If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, you are entitled to damages for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. However, you will need a top-tier South Florida truck accident attorney in your corner to get a maximum settlement.
The attorneys at Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. represents truck accident victims and other personal injury victims on a contingency basis. That means that they offer full representation without charging their clients. They collect their legal fees at the end of the case and only if they win.
Truck accident victims often ask the following questions. For answers to your specific questions, call us for a free consultation.
What Qualifies as a Commercial Truck Accident?
A commercial truck accident involves a collision with a larger vehicle, such as a semi-truck, large delivery truck, etc. In Florida, a commercial motor vehicle is defined as a non-government vehicle that uses the highways with a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more. Gross vehicle weight means the weight of the empty vehicle plus the weight of its load.
What Makes Commercial Truck Accidents Different than Car Accidents?
There are two factors that can make a truck accident much more dangerous than a car vs. car accident. To begin with, commercial trucks are invariably heavier than even the largest of private vehicles. A commercial vehicle can weigh up to 40 tons or 80,000 pounds, while the average weight of a car is 2 tons or 4,000 lbs. In other words, a commercial vehicle has up to 20 times the mass of a private car. Even at low speeds, a commercial truck accident can be dangerous or deadly.
The second factor is the type of load that the truck is carrying. Many trucks carry hazardous materials. In addition to the crash, these hazardous materials could cause an explosion or create a poisonous cloud.
What are Some of the Regulations that Govern Commercial Truck Drivers?
Commercial truck drivers are required to have a Class A or Class B CDL. If they are operating a bus, transporting passengers, or carrying hazardous materials, they must also have the corresponding endorsement for their license.
Florida follows the same Hours of Service regulations as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA):
- Twelve hours of service after ten consecutive off-duty hours. Drivers may not drive after their 16th hour of coming on duty, regardless of the amount of time that they were driving during the preceding 16 hours.
- Drivers cannot exceed 70 hours in seven days of service or 80 hours in 80 days of service.
- Drivers who exceed 150 air mile radius or have placarded hazardous materials must maintain a log book.
Truck drivers are also held to a higher standard when it comes to drinking and driving. The maximum BAC is .04. Although most trucking companies have a zero-tolerance policy.
What Types of Damages are Available in a Florida Truck Accident?
Individuals who are injured in a commercial trucking accident can receive compensation for all compensatory damages and in some cases, non-compensatory damages.
Economic damages are compensatory damages that reimburse the plaintiff for financial outlays and anticipated costs. They include medical costs, lost earnings, property damage, physical therapy, mental health counseling, and more. In a wrongful death case, economic damages can also include funeral expenses and loss of financial support.
Not all of the costs of a truck accident have a direct economic impact. Non-economic damages are also referred to as pain and suffering because they are intended to reimburse the defendant for physical pain, emotional trauma, inconvenience, and diminishment of lifestyle. Non-economic damages are also compensatory in nature.
These are non-compensatory damages that punish the defendant for reckless or intentional behavior. For instance, if a truck driver were to be involved in a road rage incident that led to an accident, the court may assign punitive damages.
Does Florida Have Damage Caps for Truck Accidents?
Compensatory damages — economic damages and non-economic damages — are not subject to caps. Punitive damages, on the other hand, have a cap of three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
What is the Statute of Limitations in a Florida Truck Accident?
For most personal injury cases, the statute of limitations is four years from the date of the accident. For wrongful death cases, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death. Once the statute of limitations has expired, the plaintiff will no longer be able to bring a civil action in court, and it is unlikely the insurance company will honor the claim.
Who is Liable in a Truck Accident?
Every truck accident is different, but it’s important to recognize that an accident may not always be the driver’s fault. For example, if the fleet manager fails to keep up the truck’s maintenance schedule, they may share all or part of the liability for the accident. Oftentimes, trucks are improperly loaded, allowing the cargo to shift or break free. This may not be the responsibility of the truck driver.
What Should I Do if I’m Involved in a Truck Accident? ‘
Truck accident scenes change quickly, and you may be disoriented. The following tips may help ensure your safety and help your recovery.
- Get to a Place of Safety – If there is a chemical spill, you need to put some distance between yourself and the accident. While not all chemicals are hazardous, you probably won’t be able to immediately identify which chemical it is from the placard.
- Call 911 – The dispatcher will want to know the location of the accident, the placard number, any known injuries, and a description of the vehicles. They can update responding units while they’re en route, so stay on the phone until they tell you that you can hang up.
- Talk to Witnesses – Ask witnesses to remain until the police arrive. If they have to leave, ask for their contact information. As a last resort, you can take a photo of their tag. Your attorney can contact them at a later time.
- Take Pictures of the Scene – From a safe place, document the accident. You’ll want to include pictures of the truck, the markings on the truck, vehicle damage, visible injuries, and geographic indicators.
- Get Medical Attention – Allow the paramedics to examine you. If they recommend that you go to the hospital, follow their advice. In any event, follow up with your doctor immediately.
- Do Not Accept an Initial Settlement Offer – It’s a common practice for a truck company insurance adjuster to contact you and offer to pay for medical bills. If you accept their initial settlement, you will have to sign a waiver, which will prevent you from seeking further damages. Instead, call LJW to discuss your claim for free.
What if I’m Partially at Fault for My Accident?
Under Florida’s comparative negligence law, you can still recover a portion of your damages. For example, if a trucker runs a red light and strikes your vehicle, they are probably going to be found at fault for the accident. However, if the police determine that you were speeding at the time of the accident, the court may determine that you were 15 percent responsible for your injuries. In this case, you could collect 85% of your total damages.
How Do Truck Accident Attorneys Determine Their Fees?
The Florida Bar establishes contingency fee limits for attorneys. They are as follows:
- 33⅓ to 40% for the first $1 million.
- 30% for the amount between $1 million and $2 million.
- 20% for the amount above $2 million.
- If the defendant agrees on liability but not on the damage amount, the maximum fees are 33⅓% for the first million, 20% for the second million, and 15% for any amount of about $2 million.
Always ask a truck accident attorney to see their contingency fee schedule before committing to their firm.
How Long Will My Case Take to Complete?
Without knowing the details of your specific case, it’s impossible to provide a specific time frame. As a rule, the greater the damage amount, the longer the case takes to settle or litigate. You could be looking for one to three years before receiving compensation.
Why Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Some people believe that it’s better to just take a quick settlement from the insurance company. In fact, trucking company insurance adjusters count on this. If a trucker or the company is liable, they are happy to close your case quickly and pay a comparatively small amount. While hiring an attorney will invariably slow down the process, the chance of you receiving full compensation is much greater. Attorneys justify their contingency fees by garnering much larger settlements.
Pompano Beach, FL Truck Accident Lawyers
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, you could be facing life-changing injuries. Contact Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. to speak to our experienced truck accident attorneys in a free, no-obligation consultation.