What Happens After A Truck Accident?
After being in a truck accident, there are lots of things that happen within a short amount of time. In this article, we walk through the advice your truck injury lawyer will provide you about how to determine who is at fault and what damages they could be liable for.
Determining Fault & Liability in Truck Accidents
Although Florida is a no-fault insurance state, if your crash caused serious or permanent injuries or more than $10,000 in damages, you will need to determine who caused the accident. A truck accident attorney can help you name defendants in a personal injury claim after a thorough investigation.
How to Prove Fault for a Truck Accident
It’s important to retain a truck accident attorney to help you with the burden of proof. Proving fault can come down to a number of factors, pieces of evidence, and common or state laws. Common law recognizes four main types of fault:
Florida law’s definition of negligence is a “failure to exercise the degree of reasonable care one can expect in order to minimize the risk of harm to others”. Negligence is the basis of most personal injury claims.
A party might be guilty of recklessness if it exhibited a “wanton disregard for the safety of others,” resulting in an accident. A party guilty of recklessness may face criminal charges as well as civil penalties and liability for a crash.
- INTENTIONAL MISCONDUCT.
Intentional misconduct or lawlessness can come in the form of criminal acts such as vehicular manslaughter, or in any situation where the defendant knew or should have known there was a high probability of injury or damage, yet intentionally committed the act anyway.
- STRICT LIABILITY.
Strict liability holds the defendant liable for damages, regardless of whether he or she was negligent. If a truck accident occurred due to a defective vehicle part, for example, the manufacturer would be strictly liable, with or without proof of negligence.
Who Is Liable for Your Truck Accident?
Who is at fault for causing your crash, and who is liable or legally responsible for the crash, are not always the same entity. Truck accident claims can be complex and often involve more than one defendant.
Liability for a truck crash can come down to one or more of the following parties:
- TRUCK DRIVER
Driver error is the main cause of truck accidents in Florida. Truck driver distraction, drowsiness, incompetence, recklessness, carelessness, and intoxication can all cause serious collisions.
- TRUCKING COMPANY
The company could be legally responsible if it was negligent in some way, such as failing to train its drivers or pressuring them to meet deadlines through unsafe means, such as speeding or driving past hours of service regulations. While most truckers are technically independent contractors, truck companies are still liable for their actions.
- OWNER OF TRUCK OR TRAILER
Truck companies often do not own the tractor-trailers their drivers use. The registered owner of the truck could face liability if he or she was negligent in maintaining, inspecting, or repairing the vehicle, resulting in an accident.
- A VEHICLE PART MANUFACTURER
If the big rig or your vehicle experienced part malfunction due to a defective or dangerous product, you could have a claim against the manufacturer or distributor for the crash. A manufacturer could also share fault if a defective car part, such as a seatbelt or airbag, worsened your injuries.
- A THIRD PARTY
Another driver on the road, a roadway maintenance team, the company that performs truck maintenance, the cargo loaders, or other parties could have caused or contributed to your crash. You could have several defendants in your case who share fault.
The easiest way to assign fault and liability is to hire an experienced truck accident attorney. A lawyer will preserve important evidence, gather accident information, reconstruct how the crash happened, interview eyewitnesses, and take other actions to identify the defendant(s) and prove fault in front of a judge or jury.
If you were to sue someone for causing your truck accident and related injuries, your claim would take the form of a civil lawsuit. A civil suit aims to reimburse injured parties, or claimants, for losses caused by someone else’s negligence.
In the civil system, compensatory damages are those that serve to reimburse the injured party for the economic (“special”) and non-economic (“general”) harms they have suffered. Compensatory damages also reimburse non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. They aim to repay the claimant for out-of-pocket expenses such as:
- Past and future medical bills
- Lost earnings and lost earning capacity
- Cost of future medical care
- Costs associated with doctor’s visits and canceled plans
- Household expenses
The compensatory damages in a wrongful death truck accident claim are unique. If the truck accident killed a loved one, you could be eligible for loss of consortium damages, or compensation for the loss of your loved one’s company, love, support, parental guidance, and other losses specific to the deceased person.
In Florida, a surviving spouse, child, parent, blood relative, adopted sibling, or other parties who were financially dependent upon the decedent, may be eligible for loss of consortium damages.
Special damages describe the monetary, economic, and calculable expenses the victim incurred because of an accident. These damages are the easiest to calculate, as they stem from hard evidence such as medical bills and property damage evaluations.
A truck injury lawyer will evaluate special damages simply by adding up the claimant’s monetary losses so far and then adding the estimated value of future medical bills, lost wages, and other such damages.
General, or non-economic, damages are much harder to calculate. In a personal injury trial, it is up to the jury to place a numeric value on the victim’s intangible losses. These losses can include:
- Physical pain
- Emotional suffering
- Depression or anxiety
- Mental anguish
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Lost quality of life
- Lost enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
Since there is no set-in-stone monetary value on these losses, it is up to the plaintiff’s attorney to prove the impact an injury has had on the victim’s personal life, happiness, and well-being. An attorney can do this using expert witness testimony, comparable cases from the past, and compelling arguments for the claimant’s intangible losses.
When it comes time to calculate general damages, the jury can use a few different calculation methods.
The most common in Florida is the Multiplier Method. This method takes the total amount of special damages and multiplies it by a number between one and five. The higher the multiplier, the more the injury impacted the victim.
In rare cases, a judge might award punitive damages in a truck accident claim. Punitive damages serve to punish the defendant for his or her actions. Judges generally reserve punitive damage award for defendants who exhibit gross negligence, recklessness, wanton disregard for the safety of others, or intent to harm.
Punitive damages describe extra compensation with the main purpose of punishing the defendant, not reimbursing the plaintiff.
The best way to maximize your compensation after a serious truck accident is to hire a Florida truck injury lawyer. A lawyer truly cares about what happens to you and will work hard to secure the highest possible award for you and your family.
To learn more about truck accidents, read our Comprehensive Guide for Truck Accident Victims or to learn more about the different types of truck accident cases we cover, read our comprehensive list of truck accident cases in Florida.