Florida Truck Accidents
A robust economy requires transporting of large amounts of consumer goods, documents, mail, packages, building materials, foods, chemicals, waste products, and other loads from place to place, both locally and across the country. Trucks carry about 70 percent of all freight that is moved in the country today. Consequently, trucking is a huge industry, and as the economy grows, the number of trucks on our highways continues to grow with it.
The downside is that with the increase in the number of trucks, there is a corresponding increase in accidents, injuries, and highway deaths.
Those of us who travel in passenger vehicles must share the roads with millions of huge commercial trucks that dwarf the family car. Around 15.5 million trucks are in operation in the United States, of which 2 million are large tractor-trailer trucks.
With the enormous disparity in size between a large commercial truck and a typical passenger vehicle, having to share the road can be pretty intimidating for the driver and other occupants of a passenger car, and with good reason: a truck can do incredible damage to the lighter car, causing fatalities and very serious, catastrophic injuries. When you’ve sustained economic or quality-of-life damages that were caused by a truck, in the majority of cases, driver or trucking company negligence in the cause. In some other cases, a defect in the truck or one of its parts could be to blame, as could an error on the part of a maintenance contractor or inspector, or occasionally, a road hazard caused by another party.
If you are on this page because you or a family member suffered serious injuries in a Florida accident involving a large commercial truck, as you read, you will come to realize the enormous complexity of these accidents. You will need to have a personal injury lawyer working with you to help you win an appropriate amount of money to compensate you for your losses to your health, your finances, and your overall quality of life. In Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties in the Tampa Bay Area, you can find the aggressive representation you need by calling the law offices of attorney Stephen Maltezos, located in Tampa and St Petersburg.
United States and Florida Truck Accident Statistics
Truck accidents caused nearly 4,000 deaths in 2012; an additional 100,000 people were injured in accidents involving large commercial trucks.
In Florida, there were 32,055 commercial truck accidents in 2013, an increase of 12.28 percent over the previous year; 237 fatalities resulted, along with 10,041 injuries.
Types of Trucks Causing Accidents
Large commercial trucks serve various purposes and come in various types, for example:
- Tractor-trailers, also called semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, or “big rigs” comprise a tractor with a cab, which pulls a trailer containing the cargo. Semi-trucks are regulated by both federal and Florida state laws, which call for special training for their drivers and lay down strict rules for maximum driving hours, record-keeping, weight limits, maintenance, inspection, and mandatory insurance coverage. Tractor-trailers can weigh around 80,000 pounds when fully loaded, which means they are capable doing serious bodily damage to a person in a much lighter passenger vehicle.
- Couriers, including FEDEX, DHL, UPS, and others maintain fleets of trucks that deliver packages to residences and businesses. Because major couriers generally operate across state lines, like semi-trucks, they are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Local in-state delivery trucks are regulated by Florida state law.
- Tanker trucks are tractor-trailer rigs that carry liquid or gaseous cargo. Some of these cargoes are flammable, such as petroleum, propane, and various other chemicals. Tanker trucks, especially those containing flammable or toxic materials, pose an additional danger of fire or chemical exposure if an accident occurs. If the tank is less than three-quarters full, a liquid cargo sloshing around in a partially empty tank may causes a shift in balance that can potentially cause the tanker to roll over or make it more difficult to bring to rapid a stop in an emergency.
- Dump trucks transport loose materials such as sand, gravel, or soil in a hinged open container with a mechanism that allows it to tilt in order to dump its load. These heavy trucks can cause an incredible amount of damage in a collision with another vehicle, or with a pedestrian or bicyclist. They are difficult to see around, and if the driver doesn’t carefully check the blind spot while backing, they sometimes back over a worker, pedestrian, cyclist. Dumping the load is another hazard to people in the area who may be injured by falling material.
- Cement mixers are heavyweight industrial and construction vehicles, which are top-heavy and may roll over easily because of their high center of gravity. Their extreme weight makes this a dangerous proposition to anyone and anything in its path when it takes a roll. Because they are large and extremely heavy, they can cause serious injuries and fatalities. Back-overs are a threat to construction workers on a site where cement mixers are in operation.
- Flatbed trucks have a flat, unenclosed platform on which to carry cargo. They are used to transport construction machinery and materials, which if not secured properly, can fall off and cause injuries.
- Sanitation trucks pick up solid waste from residential neighborhoods and businesses for disposal in landfills and recycling facilities. They may be owned by a municipality or a waste removal contractor. Garbage trucks start, stop, and turn frequently in tight areas in commercial and residential neighborhoods where they can easily strike parked or moving cars, pedestrians, or bicyclists.
Insurance Coverage Required of Truckers by Law
All of these commercial vehicle types are required by law to carry large liability insurance policies. If you have been injured or a family member killed by any of these types of commercial trucks, there should be plenty of coverage to pay you the compensation you deserve. Nevertheless, expect the insurance company to oppose your claim. Your lawyer will protect your rights and work to negotiate an appropriate recovery that reflects the value of all of your damages. When you retain Steve Maltezos to represent you, he will conduct his own investigation, and when necessary, bring in experts to help make your case, and if needed, testify in your behalf at trial.
Causes of Truck Accidents
Let’s face it, time is money in the trucking business. So the more goods are delivered in the least amount of time, the greater the profits. Companies often push drivers to adhere to strict schedules that require them to drive longer and faster than is reasonable (and that the law allows). This can potentially lead to unsafe driving practices.
Furthermore, any type of large truck, because of its size, is more prone to accidents than smaller vehicles, for several reasons:
- Large blind spots
- Longer stopping times
- Poor maneuverability; especially when executing turns
The most common underlying cause of truck accidents is owner or driver error, although they can also be caused by defective equipment, road hazards, etc. These are some of the many causes of truck accidents that can be attributed to someone’s negligence:
- Drivers lacking the proper training to drive large trucks
- Driving at excessive speeds to meet deadlines and quotas
- Driving under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription or over-the-counter medications
- Driving while exhausted from excessive hours on the road without sufficient rest(a violation of federal law)
- Unbalanced loading, under-loading, or carrying excessive loads
- Failing to tie down the truck’s cargo, allowing it to shift
- Failing to properly secure the trailer to the cab
- Texting, cell phone use, an other types of distracted driving
- Skipping mandated inspections and maintenance
- Under-filling tanks with liquid cargo
- Backing up, changing lanes, and passing without carefully checking blind spots
- Failing to observe traffic regulations; ignoring traffic signals and signs
- Defective equipment or components
- Tire blowouts
- Missing or insufficient underride guard
- Poorly maintained roads; dangerous construction sites; debris or obstacles in the road
Any one of these causes can usually be attributed to someone other than the accident victim, who may make a claim for damages.
Types of Truck Accidents
- Jackknifes: A jackknife is when the trailer, often one that is empty, pushes up against the cab at an angle, like a partially-opened pocket knife. It can be caused by caused by improper braking, equipment failure, or road conditions that cause the truck to skid and the trailer to buckle against it. This causes the driver to lose control, and additional accidents with other vehicles on the road may occur.
- Head-on crashes: in a head-on, the most deadly of all crash types, the truck collides front-to-front with a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction. Head-ons are often fatal, and if there are survivors, they frequently suffer catastrophic injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and spinal cord damage. Driver impairment or fatigue, causing the driver to drift into the opposite lane into the path of an oncoming vehicle, is often to blame.
- Rear-end crashes occur when a truck crashes into the back of another vehicle going in the same direction. It usually indicates that the truck driver has been tailgating and will almost invariably be attributable to truck driver error.
- Underride accidents are those in which a lower-to-the-road vehicle drives into the rear of a large truck, and the smaller car goes under the truck, which severely damages the top portion of the car and often kills the driver.
- Side collisions involve the front of one vehicle crashing into the side of the other. This typically happens at an intersection where one vehicle runs a traffic signal or stop signal, or when the truck attempts a turn, failing to notice an on-coming vehicle travelling in the other direction, causing a t-bone type collision.
- A sideswipe is another side-impact collision type that may occur when two vehicles are moving in the same direction and one makes a sudden lane change without signaling.
- Rollovers usually happen when a truck is under-loaded or entirely empty, or when cargo is not properly secured and allowed to shift, and the driver attempts a sharp curve at a high speed. A rollover may also occur when the truck is struck by another vehicle, upsetting its balance.
- Hazmat spills and fires occur when toxic materials or flammable gasses or liquids leak out of the truck’s tank, often as the result of one of the accident types listed above.
Types of Truck Accident Injuries
Truck accidents cause many fatalities and some of the worst types of injuries. These include, but are not limited to:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Burn injuries
- Lacerations and scarring
- Facial injuries and disfigurement
- Internal bleeding
- Internal organ injuries
- Nerve damage
- Chronic pain
- Psychological trauma
- Neck and back injuries
- Herniated disc
- Toxic chemical exposure
Identifying Fault: Determining Liability in Florida Truck Crashes
Trucks are required to be well-insured, so in most cases, there won’t be an issue about the sufficiency of coverage. However, your lawyer will have to make a persuasive case proving that the truck company, the driver, or some other party was responsible for the accident, as well as proving your damages. Trucking companies often have mitigation teams that rush out to the accident scene and attempt to minimize the company’s exposure to liability claims. It is absolutely essential that you bring your own lawyer on board immediately after the accident to examine the circumstances of the crash while the evidence is still accessible. This will often include demanding access to the truck’s “black box” and bringing in accident reconstruction experts, who will examine, in addition to the “black box,” such things as skid marks and damage to the respective vehicles. Your attorney will also obtain the driver’s training and driving records, will determine if driver impairment contributed to the crash, and will check to see when required inspections and maintenance procedures were performed.
In addition, complex relationships among the various players in the trucking industry can tend to obscure liability. A skilled and knowledgeable truck accident lawyer will be required to sort out these relationships and identify which of the parties can be held liable for your damages:
- The driver of the truck
- The trucking company
- The truck manufacturer
- Another company responsible for loading the truck
- A maintenance contractor or mechanic
- Another driver involved in the accident
If your accident was in Florida, truck accident attorney Stephen Maltezos has the experts on call to provide this important support to your case. He is familiar with the tactics trucking companies and their insurers often use to avoid having to pay large claims, and he knows how to counteract them in order to safeguard your right to a recovery.
You are entitled to claim two types of compensatory damages:
- Economic damages, including the cost of medical treatment; prescriptions; rehabilitation; assistive devices such as wheelchairs, braces, crutches, etc.; the value of lost earnings and future earning potential; transportation and childcare expenses for medical appointments; and the cost of outfitting your home or vehicle to accommodate your disability (constructing wheelchair ramps, lowering counters, widening doorways, installing a lift in your vehicle, etc.) These expenses have an actual dollar value and can be proven by producing receipts, bills, and employment records.
- Non-economic damages, which affect your quality of life, including physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and psychological trauma, disfigurement, disability, loss of ability to enjoy your life, and loss of marital consortium. For many accident victims, these damages are much worse than the financial losses.
In addition, in a very few cases in which the defendant displayed a blatant and egregious disregard for life, health, and well-being, a jury may award punitive damages, an additional amount aimed at punishing the guilty party and deterring the behavior in the future. A possible example might be if a trucking company knowingly hired a driver with a history of repeated drunk driving and whose blood alcohol content was extremely high at the time of the accident.
Bring a Florida Personal Injury Attorney on Board from the Start
The earlier you call Steve Maltezos and get him working on your truck accident case, the sooner he will be able to launch his investigation of the circumstances of the crash. It is important to begin immediately, because evidence has a way of disappearing, and witnesses move away or their memory begins to fade. It is important to begin putting together a case while the evidence is fresh.
In many cases, Steve is able to negotiate a settlement without your ever having to go to court. But it is important to know that he is a seasoned trial lawyer who knows how to present a meticulously prepared and persuasively argued case to a jury. Some lawyers will avoid the courtroom at all costs, but when a trial is what it takes to get you the money you need and deserve, Steve is at his best in the courtroom.
You have a great deal to potentially gain, and nothing at all to lose, because you never pay a penny out of pocket, and you only pay legal fees after your case has been successfully resolved and you have received your settlement check. No recovery, no fee—ever.
Free Consultation for Your Florida Truck Accident Case
For vigorous, skilled, and aggressive legal representation in your Florida truck accident case, pick up the phone and call Steve Maltezos. With offices in both Tampa and St. Petersburg, he serves the entire Tampa Bay area, including Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties and all of West Central Florida. The initial consultation is always free. Remember, Florida law limits the amount of time you have in which to pursue your claim. If you wait too long, you could lose your right to recover money. Justice matters. Call today.