With more than 275,000 miles of roads and, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), nearly 17,000,000 vehicles registered in Florida, it is little wonder that vehicle accidents are a daily occurrence. Accidents with trucks, however, are often the most serious. The laws of physics dictate that when the average passenger vehicle weighing somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds is involved in a crash with a truck that can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, it’s not going to be good for the car, its driver, or the passengers.
Statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) state that “there were 13.65 fatal large truck crashes per million people in the United States in 2019, a 29-percent increase from 10.6 in 2010.” An unfortunate statistic is fact Florida has among the highest number of truck accidents in the U.S.
Those who have been seriously injured or have lost a family member in a truck crash in or around Sarasota often face an uphill battle. That is because injury cases involving commercial trucks often involve more than one liable party: the trucking company, the driver, or even a mechanic or the manufacturer of the truck or its equipment and parts. When a truck accident has caused a severe or fatal injury, a Gerber Law personal injury attorney will leave no stone unturned in getting you the full and fair compensation you need and to which you are entitled.
What causes truck accidents?
Trucks and truck drivers are fallible; and they can cause significant injury to property and people. The FMCSA breaks the reasons for truck accidents down into three general areas:
- Critical events are the actions or events that made the collision inevitable, including:
- Running into another lane or going off the road
- Speeding or going too fast for the road conditions
- Cargo shift or cargo overloading
- Vehicle systems failure
- Critical reasons include:
- Driver fell asleep or was otherwise impaired
- Driver inattention or driver distraction
- Error in judgment or poor decision—such as following another vehicle too closely
- Driver panic or overcompensation
- Associated factors, including:
- Brake problems, including improper maintenance
- Tire blow-outs
- Prescription or other drug use
- Driver fatigue
- Poor road conditions
- Failure to stop
Whether through driver failure (such as speeding or drug use) or through the fault of the trucking company that overloaded or misloaded cargo or the manufacturer of defective truck parts: When their negligence resulted in an injury, they must be held responsible for the harm they caused.
How long can truckers stay behind the wheel?
Truckers are limited to the number of hours they can drive within a certain period of time. This is called “hours of service,” and it is federally regulated. Truckers who drive cargo-carrying rigs have:
- A maximum 11-hour driving limit; but only after 10 consecutive off-duty hours
- Must take a 30-minute break after driving a driven eight consecutive hours
- May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days
These regulations generally apply to trucks or truck-tractors with a trailer (a semi or 18-wheeler) that are involved in interstate commerce. However, Florida’s hours-of-service regulations for intrastate commerce (driving that is only within Florida and does not cross state lines) are “slightly less restrictive” than the federal laws, and include:
- A maximum 12-hour driving limit after 10 consecutive off-duty hours
- Driver may not drive after 70/80 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days
In Florida, “Companies and drivers that commit egregious violations of the rule could face the maximum penalties for each offense. Trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by 3 or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.” So why do drivers break these rules? Because truckers are under increasing pressure to beat deadlines, increase company profits, and to make more money for themselves as they are often paid by the mile. Moreover, the COVID pandemic has put additional pressure on drivers.
The hours-of-service laws are there for a reason: to ensure the safety of truck drivers—and everybody who shares the road with them.
What is the cost of being a truck accident victim?
It is more than the cost of replacing a vehicle or missed days at work. It’s the cost of chronic pain, of injuries so severe that they take away your ability to walk, or pick up a bag of groceries, or sleep through the night. In the worst of all cases, it means the wrongful death of a spouse, a child, or a parent. The chances of sustaining a severe or fatal injury in a crash in a truck collision are high. In fact, FMCSA statistics show that between 2018 and 2019:
- The number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes increased 2 percent, from 4,909 to 5,005, and the large truck involvement rate (large trucks involved in fatal crashes per 100 million miles traveled by large trucks) increased 4 percent, from 1.61 to 1.67
- The number of large trucks involved in injury crashes increased by 6 percent, from 112,000 to 119,000
When negligence or reckless behavior on the part of a truck driver, a trucking company, or other entity has caused an injury including traumatic brain injury (TBI) spinal or internal organ damage, blindness, severe burns, or any other injury, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for:
- Medical expenses: including hospital, physician, pharmacy, and/or rehabilitation costs
- Future medical costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of employment
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
Three things you must do after a truck accident
- First and foremost, seek immediate medical care and treatment. Even if you think your injuries aren’t that serious, think again. Soft tissue damage and even certain types of head trauma may not be immediately evident, but could show up hours, days, or even weeks after the accident.
- If you are able to do so, get pictures, names and contact details from any witnesses, and information (names and badge numbers) from law enforcement on the scene.
- In most cases, you will have to report the accident to your insurance company. But you should not give out information to the other party’s insurer or their legal representative. Why? They will try to use anything you say against you or convince you to accept an offer that is far less than you deserve.
- Get an experienced Sarasota truck accident lawyer who will deal with the insurance company and fight to get you full and fair compensation.
Proving liability in a truck accident case
While the truck driver may ultimately be responsible for an accident, there may also be other culpable parties. Under Florida law, we may be able to pursue them as well. Under vicarious liability, a trucking company may also bear liability for “the actionable conduct of a subordinate or associate (such as an employee) based on the relationship between the two parties.” Or, simply put, in certain circumstances the employer may be responsible for the actions of their employee, the truck driver.
Other potential liable parties may include the manufacturer of the tires, brakes, or the truck itself if a defective part was partially or wholly the cause of the accident; the person or company who incorrectly loaded the truck; or a mechanic who failed to do proper maintenance.
Why it is critical to file a truck accident case in a timely manner
In a nutshell, there is a time limit in which you can file a Florida civil lawsuit. In general, this means we have four years from the time of the accident to file an injury lawsuit, or two years if it is a wrongful death case. Missing these deadlines may mean you cannot file a lawsuit at all, and you won’t be compensated for the injuries you suffered.
It is in your best interest to contact us as soon as possible following a truck accident. This allows us to start an investigation and build a strong case on your behalf.
What can a knowledgeable lawyer do for you?
Given all that is at stake and the thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even a million dollars that may be involved in compensation, it is vitally important to have an attorney who understands the well-being and financial security you need following a truck accident. Make sure that the lawyer you choose to represent you has:
- Experience in helping people who have been in accidents like yours
- Knows when it’s in your best interest to settle, but is not afraid to fight
- Will follow every avenue of potential compensation
- Is aggressive with insurance companies, but compassionate regarding your needs
- Is accessible and responsive
Contact our Sarasota truck accident lawyer today
To learn more about how we can help you get full and fair compensation for your truck accident injury, please contact us online or call us at 1-866-233-4529 to schedule a free consultation. We will come to your home or hospital to discuss your needs and concerns. Moreover, we only get paid if we win your case. When you need strong, reliable representation, we are ready to help.