A “big rig” is a colloquial term for a semi-truck. These massive vehicles are common on Interstate 4 in Lakeland, moving freight from one location to the next. Drivers of these trucks often face pressure to complete their deliveries on schedule, resulting in accidents caused by speeding, sleep deprivation, distractions, or other driver error. In addition, given the sheer size of a big rig, the aftermath can be catastrophic, causing extensive property damage, injuries, and fatalities.
If you were a victim of a recent big rig accident in Polk County, you could file legal action to get your expenses covered. A Lakeland big rig truck accident lawyer with the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine can help you understand your accident’s relevant laws and comply with your filing requirements.
Big Rig Drivers and Owners Must Follow Motor Carrier Regulations
A combination of federal and state motor carrier safety laws regulates how big rigs and other trucks operate in Lakeland. Some of these rules include:
- Liability insurance: All trucking companies must carry liability coverage to pay victims’ injury and property damage expenses following a collision.
- Hours of service: Drivers may only operate for a specific number of hours before taking breaks. These rules aim to prevent drivers from overworking and potentially making a mistake due to fatigue.
- Weight limits: Trucks may only reach a specific gross weight limit based on their size.
- Drug and alcohol prohibitions: Drivers cannot use drugs or alcohol before or during their shift. Furthermore, employers must have drivers undergo regular drug and alcohol testing.
- Maintenance: Truck companies must have vehicles regularly inspected, maintained, and repaired to ensure roadworthiness.
Your Lakeland big rig truck accident lawyer stays updated on trucking and other state and local transportation laws to determine how the big rig driver or their employer acted negligently. Your attorney can also help gather evidence such as dashcam footage and police crash reports.
Big Rig Owners’ Liability for Their Drivers
Big rig companies will typically cover for their drivers if a negligent act causes the accident. For instance, the company and the driver might have failed to thoroughly inspect the rig for issues, which led to the crash. Another scenario involves the driver falling asleep at the wheel during service hours.
However, if the accident occurred while the driver was off-duty, or if they intentionally harmed you, the big rig employer would likely not cover the driver. That means you would have to sue the driver themselves.
Recoverable Damages After Your Big Rig Accident
Depending on the type of legal action taken, you could recover two types of damages after the Lakeland big rig truck accident—economic and noneconomic.
Economic damages include expenses such as:
- Hospitalizations, medical treatments, and medications
- Lost income or business earnings
- Auto repairs and other property damage bills
- Replacement services (for example, you hired cleaning services while healing from your injuries)
Noneconomic damages repay you for the intangible effects of the big rig accident. You could recover a higher amount if your injury is more severe or if a loved one died in the crash. Some examples of noneconomic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Psychological trauma
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disfigurements and disabilities
- Loss of consortium or companionship
How Comparative Fault Could Reduce Your Recoverable Damages After a Big Rig Accident
Keep in mind that Florida Statutes § 768.81 could reduce your recovery if a court finds you partly responsible for the big rig accident. For example, suppose you were speeding when the truck hit you. The jury could award $200,000 in damages, but rule you were 25 percent liable for the crash. As a result, you would recover only $150,000 (75 percent of your total damages).
One of our Lakeland big rig truck accident attorneys can calculate your recoverable damages by compiling records of your accident-related expenses and assessing your injury’s severity. In addition, they’ll find evidence to refute the trucking company’s assertion that you partially caused the accident, so you receive the maximum award to cover your bills and maintain your lifestyle.
How Florida’s No-Fault Law Affects Your Pursuit of Compensation After a Big Rig Crash
Having sufficient proof of the other party’s liability does not guarantee that you can go straight to suing them for damages. Florida’s no-fault law regarding vehicular accidents means that you must first claim against your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance regardless of fault.
Florida requires motorists to have PIP coverage. These policies help shoulder the injury-related costs of the accident, such as medical bills and lost wages. However, you cannot recover noneconomic damages with PIP insurance.
In addition, if you only suffered damage to your car or other property, you could file a property damage claim with the at-fault big rig driver or company.
Qualifying for Third-Party Injury Claims and Lawsuits
To step beyond your PIP limits and take legal action against the liable big rig driver or company, you must first qualify under Florida Statutes § 627.737. Some eligible conditions include:
- A loved one’s death
- Significant scarring or disfigurement
- Permanent disability or loss of bodily functions
Choosing Between a Claim and a Lawsuit
You generally have two options for getting compensated by the big rig driver or company if you sustain severe injuries—file an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. Since big rig owners must carry liability coverage, your first option would likely be to bring an insurance claim.
However, if the big rig company refuses to cover the driver, your attorney may encourage you to pursue your claim in court—especially if the driver lacks injury liability insurance. Since the accident occurred in Lakeland, you would bring your case to the Polk County Courthouse.
Your Lakeland truck accident lawyer can study your situation to determine which compensation option would be more appropriate for you. In addition, your lawyer will ensure you comply with filing requirements. For example, Florida Statutes § 95.11 gives you four years to file a lawsuit. Finally, your lawyer can represent you when facing the insurance company or during court proceedings.
Work With Our Lakeland Truck Accident Lawyers
The Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine has over 15 years of experience working with injury and accident clients in Lakeland and throughout Florida. So, if you want to seek damages after your big rig accident, we have a Lakeland big rig truck accident lawyer ready to guide you in each step of the legal process.
Call us today or chat with us online to schedule your free case evaluation.
We Can Help.