Truck Accident Lawyer | Florida Semi-Truck Attorney
As a Florida semi truck accident lawyer, I strongly urge you to contact me immediately if you were the victim in a Florida semi-truck, or other large commercial truck, accident. After certain types of trucking accident cases, numerous tasks often MUST be completed quickly, to get the highest value for your case. As Orlando 18-wheeler accident attorneys, we understand the specific nuances involved in accidents involving semi-tractor-trailer rigs.
This article, written by an experienced Florida trucking lawyer, will explain the basics of Florida trucking accident law — including what you should expect, if you were involved in a crash with a big rig, bus, or other large commercial vehicle. (This article will also tell you exactly how to get the most money from your truck accident. Reading this entire article will help you understand how cases are valued, which tells you how to get the most money possible.)
Orlando Semi-Truck or 18-Wheeler Accidents: What Must Happen First?
Your Orlando semi-truck accident lawyer must do several things immediately, or very soon, after any serious semi-truck accident. Other tasks may or may not be needed — but we can’t know until we speak with you.
Things that should happen very quickly after any Florida trucking accident:
- All injured victims begin medical treatment;
- Spoliation letter sent to the insurance companies, trucking companies, and any other potentially liable parties.
- This is a detailed and specific letter, telling them to save specific pieces of critical evidence. Much of this evidence could either be altered or erased (on purpose) as more time passes.
- Accident reconstruction experts on the scene, if needed.
- Black box & other computerized accident-related data review (record retention policies and laws can cause this sometimes critical evidence to quickly disappear).
- File lawsuit to preserve & obtain VITAL evidence.
- Do not speak with insurance or trucking company representatives.
- Do not post anything online about your injuries or accident.
Again, I cannot more strongly emphasize the need to call an Orlando truck accident attorney quickly. After serious truck accidents, the trucking companies, or their insurance companies, often send “disaster response teams” to the scene of a truck accident within an hour or few hours. Their only goal is to find evidence that helps their case. Of course, evidence can also “disappear.”
There are some other things that YOU can do to increase your accident case value. One of these things is starting a pain log.
Should You Talk To An Insurance Adjuster After Any Florida Trucking Accident?
Many insurance companies will have adjusters contact victims, or victim family members, very quickly after any serious accident. These people often try to sound very helpful, and may offer compensation quickly, or tell you that they will determine the amount you deserve later, such as after you send medical bills, weeks or months later. They talk to you when you are still in shock, and offer an amount that really is a complete bargain in light of their potential financial exposure. Or they make it sound like the amount they plan to offer later will be calculated based on completely reasonable factors, like your total medical bills.
Overall, their goal is to isolate you from badly needed legal representation, as long as possible, which they hope will equal forever. (Do not fall for their tricks! Call an Orlando semi-truck accident lawyer ASAP!)
But many victims have no idea what they COULD and SHOULD receive. In fact, many victims believe that the “right” way to handle any accident case is to talk to the insurance company. So far too many seriously injured victims don’t even consider calling a lawyer until it’s too late.
However, I cannot more strongly emphasize that insurance adjuster statements or promises should NOT lull you into believing that you might not need a Florida semi-truck accident lawyer QUICKLY.
Indeed, if they are calling you, that’s extremely strong evidence that they are worried about the case, and trying to get you to settle for less than you should. (Usually one big indicator to me regarding the likely value of an insurance policy is whether the insurance company has already been trying to call my client. They try the hardest when the injuries are serious, and the policy value is high.) Their goal is always to pay you far less for you injuries (or your loved one’s death, if that’s what happened) than you deserve. And they use all kinds of tactics to try to get you to accept their low offers, or at least delay contacting an Orlando truck accident lawyer. Their tactics range from being very nice, or discussing the amount of total medical bills, to outright telling you that an Orlando truck accident lawyer will both delay the case, and cost you a huge percentage of your recovery. They fail to mention that an Orlando 18 wheeler attorney will usually get you a LOT more money overall, making both the unavoidable delay, and the fee, well worth it. (And sometimes we can resolve cases very quickly IF we know the damages. The biggest “delay” is waiting to see how much treatment our clients must endure, which insurance companies never want to happen. They would rather settle before you know the full extent of your medical bills, so that they don’t have to pay those.)
Even talking to an insurance adjuster after an accident is a BIG mistake because they will try to get information to hurt your case — which they are very skilled at getting. (For example, they’ll use your innocent statements, twist your words, then possibly create real doubt about who caused the accident OR the cause or extent of your injuries. Please do not trust yourself to get this right.) And certainly accepting an offer, or delaying calling an Orlando trucking accident lawyer, are both big mistakes.
(But please note — you have a duty to report accidents to your own insurance carrier under most policies — but keep reading to learn how to handle that situation.)
Sometimes they will tell you that they don’t know the value of your case until you finish treatment (which is a technique to cause you to delay calling an Orlando truck accident lawyer), other times they will immediately offer you the full amount of medical bills, plus a little extra to compensate you. But they often fail to tell you that you are entitled to many other types of money damages, including future medical (as determined by YOUR doctor, not theirs), lost wages (as determined by YOUR lawyer or expert, not theirs), significant amounts for pain and suffering, and lost support and services. Even if you ultimately hire an Orlando truck accident lawyer, they can greatly improve the defense’s case simply by causing you to delay having an Orlando truck accident lawyer start collecting evidence that WILL soon disappear.
Read more about why you should never talk to an insurance adjuster after an accident.
What If You’ve Already Given A Recorded Or Unrecorded Statement?
I wouldn’t spend any time worrying about any statements you’ve already made, recorded or unrecorded. For one thing, what’s done is done. Just don’t give them MORE information by talking to them again. More statements usually only make the situation worse. On the bright side, sometimes clients call me who haven’t yet said anything that really hurts their case. It just depends. If you call me, and tell me what you said, I’ll tell you whether I think you hurt your case, or not. But, I can’t really know unless and until I read your statement. However, again, don’t add insult to injury by continuing to talk to them.
But Don’t You Have To Talk To Your Own Insurance Company After An Orlando Truck Accident?
Yes, under most insurance policies, you have an obligation to report any auto accident, including a truck accident, and cooperate with your own company. And these often have very short time-frames, like 15 to 30 days. However, if you have coverage called “uninsured motorist” or “UM” coverage, then your own company is just as bad as the defendant’s. They aren’t going to try to help you get what you deserve. So, you should call an Orlando truck accident lawyer (me) ASAP to communicate on your behalf, or get other instructions. Generally we will allow you to report the accident, but give NO details about how the accident happened, how you are feeling, what you have been doing (weekend plans, work plans, etc), or details about your relationship with anyone who was seriously injured, or died.
Proving Orlando Trucking Accident Lawsuits
Lawsuits involving semi-truck accidents are both easier to prove, yet more time-consuming and complicated, than car & smaller truck accidents. Let me explain.
There are numerous federal and state trucking regulations, which trucking companies, and truck drivers, must follow. Those regulations and statutes are extensive and complex. They include things like number of driving hours, driver medical clearance, load amount & placement, driving history, and drug and alcohol testing. (During every trucking accident lawsuit, Orlando truck accident lawyers request literally hundreds of documents to carefully evaluate all aspects of their compliance, in addition to having experts inspect equipment and parts, if needed.)
So, on the one hand, the number and extent of documents and items Orlando truck accident lawyers must review, and experts we must consult, is much more significant in a trucking accident, as opposed to accidents involving smaller vehicles. The reason is that smaller vehicles don’t have to comply with the same regulations. But truck drivers & companies do. And proving that trucking companies violated these regulations, which requires that Orlando truck accident lawyers gather evidence to prove those violations, helps establish that the driver was responsible for the accident, and might even heighten responsibility in the form of punitive damages (or damages designed to punish for willful or grossly negligent acts, rather than just compensate you for your losses).
On the other hand, these regulations make proof of liability easier in some respects — because, if they clearly violated a regulation, that becomes very strong evidence of fault in any trucking case. And, more often than not, Orlando truck accident lawyers find one if not multiple regulation violations any time we start digging into the documents and equipment. Basically car drivers don’t have to comply with as many regulations. So the regulations allow Orlando truck accident lawyers to “pile on” in terms of driver & trucking company fault, and degree of wrongful behavior, which often enhances case value.
What Do Orlando Truck Accident Lawyers Have To Prove?
Just like any auto accident case, in the simplest terms, Orlando semi-truck accident lawyers must prove two main things: (1) liability (that is, fault for causing the accident), and (2) damages. But technically those things include four parts, which we call “elements.” So there are four elements we must prove (explained more below).
Anytime a plaintiff (which is the injured victim or their family member) files a lawsuit, the plaintiff, with the help of his Orlando commercial truck lawyer, must prove all aspects of their case. (Florida truck accident lawyers often refer to this as having “the burden of proof.”) At the same time, defense lawyers who represent the trucking company, or their insurers, go to extreme lengths to try to disprove each and every part of any trucking accident case.
Legally speaking, trucking accident victims are always required to prove four “elements” of any trucking case. The four elements of every trucking accident case are:
- Duty of Truck Driver, Trucking Company, Or Other Responsible Parties;
- Breach of Duty;
- Causation Of Injuries; and
Duty is the easy part — all drivers on the roadway have a duty to drive safely. But with truckers, there is an enhanced duty to follow all of the federal and Florida (or other state) trucking regulations. So, for example, truckers have a duty to comply with the hours of service requirements.
Beach of duty is where the bigger fight normally takes place. This means that the trucker, trucking company, or other responsible party, failed to do something that they should have done. This can be very simple, such as they failed to maintain a safe speed (were driving too fast), or were driving too close, turned improperly, failed to brake in time, or were not paying attention to the road, and other vehicles on the road. In addition to those “normal” accident causes, Orlando trucking accident attorneys can also use things like truck driver logs to prove that they breached their duty by failing to comply with hours of service requirements. Or Florida 18 wheeler lawyers can use their personnel file to prove that the trucking company negligently hired or maintained them, such as if they hired a driver with too little experience, a bad driving record, or, even worse, a history of drinking and driving. (You wouldn’t believe how common those problems are!) There are countless ways to establish that truckers, and trucking companies, breached their duty of care. Very often there are multiple reasons. Generally, the more things they did wrong, the higher the case value.
Causation is another part of the case that is often hard fought, and usually not for good reason. Let me explain. Causation means that the trucking accident CAUSED your claimed damages. So the trucking company can try to prove that THIS accident didn’t cause your claimed injuries. This is where pre-existing medical conditions, and treatments, become an issue. Subsequent injuries and accidents are also relevant, and can create difficulties for your trucking accident case. Basically they argue that you were already hurting.
The problem is that the trucking insurance companies will often use innocent statements or events to try to prove that something else caused your injuries. For example, if you had a prior back injury, they will try to prove that your back was already hurt (before the accident), so the trucking accident didn’t actually cause your injuries. Or, if you delayed treatment after the accident, or had a big gap in treatment, especially if you didn’t complain about whatever body part during your first doctor visit, then they will argue that something else must have caused your injury — otherwise you would have complained at the first doctor visit.
There are many effective ways for an experienced Orlando trucking accident lawyer to combat these tactics, but you should be aware that they exist. (An informed and proactive client always helps to maximize damages.) Trucking company defense lawyers will also try to shift the blame (cause) onto something else through tricky deposition questions. (A deposition is when the trucking accident lawyers ask you questions under oath, in the presence of a court reporter, and gain evidence that they can sometimes read to the jury during any trial.) But skilled, experienced & thorough Orlando trucking accident lawyers (we) will prepare you to effectively answer deposition questions, and know exactly what to expect.
However, the reality is that causation is not a huge hurdle in many trucking accident cases, because trucking accidents, unfortunately, very often cause such severe injuries, or death. So very often there is absolutely no doubt about causation. But, in non-catastrophic trucking accident cases (such as a hard hit that causes multiple herniated discs, or torn ligaments), cause may still be a hotly disputed element. You would probably be VERY SURPRISED when and how they dispute cause and effect of serious injuries.
What Types of Damages Are Available To Trucking Accident Victims?
Damages are another hotly disputed element. Damages include “economic” and “noneconomic.”
Economic includes your medical bills caused by the accident, including future medical, as well as lost wages, and loss of earning capacity. (In wrongful death cases, economic damages also include lost support and services.) These are numbers that are relatively easy to calculate and present to the jury, as long as Orlando truck accident lawyers (we) have evidence of them. (Lost wages & earning capacity can be a little more challenging for those who are self-employed, but we can use past tax records, and any other form of proof (such as witnesses, or other documents) to prove lost wages.) So Orlando semi-truck accident lawyers (we) will gather all of your medical bills and other documents to prove just how much money the trucking accident cost you, and your family.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that increasing your medical bills will decrease the money in your pocket. It works the other way around.
Lost wages can be substantial, or insignificant, depending on how much time you missed from work, whether you are able to return to the same job, or any job, and how much money you have historically earned from your job. Orlando truck accident lawyers use past wage documentation to prove lost wages, such as paycheck stubs, W-2 forms, and tax returns. In self-employment cases, we utilize whatever you have to prove your damages — this might include contracts for jobs that you couldn’t complete, invoices and payments, W-9 forms, tax returns, witness testimony, or anything else that Orlando semi-truck accident attorneys think might help prove that you lost wages or earning capacity. Lost wages also vary depending on your age — so that someone closer to retirement age would lose fewer years than someone younger.
Trucking company tactics include trying to undermine trucking accident victims, and their hired experts, regarding the extent of future medical bills, or the amount of lost wages or earnings. They have countless ways of trying to argue that those claimed amounts are higher than they should be, but we have countless ways of effectively countering their arguments.
Noneconomic damages basically just means pain, suffering, and other emotional losses. In other words, noneconomic damages compensate you beyond just the money you lost (such as lost wages or medical bills). In serious injury cases, these damages include the anger, pain, life limitations, emotional and physical pain from enduring medical procedures, as well as ongoing physical pain from permanent injuries, and emotional suffering as a result of having physical injuries. (During death cases, the victim’s relationship to the survivor, and quality of that relationship, is very important in calculating pain & suffering damages.) Putting a value on noneconomic damages is never an exact science. The jury is entitled to assign any value they want to any trucking accident case. If you choose to settle before going to trial, then your Orlando trucking accident lawyer’s job is to tell you how other similar cases have been resolved. Therefore, we use our experience, combined with jury verdict & settlement research about similar cases, to advise our trucking accident clients regarding what settlement amounts we think they should accept or reject.
To prove pain & suffering, Orlando truck accident lawyers utilize witness statements about your before and after experiences and capabilities (or your emotional or physical state after the accident). We sometimes use photos and/or videos to show your life before and after the accident. For example, if you loved biking, but the accident caused injuries that now prevent you from biking, Orlando 18 wheeler accident lawyers might show numerous photos of you riding your bike before the accident. In death cases, Orlando truck accident lawyers try to incorporate photos and/or videos showing the closeness of the relationship — which often includes family photos of all types.
The bottom line regarding all elements of any trucking accident case is that there are many different types of evidence that can be used by both the plaintiff’s lawyers, and the defense lawyers, to change the value of any given case. Those are complicated — and get worse with the passage of time (although we absolutely have recovered substantial amounts from accident cases where the victim didn’t call us immediately — the best case scenario is for us to get started ASAP).
How Do Orlando Trucking Accident Lawyers Prove Your Case?
Well, this depends a lot on what happened.
However, in general, the first phases of all lawsuits involve a period Orlando semi-truck accident lawyers call “discovery.” That’s when truck accident lawyers representing both sides are allowed to ask for witness statements, documents, and sometimes physical inspections, to gather evidence that they want to present to a jury.
In trucking accident cases, if the trucking company disputes liability (which means who caused the accident), then Orlando truck accident lawyers send a very long list of document requests at the beginning of every case. We also might hire experts to explain technical aspects of the case to us, and the jury. We spend a tremendous amount of time gathering all sorts of evidence, which ranges from exactly what happened during the accident, how the truck may have malfunctioned, or how the driver or trucking company may have done something wrong. This includes talking to witnesses, if there are any, hearing your version of the story in detail, and reviewing all relevant data and documents. We also talk to experts, to understand the nuances in any particular case.
Whether they dispute liability, or not, they always dispute the value of your damages.
In catastrophic injury cases, to prove the value of damages, Orlando truck accident lawyers extensively review every single page of sometimes lengthy medical records. We also hire medical experts when needed. If relevant, we might review prior medical records. If we need to go to trial, we also talk to witnesses about your before & after experiences, treatments, behavior, emotions, and activity limitations. This all becomes evidence that we use to prove that the trucking accident caused the accident, caused your injuries, and that your injuries are serious & valuable. Often doctors and other witnesses will testify, in addition to your testimony. We also show photographs, diagrams, or other physical evidence. All of this evidence helps us tell the jury your story.
In wrongful death trucking accident cases, the main focus revolves around the strength and type of relationship between the person who died, and the loved ones who remain. Orlando truck accident lawyers (we) also look very carefully at lost financial and other support and services. In higher value cases, we often employ an expert called an economist to prove the amount and value of lost income, support, and services.
Who Might Be Legally Responsible For Florida Trucking Accidents?
Numerous different entities may be responsible for a trucking accident. Whenever multiple parties caused an accident, they are each responsible for their percentage of fault, as determined by a jury (the jury literally breaks down fault by percentage, which includes any percentage they feel the plaintiff may have been at fault.) The possible responsible parties include: truck driver, employer of truck driver, truck owner, brokers (which is a company that brings together those companies needing to move goods, and the trucking companies), equipment maintenance companies, and equipment manufacturers. Quite often, we must retain experts to evaluate the degree of fault of these various parties.
What If You Were Partly To Blame For Your Trucking Accident?
If there is any evidence that you might have contributed to the accident, first and foremost, we help you minimize the damage. That involves us talking to you, and sometimes other witnesses or experts, to determine whether we agree. If we do, then we help with damage control. Often we can gather enough harmful evidence against the defendant truck driver to offset any negligence on your part. If we get to a jury, in Florida, the jury is allowed to breakdown fault by percentage. So they hear evidence and arguments from lawyers on both sides, then they can assign any percentage fault they want, to various different people or entities (for example, they might conclude that you were 20% at fault, the truck driver was 40% at fault, and the trucking company was 40% at fault). The judge then takes the final amount of your damages, which is also determined by the jury, and breaks down the amount owed by each person or entity. Do NOT let concern about possibly sharing in fault stop you from calling an Orlando truck accident lawyer (me) ASAP!
What Are Trucking Insurance Requirements, And Why Do Those Matter?
Trucking companies are required to have more insurance coverage than regular automobiles. You can read about those higher insurance requirements here. But here’s why they matter: the total insurance coverage from ALL possible trucking accident defendants is usually the highest possible amount that an Orlando trucking accident lawyer can recover for you (this isn’t always true, but is usually true). We call this a “policy limits” settlement. So, one of our first orders of business during any trucking accident case is to obtain the insurance policy from every at-fault party. The policies have “declaration sheets,” which tell us the policy limits. The policy limits may change our strategy — lower policy limits can be easier and quicker to obtain (but your medical bills can also eat them up fast), so we might advise you differently, depending on your injuries, necessary versus optional treatments, timing of treatments, and coverage amounts.
Most of the time, trucking companies, and related partially responsible entities, have high policy limits.
What Are The Most Common Causes Of Florida Truck Accidents?
- Truck driver fatigue
- Truck driver has medical condition
- Truck driver drinking or doing drugs, while driving
- Truck driver failing to apply brakes soon enough
- Truck driver turning too sharp
- Truck driver inattention (distracted driving)
- Truck improperly loaded, inspected, or maintained
- Truck company hiring driver’s who weren’t qualified
- Truck company not adequately training truck drivers
- Inadequate safety equipment & features on truck
- Poor visibility or bad weather
- Bad road conditions
As an Orlando truck accident lawyer, in simple terms, I am trained to find the evidence to prove those things happened, if they did, then present your side of the story to any mediator or judge, all the while fighting down arguments made by truck insurance lawyers. That’s the simple version. But an Orlando semi-truck accident lawyer’s job is always very complex, involving layers and layers of facts, which include witness and expert opinions, medical records and countless other documents, and the law itself, which we spend years learning, and a lifetime mastering.
What Is The Value Of A Typical Truck Accident Lawsuit?
Just like auto accidents involving smaller vehicles, truck accident settlement values are all over the map. The potential value depends entirely on the severity of injuries. Or, in wrongful death cases, the closeness of the relationship to the survivor, along with the lost financial contribution, and medical bills incurred prior to death.
That means, if the injuries aren’t serious, the value isn’t high.
However, in serious injury cases, trucking accident case values are high. How high? Well that depends on your injuries, treatments, lost wages, and policy limits.
More serious injuries include things like numerous broken bones, traumatic brain injury or other neurological damage, herniated discs, surgery (or multiple surgeries), significant facial or other bodily disfigurement, severe burns, paralysis, amputation, blindness, or even death.
Additionally, if you lost, or expect to lose, a significant amount of income, then you will also have a higher value case. This also applies if a qualified survivor loses the financial support from someone who died. (For example: if your spouse dies, and you lose his or her income as part of the household financial support.)
But one big difference with truck accidents is that, if the injuries are serious, there usually is more insurance coverage to pay for the losses. And that’s a good thing. Plus, as explained above, truck drivers and companies must comply with many more rules of the road — so negligence is sometimes easier to find and prove.
Plus, truck accidents usually cause more serious injuries, so the values are often higher for that reason.
Therefore, in general, the values of trucking accident cases often range from several hundred thousand to millions. (That is ONLY if there were serious injuries.) But every case is different — you can’t know the factors that would affect your case value without calling an Orlando truck accident lawyer (me) today.
I’ve only scratched the surface of what happens during any truck accident case. However, I provide lengthy, free consultations to anyone seriously injured in a semi-truck collision. If you were involved in a semi-truck or tractor-trailer collision, please call me today for a free, fast and thorough evaluation.
Also, I am only licensed in Florida & Georgia. So I only handle cases in those states. However, I know many exceptional lawyers throughout the country. Whatever you do, avoid hiring settlement mill accident law firms.