Collisions involving large commercial vehicles can result in devastating injuries. 18-wheelers can easily dwarf the largest of SUVs, leaving the occupants of passenger cars in a very vulnerable position during a crash. If you were hurt in such a wreck, our truck accident attorneys in St. Petersburg can help.
Our lawyers have the resources and experience to help you navigate every stage of the proceedings. We can gather evidence, help you understand the relevant laws, and pursue the settlement or verdict you need to move on with life. Call us today at (727) 821-1500 for a free consultation.
How Will My St. Petersburg Truck Accident Attorney Prove Fault?
To recover any sort of compensation for a personal injury following a truck accident, the injured parties must usually prove that the commercial driver was at fault. Because most collisions are unintentional where the trucker did not mean to cause an injury, this typically involves proving negligence, which is where our attorneys can help.
Negligence is a legally recognized cause of action that allows people injured in accidents to demand compensation. To accomplish this goal, plaintiffs must prove that:
- The defendant owed them a duty of care prior to the incident
- Actions taken by the defendant—or a failure to act—breached this duty
- The breach of the duty resulted in an injury
Truck drivers always assume a duty to protect all other individuals that they may meet while on the road. This extends to other drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Therefore, the first element is always met. On very rare occasions, a defendant may argue that an injury preexisted the incident, but for the most part, the third element requiring a physical injury is always met as well.
The central question in most truck accident cases is whether the trucker’s actions violated their duty of care. Some accidents make this question easy to answer: if a police officer cites a trucker for speeding, failing to yield, or carrying too much weight, the law assumes that the trucker is at fault for any ensuing accident. In other cases, a more in-depth investigation is required to prove trucker fault, for which a St. Petersburg truck accident attorney could provide significant assistance in collecting evidence.
What Are Some Common Examples of Truck Accident Injuries?
Even truck accidents that occur at low speeds place great strain on the bodies of the occupants of smaller vehicles. Even if their bodies do not come into direct contact with the truck, their car may be subjected to significant force or perhaps even crushed.
This can result in life-threatening injuries. It is not uncommon for the victims in these accidents to suffer:
- Broken bones
- Separated joints
- Severe cuts
Any form of physical injury is sufficient to make a claim. However, a complete claim should also demand compensation for lost wages and mental anguish. A truck accident lawyer in St. Petersburg could work with clients to understand the full impact of the accident on their lives.
That being said, even the most severe accident will not allow a plaintiff to make a claim if too much time has passed. Florida Statutes §95.11 states that a plaintiff must come to court within four years of the date of the accident if they want the court to hear the case. If this statute of limitations passes and a case is not yet in court, the plaintiff may be unable to recover.
What Mistakes Could Harm My Case?
Making mistakes is only human. However, while forgetting an anniversary or birthday can be remedied with a box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers, missteps while filing a truck accident claim can sometimes never be reversed.
With your financial future potentially at stake, it’s important to steer clear of oversights and errors to make sure you don’t inadvertently compromise your case. Our St. Petersburg truck accident lawyers can guide you through the claims process and help you make strategic decisions. Below are a few mistakes to avoid while your case is pending:
- Going Against Your Doctor’s Instructions: Whether you were told to complete specific stretches, take time off work, or take prescription medication, it’s important to listen to your healthcare provider. Failure to follow his or her orders could lead to disputes as the insurance company may assert that you did not take sufficient steps to mitigate damages. In this scenario, your financial award might be reduced.
- Not Keeping Track of Damages: Medical bills, repair costs, transportation to doctor’s appointments, and other accident-related expenses tend to pile up in the aftermath of a serious injury. To recover compensation for these damages, you must provide evidence of their existence and value. As such, it’s important to compile all paystubs, invoices, receipts, medical bills, or any other relevant financial documents to share with your attorney during your free consultation.
- Posting About Your Accident Online: Preparing for a personal injury case can be stressful and frustrating. It’s only natural that many claimants turn to the Internet for emotional support and advice. However, the claims adjuster may be monitoring your social media feed, searching for any comments, posts, or pictures that could be used to dispute liability or damages. For instance, if you upload an image of yourself engaged in a physical activity, the opposing party may assert that you are exaggerating your injuries. Our truck accident attorneys may advise you to disable your social media accounts until the claims process has concluded.
- Delaying Your Legal Consultation: Your primary focus after a serious injury should be your medical care, but it is still important to call a lawyer as soon as possible. Otherwise, essential evidence might be altered or destroyed. With many years of experience in truck accident cases, our attorneys know the most important evidence to gather, and much of it is time-sensitive.
- Failing to Preserve Evidence: Sometimes it is necessary for our lawyers and possibly a truck accident reconstruction expert to evaluate property damage and other evidence. If you get your vehicle fixed or discard of other evidence before speaking to an attorney, it could weaken your case.
- Giving a Statement to the Insurer: Do not speak to the insurance company directly. Rather, you should leave all such correspondence to your lawyer so you don’t say something that compromises your claim.
Can I Seek Compensation for Pain and Suffering?
Whether or not you can seek compensation for pain and suffering will depend on several factors. If you were in a motor vehicle and suffered an injury, you might have to bring a claim against a personal injury protection policy. PIP will not compensate you for pain and suffering. That being said, if you meet the “serious injury” threshold, you can bring a claim against the liable party or their insurer and seek compensation for pain and suffering.
Unlike economic damages such medical bills, property repair costs, and lost wages, calculating the value of pain and suffering can be incredibly complex. There aren’t any receipts for loss of life enjoyment or tabs for mental anguish, and mental wounds cannot be scanned or photographed like physical injuries.
However, there are several kinds of evidence our St. Petersburg truck accident lawyers may use to prove pain and suffering. Examples include:
- Photographs of Your Injuries: Many injuries are so serious that they invariably lead to at least some pain and suffering. This often applies in cases involving amputation, disfigurement, disabilities, or scarring. Even some temporary injuries, such as broken bones, burn wounds, or deep lacerations, can be incredibly painful and cause mental suffering. Your attorney may use photographs of your injuries to prove their severity, so you should try to snap pictures of your wounds immediately after the accident and over the weeks that follow.
- Journal Entries: Everyone experiences pain differently, making it difficult to accurately communicate the extent of your suffering. However, by documenting how your injury has affected your life and the amount of pain you experience on a daily basis, you can begin to paint a clear picture of the impact your condition has had on your wellbeing.
- Medical Documents: X-rays, lab test results, and official records can be used to demonstrate the severity of your injuries.
How Long Will It Take to Resolve My 18-Wheeler Accident Case?
Approximately 9 out of 10 personal injury cases are resolved out of court. This can be fortunate because litigation is time consuming and resource intensive, and if you go to trial, the outcome will ultimately be out of your hands. That said, if the insurance company is unwilling to agree to a fair settlement, it may be in your best interests to file a lawsuit. Below are a few factors that could influence the timeline of your case:
- Strength of Evidence: A personal injury case is won or lost on the strength of the evidence. Any gaps in your version of events could be exploited by opposing parties to dispute liability, causation, and damages. If you’ve made mistakes, negotiations may grind to a halt and you might have no other option than to file a lawsuit.
- Maximum Medical Improvement: Some injuries will resolve in just a few weeks; others may take months, if not years, to heal. During your recovery, you may have to undergo multiple procedures, take prescription medication, spend time with a rehabilitation expert, and make home modifications to accommodate any limitations. As such, it may be to your advantage not to conclude the settlement negotiations until you’ve achieved maximum medical improvement (the point at which your condition is unlikely to improve any further or the results of treatment have plateaued). Waiting until this date could help your attorney ensure your settlement accounts for all past and future losses.
- Your Own Negligence: While it may be clear that the other party is responsible for the accident, you may still be liable for a portion of your damages. For instance, if you ignored your healthcare provider’s instructions to rest and thus aggravated your injury or delayed recovery, other parties may dispute liability, increasing the likelihood of your case entering litigation.
- Social Media Activity: The digital age has changed the ways claims adjusters investigate cases. Not only do you have to think about your actions in the real world, but you also must be diligent about your behavior online. For instance, if you publish a post wherein you inadvertently admit fault for the accident, it’s possible that opposing parties may use your comments to dispute your case. Our truck accident lawyers in St. Petersburg can provide guidance to help you prevent your online activity from harming your claim and causing unnecessary delays.
Speak with a Truck Accident Lawyer Today
You may be concerned that your case will go to trial, but many truck accident claims end with a satisfactory settlement without ever going to court when handled by a qualified attorney. Our truck accident lawyers in St. Petersburg can help you understand the law and navigate the legal system. For a free consultation, dial (727) 821-1500.