuries.
If you were a victim of a truck accident that was not your fault, you should seek compensation for your injuries. An experienced truck accident lawyer can help. Read on for more information about truck accidents and what a lawyer can do to help you throughout the legal process of seeking compensation.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You Understand Your Options
When you or your loved one are injured in an accident involving a commercial truck, the last thing you are likely thinking about is your legal strategy. However, as the expenses for treating your injuries begin to pile up, and the big picture of how this injury is going to impact your life becomes clearer, you may find yourself wondering if there is help available.
Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to vehicle insurance. This doesn’t mean that no one is at fault for your accident. Rather, what it means is that the personal injury protection (PIP) policy that you were required to purchase before you could register your vehicle in Florida is generally the first place you should turn to pay for medical expenses and lost wages due to injuries sustained in a vehicle accident. However, most people purchase the minimum required $10,000 policy. $10,000 doesn’t go very far when you are dealing with serious injuries, and that policy is often expended long before your injuries have healed.
At the point when you’ve reached the limit of your policy, a truck accident lawyer can look at the details of your case and determine whether your injuries meet the serious injury threshold. Meeting this threshold enables you to pursue compensation through the civil court system.
To meet this threshold, your injuries must involve one of the following:
- Significant and permanent loss of a bodily function
- Permanent injury, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement
- Significant and permanent scarring and disfigurement
If your injury meets the state’s serious injury threshold, then you have the option of attempting to reach a settlement with the insurance provider of the at-fault party and/or filing a personal injury lawsuit. If you are offered a settlement, then you have the option of accepting it or declining it. All throughout this process, you will be forced to make difficult decisions. A truck accident lawyer will help you understand these choices and provide guidance to help you make the choices that are right for you.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You Establish a Value
There is no accurate way to determine the value of your life. There are, however, established formulas used to determine a fair amount of compensation for your injuries.
Some factors that go into calculating the value of your case include:
- Your economic expenses, including medical expenses, lost wages due to being too injured to work or missing work to attend medical appointments related to your injuries, property damage to your vehicle, estimated future medical expenses, and loss of future earning capacity, which is the amount of money you would have likely earned throughout your working years but now will not due to the severity and permanence of your injuries. These expenses are also known as special damages.
- Impacts to your quality of life, including pain and suffering, humiliation, and loss of enjoyment of life. These damages are typically calculated using a multiplier. What this means is that your lawyer will calculate the special damages involved in your case and multiply these by a number. The higher the multiplier, the higher-value your case is. Some of the factors that may increase the multiplier include the severity of your injuries, the pain associated with your medical treatment, whether your injuries are permanent, and how these injuries will likely impact the rest of your life.
Establishing a value to your case is important, as this is the amount of compensation that your attorney will demand from the insurance provider of the at-fault party. If the value is set too low, you risk never covering your expenses despite receiving compensation.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You Identify All Liable Parties
For someone to face liability for your injuries, you must prove that this individual or entity was either intentionally reckless or—more often—negligent. Negligence is defined as the failure to behave with the level of care that an ordinarily prudent person would have exercised in the same circumstances. Negligence is established by demonstrating the following:
- The defendant (at-fault party) owed the plaintiff (victim) a legal duty. In many motor vehicle accidents, including truck accidents, the legal duty of one driver to another would be to operate his or her motor vehicle safety and within the law.
- There was a breach of that legal duty.
- This breach resulted in an accident that caused the plaintiff to suffer an injury and resulting expenses.
One thing that makes truck accidents so complex is that there are often multiple liable parties. Some common parties that may share liability in truck accidents include:
- The truck driver
- The truck driver’s employer, if the accident occurred within the scope of the driver’s work. Trucking companies carry a lot of responsibility to ensure that not only is the driver qualified, but also that he or she possesses a clean driving record, does not abuse drugs or alcohol, is physically healthy enough for the job, and that the truck is properly maintained and carries the required amount of insurance.
- The individual or entity responsible for providing maintenance and repair services on the truck, if it is discovered that the accident was caused—at least in part—by a vehicle defect or a failure to maintain the vehicle.
- The manufacturer or distributor of the truck’s parts, if it is determined that a defective part was a contributing factor in the accident.
- The shipper, who is legally required to ensure that the transportation company used was compliant with regulations. The shipper may have liability if its own employees loaded the truck, and an investigation uncovers that shifting cargo was a factor in the accident.
- Other drivers. Not all truck accidents are the fault of the truck driver. If another driver’s actions caused your accident, that individual may be liable for your injuries.
Your attorney will pay close attention to the facts of your case to determine all of the liable parties and all of the potential insurance resources that you can utilize to seek compensation.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You Gather Evidence
The insurance carriers who work with the commercial trucking industry often hire high-powered, corporate lawyers to represent them in accident cases. These lawyers will immediately set out to show their clients’ innocence. Your truck accident lawyer needs ample time to also begin working on representing you and proving your case.
This involves collecting evidence, including medical records, prognosis, documentation from your employer regarding lost wages, and other items from you. It also involves collecting evidence from the trucking company itself, including information on the background check that was performed on the employee, information on his or her training and experience, maintenance records, black box information, and other evidence. This information is hard for most people to access, and gathering it is generally a time-consuming process. Your truck accident lawyer may do this for you.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You Negotiate
Lawyers are trained not only in the law, but also in the art of negotiation. It is a major part of the job. Your truck accident lawyer has experience in negotiating with insurance companies to iron out a settlement that will fairly compensate you for your injuries.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Jump Through Legal Hoops
The deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Florida is four years from the date of the accident. The legal process of collecting compensation for injuries after an accident is one that is fraught with deadlines, and this is just one of them. Your lawyer knows the proper jurisdiction in which to file your case, the paperwork that must be submitted to the court, and other protocols that people without legal training likely don’t know.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Represent You in Court
It is true that the vast majority of personal injury cases are settled before they ever see the inside of a courtroom. However, if the insurer of the at-fault party refuses to offer you a fair settlement, filing a personal injury lawsuit may be your best option. Your truck accident lawyer should feel confident in his or her abilities to litigate the case, including deposing witnesses, assisting with jury selection, preparing and delivering opening arguments, examining witnesses on the stand, and providing the court with a clear, organized case so that it can understand the extent of your injuries and the damages for which you are asking.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You Collect Your Settlement or Award
After your case has concluded—either through an accepted settlement or a verdict—your truck accident lawyer can help you actually collect your compensation. From this compensation, your attorney will deduct the fees for the legal services provided and can also render payment for you of documented medical or governmental liens. Do note that this often takes time; you will not receive the money on the same day as the verdict was rendered or the settlement agreement was signed.
Both sides must sign important paperwork, and have allowed time limits for when to complete it. For settlements, the time limit is generally 30 to 60 days. This paperwork may include provisions that your lawyer objects to, and even agreeing on the proper language for this documentation can involve some back-and-forth negotiation.
If the at-fault party was uninsured at the time of the accident, your attorney can also help you begin the process of collecting the compensation directly from him or her, though this is often a difficult task. Generally, in truck accidents, there are multiple sources of insurance resources due to there often being multiple liable parties. Your lawyer will know about the resources that are available well before you get to the point of receiving your settlement or reward.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Represent You in an Appeal
Yes, jury awards in personal injury cases are appealable. If the at-fault party and/or his or her insurance carrier wishes to appeal the verdict, you do not have to start over from square one; you merely have to let your truck accident lawyer handle the necessary steps in responding to the appeal and representing you throughout everything.
During that process, the court may do one of three things:
- Uphold the verdict, meaning you win the appeal
- Reverse the verdict, meaning you lose the appeal
- Send the case back to the lower court for a new trial
If the court reverses the verdict in your case, you may appeal this decision to the Supreme Court. When selecting an attorney to represent you in your truck accident case, retain one with a proven record of success in litigating cases like yours.
As you can see, an experienced truck accident lawyer can do many things for you to help you obtain the compensation you need. Unlike lawsuits portrayed in movies and on television, much of this work takes place outside of the courtroom. If you were injured in a truck accident, tell a truck accident lawyer about your case.
Orlando, FL 32814