Generally speaking, trucks (commercial and consumer models) are larger and heavier than most other vehicles on the road, and as such, trucks expose third-party drivers and pedestrians to a heightened risk of injury in the event of an accident. Simply put, a truck collision is more likely to result in severe or fatal injuries.
The statistics confirm these injury concerns. In a 2015 study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), researchers discovered that 4,067 people were fatally injured and 116,000 people were non-fatally injured in accidents involving large trucks (i.e., commercial trailer trucks).
The statistics for light trucks (i.e., SUVs, pickup trucks, and other smaller passenger truck types) are no less concerning. The same 2015 NHTSA study revealed that when a two-vehicle accident involved a passenger car and a light truck, occupants in the passenger car were 3.1 times more likely to be fatally injured than occupants in the light truck. In fact, occupants of trucks — both large and light categories — tend to be shielded from such injury risks to a substantial degree. It is the occupants of other vehicles who must absorb these unfortunate accident risks.
Fort Lauderdale truck accident litigation can be complicated due to a number of factors: the nature of the accident itself, the type of defendants involved, and the unique and particular circumstances of the case. For example, if you’ve been injured by a commercial truck driver during the course and scope of his employment, then your injury lawsuit will be quite a bit different than if you had been injured by a non-employee driver in a pickup truck.
To maximize your chance of success in such litigation, it’s important that your truck accident claim is pursued early and aggressively with the aid of competent legal representation. You should, therefore, speak with a qualified Fort Lauderdale truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Call the Law Offices of David I. Fuchs today at 954-568-3636 to schedule a free consultation. Attorney Fuchs has over thirty years of experience litigating injury claims in Fort Lauderdale and throughout the state of Florida and has helped clients litigate their truck accident claims to the fullest extent.
Truck accidents are not necessarily straightforward from a fault perspective. What may initially seem like a simple collision event between two vehicles can quickly — based on what is discovered upon further investigation — devolve into conflicting accusations of fault. In some cases, multiple defendants may be deemed at-fault for the plaintiff’s various injuries.
Florida courts apply the doctrine of pure comparative negligence — sometimes referred to as pure comparative fault — in order to determine the liability of each party involved in the injury case.
Suppose, for example, that you are injured in an accident that was caused by a speeding, non-commercial truck driver. Despite the apparent simplicity of this two-vehicle collision situation, the defendant truck driver may assert that you (the victim) were at least somewhat at fault for your own injuries. How will this assertion affect your claim? It’s rather uncomplicated, but to fully understand how shifting fault can affect a plaintiff’s claim, it’s critical to understand the basics of pure comparative fault in Fort Lauderdale and throughout Florida.
Pure comparative fault is a doctrine that essentially allows each party involved in an injury claim to be assigned a percentage of the total fault. This “percentage” of fault will be factored in calculations of each party’s damage liability.
Confused? Let’s clarify all this complicated terminology with a quick example.
Imagine that you are injured in a truck accident where the defendant truck driver was speeding at the time of the accident. The negligent behavior of the defendant caused his truck to collide with your car, which led to your injuries. Suppose that your injury claim is worth $1M in total. The defendant does not agree that they are 100% at fault for your injuries, however. In fact, the defendant might argue that your own negligent driving contributed to the accident.
Now, if the defendant successfully shifts liability and finds you 20% at fault, that is not the end of your injury claim. The defendant will still be held liable for 80% of the damages to which you are entitled. Instead of recovering $1M from the defendant truck driver, you will be entitled to recover $800k — a reduced sum, certainly, but a successful recovery nonetheless.
In some cases, there are multiple defendants. Each of these defendants may be assigned a percentage of the total fault, for which they will be held liable.
In the state of Florida, if you’ve been injured in an accident due to the negligent acts of an employee truck driver, for example, then you may be entitled — pursuant to the doctrine of vicarious liability — to bring a claim against the negligent truck driver’s employer.
Vicarious liability is a rather simple concept in theory but can become a complicated, multi-layer issue depending on the circumstances. Fundamentally, the doctrine of vicarious liability allows the injured party (e.g. the plaintiff) to sue an employer for the negligent acts of their employee. It is irrelevant whether the employer was negligent. All that matters is that the employee was acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time of the truck accident.
This can be a bit confusing, so let’s clarify with an example.
Suppose that you are injured in a truck accident. You consult with a qualified Fort Lauderdale truck accident lawyer, and after further factual investigation is conducted, you discover that the defendant truck driver was, in fact, an employee at a local retail store. The defendant is not a truck driver by profession — they are a salesman. The owner of the store was short-staffed, however, and asked if the defendant truck driver could get some additional items from one of their suppliers.
So, how will this play out?
For employer vicarious liability to apply in Florida, the employee must have been acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time of the accident. In this example, the owner-employer requested that the employee drive to their supplier and pick up some items for the store. Florida recognizes that an employee acting in the interests of their employer (i.e., at the employer’s request for a reasonable business purpose) is acting within the course and scope of their employment. As such, your truck accident injury claim likely could be brought against the employer under a theory of vicarious liability.
Employers may also be held liable for their negligence in hiring or supervising a truck driver employee. Suppose, for example, that you are injured by a commercial truck driver. Factual discovery reveals that the truck driver was an alcoholic with a history of alcoholism. The employer did not adequately conduct a background check before hiring the truck driver. In this situation, had the employer adequately conducted a background check (during their hiring process), you would not have suffered injuries. As such, you would likely be entitled to recover damages pursuant to a negligent hiring claim.
Truck accidents can be caused by a diverse set of circumstances, though certain types of truck accidents are more commonly seen than others. Common truck accidents include, but are not necessarily limited, to:
The following is negligent conduct that can contribute to a truck accident:
For example, if a commercial truck driver has a cargo load that has been improperly loaded by warehouse workers, then this can heighten the risk of a tipping or rollover accident.
Q: What should I do after a truck accident?
A: After a truck accident, it’s important to consult with a qualified Fort Lauderdale truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney will assess your truck accident claims, file the necessary paperwork, and will begin to investigate the facts of the case. The sooner that you consult with a lawyer, the more time that he or she has to familiarize themselves with the unique issues relevant to your truck accident case.
Q: What types of compensation can I get?
A: The damages you’re entitled to depend largely on the circumstances of the accident and the consequences thereof. In Fort Lauderdale, a truck accident plaintiff may be entitled to damages for medical expenses, wage loss, loss of future earning capacity, emotional distress, pain and suffering, deterioration of the quality of your life, and more.
Q: How long do I have to file a claim?
A: In Florida, most truck accident plaintiffs are subject to a four years statute of limitations period that begins to run from the date of injury. If your truck accident claim is brought against a public defendant (i.e., the City government, for example, or some department/agency of the government), then the four-year statute of limitations does not apply, and you will have to put the public defendant on notice within three years of the date of injury. If the public defendant rejects the claim, then you will be able to file a lawsuit against them.
In the event that your statute of limitations deadline passes and you have not filed your truck accident claims, you will no longer be entitled to litigate such claims in a Florida court. There are certain extenuating circumstances that may entitle you to a statute of limitations extension, however. Consult with a truck accident attorney to learn more.
Q: Can I sue the trucking company?
A: Yes — depending on the circumstances. Florida law allows plaintiffs to sue the trucking company under a theory of vicarious liability. If the trucking company was negligent, on the other hand, then separate and independent claims can be brought against them. For example, if the trucking company ignored open and obvious on-the-job drug abuse by its truck drivers, then you would likely be able to bring a separate negligent supervision claim against the trucking company.
Q: What if I am partially at fault?
A: If you are partially at fault, then you will still be entitled to recover damages for your injuries, but the amount will be decreased in proportion to your fault.
Q: Should I give the trucking company a statement?
A: Generally speaking, you should never give a statement to any party without consulting an attorney. Certain statements can be used against you in litigation, thus undermining your truck accident claims.
Q: Should I accept an insurance settlement?
A: It depends on the circumstances. Critically, however, you should not speak with the insurer or accept an insurance settlement without the guidance of a truck accident lawyer. Your attorney will apprise you of your rights and will be able to communicate in your stead.
Q: How can a truck accident lawyer help me?
A: Your truck accident lawyer is important from the beginning to the end of the litigation process. Your lawyer will not only begin to assess your claims and investigate the facts of the accident, but will begin the process of litigation and communicate with various parties, such as opposing counsel, insurers, and others.
Florida Attorney David I. Fuchs has nearly three decades of injury litigation experience and has enjoyed a successful career helping clients with various personal injury claims, including truck accident claims. Attorney Fuchs understands that consistent and professional engagement with clients is crucial to the litigation process, and works hard to ensure that the attorney-client relationship is transparent.
If you have suffered injuries in a truck accident, Florida law may entitle you to damages as compensation for your injuries. To speak with a skilled Fort Lauderdale truck accident lawyer who will assess your claims and help you navigate the complications of litigation, call the Law Offices of David I. Fuchs at (954) 568-3636 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today.