Semi-truck accidents occur daily across the United States, and unfortunately the results are often death or catastrophic injury to the driver and passengers in the passenger vehicle. Nearly one in ten vehicle fatalities are the result of a collision with a big commercial truck. Think about it—a loaded semi-truck and trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Cars, on the contrary, typically weigh from 3500 pounds to around 10,000 pounds. You can see why the odds are not in favor for those who are in the passenger vehicle when a truck collision occurs. Further statistics regarding truck accidents in 2014 across the nation include:
- 3,660 people were killed in a collision with a large truck; while only 16 percent of those fatalities were occupants of the truck, 68 percent were passenger car vehicles, and 15 percent were motorcyclists, bicyclists or pedestrians.
- The number of those killed in an 18-wheeler crash was 16 percent higher in 2014 than in 2009.
- Of those who died in a large truck collision in 2014, 59 percent were on a major road other than a freeway or interstate, 31 percent were on a freeway or interstate, and 9 percent were on minor roads.
- The hours between 6:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. are the deadliest, as far as large truck collisions go, as 47 percent of large truck crash deaths occur during this time period.
- Sixteen percent of large truck collisions occur on a Saturday or Sunday.
Typical Causes of Truck Accidents
Trucking accidents are like passenger vehicle accidents in that there are many different causes of the accidents. Some factors, however, are more specific to truck accidents than to passenger vehicle accidents, including the following:
- Fatigue—truck drivers only get paid for the time spent driving, so there is considerable motivation to continue driving even when they are fatigued. Trucking companies are largely aware their drivers continue to drive when fatigued, however the companies have a financial motivation as well to keep the drivers on the road. Driver fatigue can be due to a combination of lack of sleep and extended work hours, however the Large Truck Crash Causation Study reported that 13 percent of all large truck driver were considered to be fatigued at the time of the collision. The FMCSA found that driver alertness was tied more to time of day than time on task. This means that most people are less alert at night, particularly after midnight.
- Impairment—According to the FMCSA, as many as 44 percent of truck drivers who were involved in an accident were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Excessive speed—Twenty-three percent of truck drivers were found to be exceeding the speed limit at the time of their accident.
- Poorly maintained trucks—although the maintenance company as well as the driver is supposed to ensure large commercial trucks are properly maintained, sometimes this simply doesn’t happen. Trucking companies can cut down on maintenance in order to save money, and the truck driver may neglect to check the tires, wipers, lights, reflectors, coupling devices, service brake and parking brake as he or she is supposed to. Rear and side-view mirrors should be properly adjusted to ensure the best viewing area and minimize blind-spot accidents. Poor maintenance can contribute to a deadly brake failure, steering malfunction, tire failure or trailer problems. If the truck is overloaded, even more pressure is placed on the already weakened equipment.
- Poorly secured cargo– Large trucks may be carrying a variety of cargo such as cars, live cattle or other livestock, steel pipes, pallets and cardboard boxes, logs, liquid in bulk and any number of other cargo items. A truck which carries an overly top-heavy load could potentially flip over when rounding a moderate to sharp curve in the road, spilling its cargo across the roadway. A tanker-trailer which is only half-full of liquid can begin sloshing back and forth, and when the truck comes to a quick stop the liquid creates a massive forward push, potentially jackknifing the truck and trailer. Many truckers who routinely transport steel pipes fail to check the straps which hold the pipes on the trailer as often as they should—imagine the accident potential when an entire trailer-load of heavy steel pipes scatter across the roadway. Straps wear out, or loosen as the truck travels down the road, ready to spill their cargo with any shift in the road. Any type of cargo-shifting can cause a rollover or can lead the truck to jackknife.
- Aggressive driving—The NHTSA defines aggressive driving as a combination of moving traffic offenses which endanger others. Commercial truck drivers who drive in an aggressive manner on the roadways are almost three times more likely to be involved in one or more traffic crashes than those who drive while fatigued.
- The trucker’s blind spots—Cars traveling directly in front or behind, or those approximately in the middle on either side may not be seen by the truck driver. In these cases, the truck driver may change lanes, stop suddenly or accelerate, without being aware of the vehicle the truck is about to hit.
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Determining Liability for Your Florida Truck Accident
Determining liability in a trucking accident can be particularly complex. The truck driver may have been at fault, the trucking company in a trucking accident can be particularly complex. The truck driver may have been at fault, the trucking company many bear some of the responsibility, the maintenance company may have neglected maintenance of the truck, or the loading company may have improperly load, or overloaded the truck. One or more of these entities may bear responsibility for your accident and subsequent injuries.
If you have been the victim of a trucking accident whether it was a result of clear negligence or not, you need serious help to deal with the aftermath, including injuries, medical bills, loss of work and income and the pain and suffering you have dealt with since the time of the accident. Because of the particular complexities of trucking accidents, it is imperative you hire a highly experienced trucking accident attorney immediately following your accident for several reasons:
- An attorney will be able to subpoena the black box on the truck if it’s equipped with one, before that crucial information is destroyed. The trucking company will not simply hand over the black box, and it can contain the information your attorney needs to get you the settlement you deserve. The black box on a truck records average speeds, number of hard stops, maximum speed and hours the truck has been in service. If your accident was caused by an overly tired trucker, or one who was driving in a reckless or negligent manner, this piece of evidence can literally make your case.
- Your attorney will make sure no critical evidence is hidden or destroyed and can obtain a court order which will prohibit the trucking company taking the wrecked truck where it cannot be looked at for evidence. An experienced trucking attorney knows about recreating the accident and what evidence will be important down the line.
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Statute of Limitations in Your Florida Truck Accident
The statutes of limitations are laws set by each state which govern the amount of time you have in which to file a personal injury claim. In the state of Florida, you have four years from the date of your truck accidents to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages. If, however, someone died as a result of the truck accident, the family of the deceased have only two years from the date of the death to file a wrongful death claim.
Most Common Injuries Resulting from a Truck Accident
If you survive a truck accident you are likely to be left with severe injuries, which could take months or years to heal—or may never heal. Traumatic brain injuries, limb amputations, disfigurement, partial or total paralysis from a spinal cord injury, burns, broken bones and internal injuries are all “typical” injuries for those involved in a trucking accident. You may wonder whether your life will ever have any semblance of normality again, whether you will be able to return to work and how you will provide for your family. Many of those involved in a truck accident are left with a lifetime of pain, and may also suffer from serious emotional issues such as PTSD, chronic insomnia and severe depression. In fact, some of those who survive a truck accident find it difficult, perhaps even impossible, to ever get into a vehicle again.
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Potential Damages You May Be Entitled to Following Your Florida Truck Accident
While every accident has its own set of circumstances, therefore different damages, the most common damages you may be entitled to, providing your injuries and losses were the result of another’s negligence include:
- Medical expenses, including those for physicians, hospitals, prescription drugs, rehabilitative therapies, and any other medical expenses related to your accident;
- Pain and suffering;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of earning capacity;
- Mental and emotional anguish;
- Physical impairment, and
- Loss of consortium.
In some cases, you may be entitled to punitive damages in addition to the damages above. Punitive damages are awarded when there is evidence of willful or malicious negligence, or when the negligent party intended to harm another person. In the case of a truck accident, punitive damages could potentially be awarded when the driver is found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or in some other limited circumstances.
How an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
The period of time following a truck accident can be very stressful, as you are likely to have serious injuries related to the accident. It is extremely important that you speak to an attorney from The Law Place who knows how to deal with the many complexities of truck accidents. The Law Place attorneys will use their more than 75 years of combined experience to ensure you receive the damages you are entitled to receive. Call The Law Place at 941-444-4444. “We are here for you.”