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The commercial trucking industry is the lifeblood of both our state’s and nation’s economies.
Companies in the United States employ around 9 million people in trucking-related jobs, with over 3.5 million of those being truck drivers.
America depends on trucks to deliver nearly 70% of all freight transported within the country, making the industry vital to both the retail and employment sectors of the economy.
Commercial trucks, like any other vehicle, get into accidents. But unlike other auto accidents, collisions involving commercial trucks bring a different level of complications when determining liability.
A personal injury claim involves not just the drivers, but trucking companies, multiple insurance carriers, and more.
If you are injured in one of these accidents, finding the right Florida truck accident lawyer can make a huge difference in your recovery. For help with your Florida truck accident claim, send us an online message or call our firm at (866) 936-2301 today.
Let’s take a closer look at how commercial trucking accident claims work and what an injured party needs to know about them.
Trucking Accident Statistics
The National Safety Council (NSC) keeps track of trends in commercial trucking accidents.
They compile data from several different sources including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and other governmental and non-profit organizations to provide a clearer picture of how these accidents impact American driver safety.
According to the NSC, truck accidents resulting in both injury and fatalities have steadily increased since 2009, in both total number and percentage of accidents overall. Simply put, trucking accidents are on the rise.
The numbers also say that when regular passenger vehicles are involved in a truck collision, it is the people in passenger vehicles that pay the biggest price.
For example, a total of 4,951 people died in large-truck crashes in 2018. The large majority (71%) of these deaths were occupants of other vehicles, mainly regular passenger vehicles.
This trend is also reflected in passenger injury numbers and amount of property damage. When a regular passenger vehicle gets into a crash with a commercial truck, riders in the former are much more likely to come out worse for wear.
Why Are Truck Accidents so Dangerous?
The statistics show that truck accidents are more deadly than others, but why is this? It all comes down to the numbers.
First of all, there is the size difference. Commercial trucks are often at least twice as heavy as your average car or truck but can be up to 20 times as heavy. The rest comes down to physics.
Stopping a commercial truck (especially semi-trucks with tractor trailers attached) takes more time and space than for a smaller vehicle, which leaves even the most attentive truck driver less time to react to road hazards.
These larger, heavier trucks are also going to cause more significant damage to a vehicle only a fraction of their size.
This means that these vehicles can sustain serious property damage and those inside are more likely to be injured or killed than those inside commercial trucks.
This is what makes a Florida semi-truck accident so dangerous for everyone on the road.
What Causes Commercial Trucking Accidents?
If truck accidents are on the rise, what are the causes? Contrary to popular belief, drug and alcohol use are not among the top causes of such crashes.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) tracks trucking accident causes through their Large Truck Crash Causation Study, and they found that the primary reasons were:
- Driver fatigue,
- Poor maintenance or part defect on trucks, and
- Road/highway unfamiliarity.
A more commonly cited cause is aggressive driving, but the numbers don’t back this as an endemic problem. Less than 5% of total truck accidents were directly linked to aggressive driving, while less than half a percentage point were attributed to both drug and alcohol use.
Key Trucking Accident Terms to Understand
If you are in a big rig accident, it helps to have a working knowledge of some common trucking terms. Knowing these terms will help you understand what is going on when you look through your accident report.
Furthermore, knowing the specific words to describe what happened in your accident will allow you to better communicate exactly what happened. Read through our list for some of the commercial trucking jargon that can help you after an accident:
- A jackknife occurs when a truck is unable to move or slow down their truck. The coupling between the truck and the trailer folds in like a jackknife and collides with something else.
- A rollover occurs when a truck’s wheels come off of a road surface and the truck flips over. Rollovers can occur at any time workers do not properly secure a load.
- Underride describes what happens when a car or other foreign object drives or maneuvers underneath a truck, thereby causing an accident.
- A Carrier is either a trucking company or a truck driver that owns and operates their own one man trucking business
- A brake engine is a unique braking mechanism in large semi-trucks that uses compressed air.
- Blind spot describes areas around a truck where the driver cannot see other cars through their rear or side-view mirrors. When cars drive in a truck’s blind spot, accidents can happen.
- Dead heading is when a trucker drives their vehicle without a load in the back, or with an empty or partially empty tank. Liquid stored in partially empty tanks is dangerous because it can slosh around and cause the driver to lose control.
With these trucking terms in your vocabulary, you can describe exactly what happened in your accident for the most accurate accident report.
What Makes Truck Accidents More Complex to Litigate?
Truck accidents are often more complicated to litigate than typical car accidents. The main reason for this is that there are more potentially liable parties in trucking accidents than in a typical car accident.
Generally, in a car accident one driver or both drivers are liable. Of course, a car or car parts manufacturer may have some liability if a car part malfunctions and causes an accident. The same applies to commercial trucks. But the list of potentially liable parties in a typical car accident is far shorter than in most commercial truck accidents.
When a trucker is on the road, many more people outside of the driver can be involved in the process. Others have to load the truck, conduct safety checks, and repair the truck.
During any of these processes, conditions that may cause an accident can easily arise. The people loading the truck could do so unevenly, which could cause the load to fall off the trailer and cause an accident.
Similarly, the trucking company could force their drivers to drive longer than is federally allowed. This results in tired drivers who can cause a crash. In both of these situations the driver would not bear all liability. Whenever you are in a trucking accident, it is important to hold the right party accountable.
What Damages Are Compensable After a Truck Accident?
In Florida, there are three types of damages available to injured parties: economic, noneconomic, and punitive.
Economic damages are tangible damages with a precise value. They include things like lost wages, medical bills, and rehabilitation costs. Noneconomic damages are intangible.
Noneconomic damages include things like pain, mental anguish, and the loss of a loved one. It is difficult to place a precise value on and demonstrate noneconomic losses, but they are just as real as economic damages.
Unlike economic and noneconomic damages, punitive damages are only available in certain instances. They are not meant to compensate a claimant for direct losses. Instead, they are meant to punish the defendant.
Courts can only award punitive damages if a claimant can demonstrate that the defendant either acted intentionally or with gross negligence.
A truck driver who purposely hits you, for example, would likely have to pay punitive damages. It is important that you and your attorney account and seek compensation for all of the damages you suffer.
What Should I Do After a Florida Truck Accident?
The immediate aftermath of a trucking accident is likely to be chaotic but should be approached like any other serious auto accident in Florida.
The first concern, of course, is the health and safety of everyone involved. Call emergency services so that anyone injured can get medical help immediately. If there is someone trapped or you see another safety concern, you may need the assistance of a fire crew.
And of course, you will need the local police or sheriff’s office to come to the scene to direct traffic, talk with witnesses, and begin an official accident report.
WHEN IN DOUBT, WRITE IT OUT
Beyond calling the authorities for safety and medical purposes, there are things that you can do to help any possible future accident claims.
Gathering as much information as you can at the scene can make a huge difference down the road. So when in doubt, write it out.
Of course, this doesn’t specifically mean the physical act of writing, just recording the information in a way you can access later. Most people carry a smartphone everywhere they go, for example.
Take down the names and contact information for the other drivers, passengers, and any accessible witnesses. If you have the opportunity, you may want to make contemporaneous notes about the events before the trucking collision. Human memory can be tricky, after all. And lastly, take pictures.
Take pictures of vehicle damage, road conditions, crossroads, traffic signs, and anything else you think might help later. This is one area where smart phones can be a big help to Florida accident victims.
SEE A DOCTOR
In the hours or days following an accident, you should see a doctor for a thorough checkup. Even if you don’t need emergency care at the scene, there are all sorts of injuries that may take time to manifest.
Make sure that you get treated for (and documentation of) any injuries caused by the accident so that if the at-fault party or their insurance carrier tries to deny coverage, you have the evidence to back your claim.
But more importantly, there are many injuries that may take time to show symptoms, some of which are extremely serious and even deadly.
Some of these injuries include:
- Broken bones,
- Internal bleeding,
- Organ damage,
- Blood clots,
- Traumatic brain injuries, and
- Brain bleeds.
Never gamble with your health. Commercial trucking accidents are more likely to cause serious injury or death than accidents with just passenger vehicles, so be extra vigilant.
How an Attorney Can Help
The best thing you can do after a trucking accident is to contact a Florida trucking accident lawyer as soon as possible. By initiating the legal process immediately, you ensure that the statute of limitations does not run out and jeopardize your claim.
Your truck accident attorney will listen to your story and build the most effective legal strategy possible. But that isn’t everything. They can investigate the accident to ensure that you file a claim against the right party, help you account for all of your damages, and communicate your case in the most diplomatic and persuasive way possible. With an attorney, you are never alone in the legal process.
CONTACT A FLORIDA TRUCK ACCIDENT ATTORNEY
In the days and weeks after your accident, you will no doubt field calls from a number of parties trying to settle a potential claim. This includes insurance carriers, and there may be a number of different companies involved depending on how many vehicles were in the accident.
There are twelve states that use a “no-fault” liability approach to car insurance, including Florida. This means that each person files a claim against their own insurance policy for accident expenses, no matter who was at fault.
However, if an accident causes someone more damage or injuries than the insurance policy covers, they have a right to sue the at-fault party for damages. This is why you should talk to a commercial truck accident attorney in Florida as soon as you can.
If you make statements to an insurance representative (even your own) without knowing your full legal situation, you may end up getting less compensation than you actually deserve.
So don’t make any formal statements, don’t sign any paperwork, and don’t talk about coverage or a possible settlement.
Speak with a Florida truck accident lawyer first. Contact us or call (866) 936-2301 for a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Florida’s statute of limitations for truck accidents?
- For any accident involving a motor vehicle, the statute of limitations in Florida is four years from the date of the accident.
- What if I don’t have money for an attorney right now?
- We understand that accidents can leave your pocketbook a bit empty, but our lawyers are still here to help. We work on the basis of contingency fees, so you only have to pay us after we win your case or settle out of court.
- Is there a cap on the amount of damages I can seek?
- No. There is no limit on the amount of damages you can recover in a Florida truck accident case. The only exception is punitive damages. The cap on punitive damages is $500,000 or three times the amount of compensatory damages you are entitled to.
Truck drivers break federal laws by driving
In excess of the number of hours they are allowed to drive
At an excessive speed
With overloaded or oversized trucks
Improperly maintained trucks
How Can a Florida Truck Accident Lawyer Help?
All auto accident claims can be difficult, but a Florida commercial/semi-truck accident brings different levels of complications. This is where a personal injury attorney with experience in trucking claims can make a difference. An attorney will be your advocate throughout the claims process, giving you advice and helping to protect your rights. They know what evidence and documentation you need to prove your claim and where to find it. And whether engaged in settlement negotiations or litigation, an attorney will push to get you the maximum amount in compensation.
One of the most important jobs a personal injury lawyer has, though, is to take as much stress off your shoulders as they can. All legal claims can be nerve-racking—even more so when you are recovering from injuries and other serious losses. Having an expert who can deal with the insurance companies, other parties, and their attorneys can take a load off your shoulders.
What Damages Are Available in a Truck Accident Lawsuit?
Florida law allows accident victims to seek compensation for the injuries and other losses they suffered in the collision. The purpose of compensatory damages is to “make someone whole,” or return a person to their pre-accident state. Commercial truck accident victims may recover two types of compensatory damages in Florida: economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages reimburse an injured person the costs they incurred (or will incur) as a result of the accident. Common economic damages include:
- Medical bills;
- Funds for necessary future surgeries, therapy, and long-term care or medical treatments;
- Transportation costs for doctor’s appointments or therapy;
- Lost wages;
- Personal property damage, such as vehicle repairs;
- The value of household services the injured person can no longer perform; and
- Compensation for future economic losses, such as loss of earning capacity.
The amount of these losses can usually be calculated or forecast from records, documentation, or expert testimony. All costs and expenses must be proven; guesswork won’t cut it.
This category is intended to compensate the plaintiff for intangible losses. It generally refers to the distress resulting from the accident that affects a person’s quality of life. Because they are less concrete, non-economic damages are more tightly controlled by Florida law.
Chapter 627 of the Florida statutes says that the plaintiff’s losses must include:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement; or
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
To qualify, the injuries must rob the person of things like the ability to live without pain or enjoy things with their loved ones. These losses are real, but separate from a person’s ability to earn money and financial obligations.
- Physical pain,
- Mental and psychological suffering,
- Disfigurement, and
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
These losses are more subjective, and must be considered and proved in a different manner from economic damages. This is why having the assistance of a Florida truck accident lawyer is so important to your recovery.
Injured in a Florida Truck Accident? We Can Help
Truck accidents can cause serious injury and property damage. Victims may need long-term medical treatment and struggle to pay bills if they are unable to work.
At Grossman Attorneys at Law, we know that you need an expert and an advocate on your side. Our personal injury attorneys can take on the insurance companies on your behalf, fighting for every bit of compensation you deserve. We specialize in injury law, and our attorneys are proficient negotiators and litigators.
So whether it is settlement negotiation or a trial, you know you’ve got experience and expertise on your side. We never charge a fee for consultations, and we are available at night and on the weekends.
We work on a contingent fee basis, which means that there is never a fee or costs that you have to pay unless we successfully resolve your truck accident case.