Truck-related accidents are one of the most dangerous and tragic events that happen on Florida roads. Every year, tens of thousands of truck accidents occur, leading to thousands of injuries and dozens of deaths. For instance, Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported that approximately 32,000 accidents involving trucks occurred in 2017, from which 27 died, 57 were incapacitated, and 1,053 sustained other injuries (https://flhsmv.gov/pdf/crashreports/crash_facts_2017.pdf). Apart from the mental and physical trauma that comes with collisions, truck accidents usually give rise to missed time at work, high insurance and medical bills, and property damage. Any of these situations can make you have financial problems both in the present and future.
However, you have a way of solving the financial problems caused by the truck accident. That is, you can make the at-fault party compensate you for the loss they caused you. You need to talk to a skilled truck accident personal injury, who will advise you on the legal steps to take to hold the negligent party liable and receive a just settlement. At Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney, our lawyers have many years’ experience solving the complications of truck accident personal injury law. We will work together during this challenging time to ensure you obtain the best probable outcome. In this article, we discuss the various steps you need to take to increase the chances of winning your truck accident case when the truck is at fault.
What It Takes to Win Your Truck Accident Case
Truck accidents occur due to different factors, which lead to various parties being liable for the victim’s injuries. For instance, it could be the driver’s fault because they drove while intoxicated, a government agency for failing to maintain roads, or the truck itself may be defective as to cause the accident. If the truck is faulty, several parties will be held accountable, including the trucking company, the truck manufacturer, and the vehicle parts manufacturer. These are the parties from which you will seek compensation
The steps you take after being involved in a truck accident determine the outcome of your injury lawsuit or insurance claim. There are several things that you ought to and ought not to do after involvement in a severe truck-related crash in Florida. These things will dictate whether you’ll win or lose your case. Should you win your case, you will be entitled to different damages that will help you get back on your feet. However, if you lose, you will have to deal with the situation by yourself, including paying your medical bills arising from the injuries the accident caused. Therefore, we recommend that you adhere to the steps we are going to discuss below, which will improve your chances of winning. They include:
Getting Immediate Medical Attention
Winning your case means obtaining just compensation for the property damage, injuries you sustained, and any other losses. For you to achieve this, you must have an accurate picture of your damages, which means you’ll need a doctor to create a treatment plan and document your injuries. This documentation is among the several factors that can lure the at-fault party’s insurance company to the negotiation table and award you a higher compensation.
Therefore, after involvement in a truck accident, make sure you seek urgent medical care. Even if your injuries aren’t evident right away, you might still be hurt. Getting medical treatment or a doctor’s evaluation will reveal any hidden injuries that are linked to the truck collision.
When you visit your doctor for the first medical examination, let them know you were in an accident. Ensure you provide your physician with all the details concerning your condition without exaggerating or downplaying its severity.
Also, you have to always comply with the treatment plan your medical provider has recommended. Always follow your doctor’s instructions and go to checkup appointments as recommended. Failing to do this may give the insurance company of the truck driver an avenue to try to lower the compensation amount for your claim or deny you the damages altogether by claiming that it’s your failure to follow the doctor’s instructions that worsen your condition.
Reporting the Incident
In Florida State, law enforcement officers are obligated to write crash reports after any collision involving a commercial vehicle, or one that leads to injury, inoperable vehicle, or death. For other accidents that involve damage to property, the law provides that drivers have to submit a crash report to the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles. Consequently, you have to contact the law enforcement officers and have them come to the scene.
Calling the officers to the accident scene is also critical for several other reasons. The police may help give aid to the injured before the arrival of an ambulance, gather witnesses, control any controversial confrontations, and investigate to find out what caused the accident. The police report may help prove the truck driver’s guilt, which will enable you to get compensated.
Gathering Detailed Proof
Having evidence that you were injured in a crash or your property was damaged is vital in any personal injury case. Due to this, you must keep all the info that relates to your injury and case. Gathering info entails:
Collecting Truck Information
It is essential that after the accident, you record any information to do with the truck driver and the truck they were driving. This info includes:
- The name of the trucking company
- The truck’s registration number
- The name and address of the truck driver
- The permit or license of the driver
This information helps in identifying the trucking company, so you know who you are filing your claim against. The driver’s details are also crucial since you may need them on your side when filing a claim to explain how the accident happened and testify against the trucking company’s negligent actions.
Gathering Witness Information
Eyewitnesses are notoriously hard to locate after a crash. The best chance you have is to identify them and note down their contact details while you are still at the accident scene (assuming it is safe doing so). Ensure you write down the name, telephone number (more than one just in case the number changes), address, a statement (on video or written & signed), and email address if they are willing. You may need these witnesses to testify on your behalf if your case goes to court.
Take Photos of The Accident Scene
If you have a smartphone, use it to take pictures of the scene of the accident, including the road, position of the truck, skid marks, etc. Also, you should take photos of any physical injury you sustained as well as the damage caused to property. The photos of the accident scene will help in determining fault, while the pictures of physical injury will help prove that you were indeed injured and, therefore, should be compensated. Also, take notes to assist you in remembering the events that occurred before and after the accident.
Other evidence you should have includes proof of:
- Medical records
- Prescriptions for medication
- Test and diagnostic results
- Documentation for the lost wages
- Medical bills
- Accident report
Additionally, detail everything about your recovery process. Your lawyer may need you to take note of the signs and symptoms you experience throughout the process of recovery, as well as notes on your visits to your doctor.
Also, take note of any time you speak with the insurance company of the trucking company. This includes detailed notes about what you and the company discussed and the time the provider contacted you.
File Your Claim as Soon as Possible
In case of involvement in a truck collision caused by the truck driver’s negligence, you shouldn’t hesitate to pursue legal action.
Every state has its statute of limitations, which dictates the period a personal injury victim has to bring an injury claim/lawsuit. In Florida State, the statute of limitations is four years from the date the accident took place, or from the date you discovered you have an injury (Statutes 95.11).
You have to bring your claim/suit within these four years. Failure to which, you’ll lose your right to seek to recover damages from the negligent driver.
Retaining a Truck Accident Personal Injury Attorney
One critical step you should take after involvement in a truck accident is to hire an experienced truck accident attorney. By doing this, you may be capable of protecting your rights, negotiating the settlement amount you deserve, and maximizing your compensation. Here is why you need a lawyer:
Attorneys Understand the Process of Filing a Claim or Lawsuit
Unless you are an attorney yourself, you will not have the experience or knowledge needed to elevate the chances of winning your case. To start with, you won’t understand the rules and regulations of the claim/lawsuit filing process. Additionally, litigating a truck accident claim necessitates the knowledge of federal and state traffic rules & regulations, trucking industry laws, and the necessary steps to bring a successful suit/claim.
Attempting to bring a lawsuit by yourself could expose you to certain risks that may lead to the court declining to hear your case, which may ruin your future. For instance, you could leave out crucial information, make critical mistakes, miss deadlines, or commit other errors that could result in denial or delay of your lawsuit should you try filing yourself. Also, you may miss the chance to move the suit through efficiently or quickly, something an attorney can do on your behalf.
Filing a claim or lawsuit through an attorney ensures the proper paperwork flows through the right individuals at the appropriate time, which works in your favor. Set off your claim filing process in an auspicious manner by hiring an attorney from the beginning.
A Lawyer Can Help Collect and Preserve Proof
An attorney can help you gather proof that you cannot get your hands on by yourself that easily. For instance, in truck accident claims, one of the critical pieces of evidence is the data that’s usually stored in the truck’s black box. Florida laws make this black box the trucking company’s property. This means that the company will be legally right to erase the data in the box or destroy it completely. Your attorney can stop the destruction of this crucial proof by bringing a motion to obtain a temporary restraining order against the data. Alternatively, your lawyer can direct the trucking company to neither retrieve/erase the black box data nor remove the box itself. Preserving black box data is crucial as it provides critical proof that may help win a truck accident claim.
Other proof your lawyer can help you obtain include:
- Truck inspection reports- These reports contain crucial information concerning the condition of the truck at the time of the accident. The information will tell if the trucking company was carrying out its truck maintenance duty appropriately.
- Truck driver’s qualifications (driving records, work history, personnel file)- This information helps to determine if the trucking company does due diligence before employing its drivers, or it employs unqualified drivers, therefore, putting the lives of road users in danger.
An Attorney Will Not Miss The Filing Deadline
Civil courts in Florida do not give personal injury victims an indefinite period to file their claims. As we mentioned above, they impose a timeframe known as the statute of limitations for one to claim compensation for their injuries to make it as fair as possible for all victims. Missing the deadline to file your claim almost always leads to the court declining to hear the case. Or, even if the court goes ahead and hears it, the defense may argue that your case should be dropped since you didn’t file it on time. Missing the filing deadline could deny you the chance to recover damages forever, irrespective of how strong your case is.
Attorneys Have Experience Negotiating With the Insurance Providers
After involvement in an accident with a truck, it is most likely that the insurer of the trucking company will reach out to you. You may get calls from an insurance claim adjuster or insurance agent soon after the collision. Remember that the insurer of the truck driver doesn’t have your best interests. Their objective is to persuade you to agree to settle for a lesser amount of compensation. Don’t record any statement or agree to settle without first speaking with your lawyer.
Often, adjusters know less concerning your accident than you do since they have many other claims to handle and are generally working against time. With negotiations, you might be capable of getting much more compensation than the adjuster offered at the beginning. Knowing what you should and shouldn’t say to the adjuster makes a significant difference as far as the outcome of your insurance claim is concerned. An attorney can do the settlement negotiations for you to obtain the best results out of your case.
A Lawyer Can Successfully Argue In Court
If you can’t settle your case successfully with the trucking company’s insurance provider, your attorney can take it to court and help you get fair compensation. For this, your lawyer must have courtroom experience. He/she should be comfortable arguing your case before the jury and judge.
The attorney should be capable of reconstructing the accident, hiring expert witnesses, as well as taking other necessary and legal measures to prove the defendant’s guilt, your losses, and pain & suffering. Your lawyer’s skill in court can significantly affect the jury’s verdict on the amount of compensation you should be awarded.
When you hire a truck crash personal injury attorney, you will have signed up for skillful legal advice and guidance in each step of your claim process. They will help protect your rights as well as help you win the maximum compensation amount.
For you to show that it’s the truck’s defective parts that caused the accident that resulted in your injuries and losses, you, with the help of your personal injury lawyer have to prove the trucking company or the vehicle parts manufacturer was negligent. To substantiate their negligence, you have to prove four factors. They include:
- The trucking company or parts manufacturer owed you the duty of care
- They breached that duty
- The violation of their duty of care substantially contributed to the truck accident
- You suffered injuries and losses due to the driver’s carelessness
Proof of a Violation of Duty of Care
All Florida trucking companies or vehicle parts manufacturers must adhere to all the laid down industry regulations.
Failure to obey these rules & regulations either accidentally or purposefully amounts to a violation of the duty of care towards their product’s consumers. When these parties breach these duties, your lawyer can use the particulars of the breach to improve your odds of winning your claim.
Most of these violations can happen due to pressure to be like or surpass the highly competitive truck companies. Sometimes, trucking companies trying to thrive in this industry compel their drivers to engage in illegal practices to cut on costs and increase profits. A skilled lawyer may be capable of identifying these unlawful practices and, therefore, hold the trucking company in case of an accident.
Here are a few of the common violations of the duty of care that could result in an increased possibility that the trucking company will be found negligent:
- The company failing to inspect their truck regularly
- The company putting a damaged truck back into service
- Inadequate maintenance of parts- Some companies use corner-cutting maintenance techniques or low-grade vehicle parts so they can save money. These second-hand options can lead to malfunctions that in the end, will cause an accident.
- Violating hours of service regulations- Hours of service regulations limit the hours a truck driver can be on the road in a single sitting, in one workday, and in one week. If a driver works excessively, they could be overworked and fatigued to drive safely. Certain companies force drivers to overwork and falsify their logbooks through paycheck withholding or other underhanded means. This could place fault on the trucking company.
- Fault manufacturing of the truck’s steering, tires, or other parts. In this case, the liability falls on the vehicle or vehicle parts manufacturer
- The trucking company having incentives or bonuses that condone reckless, unsafe driving
- The company employing unqualified drivers, i.e. failing to conduct proper alcohol and screening or background checks for driver
- Failure by the vehicle or parts manufacturer to warn consumers of their products
Proof of Causation
Proving that the trucking company or truck manufacturer’s violation of the duty of care led to the accident is not enough to award you damages. You also have to show that it’s their negligent actions that led to your injuries or damage to your property for you to increase the chances of winning your claim. For instance, suppose while a truck driver is trying to control the truck, the brakes and the driver ends up hitting your car, which you had parked by the roadside, and you were inside. In this case, you can argue that the brake failure (which is a violation of duty) resulted directly in (caused) any injuries you sustained and the damages to your parked car.
Proof of Damages
We have different types of damages an injury victim can hold the negligent party liable for if they have been severely injured, or if they meet the $10000 threshold as per the Florida no-fault system. They include emotional distress, mental anguish, lost wages, bodily injury, property damage, and lost benefits from an injured or deceased loved one. Damages could also include legal fees, court expenses, or any other costs that are directly attributed to the after-effects of the crash.
Don’t Hide Information From Your Attorney
Throughout the process of settling your case, ensure you are in touch with your lawyer at all times to keep them up-to-date on your treatment and recovery process.
Give your lawyer all the details concerning the treatment you’re receiving and let them know if your injuries have worsened or improved. Let your lawyer know if you are receiving additional diagnoses in the course of your treatment.
Your lawyer might need your personal information or medical records, which will help them prepare for your case before they embark on negotiating with the insurance company or building a solid case to present in case of a trial.
Staying Off Social Media
A lot of people are aware of the statement that states that ‘anything you say can & will be used against you in a court of law.’ Unluckily not everyone realizes that this statement does also apply to anything you post on social media platforms.
If you are claiming that you have devastating injuries or damage, but your Twitter or Facebook page says a contradicting story, it could ruin the chances of winning your case. Remember that the at-fault party and their defense team are watching. Therefore, your best move is to stay quiet and allow your lawyer to do the talking. Also, it is best not to say anything concerning your case to anyone until your case is settled.
Contact a Truck Accident Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Getting through the financial difficulties caused by a truck accident can be devastating. However, you don’t have to do it on your own. At Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney law firm, we understand that truck accident personal injury laws are complicated. With these complexities plus the injuries and damage to property you’re already facing, the situation you are in may feel insurmountable. Let our expert truck accident attorneys help you relieve this stress by entrusting the legal problems in their hands. We are available to listen to you 24 hours a day and seven days a week. If you need to schedule a consultation, all you need to do is call us at 904-800-7557. We will do our best to ensure you get a just settlement so you can have peace of mind during this challenging time.