Understanding what to do after a tractor-trailer accident in Florida is important. Thousands of tractor-trailer accidents occur in Florida each year. Many of them result in life-altering injuries or death. Even when a full physical recovery is possible after truck accident injuries, victims often find themselves saddled with medical bills they can never hope to pay off.
When a negligent truck driver causes an accident in Florida, the victims qualify for compensation to cover the damages. However, no one hands out money to a truck accident victim. You need to know what to do after a Florida truck accident to protect yourself from negative financial consequences that can follow you for a lifetime. Reach out to a Port Richey truck accident lawyer.
What You Need to Know About Tractor-Trailer Accidents
Tractor-trailer incidents differ from other car accidents in a few significant ways. First, injuries can often be more severe because of the size of a large truck compared to other passenger vehicles on the road.
Second, tractor-trailer accidents are usually more expensive than other accidents. Severe injuries can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of medical bills, not to mention lost wages and benefits, when injured victims can no longer work to support themselves and their families.
Truck accidents are also more expensive because companies use tractor-trailers to transport commercial products. A tractor-trailer accident doesn't just bring vehicle damage and injury expenses—it can also be a significant financial blow to a trucking company when a truckload of cargo is damaged or destroyed.
Finally, gaining compensation through insurance is more complicated after a truck accident than it is after other types of motor vehicle accidents. Most regular vehicles on the road are financially protected under an individual's car insurance policy. This isn't always the case with a tractor-trailer.
Truck accident insurance may take the form of a personal truck driver’s trucking insurance, a company insurance policy, or some combination of the two. Legal cases involving more than two policies are always harder to negotiate because each insurance company will likely try to place financial responsibility on the other policies involved.
Steps to Take After a Florida Truck Accident
After a Florida truck accident, you may experience fear, shock, and difficulty remaining clear-headed and in control. Knowing how to react and taking the right steps can profoundly impact your finances and long-term quality of life.
Proactively knowing what to do in this type of situation has many benefits. However, it’s not too late to contact a Florida truck accident lawyer and ask for advice if you’ve already been involved in an accident and failed to perform any of these steps.
Take the following steps to protect yourself after a truck accident in Florida.
1. Get to a Safe Place
Your priority after a tractor-trailer accident should be safety. Move to the shoulder, out of the way of oncoming traffic. Never try to retrieve personal items from a vehicle if it puts you at risk of being hit by traffic.
If possible, take pictures of the crash site and the vehicles. Photographic evidence may be needed during an investigation to help prove liability for the crash.
2. Call the Police
Call the police after any accident, no matter how small. It's imperative after a tractor-trailer accident since trucking insurance coverage makes a financial recovery more complicated. The police will create an official report, which you'll need for your insurance claim. A police report can also help to support your case if legal action is necessary.
If there are serious injuries or vehicle damage, calling the police isn’t optional—Florida law requires that you call the police if an accident causes death, bodily injury, or over $500 in vehicle or property damage.
3. Get Medical Attention
A tractor-trailer accident puts victims at risk of serious injury. In many cases, medical attention is a necessity rather than an option. However, it can be tempting to skip checking in with a doctor when injuries are minor or seemingly nonexistent.
It's smart for your health and finances to see a doctor after an accident.
First, medical attention helps to catch any serious health issues that might not immediately be felt, like internal bleeding or a head injury. Second, it helps to establish the accident as the cause of injuries if you begin to experience health issues in the weeks and months after the accident.
4. Collect Evidence
Evidence is crucial to building a case. Compensation after a tractor-trailer accident depends on first proving who was at fault for the accident. Police reports, witness testimony, and other evidence can determine whether your case will recover compensation.
It helps to take down the names of witnesses and photograph the placement of the vehicles involved before they’re moved. It may be necessary for a lawyer to hire an accident reconstruction specialist or similar expert to testify that the conditions of the accident lay responsibility on the truck driver.
5. Don’t Discuss the Accident
What you say about a truck accident can be used by an insurance company to disqualify you from coverage. Never apologize or admit fault. Don’t post about the accident on social media. When the police ask if you’re injured, say you plan to see a doctor and then do so.
Never speak with an insurance company about the accident until you’ve consulted with a truck accident attorney.
6. Call a Truck Accident Lawyer
You need to work with a truck accident attorney if you hope to gain fair compensation after an accident. Most lawyers offer a free consultation. A consultation is a no-obligation way to learn your legal options and how much you stand to gain with the help of a lawyer.
If a lawyer reviews the details and says you have a valid case, they can handle all insurance communication on your behalf.
Trucking Employment Models
Some trucking companies function as employers, with truck drivers working as employees. This setup is the most straightforward type of tractor-trailer insurance situation.
When a trucking company uses this employment model, the company itself typically carries an insurance policy that covers its drivers. Since only one policy exists, negotiations happen directly with the single insurance provider.
However, trucking companies use other employment models to make insurance coverage more difficult to understand.
Sometimes, a trucking company owns the tractor-trailer but employs drivers as independent contractors. In this case, a company likely has coverage on the truck and cargo, but a truck driver is responsible for their own trucker's insurance policy.
Many truck drivers also function as owner-operators. This means they work on contract with trucking companies but own their tractor trailers and are responsible for their insurance.
Trucking insurance can be expensive. Truckers often aim to cut costs by opting for the cheapest policy, which usually only meets the minimum coverage requirements. When an accident causes extensive injury, the coverage limits aren’t always enough to cover the damages.
Accident Liability and Insurance Regulations
The nature of the accident can also affect insurance coverage for an accident. Factors like truck maintenance, overweight loads, improperly loaded cargo, and construction or road conditions are all common causes of trucking accidents.
How and why a crash occurred is central to proving liability for the accident. This information will determine which relevant insurance policy should pay for damages.
Federal and state regulations exist to help ensure that tractor trailers carry sufficient policy limits in the event of a trucking accident. These limits are set according to many factors, including a truck’s size, weight, number of axles, and cargo type.
It's also common for individual states to set additional legal requirements for commercial trucking insurance. Florida laws require that commercial trucks carry specific minimum coverage amounts according to weight. Tractor trailers weighing over 44,000 pounds must carry minimum bodily liability coverage and property damage coverage of $300,000.
In addition to trucking insurance legal coverage minimums, there are different types of trucking insurance that a truck driver or company can carry, many of which can voluntarily be added to a policy to protect against lawsuits after a severe crash.
What to Do If a Loved One Dies in a Tractor-Trailer Accident
Data shows that in a recent year, nearly 5,000 large trucks were in fatal crashes, and another 107,000 were involved in crashes that resulted in injury. The rate of deadly tractor-trailer accidents is 31 percent higher than a decade ago.
Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles data show around 32,000 large truck crashes annually in Florida alone. Truck accidents already bring the risk of severe injury due to their size and weight. However, when a loved one dies due to a tractor-trailer accident, it’s an even greater tragedy.
A common mistake grieving family members make is to accept a loved one's death as a tragic accident. You may lack the time and motivation to pursue legal action on top of funeral preparations, dealing with grief, and adjusting to life after a loss.
However, failing to contact a lawyer can have far-reaching financial implications for the family members left behind.
A truck accident attorney can file a wrongful death claim for you. Once you begin working with a truck accident lawyer, you do not need to do much work. Your lawyer will handle legal matters and insurance communication on your behalf, allowing you the space to grieve.
You can seek wrongful death compensation to cover items like:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Ambulance bills
- Medical bills
- Loss of anticipated lifetime earnings
- Loss of health and retirement benefits
- Emotional anguish
- Loss of companionship
Compensation over wrongful death due to a truck accident can make a life-altering difference to a family's finances and standard of living. Close relatives such as spouses, children, and parents may take this legal action. So can the guardian of a child who lost parents in a fatal truck accident.
Why You Need a Truck Accident Lawyer
Gaining compensation after an accident is far more complex than simply filing an insurance claim—especially if injuries are severe, medical care is ongoing, or a medical prognosis is uncertain.
A lawyer has many roles to play while gaining compensation for a client. An individual without the experience and legal knowledge of trucking accidents, insurance policies, and the legal system cannot hope to produce the same results as a professional.
A lawyer helps your case in countless ways. Some of these include:
- Protecting you from making incriminating statements
- Identifying damages you may not consider
- Calculating a fair compensation value
- Communicating with insurance companies and courts
- Interpreting insurance policy language
- Negotiating for the compensation you deserve
- Fighting for your rights in court
Attempting to take on a Florida truck accident claim without the representation of an experienced truck accident attorney is an uphill battle. The work can overwhelm you, and the likely outcome is either a smaller payout or none.
Call a Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has been injured in a Florida tractor-trailer accident, know that you're not alone. You have legal options for gaining compensation to offset losses like medical bills, lost wages, and funeral expenses. However, you need to make the law work in your favor.
Don't struggle in silence after a Florida truck accident derails your life. An experienced lawyer has the resources and expertise to restore justice to a truck accident victim. Contact a Port Richey personal injury attorney today to learn more about your options.