Everything about a semi-truck is bigger. The tires, the wheels, the mirrors, the loads they carry and the insurance policies that must be maintained on them. That last one is for very good reason: The potential for substantial property damage and serious injury when a semi-truck is involved in a crash is also outsized. These are some of the reasons Florida truck accident lawsuits can take much longer to resolve than typical car accident cases.
In a single recent year, there were more than 500,000 crashes involving large trucks, including more than 4,500 that were fatal and 107,000 that resulted in injuries. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the majority of those injured or killed in these collisions (82 percent) are the people in other vehicles. The number of fatal truck crashes per people in the U.S. has risen 27 percent since 2010.
The most common causes in large truck accidents are:
- Alcohol or drug use/impairment.
- Speeding & overtaking.
Determining Fault in Florida Truck Accidents
The very first step in any Florida injury or wrongful death case is determining fault. This is true for any kind of crash. Florida is a no-fault state, meaning that your own personal injury protection (PIP) insurance will kick in first to cover up to $10,000 in damages. In a semi-truck accident, this is usually nowhere near enough to cover all of your losses. F.S. 627.737(2) allows those who have suffered serious, lasting injuries in traffic accidents to pursue claims against the at-fault driver(s) beyond what PIP offers.
Insurance companies may offer a settlement, but it’s important to talk to an experienced truck accident attorney before signing anything because your case could be worth much more than what’s being offered.
Usually the only type of collision wherein there is a presumption of liability is a rear-end collision. In fact there is a name for it: A rebuttable presumption. This means if the semi-truck rear-ends you, there is a presumption that the truck driver was liable. This presumption can be rebutted with evidence, but it’s difficult to overcome.
Beyond that, the nature of the investigation might be simple (where on the vehicle did the impact take place?). More often, though, it involves complex measurements, analyses and expert witness testimony. Surveillance footage (including red light cameras), vehicle instrument recordings, cell phone logs and other information may be used for the court to make a determination.
Truck accident cases often involve multiple defendants, including:
- The truck owner.
- The owner of the cargo.
- The driver (often an independent contractor/separate from the owner of the truck/carrier).
- The manufacturer of the truck.
Whereas insurers in regular car accident cases may not push for an investigation (it may be more time/expense than the claim is worth), semi-truck crash cases are typically investigated much more thoroughly because of what is at stake. Commercial trucking companies are required to maintain between $300,000 and $5 million in insurance coverage, depending on the type of cargo they’re hauling.
If the insurance companies involved find any reason to believe the injured claimant was at-fault, they could decline payment altogether, which could tack on more time. Many commercial truck insurers cover the cost of not only the injuries but the cargo that may have been lost. That could prove a substantial sum, so they’ll look for any reason to avoid paying a settlement.
The Extent of Your Injuries
The substantial injuries typically incurred in a truck accident can also impact the amount of time a case will take. Bigger trucks result in more substantial injuries. These must be carefully documented to ensure a fair settlement. But insurers will insist on closely examining these as well. If there is any evidence that some injuries were pre-existing or aren’t serious as one claims, insurers will not agree to pay what is being asked of them.
It should be noted that pre-existing injuries that are aggravated by the truck accident can still be covered.
Although many crash cases are settled out-of-court, truck accident cases may be more likely to go to trial given what is at stake. In some cases, the insurer will agree the truck driver was at-fault but will dispute the extent of the plaintiff’s losses/damages. Settling a Fort Lauderdale truck accident case can take years, and a trial will take even longer.
The good news is that you do not have to pay your injury lawyer upfront. Your attorney is paid on a contingency fee basis, meaning you do not pay attorneys’ fees unless/until you win.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
More Blog Entries:
South Florida Car Accident Compensation Could Change With Auto Insurance Reform, Jan. 2, 2020, Fort Lauderdale Truck Accident Lawyer Blog