Fort Myers Truck Accident Attorney
Being involved in a truck accident can be a life-changing event. Medium to large trucks weigh in excess of 10,000 pounds, double the weight of an average motor vehicle. Tractor-trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded with cargo. The massive size and weight of a large truck cause incredible amounts of property damage and catastrophic injuries more likely to lead to death. When truck accidents occur, those in passenger vehicles often do not walk away from the accident.
If you have been injured in a truck accident or lost a loved one as a result of a truck accident, Florida law entitles you to seek compensation for damages in civil court of the accident was a result of negligence.
The Fort Myers personal injury lawyers from Viles & Beckman are here to help you through the difficult aftermath of a truck accident. Contact us at (239) 208-5223 for a free case review to determine the best course of action for your individual circumstances.
Why Hire Viles & Beckman?
The skilled attorneys at Viles & Beckman have served as advocates for the injured since 1995. Their continued dedication to advocacy, coupled with their strong negotiation, settlement, and litigation skills have resulted in the recovery of millions of dollars in damages for their clients. Viles & Beckman’s lawyers are committed to pursuing the best possible outcome for every case. It’s impossible to guarantee results because every case has distinctive characteristics, but we will aggressively seek justice to hold liable parties accountable for their actions.
Types of Truck Accidents
Many different types of truck accidents can lead to severe injury or death. Common types of truck accidents on Florida roads include:
– Head-on crashes. When a motor vehicle collides with a truck head-on, injuries are often severe or deadly, especially at high speeds. Head-on collisions can occur when a truck driver loses control of a truck and swerves into oncoming traffic. A driver might lose control of his truck if he is drowsy, driving under the influence, or distracted. Mechanical failure and several other reasons can also lead to loss of control.
– Rear-end crashes. Large trucks require more time and distance to react to cars in front of them. If a trucker is following a vehicle too closely, a rear-end collision is likely if the vehicle suddenly stops. Rear-end collisions at high speeds can total a vehicle and cause severe injuries to passengers and drivers.
– T-bone accidents. Sometimes referred to as broadside crashes when on the passenger side of a vehicle, t-bone collisions typically occur at an intersection. When distracted or aggressive truck drivers run a traffic signal or stop sign, they can crash into a vehicle as it travels through the intersection. These types of accidents are not as common with large trucks as other types of crashes.
– Jackknifes. Semi-truck drivers who are heavy on the brakes during traffic or rainy weather can cause their trailer to skid, making a V-shape with the cab. Divided highways and interstates might protect other motorists from a collision when a jackknife occurs; however, a jackknifed semi often puts other vehicles at risk of collision. In some cases, a multi-vehicle pileup can occur.
– Rollovers accidents. Truck drivers often walk away unscathed from accidents, except when a rollover occurs. These dangerous accidents are often a result of a trucker losing control of the truck for a variety of reasons. Rollovers put other drivers at risk for collision, and also might lead to a multi-vehicle accident.
– Underride collisions. This is an extreme type of rear-end crash which occurs when a vehicle gets lodged under the back of a trailer. Trucks who stop suddenly to avoid something in the road or because of traffic, might be rear-ended by a distracted driver who might be tailgating. Smaller vehicles get stuck and ‘ride under’ the trailer until they break away or the driver realizes what has happened. Most underride collisions are fatal.
– Spilled cargo accidents. Trucking companies and truck drivers must load trucks carefully and secure each load for travel. When cargo isn’t properly secured on open trailers, it can spill all over the road. Trucks which have been overloaded can also roll over and spill because of instability, potentially causing deadly multi-car accident.
Truck Accidents Result in Severe Injuries
Truck accidents cause the same types of injuries as any other traffic collision, but the extra weight and size create a more forceful impact when a collision occurs. This results in more severe injuries, some of which can be catastrophic or deadly. Injuries which an individual might sustain in a truck accident include:
- Fractures and broken bones
- Lacerations and other deep cuts which can cause permanent scarring
- Head traumas including traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) which cause lifelong complications
- Neck injuries such as whiplash and other soft tissue injuries
- Back injuries such as broken vertebrae and bulged discs
- Spinal cord injuries which can cause partial or full paralysis for life
- Internal bleeding and damage to vital organs from broken ribs or impact
- Crushed limbs which might require amputation
- Severe burns in the event of a fire or explosion
Commercial Vehicle Crash Statistics Reported in Lee County, FL
Truck Accidents Have Multiple Causes
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the primary federal agency tasked with regulating and overseeing the safety of commercial motor vehicles, including trucks. Truck accidents might be a result of many different scenarios, but the FMCSA reports the following violations as common driver-related causes for truck accidents:
Driving under the influence isn’t as common as other causes of truck accidents, but it does happen. Truck drivers have demanding schedules requiring them to make deliveries and pick-ups all times of the day. In addition to long hours, drivers must deal with the stress of traffic and responsibility of driving a large commercial vehicle. Some drivers use drugs or alcohol to allow them to driver longer or to deal with their tough jobs. Drugs and alcohol impair reaction time for truck drivers, which can lead to severe accidents with injuries and fatalities.
Drowsy driving is also an artifact of truckers’ demanding schedules and long hours. Drivers have mandatory hours of rest, but it doesn’t always mean they get the sleep they need. The FMCSA reports drivers who haven’t slept in 18 hours have the same level of impairment as a driver with a 0.08 breath alcohol level. Drivers who might fall asleep at the wheel put other drivers at risk for accident and injury.
Distracted driving includes any activity which takes a driver’s focus away from driving, including taking hands off of the wheel, eyes off of the road, or mind away from driving. Some common distractions include cell phone use, GPS programming, eating and drinking, reaching for something, watching events outside of the vehicle, and day-dreaming. Most distractions are not illegal, but truck drivers who use a cell phone outside of hands-free operation are breaking federal law.
Speeding in large trucks can lead to deadly traffic collisions. In fact, the FMSCA reports about one-third of all fatal truck crashes involve speeding. When truck drivers speed or travel too fast for conditions, they cannot control their truck as easily, making it more difficult to stop and maneuver. Inclement weather conditions including high winds and rain can exacerbate the danger of speeding.
Tailgating, like speeding, often occurs because of the high pressure schedules of truck drivers. Motor vehicle drivers should leave a two-second gap between vehicles, but trucks need more space and time to stop and slow down. The FMSCA recommends a minimum four-second gap for trucks, and when driving in inclement weather truck drivers might have to leave up to an eight-second gap to avoid a rear-end collision with the vehicle ahead of them.
Failure to yield to other motorists can result in a dangerous truck accident. Drivers might not yield because they don’t have the space or time, they might be distracted, or the vehicle might be in blind spots. Trucks have large blind spots on all sides, so drivers must clear them before maneuvering.
Failure to obey traffic signs and signals is not something truckers typically do on purpose. Yet, those who are distracted by cell phones or other things might easily run a stoplight or stop sign and cause a severe and potentially fatal accident.
Liable Parties in Florida Truck Accidents
Truck accidents are complex cases often including additional parties besides the driver. If you sue for damages, you might name one or more of the following parties in your suit:
- Drivers who violate traffic laws such as driving under the influence, driving while distracted or drowsy, or who make other careless choices while driving a truck might be liable for a truck accident.
- Truck owners or trucking companies might be partially or wholly liable for a truck accident depending on the circumstances. Trucking companies who poorly maintain trucks, force drivers to ‘run hot,’ or don’t properly train their drivers might be liable for a truck accident.
- Other motorists who ride in a truck’s blind spot or violate traffic regulations might also cause a truck accident if their careless driving choices cause a trucker to lose control of his truck.
- Truck manufacturers and truck part manufacturers can be held liable for a truck accident if a defective part causes a mechanical failure which leads to an accident and injury. When a defective truck or truck part causes an accident, any party responsible for the design, manufacturing, or sale of a truck, can be held liable depending on the specific defect.
- The state of Florida, Lee County, or the city of Fort Myers might be liable for a truck accident caused by poorly maintained highways or roads, bad road design, or broken traffic signals.
Seeking Compensation After a Truck Accident in Fort Myers
If you were harmed or lost a loved one in a Fort Myers truck accident, Florida law entitles you to sue for damages to recover losses you have incurred as a result of injury or death. Specific settlements and verdicts vary based on the circumstances of the accident, the severity of an injury, and the amount of financial loss. You might be able to recover the following damages in a settlement or from court-awarded damages:
- Medical treatment costs for ambulance, emergency room visit, hospitalization, surgery, radiology, lab tests, prescriptions, and aftercare
- Future medical treatment costs when a severe injury requires extensive recovery or results in a permanent disability requiring lifelong care
- Rehabilitation costs for physical therapist visits and treatment from other specialists
- Cost of assistive devices such as crutches, walkers, canes, wheelchairs, and prosthetic limbs
- Lost wages for missing work due to hospitalization and recovery
- Lost future wages when an injury prevents someone from returning to their job
- Non-economic damages such as loss of consortium, pain and suffering, and others which might apply to a particular case
- Punitive damages in cases of intentional harm or gross negligence
If you have lost a family member in a truck accident, you might be eligible for compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit depending on your relationship to the deceased. An experienced truck accident attorney from Viles & Beckman can advise you on the best course of action for you and your family. If you prevail in a wrongful death suit, you might recover some of the previously listed damages in addition to burial and funeral expenses.
To schedule a free case review with a truck accident attorney in our office, please contact us online or call (239) 334-3933 right away.
Truck Accident FAQ
Following a truck accident, many victims have a lot of questions: how much compensation can they expect? Who pays compensation for their injuries after a truck accident? Find the answers to these questions and more below.
1. How much compensation do I deserve after a truck accident?
The compensation you receive for your injuries after a truck accident will depend on the severity of your injuries and the coverage offered by the trucker’s insurance company. If you have severe injuries, you may receive more compensation than if you suffered only minor injuries in the collision: for example, a patient with traumatic brain injury may receive higher compensation than a victim with broken bones. On the other hand, you can have identical injuries to another victim, and the compensation you receive will still depend on the truck driver’s insurance policy. Commercial truck drivers must carry larger insurance policies than drivers who only operate passenger vehicles; however, the extent of that coverage can still vary.
When you file your personal injury claim after a truck accident, you will include:
- Medical expenses. Medical expenses after a truck accident can add up fast. Victims with broken bones can face $2,500 in medical costs even if the break does not require surgical intervention or physical therapy after the accident. Victims with spinal cord damage resulting in tetraplegia, on the other hand, may face medical costs totaling an average of $769,000. To determine the total of your medical expenses, make sure you add up all the costs associated with your injuries, from the ambulance bill to your physical therapy during recovery. You should also include changes you had to make to your home after the accident: installing a wheelchair ramp or a special shower, for example.
- Lost wages. When you suffer serious injuries in a truck accident, you often cannot return to work immediately. Many professions require a high level of physical activity from employees. Others may require a great deal of mental effort, which a traumatic brain injury or pain medications can make very difficult. Including lost wages as part of your personal injury claim can help provide you with needed funds during this difficult time.
- Lost earning potential. Sometimes, your injuries may prevent you from returning to work in your former capacity. Including lost earning potential as part of your claim will allow you to pursue further job training, which may make it possible for you to obtain employment in a different field. Compensation for lost earning potential can also provide you with a source of funds to pay your bills during your recovery.
- Pain and suffering. Many times, pain and suffering represents the most variable part of the compensation equation—and the one that ultimately nets the greatest financial award for accident victims. Talk with your attorney to help you include all the ways pain and suffering from the accident has impacted your life: not just physical pain and suffering, but also missing out on meaningful activities, changed relationships with friends and family members, or lost opportunities due to your injuries.
2. Who pays for damages in a truck accident lawsuit?
To file a personal injury claim after a truck accident, you need to know who to file your claim against. Often, who pays the damages will depend on who caused your accident. This frequently includes the truck driver, which means that you will seek compensation from the driver’s insurance company or from a fleet insurance policy held by the driver’s trucking company. In some cases, however, you may have grounds to file a personal injury claim against people or companies other than just the driver in the truck accident.
- The company that loaded the truck. Shifting loads can create significant hazards for many trucks, increasing the risk of truck rollovers and jackknife accidents. If the company that loaded the truck did so improperly, that company can face liability for an accident caused by their negligence.
- The truck or truck parts manufacturer. Trucks rely on important parts to keep them operating safely. When parts fail, leading to an accident, the manufacturer who created faulty parts may share liability for the accident.
- The mechanic who last worked on the truck. If a mechanic ignores a potential problem or sends a truck out on the road with known issues, you may have the right to seek compensation from that mechanic after your accident.
- The trucking company. In the United States, truck drivers are legally permitted to drive for a maximum of eleven hours out of a fourteen hour period during which they can work each day. If the trucking company forces its drivers to ignore those regulations or falsify logs, the company may share liability for an accident that occurs because of a distracted or drowsy driver. Trucking companies must also refrain from requiring truck drivers to drive in dangerous conditions or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When trucking companies force their drivers to engage in unsafe driving practices, they may share liability for any accidents caused by those requirements.
If you suffered injuries in a truck accident, talk with a lawyer to better determine who bears responsibility for the accident and your injuries. Often, an attorney can help point out factors you might not notice that contributed to the accident, allowing you to file a claim against all the responsible parties.
3. Do I really need an attorney to file a truck accident claim?
You have the right to file a truck accident claim without an attorney. You can deal directly with the insurance company yourself; you do not need a lawyer to file the paperwork. Working with an attorney, however, often increases the compensation clients receive from the insurance company. Some insurance companies automatically offer a higher settlement when they know you have hired an attorney. In other cases, an attorney may help identify further responsible parties in your claim, help you determine how much compensation you deserve for your injuries, or point out factors that could help you increase the compensation you receive.
4. How much does it cost to hire a truck accident attorney?
Like the damages you can receive, the cost of a truck accident attorney varies. Most personal injury attorneys, however, will take the case on a contingency fee basis, which means the attorney gets paid a percentage of any amount awarded for your injuries. You will pay nothing out of your own pocket.
5. Should I accept the first settlement offer the insurance company issues after a truck accident?
Often, immediately after a truck accident, the truck driver’s insurance company will issue a settlement offer. This settlement offer frequently is made quickly, giving you little time to fully assess the extent of your injuries and how they may impact your daily life long after the accident. Most of the time, this first settlement offer does not reflect the full amount you deserve for your injuries. Consult with a lawyer to determine whether you should accept the offer or continue to negotiate with the insurance company.
6. How long does it take to receive damages for my truck accident?
After a truck accident, you may have financial concerns. Not only are you probably accumulating medical bills at an astounding rate, your other bills do not stop because of your injuries—even though your income may dry up while you recover. As a result, you need compensation for your injuries quickly. How long it will take to receive your damages varies. By hiring an attorney as soon as possible, you can speed up the process of getting compensation in your hands as well as increase that compensation. How fast you can receive it, however, will depend on the insurance company: an insurance company that quickly offers reasonable compensation can help you get your finances in order faster than an insurance company that wants to fight about every detail.
7. Why do semi-truck accidents cause more substantial injuries than passenger vehicle accidents?
Fully loaded, a semi-truck plus trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 lbs. When that weight comes crashing down on a passenger vehicle, the passenger vehicle often does not have the mass to withstand it. As a result, victims in the passenger vehicle may suffer significant injuries or even death. Passenger vehicles, on the other hand, have the same approximate weight as other similar vehicles on the road, which decreases the severity of injuries suffered in car-on-car crashes.
8. What should I do after a semi-truck accident?
After a semi-truck accident, first seek medical attention. Even if you believe you suffered only minor injuries in the accident, you may have severe but unnoticed injuries that could cause serious or permanent damage. Injuries like chest contusions or traumatic brain injuries may not show symptoms immediately. As time goes on and swelling increases, however, those injuries often worsen. When you seek medical attention immediately after the accident, you can often decrease the severity of your injuries or start treatment right away, improving your odds of making a full recovery. Keep track of your scans, medical records, and medical bills. You may want to take photos of your injuries throughout the recovery process.
Next, contact your insurance company. Your insurance company needs to know about the damage to your vehicle. In some cases, your insurance company may expedite needed repairs to your vehicle, then seek compensation from the truck driver’s insurance company. This simple step can help get your car back on the road faster, giving you access to the transportation you need to get to appointments and therapy.
Finally, contact an attorney as soon as possible. Working with an attorney can help you get the full compensation you deserve for your injuries. An attorney will let you know how much compensation you should expect, how to handle filing your claim, and how to communicate with the insurance company.
9. How long do I have to file a claim after a truck accident?
Truck accidents can leave you with serious injuries. Often, you have more immediate, pressing things to worry about than contacting a lawyer. You must deal with visits to your doctor, therapy appointments, as well as negotiating with the insurance company and talking with your employer about your return to work. Filing a personal injury claim can quickly fall through the cracks.
While Florida does have a statute of limitations that establishes the time frame within which you can file a personal injury claim, many exceptions exist that can change the time you have to file your claim. Talk with an attorney to learn more about how long you have to start filing your claim.
Keep in mind, however, that you should contact a personal injury lawyer and start working to file your personal injury claim as soon as possible after your truck accident. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the sooner that lawyer can start working on your behalf, collecting vital information about the accident and your injuries. The longer you wait, the harder you will find it to get an accurate picture of what happened during the accident. Security footage gets deleted, witnesses’ memories fade, and you may struggle to remember exactly what caused your accident. By filing your claim early, you will have more readily available evidence that you can more easily put together.
10. Should I give a statement to the truck driver’s insurance company?
The police may ask you for a statement immediately after the accident, which the truck driver’s insurance company can then access. You do not have to communicate directly with the insurance company. Talk to your lawyer before giving a statement—in some cases, you can better protect yourself and the compensation you deserve by going through your lawyer, rather than making a statement to the insurance company directly. You do not have to provide a statement to the truck driver’s insurance company and should not let the company pressure you into making a statement.
Your Rights. Your Recovery. Our Responsibility.
If you suffered injuries from a truck accident caused by the negligence of a truck driver, trucking company, or another party, you deserve full and fair compensation for your injuries and losses related to the accident. With over 40 years of experience, our skilled legal team knows how to deal with insurance companies and the complexities of truck accident injury cases. We can investigate the accident to uncover all the necessary facts to build a case against the defense.
If you reside in the Fort Myers area, contact Viles & Beckman online or call (239) 208-5223 for a free case evaluation to determine your eligibility for compensation. We understand the financial stress which comes with the aftermath of a serious accident, so we handle cases on a contingency fee basis, collecting attorney fees from any compensation we secure for you.
About the Author of this Page: The above information was written or reviewed by one of the attorneys at Viles & Beckman LLC who have a combined experience of nearly 60 years: Marcus Viles, Michael Beckman or Maria Alaimo. The information provided in this article comes from years of experience trying legal cases outside and inside courtrooms throughout Florida along with extensive research.