A collision with any vehicle can cause damages and injuries, but commercial vehicle accidents have an increased potential to cause complications that could last a lifetime. Whether it’s a delivery van or a tractor-trailer, commercial vehicles are often larger and heavier than a private passenger automobiles. The impacts tend to be severe enough to total your car or cause life threatening injuries.
When you’re trying to recover from serious injuries the medical bills can pile up quickly. If you have an accident induced disability, whether temporary or permanent, it may affect your ability to earn a living. An accident with a commercial vehicle can cause financial setbacks that are difficult to overcome and problems that can change your life for years to come. That’s why it’s important to have a commercial vehicle accident attorney to protect your rights and handle your legal interests.
What About Florida No Fault Benefits?
If you own or operate a car in Florida, you are required to have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance (no fault). Even if another person is at “fault” in causing your accident, your PIP coverage will pay your injury-related expenses.
Unfortunately, if your injuries are serious or catastrophic, the $10,000 per person limit probably won’t be enough to cover your medical bills and lost wages. Due to recent changes in the law, if your injuries are initially diagnosed as minor, you may only qualify for a lower amount of PIP coverage.
You May Be Entitled to More Money
Florida’s $10,000 personal injury protection coverage may sound like an adequate sum to pay for your injuries, but if your recovery is slow it might not be enough. If you have long-term medical needs, a lengthy period of lost wages, or a permanent disability, you may need more.
Under certain circumstances Florida law gives you the right to pursue a claim against the person who caused your injuries. If injuries lead to scarring, loss of bodily functions, a permanent disability, significant disfigurement, or death, the injuries automatically exceed the PIP tort threshold. That means the injured person has a legal right to pursue a liability claim.
It’s Important to Know Your Legal Rights
When you are involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, it’s important that you have a basic knowledge of your rights and responsibilities. Your own insurance company should assist you with making a claim for medical bills and lost wages, but you’ll probably need help in seeking damages from the person legally responsible for your injuries.
You’ll need an investigation to verify that the other person is liable. That could include police reports, witness statements, a site investigation, and other information. You’ll also need a basic understanding of Florida auto laws, PIP tort thresholds, and statutes of limitations.
To evaluate and present your claim, you will need medical bills, physician and ER reports, and documentation of your lost wages. Even if you present comprehensive documentation of your claim, it’s possible that the other person’s insurance company still won’t offer you a settlement. In the end you may still have to file a lawsuit to get the settlement you deserve.
Should You Seek Professional to Help?
You could handle your own claim, but wouldn’t you feel more confident about your future with a commercial accident attorney handling it for you? A legal professional will conduct an investigation, determine liability, evaluate your injuries and present a claim for damages against the commercial driver’s insurance company. An attorney can handle the complicated details while you take on the important task of getting your life back on track.
Trucking accidents are a significant source of concern for Florida drivers. According to the 2013 Annual Crash Facts Report, published by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 316,943 vehicle crashes in the state of Florida in 2013, the last year for which full data is available. 32,055 of these crashes involved at least one commercial motor vehicle, which means that commercial trucks were involved in over 10% of all accidents on Florida roadways in 2013.
In addition to causing damage to vehicles and other property, crashes involving a commercial vehicle are also a significant source of injury. The same report states that crashes involving trucks and other commercial motor vehicles in 2013 caused 10,041 injuries and 213 fatalities in Florida.
One of the reasons why crashes involving a commercial vehicle are so damaging and deadly is due to their size. Commercial vehicles are often larger, heavier, and can potentially carry hazardous substances, and so there are special challenges for drivers that are sharing the road with a commercial vehicle.
To gain some insight into the dramatic difference in size between commercial and passenger vehicles, drivers should keep in mind that a large commercial truck, such as an 18-wheeler, could easily weigh over 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. In stark contrast to this is the typical passenger car, which will generally weigh in around 3,400 pounds. Due to these dramatic differences, any accident involving a commercial truck and a passenger vehicle is often terrifying, regardless of the severity of any injury that is received.
In order to raise awareness of the increased need to use extra caution when traveling the roadways in the presence of these vehicles, we’re providing the following list of the most common causes of truck accidents.
- Mistakes and errors by the driver – Misjudging the capabilities of the truck, following too closely, excessive sleepiness, failure to use and/or follow signs and signals, distracted driving and other errors by drivers are the number one cause of truck accidents.
- Mechanical failure – Commercial trucks can be plagued by a wide range of mechanical failures, from a design or production flaw that causes a sudden failure in a critical part, to failures that are caused by mechanical breakdown from normal wear and tear or neglected maintenance tasks. When a critical part fails, it can cause erratic performance, sudden stalls and/or stops, rapid acceleration or deceleration and other events that can lead to the driver being unable to completely control the vehicle and a crash or other accident is often the result. Even if all of the equipment on a truck is operating properly, improper loading can cause a load to become off-balance which can lead to difficulty steering, or shifting that causes critical parts to fail to perform correctly.
- Poor weather conditions – Despite how experienced a driver may be, rapidly deteriorating road conditions such as those caused by significant weather events involving precipitation such as rain, sleet, snow, freezing rain and wind can quickly create dangerous situations where a truck accident can occur.
All motorists should be aware of these common causes of truck accidents and be prepared to take defensive action should any of these conditions occur. Whether you are commercial driver or motorist in a passenger vehicle, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a section on safety that provides helpful tips that everyone can use to learn how to avoid crashes when traveling on the roadways.
In addition to using extra caution and being more aware of the special driving challenges presented by commercial vehicles, there are also trucking regulations in place to help prevent or reduce the number of trucking accidents that occur on roadways in Florida and throughout the nation, as we’ve discussed in a previous blog post.
Despite all of these guidelines and recommendations, truck accidents and other incidents involving commercial vehicles still occur every day. If you’ve been in a crash that involves a truck or other commercial vehicle and are unsure of the next step, why not get in touch with us today? At DDB Law we have the knowledge, experience and compassion necessary to meaningfully discuss your options with you, and guide you through the recovery of such a traumatic experience.
Unfortunately, insurance companies are often reluctant to pay medical bills and other costs after you have sustained injuries in an accident. This is regardless of whether you were involved in a car accident, a truck accident or a motorcycle accident. Florida is second in the nation when it comes to motorcycle accidents and more than 200,000 automobile accidents occur in the state annually.
Holding Insurers Accountable
When you are injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident, your first instinct is to contact your insurance company. What you may not know is that even innocent conversation with your insurance agent can cause problems for you down the line. When an insurer asks “how are you feeling” and you say “fine” they can use that later to claim you were not as injured as you are claiming to be. This can be a real issue when you consider that many soft tissue injuries associated with accidents can exhibit delayed symptoms.
It is imperative that you do not sign any forms, make any formal statements or accept any type of payment from an insurance company before you consult with a personal injury attorney who can help protect your rights.
Insurance Companies: The Double Duty
When you take out an insurance policy with an insurer, you expect them to treat you fairly when you file a claim. However, while an insurer has an obligation to you, they also have another obligation to their shareholders. This means you and your insurer are at odds almost immediately. Their primary goal is to protect their bottom line and that can mean paying out as little as possible on a claim.
A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
At DDB Law, our goal is to always protect the rights of our clients. In nearly all cases, we can help you navigate the system and help make sure you are treated fairly by your insurance company. We can help you with recovering financially after an accident.
Avoid talking to anyone after an accident where you have been injured and avoid releasing your medical records to your insurance company without first consulting with a personal injury attorney.