Three Things You Should Know about Truck Accident Claims
Did you know that the average weight of an eighteen-wheeler is about 40 tons, and the average weight of a passenger vehicle is only two tons? As you can imagine, if you are involved in an accident with an 80-ton vehicle, even a “fender bender” type accident can result in catastrophic injuries. This is because even if the truck is going slower than you when you are hit, the force of that vehicle is typically so much greater than yours that your vehicle will be the one to take the brunt of the impact. The more force transferred to your vehicle during an accident, the more the force travels through your body. Accordingly, if you’ve been injured in a Florida truck accident, what does the claims process look like? Here are three main things you need to know.
1. They Are Similar to Car Accident Claims
As with your personal motor vehicle insurance, Florida law also has state insurance minimums for commercial motor vehicles such as trucks, including no-fault insurance. Accordingly, making a claim against a truck driver for your injuries is not all that different from what you would do if you were involved in a passenger vehicle crash. In such cases, you will typically take the following steps shortly after your Florida truck accident:
- File a claim with your insurance company, i.e., the insurance on your own vehicle, as this will initiate the claims process and trigger your no-fault benefits so that your initial medical expenses can be covered without worrying about health insurance.
- Put the truck driver’s insurance company on notice of a claim and potential litigation. Do this as soon as possible so that your claim can be documented.
- Get the medical help you need. If you are in pain, seek treatment, as this will form the basis for your personal injury claim, and
- Gather evidence, including the police report, photographs, witness statements, and any information available about the trucking company and driver.
When it comes to car and truck accidents, if it is clear that you suffered from serious injuries and the accident was not your fault, the other insurance company will typically offer to settle the case for some amount within the policy’s liability limits. If you accept, this ends your case, and you may not then go after the truck driver or trucking company for additional damages. If, however, the seriousness of your injuries is not immediately clear or not linked directly to the accident, the insurance company may challenge you under Florida law, which sets a medical “threshold” for personal injury cases that can be taken to court. In order to have your case heard by a judge or jury, your injuries must fall under one of the following four categories, and this is the same for both car and truck accidents:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
Because injuries can worsen over time and these categories are fluid, it is important to have a Florida personal injury attorney on your side that knows what does and does not qualify as a threshold injury in Florida.
2. They Often Result in Higher Settlements
When it comes to personal injury litigation that stems from motor vehicle accidents, the case is settled with the liable insurance company before it goes to trial. This is true for both car and truck accidents. If you drive a typical passenger vehicle, Florida law requires owners to carry liability insurance with a minimum limit of $10,000, and most drivers will only carry the $10,000 minimum, which means this may be all you can recover from a liable driver without going after his or her personal assets.
Trucks, i.e., anything defined as a commercial motor vehicle, however, are governed by a different set of insurance requirements, as truckers spend a much greater amount of time on the road and operate huge vehicles with significant blind spots, irregular weight differentials, and possibly harmful cargo. The minimum liability insurance requirements for most commercial vehicles can range from $50,000 to $750,000 depending on weight, though many companies that own commercial trucks choose to carry insurance policies that well-exceed such state minimums since they want to avoid facing lawsuits filed by truck accident victims. In addition, if a truck is transporting “hazardous materials,” Florida state law requires the trucking company to carry at least $5,000,000 in property and personal injury liability insurance. Because truckers tend to have higher insurance policies, these cases typically have a higher range in which the matter can settle, which will result in more money to you.
3. They Are Often Against Multiple Parties
As you can imagine, most truck drivers do not own their trucks. Accordingly, when you are injured in a truck accident, there is a principle of law called “respondeat superior” that makes the owner of the truck liable for your injuries, and the owner is typically a corporation. Further, the owner of the truck may be different than the corporation he or she was hired to do work for, so there may be three defendants that you can recover from after a truck accident. There may also be multiple claims and theories of law under which you can recover. For example, you may be able to recover under a theory of negligence from the truck driver and under a theory of negligent hiring from the trucking company. Because suing multiple companies can be complicated, it is always important to seek the assistance of a qualified Florida truck accident attorney immediately after your accident.
Contact a Florida Personal Injury and Truck Accident Attorney Today
The Dolman Law Group is your premier personal injury and truck accident law firm in the greater Tampa Bay area, and their experienced and understanding truck accident attorneys are here to fight for you. Contact their 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 33765