If you or a person you love has been in a truck crash in Florida, there are various rules and facts that you have to know concerning compensation for your injuries. You also have to understand what type of damages there are for which you can sue the guilty party. An attorney could explain everything you need to know in the best way possible, as well as help you pursue these damages.
At Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney, we assist clients that have been in truck accidents recover compensation for the harm caused to them. Thanks to our understanding of the Florida personal injury law, we fight to ensure our clients receive the highest compensation amount possible. This article focuses on the types of damages we can help you recover after a truck accident and what you should do to get them.
Compensation Available Type of in Truck Accident Claims
Sustaining an injury due to another person’s carelessness has a price tag. Often, truck accident victims suffer huge losses due to the severity of the harm they sustained. For instance, to add on having to recover from both physical injuries and mental injuries, you may miss out a lot on the family events, your work, and the activities you enjoy.
The good news is that you can recover monetary compensation for all the loss that comes with your injuries. For instance, if the negligent, liable party or parties are found, our lawyers may help you to calculate the worth of your losses, so the party compensates you. Even if they are not caught, you can still recover compensation with the help of an attorney.
The financial losses you suffer because of a truck crash are known as damages. There are two main classes of damages you can recover when you file a truck accident claim. They include punitive and compensatory damages. Compensatory damages compensate accident victims for the physical harm they have sustained.
Compensatory damages comprise of many different kinds of expenses. These damages are further divided into two categories: non-economic or general and economic damages.
General/ non-economic Damages
Non-economic damages compensate an accident victim for those damages that are non-monetary. These kinds of damages don’t have a specified billed amount of dollars on them. Instead, the total amount the victim receives for general damages is generally determined by a lawyer or the jury. The name ‘general’ originates from the nature of these damages. They are simply general. They don’t focus on a specific injury incurred or the medical expenses the victim has to pay. Instead, they are meant for the victim’s suffering that’s generally sustained due to an injury. Common forms of non-economic damages are:
- Emotional Distress
Further emotional and mental injuries can arise from bodily injuries sustained in a truck accident. These may be overwhelming. For instance, they may cause a nervous breakdown. If experts can prove that you have emotional distress, you can be compensated for it.
- Pain and Suffering
Injuries result in physical pain and suffering that could be life-threatening and debilitating. And even though it is hard to quantify pain & suffering, you may receive financial compensation for it. The damages cover the pain you suffered due to the accident and the pain you will possibly go through for your entire life.
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life
Truck-related crashes can deprive you of the activities and things you once enjoyed before the accident. Whether it is a hobby, for instance, soccer or a side job like wood carving, losing the things that make you enjoy life can justify compensation.
- Loss of Consortium
Injuries may interfere or limit certain basic life functions. The results for this may be loss of affection, love, and companionship. When this happens, you could claim damages for the isolation resulting from injuries.
- Mental Anguish
Mental anguish includes certain kinds of suffering that include anxiety, distress, depression, fright, trauma, or grief. Truck accident-related injuries may cause mental pain, especially if they are long-lasting. If your doctor can attest that you are experiencing mental anguish, you can recover damages for it.
Even though the amount of non-economic damages varies, it’s expected that all truck accident victims are owed at least a certain amount of these damages.
Economic damages compensate an accident victim for financial expenses that arise because of the injuries he/she sustained. Unlike non-economic damages, it is easy to equate an actual amount of dollars to these kinds of damages. Economic damages vary considerably from one lawsuit to another since they are distinctive to each victim.
Economic damages compensate the victim for the entire money that is lost because of injuries sustained in the crash. Thus, the damages cater for any expenses that are related to the injury, including:
- Medical Expenses
You may be eligible for medical expense damages. You are granted these damages so you can pay the medical costs that arise due to the crash. Severe injuries may need continued care that may last for years. The injuries might also need expensive devices like wheelchairs to help you move around. Typically, you can claim compensation for emergency treatment costs, recovery costs, and any future bills you will incur.
Compensation for medical expenses covers costs like doctor’s fees, hospital bills, prescription drugs, physical or rehabilitative therapies, and doctor consultations. Other areas include ambulance fees, surgery, emergency room, assistive medical equipment, etc.
- Loss of Future Earning Capacity
Sometimes, accident-related injuries may render you incapable of going back to your job because of the limitations they bring. In other cases, you may have to shift from your current active job position to an inactive one. Or, you may move from a higher paying position to a lower-paying one. In this case, you may be able to recover the wages you would have earned in the future had you continued working in your position. The wages should cover what you would have been paid for the remaining period of your working life.
- Future, Current, and Past Medical Bills
After treatment and rehabilitation, you will often need further medical attention in the future. Testimony from expert therapists and doctors can establish that you need future medical care. Extensive medical attention is usually considered in truck crashes since these kinds of accidents are naturally more severe.
- Disfigurement or Permanent Disability
Particular injuries do not heal quickly. These long-lasting health conditions may change your life forever. Florida statutes allow you to claim damages for permanent disability or disfigurement caused by a truck accident.
- Lost Wages
Whether you are a business owner, self-employed, or employed in a firm, the period spent away from your work because of a crash recovery leads to economic loss. When truck accident injuries make you miss your work for several days, weeks, or months, you may be entitled to lost wages.
Lost wages compensate for the amount of money you would have earned from when the crash took place to the time your lawsuit was settled. It represents the amount of money you would have earned were it not for the injuries. These damages are determined using the total amount your employer pays you for your job. For instance, the jury looks at the direct deposit or company paycheck the employer pays on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis.
But, the lost wages amount is much more than what is merely listed on your pay-slip. Different forms of damages may be recovered under the lost wages umbrella, including:
- Vacation and sick days
- Perks, like the use of the vehicle owned by the company, gym membership, etc
Other damages you can recover include:
- Home healthcare bills
- Purchase of medical equipment
- Rehabilitative therapy
- Physical therapy
- Costs linked to altered plans or called trips
- Physical impairment
- Temporary disability
- Property damage
Apart from compensatory damages, we also have punitive damages you can recover after a truck accident. Generally, in most cases, punitive damages are rarely awarded. The reason for this is that these kinds of damages do not compensate for any loss. Instead, they are a means of punishing the party at fault for the crash.
You can only be awarded punitive damages if the wrongful act of the at-fault party was outrageously negligent. You need to prove that the liable party’s actions were malicious or it was willful negligence, or, the at-fault party had the intent to harm you. For instance, in truck-related accidents, you may be awarded punitive damages in case the at-fault driver was driving under the influence.
Damages for a Wrongful Death
If the truck-related accident victim dies due to injuries he/she sustained in the crash, the members of his/her family can file a wrongful claim. Filing this claim may enable them to recover damages. No compensation amount can bring a loved one back to life. However, recovering the damages can assist in easing the financial hardship of medical expenses, lost income, funeral expenses, etc. The damages that can be recovered include:
Loss of Companionship
A fatal truck crash can lead to the death of a victim, leaving the family members of the victim devastated. The victim could be a spouse, father, mother, partner, or a close relative. Florida law avails damages for the loss of companionship lost in case a person succumbs to truck accident-related injuries.
Other damages for wrongful deaths are:
- Loss of benefits like insurance
- Loss of income
- Medical bills from the time of the injury up to the time of death
- Funeral expenses
- Burial costs
- Loss of financial support
- Mental and emotional pain
In various cases, family members may recover punitive damages. This situation only happens in case the gross negligence of the at-fault party played a role in the wrongful demise of their loved one. Like in any other case, the person filing the wrongful death claim has to prove that the at-fault party’s malicious acts or willful carelessness led to the death of the victim. Failure to which, they won’t receive punitive damages. If the liable party had the intent to harm the victim, the family member can also prove this to the judge.
Not that not everyone can sue for wrongful death. Florida law allows only limited parties to file these types of claims. They include:
- The victim’s spouse
- The victim’s children
- The victim’s step-siblings
- His/her parents
- Any blood relatives who are wholly or partly dependent on the victim for services or support
- Any adoptive brothers or sisters who are entirely or partly dependent on the victim for services or support
Damages Caps in Florida
Caps refer to limitations put on the possible damages you may receive. Economic damages (rehabilitative therapy expenses, medical bills, etc.) do not have caps on them. Florida law doesn’t place any limit on the amount of money you can receive to sufficiently be compensated for your injuries that could last a lifetime. This is mainly so because of the loss of future earning capacity and future medical bills falling under economic damages.
However, this wasn’t the case for general damages. In the year 2003, Florida lawmakers implemented FL Statute 766.188. This statute placed a limit on the compensation amount available for a personal injury victim. The law restricted general damages to five hundred thousand dollars per plaintiff in case the liable party is a medical doctor.
But, there was an exception in situations where the doctor’s negligence resulted in death, catastrophic injury, or a permanent vegetative condition. In this case, the limit placed on damages was up to one million dollars per complainant. The statute also restricted damages up to $750,000 and $1.5 million, respectively, if the harm was caused by the carelessness of anyone else who isn’t a doctor.
However, in 2014, the Supreme Court of Florida ruled the restrictions on general damages as unlawful. The opinion of the majority was that damage limitations reduce compensations for victims that have suffered severe injuries. Following this ruling, the caps placed on general damages were lifted. This means that as of the present, there’s no restriction on the compensatory damages you can seek after a truck accident.
However, Florida still limits punitive damages. If you are eligible for these kinds of damages, then you will only receive three times the total amount of non-economic and economic damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
Liability for Truck Accidents
Accidents involving trucks can be financially and physically devastating. Often, they lead to fatalities, severe injuries, or substantial property damage. The risk becomes even more significant in case the truck was transporting hazardous materials or chemicals. If you have suffered injuries due to a truck-related accident, you can seek compensation from one or all of these liable parties with the help of an attorney.
Mostly, the apparent guilty party in a truck accident is the driver of the truck. Commercial motorists are susceptible to similar errors and mistakes as personal or non-commercial drivers. The only significant variation is that errors made by truck drivers often result in much more harm. For instance, if the motorist was DUI, he/she will likely be held fully or partially responsible for the accident.
Mostly, cargo companies depend on truck companies and drivers to move materials from one point to another. In this process, these companies may deliberately or unintentionally evade safety standards. A loading company may overload a given truck or load the cargo improperly to gain more from every trip and reduce costs. If a load is unbalanced on a truck, it can cause the truck to fall over and lead to a crash. If this is what happened in your case, you can sue the cargo company for damages.
If the truck company did not take proper precautions at the time of hiring motorists, it could be asked to take responsibility for the accident. Also, if the company forced motorists to work under risky conditions, they may have to compensate you for your injuries. Despite the federal and Florida statutes that have been put in place, there are truck companies that still force their drivers to work during unsafe hours. They also pressure them to take a few breaks or continue working even in risky weather conditions.
Those companies that have trouble maintaining drivers might fail to perform proper safety and background checks on possible hires. This could lead to motorists with doubtful driving records being trusted to operate trucks. Thus, if the company employed unqualified drivers, it could be responsible for your injuries.
Additionally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has put in place stern inspection and maintenance rules for truck companies. A company may be responsible in case their trucks fail and cause an accident. This happens if the company doesn’t do regular inspections or follow the laid down maintenance schedule
Truck Manufacturers or the Manufacturers of the Components
Defective vehicle components or the vehicles themselves cause truck accidents regularly. Vehicle parts that are designed poorly or mechanical problems because of design flaws could lead a manufacturer to be responsible for the damages in case of an accident. Your lawyer may look for product recalls, maintenance logs, or any other documentation that may expose if defective equipment contributed to the occurrence of the accident.
Steps to Take to Receive Compensation After a Truck Accident
As we said earlier, there are various types of damages you can recover after a truck accident. However, recovering these damages is not that easy. You have to take specific steps to increase your chances of compensation. Here is what you should do to receive compensation.
- Get Medical Treatment
You should never assume to go for treatment after a truck accident since there’s nothing more critical compared to your health. Also, after treatment, remember to keep your medical records. Never miss a follow-up appointment with your doctor. Doing all you can to heal not only helps your body but your case too. This is because the insurance company will want to see your medical records before granting compensation.
- Do not Sign any Documents from the At-fault Party’s Insurance Company
Insurance companies that represent truck drivers are the ones to pay your compensation. They might act like they are on your side, but you should not fall for that. They may try to trick you and then leave you with so little compensation if you fall for their trap. Let your personal injury attorney negotiate with these companies. He/she may know what proof to present to get you the best possible compensation amount.
- Hire a Skilled Lawyer
An experienced attorney may help you through each step towards recovering damages. For instance, he/she will help you file the appropriate paperwork, negotiate with the insurance providers, and argue the case on your behalf in court. We do not advise that you go ahead with your injury lawsuit without getting guidance from a lawyer, especially if it is a complicated one.
Statute of Limitations
Statute of limitations, in this context, refers to the law that provides the timeframe a victim has to bring his/her personal injury lawsuit you court. In Florida, the statute of limitations sets the period to file a personal injury claim at four years. This means you have four years to file your truck accident compensation claim. This period is counted from the date the accident took place.
The statute of limitations’ period for a wrongful death claim is two years. This means that the family members of a dead victim who want to file a wrongful death claim have two years from when the victim died to do so.
Find a Truck Accident Compensation Attorney Near Me
Suffering any injury due to someone else’s negligent actions can be devastating to your physical or mental state. Not only can it affect your health, but your financial state too. For instance, you may lose your job, income, and you may need to spend much money on medical treatment. Fortunately, you can recover different types of damages to help you get your life back. However, recovering damages is not easy, and you will need the help of an attorney. If you are in Jacksonville, call the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney at 904-800-7557, so we can help you recover the best possible amount of compensation.