After getting into a truck accident, one of the first things you want to know is how long you have to file a lawsuit to recover your damages. Truck accidents are severe and can have devastating results. Medical bills and lost time at work can land an accident victim in financial ruin.
Because of the financial consequences of truck accidents, time is of the essence when filing an accident claim. Continue reading to learn more about how a truck accident lawyer can help you to file an accident claim quickly and the consequences of filing too late.
What Is the Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a deadline set by law that sets the timeframe for filing a lawsuit. Statutes of limitations are strict, and if a plaintiff fails to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations passes, they will lose their right to sue.
The time allowed to file a lawsuit to recover for losses after a truck accident varies from state to state.
Some examples of different deadlines across the United States include:
- Florida = Four years
- Georgia = Two years
- District of Columbia = Three years
- Kentucky = One year
- Louisiana = One year
- Maine = Six years
- Missouri = Five years
These time frames range from one year to six years, with most states falling in the two to four-year range. There are only limited exceptions to the statute of limitations for a truck accident lawsuit, and you should have a lawyer evaluate your case and advise what the deadline for your case should be.
What Happens if I Miss the Statute of Limitations?
Complying with the statute of limitations is important because if you miss it, you can lose your right to sue. If you file a lawsuit, the defendant can request the court to dismiss the case due to the missed deadline. The court will usually dismiss the case without even looking at the facts, no matter how clear the liability might be.
Without the option to sue the truck driver or trucking company, you may risk being unable to recover financially from the losses due to the accident. Insurance companies know that the statute of limitations has expired, so they know you have limited options if they make a low settlement offer.
Never risk missing the statute of limitations if you might need to file a lawsuit in your truck accident case.
Is There a Difference Between a Lawsuit and an Insurance Claim?
Yes, there is a difference between a truck accident lawsuit and filing an insurance claim after getting into an accident. A lawsuit involves the court system, and the time you have to file is in your state statute. An insurance claim involves an entirely different process, and there is no statutory deadline to file an insurance claim.
If you suffered an injury in a no-fault state, you will first file a claim with your insurance company. Your insurance company should pay for your injuries up to your policy limits. You might file a claim against the liable party’s insurance if your injuries are serious.
If you suffer injuries in an at-fault state, you will file a claim with the truck driver or trucking company’s insurance provider. These insurers will review your claim and determine what to offer you for a settlement.
When you should file an insurance claim usually depends on the policy, and no-fault policies often have deadlines. Depending on your insurance policy, you may be in breach of its terms if you delay filing a claim. Always hire a truck accident lawyer to handle the claim process, even for no-fault claims.
Insurance companies tend to use delayed claims against accident victims. If you wait to file a claim, insurance adjusters may use that fact as evidence your injuries are not as severe as you claim or did not stem from the truck crash.
Why You Should Never Wait to Start the Process After a Truck Accident
Following a serious crash, you are likely focusing on your injuries, physical condition, and medical treatment. You might not be in a rush to add something else to your plate, and starting the legal process might seem stressful.
You should never delay in speaking with a truck accident lawyer about your case. The good news is that hiring a lawyer will only relieve stress, not add to it. Your attorney will advise you of your rights to compensation and handle the entire process. You can then focus on your medical recovery, knowing someone is protecting your legal rights and financial future.
There are other reasons you should never wait to begin the legal process of a truck accident claim.
The Preservation of Evidence
You will need evidence to prove liability for your truck accident, and much of this evidence is in the trucking company’s possession. The company will likely send a representative to examine the accident scene and semi-truck right away and gather important information. The company might try to hide or destroy evidence to avoid liability if you do not act quickly.
If you hire a lawyer immediately, they can demand that the trucking company preserve all information and evidence you might use in a legal claim. This preservation demand is critical to the success of your case, and the sooner it happens, the better.
Investigations and Insurance Claims Take Time
The statute of limitations might seem like a long time. However, truck crashes require extensive investigation and evidence collection before you can file the initial insurance claim. Then, the insurance claim process takes time, as you might go back and forth through many rounds of negotiation.
You want to leave enough time to complete investigations and insurance negotiations and still file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations. The bottom line is – never delay.
How Much Insurance Must Trucking Companies Carry?
Like all other drivers, truck drivers and trucking companies must maintain a minimum amount of insurance coverage. Trucking companies have higher minimums than passenger vehicles. The reason for these high insurance coverage minimums is to keep everyone that shares the road safely.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the amount of insurance coverage truckers and trucking companies must have.
The minimum amount of insurance coverage depends on weight and the type of goods the truck carries.
- Trucks that weigh more than 3,500 pounds must carry a minimum of $5,000,000 of insurance coverage
- Trucks that carry hazardous cargo must carry a minimum amount of $1,000,000 of insurance coverage
- Trucks that carry normal cargo must carry at least $750,000 in insurance coverage
What Causes Truck Accidents?
Truck accidents often stem from the negligence of one or more parties. A plaintiff can only recover on a negligence claim if they prove each element of the claim- duty, breach, causation, and damages. Usually, truck accidents result from driver negligence or negligence of the trucking company.
A trucking driver’s negligence is typically the result of driver error.
Examples of driver error include:
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Disobeying traffic laws
- Distracted driving-including texting and driving
- Fatigued driving
Trucking Company Negligence
The trucking company may also be negligent. When a trucking company is negligent, devastating accidents can happen.
Examples of negligence from the trucking company include:
- Failing to keep trucks in good condition
- Hiring drivers who have bad driving records
- Hiring employees who improperly load cargo and the imbalanced cargo causes an accident
- Negligent retention of incompetent employees
Damages Available in Truck Accident Cases
There are three categories of damages in truck accident cases. The categories are economic, non-economic, and punitive. An accident victim may be entitled to damages in one or more categories.
Economic damages are also known as special damages. Economic damages are easy to recognize and usually easy to prove. Economic damages refer to tangible losses.
- Current and future medical bills
- Current and future lost wages
- Lost ability to earn money in the same way as before the accident (this is known as lost earning capacity)
Non-economic damages are also known as general damages. Non-economic damages are hard to prove because of their intangible nature. Accident victims need the help of truck accident attorneys to help prove they suffered non-economic losses. The use of expert witnesses like physicians can help prove the long-term effects of damages that go beyond medical bills.
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional trauma
- Reduced quality of life
- Disfigurement and disability
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Punitive damages are a way to deter extremely outrageous behavior from the defendant and others in the future. Punitive damages are rare, and the availability of punitive damages varies by state. Speak to your truck accident attorney to examine whether you might receive punitive damages and ensure you receive the most compensation available from your accident.
Common Injuries in Truck Accident Cases
Truck accidents are serious. Because of the sheer weight of the vehicles, if a passenger vehicle collides with a large truck, those inside the passenger vehicle are likely to suffer grave injuries or death.
Some common injuries in truck accidents include:
- Cuts and bruises
- Internal bleeding
- Organ damage
- Broken bones and fractures
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Concussions and other head trauma
Treating these injuries can get very expensive quickly. If an accident victim delays filing a lawsuit in the appropriate court or filing an insurance claim, they may lose the ability to recover fully and suffer financial loss. Accident victims should contact an attorney immediately after an accident to get assistance with their legal claim.
How Much Money Can I Expect From My Truck Accident Claim?
There is no way to predict how much money you will receive from your truck accident settlement. No attorney will give you an exact number for the settlement value. While there is no way to predict the outcome, there are factors that tend to increase the odds of a high settlement value.
Those factors include:
- The time it takes to recover from the injury
- The severity of your injuries
- Mental and emotional trauma suffered because of the accident, especially if the victim is diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- The cost of paying for professional help, including help running errands, cleaning, bathing, and caring for children and pets if the accident victim is unable to do these things for themselves after the accident
- Cost of compensation for other damages the victim suffers because of the accident
How Can an Attorney Help Me Prove My Damages?
Truck accident attorneys have experience helping accident victims get the compensation they need after an accident. To ensure you do not leave any money on the table after filing a lawsuit for damages, rely on the experience and knowledge of an accident attorney.
To build and prove your case your truck accident attorney can:
- Collect evidence
- Investigate your case to find every responsible party
- Speak to witnesses
- Negotiate on your behalf with the insurance company
- Make sure you meet deadlines
- Keep your case moving along at a reasonable speed
- Speak to third-party debt collectors on your behalf
- Help you file a claim with the insurance company
- Prepare you for trial
Can I Afford an Attorney?
Some accident victims delay pursuing compensation for their injuries after a truck accident because they fear the cost of legal representation. Truck accidents are civil lawsuits. Many civil litigation attorneys across the country work on a contingency fee basis.
A contingency fee is a payment structure that allows clients to defer payment for legal services until the end of their case. If you and your attorney agree to a contingency fee agreement, you will not pay lawyer’s fees unless there is a settlement.
Your attorney will receive a percentage of the final settlement amount as payment for their work.
Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a truck accident, contact a truck accident attorney in your Florida area. Never attempt to go against a trucking company or their insurance company or lawyers alone.
Call an experienced Florida personal injury attorney to start creating your legal team and pursuing the compensation you deserve.