Fort Lauderdale, FL – Truck accidents often result in catastrophic injuries and deaths. Victims and their families may suffer considerable damages, but recovering them and seeking punitive damages will be quite a challenge. First of all, you need to realize that it’s going to be you against the trucking company and its lawyers. If you have sustained severe injuries, you must get your own truck accident lawyer to defend your rights.
3 ways of recovering damages
Your lawyers will evaluate your case and decide how best to go about it. There are several recovery options at your disposal.
As Florida is a no-fault state, you may be able to recover some damages from your insurance company, but probably nowhere near enough to cover your losses.
You may also be able to file a claim against the insurance company representing the trucker or his employer, to recover the amount not covered by your personal injury protection (PIP).
Finally, you can file a lawsuit against the driver or the trucking company and seek punitive damages, on top of the compensatory damages you are entitled to.
When can you get punitive damages for a truck accident?
The law on punitive damages is very strict in Florida. According to the Florida statutes, this type of damages can be awarded only if the party at fault was “personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence”.
Intentional misconduct means that the party at fault knew that what they were doing was wrong and there was a high risk that someone was going to get injured.
Gross negligence refers to those situations where the at-fault party’s conduct was so reckless it showed a total disregard or indifference to the life and safety of other road users. As an example, your lawyers can invoke gross negligence if the trucker was drunk.
The problem is that a truck driver is unlikely to have the kind of money you seek as punitive damages. This is why a seasoned Fort Lauderdale truck accident lawyer will focus on holding the trucking company accountable for damages.
Your lawyers will invoke gross negligence if the trucker had a history of safety violations, including previous DUI charges or a drug problem. Trucking companies are required to carefully vet any new driver they hire. Truckers also need to undergo random drug tests. If your lawyers can prove that the trucking company failed to do its duty or that they were aware of the problems and chose to ignore them, you may have a case of gross negligence.
Likewise, if the accident was caused by driver fatigue your lawyers will check to see if the trucking company was aware that the trucker regularly ignored federal Hours of Service regulations. If the employer condoned or encouraged such conduct, you may have a case against the company.
How are punitive damages calculated in Florida?
In Florida, punitive damages in a personal injury case are capped at three times the value of your compensatory damages, or $500,000, whichever is greater. The compensatory damages include economic (medical bills, lost wages, etc) and non-economic damages, which are meant to compensate you for your pain and suffering.
If, for instance, you are awarded $1 million in compensatory damages, you may get three times as much in punitive damages, so you get $4 million in total damages.
If you or a loved one were recently involved in a truck accident in the Fort Lauderdale area, schedule a free consultation with a truck accident lawyer at the Madalon Law firm and let them deal with your claim.
Fort Lauderdale Office
100 N. Federal Hwy #CU5
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Tel: (954) 923-0072
Source: 2021 Florida Statutes