Most people are aware that trucks can cause catastrophic injuries, especially when smaller vehicles are involved. This is because large commercial trucks such as semi-tractor trailers, big rigs, flatbeds, tankers, and other types of box trucks generate significant momentum due to their colossal size and weight. Large trucks hit with powerful force, even at very low speeds.
If you or a loved one was involved in a collision with a large truck in Florida, call Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys PA to learn how we can help maximize your recovery. We offer free case evaluations and work with your medical providers to uncover all of your injuries and future disability. We also work with leading liability experts to help prove your truck wreck case, including truck “black box” experts, accident reconstruction experts, and other engineers. Our dedicated and compassionate staff is standing by, waiting to help you.
Trucking Accidents are Common and Deadly
Statistics prove that trucking accidents are devastating. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year in the United States, roughly 116,000 people are injured and almost 4,800 people are killed in trucking crashes. This number is staggering, especially given that many of these accidents are due to the reckless or careless actions of a truck driver or trucking company. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the three most common causes of fatal trucking accidents were speeding, distraction/inattention, and impairment. All of these causes are entirely preventable.
Why Trucking Accidents are Different Than Other Types of Car Accidents
Hiring a personal injury lawyer or car accident lawyer is not enough. Truck accident cases are very different than other basic personal injury or motor vehicle collision cases. Unlike other types of motor vehicle accidents, truck accidents often require the consideration of several additional factors including:
Onboard Computers: Another big difference between tractor-trailer accidents and other motor vehicle collisions is that trucks have a “black box” or electronic control module (ECM). The on-board ECMs contain vital information which can greatly help your case, as they contain a vast amount of data about the vehicle, such as the speed, acceleration, direction of travel, time spent on the road, and other vital information which can help to create an understanding of what occurred at the moment of the accident as well as the general patterns and behaviors of the driver. Trucking companies and insurance carriers are quick to try to manipulate the data and take control of it as they understand what a vital piece of evidence the ECM is. Only an experienced truck crash attorney would know how to preserve and gain access to this data.
Different Mechanical Parts: Semi-tractor trailers are also distinguishable because they have different mechanical parts. For instance, trucks use air braking systems, whereas other cars use disc brakes. Air brakes require different types of maintenance and handling because they cannot just be “rode on” the entire time as the air in the lines needs to refresh. Truck drivers must be skilled and trained in how to use this type of system.
Licensing: A truck driver must go through a course, shadow a truck driver, pass a written test, and then pass a practical before getting a commercial driving license “CDL.” This license can be revoked for many reasons, and the licensing authorities monitor CDL drivers very closely. Every traffic violation, infraction, license suspension, and license revocation is reported to the licensing agency. Your attorney must obtain these documents.
FMCSA Regulations: While Florida laws and regulations apply, trucking is an interstate business that spans every state. Oftentimes, a truck driver is licensed in one state, picks up a shipment in another, drives through other states, and delivers the cargo to an entirely different state. This is why there are federal regulations promulgated by FMCSA, which cover the conduct of truck drivers and trucking companies. No matter which state the truck driver is from, in, or going to, these FMCSA regulations set the minimum requirements that all truck drivers and trucking companies must comply with.
Size and Weight: Commercial trucking accidents often result in catastrophic damage due to their size, weight, and force, especially while traveling at high speeds on highways and interstates. While these are often the most deadly types of trucking accidents, even trucking accidents occurring at low speeds are capable of causing serious injuries, including wrongful death. This is simply due to the force generated by the speed of the truck.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
Truck accident victims often suffer permanent damage. Individuals may incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses and require years of medical care, including surgeries and physical therapy, to regain function. While there are many injuries that individuals can sustain in trucking accidents, some of the most common injuries that occur include the following:
- Spinal cord injuries, including paralysis like paraplegia or quadriplegia
- Amputations or loss of a limb
- Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, diffuse axonal TBIs, brain bleeds, coup-contrecoup injuries, and other brain damage
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Broken bones or fractured bones
- Internal organ injuries or damage
- Loss of vision
- Nerve damage
- Neck and back injuries, including disc injuries, herniations, spinal stenosis, and other damage
- Shoulder injuries and knee injuries
- Burn injuries, either from chemicals, explosions, or fires at a crash
- Wrongful death
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
The sad truth of the matter is that most trucking accidents that occur in Florida are due to negligence. Truck drivers are trained to deliver their orders quickly to collect payment sooner. This encourages them to violate FMCSA regulations and other Florida laws that are meant to keep us safe. This, in turn, causes more severe and fatal big rig crashes.
The most common types of negligence that we see when dealing with truck accident cases include:
- Improper loading or unloading of the vehicle
- Distracted driving due to texting, using a GPS, or reaching for something within the truck
- Eating while driving
- Excessive speed, including in adverse weather conditions
- Tailgating or following too closely
- Failure to yield to smaller vehicles
- Failure to stop at a stop sign
- Failure to stop at a red light
- Braking errors including brake failures
- Unsafe backing up or going in reverse
- Mechanical errors
- Failing to utilize proper maintenance
- Fatigued driving
- FCMSA Regulatory Violations
The performance of trucks and their drivers is strictly monitored and regulated by federal agencies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This is because the trucking industry conducts interstate business. The FMCSA regulations apply to all truck drivers, regardless of the company, state of the truck, or where the truck is traveling to and from. Most of the federal laws and regulations put in place by the FMCSA involve safety regulations. States like Florida often enforce their own laws, but these are in addition to the FMCSA standards.
Most Common FMCSA Violations
A trucker or trucking company that violates the FMCSA regulations may be found negligent under Florida law. Some of the most common FMCSA violations include:
Hours of Service (HOS) violations – Hours of service refers to the amount of time a driver is allowed to drive before they must stop to take a break. It also refers to the number of consecutive hours in a day and the number of days in a week that they can drive. These regulations protect truck drivers as wells as the general public. Fatigued driving is hazardous and can result in catastrophic accidents. These hours of service regulations can be found in 49 CFR part 395. The most common violations include the following:
- No more than 11 out of 14 hours in a day while on duty may be spent driving
- No more than 8 hours can be spent driving while on duty before a 30-minute break is required
- A driver may spend no more than 60 hours on duty during a 7-day work period
- A driver may spend no more than 70 hours in 8 consecutive days driving while on duty
- In 24 hours, the maximum amount of consecutive hours on duty is 14, with a minimum of 10 straight off duty hours
- A minimum of 3 hours rest is required for all 14-hour shifts, and
- Other regulations that could apply.
Inclement Weather – Truck drivers are supposed to exercise additional extreme caution in the case of inclement weather to reduce the chances of a collision under 49 CFR section 392.14. Inclement weather refers to rain, fog, storms, or other poor weather conditions. If the weather is bad enough that a driver can not safely operate the vehicle, they must reduce their speed until weather conditions improve. If a truck driver cannot safely operate in the weather, the truck driver must stop until it is safe. Driving through inclement or hazardous weather could result in liability even if the trucker is not going above the speed limit or very fast at all.
Cargo Securing Requirements – There are specific FMCSA regulations under 49 CFR section 392.9 surrounding securing cargo. These regulate how many straps and other devices must be used per foot of cargo, how they must be checked, and how often they must be checked. Additionally, the regulations require that truck drivers inspect cargo before the start of delivery, within the first 50 miles of travel, and every two hours after that.
Mechanical Failure and Tire Blowouts – 49 CFR section 392.8 requires trucking companies and their drivers to check the truck’s tires frequently to make sure that there are no defects. Additionally, they must ensure that all of the vehicle’s mechanics are properly maintained to ensure that truck is functioning the way that it is supposed to.
Prohibited Alcohol and Drug Use – The FMCSA has the strictest alcohol driving regulations in the country. FMCSA regulation 49 CFR section 392.5 prohibits the driver from consuming any alcohol within four hours of the start of a shift. Unlike other drivers on the road, truck drivers are not allowed to have any blood alcohol content (BAC). Additionally, the use of illegal drugs and prescription or legal drugs that could impair the driver’s ability to operate the truck safely is strictly prohibited.
What to Do If You Have Been Involved in a Truck Accident
There are a few steps that you should take to protect your safety and rights to compensation after you have been involved in a trucking accident in Florida. The most important steps to take include:
Call the Police – Even if the accident seems minor, it is always important to have the police inspect your vehicle and the accident scene. It is important to have a record of the collision. A police report can help your case by providing a record of the accident. If you have any minor injury, tell the police because they will make a record and require you to be evaluated by Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Comply with all requests from EMS and police.
Seek Medical Treatment – It is vital to seek medical treatment if you were involved in a trucking accident. Sometimes injuries are missed and may not develop for days. It is much more challenging to prove that your injuries were caused by the accident if there is a delay in medical treatment.
Photograph the Accident – If it is possible, take photographs and videos of the accident scene and the vehicles involved. This evidence will help provide an overview of the road conditions and any other factors contributing to the accident. Try to photograph the vehicle damage, logos on the truck, license plates, roadways, debris fields, and other objects or evidence that you believe may help prove your case.
Take the Truck Driver’s Information – Obtain the driver’s name, address, and their employment information even though this information will be available in the accident report and driver exchange of information.
Speak to Witnesses – If there were witnesses present, you should obtain their contact information. These witnesses will provide unbiased testimony about how the accident occurred.
Call One of Miami’s Top Truck Accident Attorneys
Our trucking accident attorneys at Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys PA are dedicated to helping victims who have been seriously injured as the result of auto accidents caused by negligent truck drivers. If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries due to an accident involving a commercial vehicle like an 18 wheeler or semi-truck, there is a limited time to file a lawsuit. We offer free consultations, and you don’t pay us unless we win. Learn more by calling (305) 694-2676.