Information about Filing a Florida Truck Accident Insurance Claim
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, each year, nearly 100,000 people are killed or injured as a result of large-truck crashes. Of those accidents that proved fatal, nearly 73 percent of fatalities were not large-truck occupants. Put simply, if you are involved in a large-truck accident with an 18-wheeler, semitruck, or similar commercial trucking vehicle, you are not going to come out on top. Like traditional motor vehicles, truck and trucking companies are required to carry mandatory liability insurance; however, most, if not all, trucks are operating as commercial vehicles at the time of an accident. This means they are required to carry Florida commercial auto insurance, and the rules and regulations for making a claim under such may differ from those applicable to traditional auto insurance claims.
Florida Truck and Motor Vehicle Insurance Requirements
Under Florida law, operators of motor vehicles are required to carry liability insurance with a minimum limit of $10,000. As many drivers carry only state insurance minimums, if you are injured in an accident with another driver, you may be able to recover only a maximum of $10,000 from the insurance company. From that point, you would have to recover the remainder of your damages from the driver personally. However, the commercial trucking industry is governed by a different set of insurance requirements, as truckers spend a much greater amount of time on the road and are required to operate large vehicles with blind spots, irregular weight differentials, and dangerous loads.
If a truck is carrying “hazardous materials,” Florida law requires the trucking company to carry a minimum of $5,000,000 in property and personal injury liability insurance. The minimum liability insurance requirements for other types of commercial vehicles are dependent on the registered vehicle’s weight and can range from $50,000 to $750,000. However, many commercial trucking companies will carry insurance policies well in excess of the state minimums, as they wish to avoid getting sued personally for personal injuries.
Types of Claims under Florida Truck Insurance Policies
As you know from selecting your own insurance policy, there are different types of coverage you can choose from. These include:
- Mandatory no-fault/personal injury protection coverage
- Liability coverage
- Coverage for property damage
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage
- Incidental coverage, such as glass and weather coverage
- Miscellaneous coverage, such as rental car reimbursement
Not all types of coverage are required under Florida law, but generally, you can select the amount of coverage you want for each protection. For example, you may have great health insurance so that you only want to carry minimum no-fault coverage, but you may also want to ensure you have enough coverage in case of injury and may up your liability limits to $100,000. Commercial truck insurance, however, works differently. Where personal motor vehicle insurance splits property damage and personal injury coverage, meaning that you may often be dealing with two divisions of the liability insurance company, commercial truck insurance combines both claims into one larger limit. This means that a truck company may carry $100,000 in insurance to cover all damage, whether personal injury damage or property damage.
Immediate Steps to Take After a Florida Truck Accident
If you are involved in a truck accident, it is important to take the following steps immediately in order to protect your rights:
- Call the police and ensure a police report is filed.
- Take pictures of the scene, including both vehicles and any injuries sustained.
- Identify any potential witnesses to the accident.
- DO NOT admit fault.
- Go to the emergency room or a doctor immediately for evaluation, as some injuries do not develop until after the initial accident.
It is always wise to contact an experienced Florida personal injury attorney before calling your insurance company to make a claim. This is because both your own insurance company and the liability company may force you to make a sworn statement about the details of the accident, and you may, for example, admit to committing a traffic violation you weren’t even aware of. Even if this violation had nothing to do with the cause of the accident, a liability company might refuse to pay out on its policy because you “contributed to” the accident by violating traffic laws. If you hire an attorney, he or she has the right to be with you while you are making that statement, and he or she can interject if they disagree with a question or need to clarify an answer.
Steps for Making a Florida Truck Insurance Claim
If you were injured in a Florida truck accident, making a claim with a commercial insurance policy is not all that different from making a claim with a traditional motor vehicle policy. Even if you were not at fault, you will, with the help of your attorney, file a claim with your own insurance company, who will then contact the liability insurance company on your behalf. A claims representative will be assigned to your case, and that representative will work with the other driver’s insurance company to decide who is primarily responsible for the accident and what percentage of fault they will accept. However, be advised that this decision on liability is not legally binding on a court. Just because your insurance company decided that you were 20 percent liable for the accident does not mean a court has to do the same or that you are now “legally” 20 percent liable. A Florida personal injury attorney can fight for your rights if you disagree with a liability determination.
Once liability is determined, you will work with your attorney to gather and submit all medical records and information related to the damage to your vehicle to the liable insurance company. Based on that information and the arguments of your attorney, the company will normally make you an offer to “settle” the case within its policy limits. Your attorney will work to ensure that this is a fair settlement, and if it isn’t, he or she will take the case to court to fight for your rights.
Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Truck Attorney Today
When you are dealing with potentially high-limit commercial vehicle policies, you do not want to go through the insurance process alone. A Clearwater personal injury attorney can help you through the process by filling out the proper paperwork, gathering and submitting your medical records, and negotiating a settlement on your behalf. Further, there is normally no charge for these services, as personal injury attorneys are reimbursed from the money they fight to earn you. Dolman Law Group is your premier personal injury firm in the greater Tampa Bay area, and its experienced and understanding attorneys are here to fight for you. Contact our Clearwater office today at 727-451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation about your truck accident.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756