If you or someone you care about has been involved in a serious accident with a large commercial vehicle, you already know how destructive big rigs can be. When a car, motorcycle, or other personal vehicle is in a collision with a 40-ton piece of rolling heavy machinery, the fight is anything but fair. And the consequences — injuries that are so catastrophic that the victim will never fully recover or even dies — are all too real. While the last thing that will be on your mind is hiring a West Palm Beach truck accident lawyer, the unfortunate truth is that you are going to need legal counsel right away.
What Can I Do to Avoid an Accident with a Truck or Tractor Trailer?
- Remember that trucks are not the same as cars – they’re bigger and heavier and take much longer to stop.
- Trucks have dangerous blind spots on both sides – so stay out of them. If you can’t see a truck’s side mirrors, the truck driver can’t see you either.
- Don’t cut in front of a truck in order to make your turn or exit. Forcing the driver to slam on the brakes can spin the truck out of control or cause it to hit you, neither of which is a good choice.
- Don’t pass a truck while it is turning right, because a turning truck takes a wide swing.
- When passing a truck on the highway, accelerate slightly and maintain a constant speed. When you see the entire cab in your rear-view mirror, it is safe to signal and begin pulling back in front of it.
- Be especially wary of trucks in bad weather, when it may take them several seconds more to stop than in dry conditions.
- If you see a truck driver driving erratically or unsafely, call the authorities. And keep your distance so there is no chance of endangering you or your passengers.
If a Truck Driver Caused the Accident, Who Will my West Palm Beach Truck Accident Lawyer Sue?
If the driver who caused your accident was employed by a trucking company, the company may be liable for your injuries under the theory of “vicarious liability.” Vicarious liability makes employers liable for their employees’ mistakes made within the scope of employment – even if the employer was not actively responsible.
When a Florida truck accident lawyer investigates your case, we will assess not only whether a trucking company is vicariously liable for your injuries, but whether the company may be directly liable as well. From hiring inexperienced semi-truck drivers to forcing drivers to log too many hours, trucking companies routinely make mistakes that entitle accident victims to significant compensation.
Fatal Truck Collisions
If you have lost a loved one in a truck accident, we offer our deepest condolences. We are here to assist you in any way we can, and we are happy to meet with you to help you understand your situation. Under Florida law, the deceased’s personal representative must file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the eligible beneficiaries. Our truck accident lawyers have worked with personal representatives and surviving family members on numerous auto accident claims, and we can hold the responsible parties accountable for your loved one’s untimely death.
Who Investigates West Palm Beach Truck Accidents?
When a truck accident happens, a prompt investigation is critical in determining what caused the crash and who is to blame. Any West Palm Beach truck accident lawyer will tell you that the sooner you speak to a lawyer and start the investigation, the better.
The initial investigation is handled by police who respond to the scene of the crash. An officer or officers will speak to the drivers involved in the collision, as well as any witnesses, and note physical evidence, like vehicle damage and skid marks. If an officer has reason to believe that one of the drivers has been drinking, he or she may ask the person to submit to a blood alcohol content test.
The police officer’s report of the accident is often central to determining fault in truck accident cases, even if the officer does not reach a specific conclusion on who was to blame. That is because memories fade and physical evidence is often removed from roadways or eventually swept away. The report represents the official view of a trusted third party.
It is also important to consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident. A West Palm Beach truck accident attorney at Searcy Denney will begin investigating the accident right away. A lawyer with our firm will pull the police report, locate and interview witnesses, review physical evidence, track down any photos of the area where the accident happened before and after the crash and obtain any video footage.
A lawyer will also look into the background and driving record of the trucker involved in the crash. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires trucking companies to maintain a driver qualification file on each of its truck drivers. This file can offer into the driver’s track record, including the drivers’:
- Record of tickets, infractions and accidents
- Employment history
- Annual reviews
- Road test results
- Drug and alcohol test results
- Vehicle maintenance records
- Medical certifications
Trucking companies are often hesitant – at best – to turn over this information. That is because the company is likely to be liable for any accidents caused by its drivers when they are on the job. Our lawyers have had success obtaining these files through court subpoenas as part of the thorough investigation that we perform for clients injured in truck accidents.
Examples of Evidence in a Truck Accident Investigation
Evidence can go a long way in establishing fault in truck accident cases. Although the specific evidence available varies in each case, a West Palm Beach truck accident lawyer at our firm will generally look for:
- Physical crash scene evidence: The actual scene of the accident can offer important insight into how the crash happened. Skid marks, vehicle damage, the location of broken glass and chipped paint and other evidence are among those that provide clues.
- Photos and video: Photos of the accident scene, capturing some or all of the evidence mentioned above, can also play a vital role. So too can photos showing what the scene looked like before and after the crash. Meanwhile, dashboard cameras and other video footage can be used to show precisely what happened.
- Witness statements: Although eyewitness testimony has its drawbacks, it is vital to speak with anyone who was there when the accident happened.
- The truck’s black box: This device, similar to those installed in commercial airplanes, is designed to gather data like the truck’s speed – and any changes in speed – along with direction and whether the driver applied the brakes in the moments before the accident.
- Truck inspection and maintenance records: Driver error is not the only cause of accidents. Faulty and malfunctioning trucks can break down at any time, posing a hazard to everyone else on the road. These records offer a window into whether a trucking company has ensured that its vehicles are in good working order.
- Driver time on road: Trucker fatigue is a common factor in big rig crashes. Although federal law limits how much time truckers can spend on the road, drivers and their employers often push those limits to the brink, with disastrous results.
- Driver drug or alcohol consumption: The dangers of driving while intoxicated are well documented. Our attorneys will explore whether the trucker has a record of driving under the influence and look for evidence as to whether the driver was intoxicated at the time of the crash.
A West Palm Beach truck accident attorney at Searcy Denney will immediately look to preserve any evidence by notifying the trucking company and others of the possible legal claims stemming from the accident and demanding that they protect and maintain any evidence. Without this demand, the evidence could be destroyed or discarded.
About Accident Reconstruction for Truck Accident Collisions in West Palm Beach
In some cases, accident reconstruction experts can provide vital information about how a crash happened. This is particularly helpful in complex situations in which more than one party may be responsible for the accident, where witnesses offer conflicting statements about what occurred or where there is very little evidence.
The reconstruction is a simulation of the crash, designed to uncover the cause of the collision. Experts, drawing on backgrounds in forensics, engineering, and science, will reconstruct each event leading up to and including the accident.
Reconstruction experts typically visit the scene of the crash and review all of the available evidence. They also account for human error and possible environmental factors, like weather and road conditions.
The experts will ultimately provide a detailed report explaining the cause of the crash. This can be crucial in forcing settlement negotiations. The report can also be entered as evidence in trial, if needed, and experts may be called on to testify. Some additionally provide a 3-D or other type of model to visualize how the crash happened.
At Searcy Denney, a West Palm Beach truck accident attorney will first review your claim and investigate the accident before determining whether accident reconstruction is necessary. We will then discuss how reconstruction can help bolster your case, prove liability and help us resolve the matter efficiently.
Contact a West Palm Beach Truck Accident Attorney Today
Trucking companies have attorneys working to protect their funds, so why shouldn’t you? If you’ve been injured in a crash with a tractor trailer, contact a West Palm Beach truck accident lawyer today. Searcy Denney has decades of experience helping clients with personal injury cases, and we’re here to help you.