Commercial Truck Accidents
Our Tallahassee Commercial Truck Accident Attorneys Understand Your Need for Justice
Speak with a Tallahassee Truck Accident Lawyer About Your Case Today
Collisions involving large commercial trucks cause a disproportionate number of severe injuries and deaths, and it is not hard to see why. These trucks are the largest vehicles on the road, and once they get moving they can be extremely difficult to control. Jackknifes, pileups, rollovers, and other serious accidents are common throughout the Florida Panhandle. If you have been injured or lost a loved one, it is important that you speak with a Tallahassee truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.
For more than four decades, our firm has been fighting for accident victims and families who have lost loved ones in commercial trucking accidents. With offices in Tallahassee, we handle cases throughout North Florida and South Georgia, including cases involving collisions on I-10 and I-75. Our lawyers are aggressive and compassionate advocates for our clients, and they have a proven record of success in insurance settlement negotiations and trial.
We help our clients through the recovery process step-by-step, and we fight to win maximum compensation for our client’s financial and non-financial losses.
Our attorneys bring decades of experience in protecting our client’s legal rights. We handle personal injury and wrongful death cases involving all types of commercial vehicles, including:
- 18-wheelers, tractor trailers, and semi-trucks
- Flatbed trucks and vehicle transport trailers
- Tanker trucks
- Delivery trucks and vans
- Utility trucks and vans
- Garbage trucks
- Dump trucks
- Cement mixers
- All other commercial vehicles
Regardless of what happened, if you and your family are entitled to financial compensation, your truck accident lawyer will do their best to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.
In an earlier study of truck crash causation, the FMCSA found that of large trucks involved in all crashes – both single- and multi-vehicle – 55% of the trucks or their drivers were the “critical reason” for the crash. In two-vehicle crashes, trucks or their drivers were the “critical reason” in 44% of the crashes. Semi-truck drivers and other commercial vehicle drivers have a duty to maintain road safety and handle their truck properly. When that duty is breached, an accident occurs and victims find themselves turning to Tallahassee truck accident attorneys.
Types of Trucking Accidents on Florida Roadways
There are 274,000 lane miles in Florida, ranking its roadway system the seventh largest in the country. Florida has approximately 1,500 total miles of interstate highways. If you have driven on the east coast’s north – south I-95, through the infamous I-4 corridor, crossed the state through the Florida Everglades on I-75’s Alligator Alley, or driven up or down the Florida Turnpike, you are already aware of the high number of big commercial vehicles commanding the roads, often traveling at breakneck speeds.
More trucks and the vast expanse of roads for them to travel on means more crashes. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were close to 45,000 commercial vehicle crashes in Florida in 2018 alone. By the end of January of 2019, more than 3,000 big trucks had already been in accidents in Florida. Some of the most common — and dangerous — types of commercial vehicles on Florida roadways are:
- Tractor-trailers, often referred to as 18-wheelers, semi trucks, or big rigs
- Heavy haulers that require an escort because they transport loads too large for roads
- Flatbed trucks, often used for transporting lumber
- Tankers, such as oil trucks, have a long tube on the back instead of a trailer to carry liquid cargo
- Cement mixers, the trucks with large cylinders that mix cement as they rotate
- Refrigerator trucks, used to transport perishable items that require refrigeration
- Garbage trucks found in every neighborhood and commercial area
- Dump trucks, often seen traveling to and from construction sites carrying heavy loads of dirt, rock and soil
Most Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents in Florida Fall into Three Categories
When seeking financial compensation after a commercial truck accident, one of the first steps is to determine the cause (or causes) of the collision. Once you know what happened, then you can determine who was at fault, and then you can file a claim to recover your financial and non-financial losses. Most causes of commercial truck accidents will fall into one of three categories:
1. Truck Driver Negligence
As you might expect, a significant percentage of commercial truck accidents are the result of truck driver negligence. While inexperience is often a factor, even highly-experienced career truck drivers can make mistakes – and it only takes a split-second loss of concentration to cause a serious collision. Common forms of truck driver negligence include:
- Aggressive and reckless driving, including speeding and tailgating
- Braking too late or too harshly (which can cause the truck to jackknife)
- Driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, sleep medications, and other drugs
- Driving while fatigued and falling asleep behind the wheel
- Failing to yield, merging without looking, and other driving mistakes
- Running red lights and stop signs
- Talking on the phone, texting, communicating with dispatch, and other forms of distracted driving
When truck driver negligence is to blame for an accident, the driver’s employer (i.e. the trucking company) can be held “vicariously liable” for all victims’ losses. This means that victims can pursue claims against the trucking company instead of pursuing claims against the individual truck driver. In many cases, trucking companies can also face direct liability for mistakes such as hiring inexperienced drivers and forcing their drivers to spend too many hours behind the wheel.
2. Truck-Related Factors
In some cases, issues with the truck itself will make it difficult (if not impossible) for the truck driver to avoid a dangerous accident. With the sheer size and weight of 18-wheelers, tractor trailers, tankers and other large commercial trucks, all types of issues have the potential to cause serious consequences. Examples of truck-related factors that can cause and contribute to commercial trucking collisions include:
- Exceeding the truck’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)
- Failing to perform necessary truck maintenance
- Failing to pressurize liquid cargo
- Failing to secure cargo
- Loading cargo with an unequal weight distribution
- Negligent truck maintenance or repair work
- Truck defects (i.e. defective tires, brakes, or cargo straps or ties)
Depending on the specific issue involved, the trucking company, shipping company, truck manufacturer and various other companies could all be liable for victims’ injuries. While many claims involving truck-related factors are based on the law of negligence, in some cases, accident victims and families will be entitled to compensation based on the law of “strict liability.” While proof of negligence is not required in strict liability cases, there are other factors that make these cases particularly challenging. At Searcy Denney, we are well-known for our strict liability practice, and we have won substantial verdicts on behalf of trucking accident victims and other clients across the country. Speak with a Tallahassee truck accident lawyer at our firm today.
3. Third-Party Liability
While most commercial trucking accidents involve truck driver negligence and other truck-related factors, there is also a strong possibility of other factors coming into play. When we investigate truck accidents in Tallahassee and the surrounding areas, our lawyers thoroughly examine all of the available evidence in order to identify all of the parties that are responsible for our clients’ losses. For example, depending on the circumstances involved, in addition to the types of claims listed above, victims and families may also be entitled to financial compensation for:
- Construction debris, signs, and other road hazards and visual obstructions
- Defects and maintenance issues affecting other vehicles involved in the collision
- Negligence on the part of other drivers involved in the collision
- Road design, construction, and maintenance issues
- Other forms of negligence and strict liability
Types of Commercial Accidents Our Tallahassee Truck Accident Lawyers Handle
The term “jackknifing” describes a truck accident in which the large semi-truck or 18-wheeler pushes the front towing vehicle to one side while the trailer it is towing moves to another. This kind of accident can lead to multiple lanes of traffic being affected, causing multi-car and pile-up accidents that can lead to multiple serious injuries and fatalities.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported some 4,862 fatal truck crashes in 2018 alone. There were 112,000 crashes that led to injury and some 414,000 crashes that resulted in property damage alone. A key cause of these truck crashes is noted as being “by jackknife occurrence.” Truck drivers are trained to drive safely and responsibly, which includes managing the weight of the truck and guarding against the risk of jackknife accidents.
Overload-Related Truck Crashes
Large trucks operate higher and heavier than passenger motor vehicles, leading to substantial dangers according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. If a truck is overloaded, the ability of the driver to effectively brake and maneuver the truck is markedly reduced, increasing the likelihood of rollover accidents and collisions. When a truck collides with a traditional passenger motor vehicle, the risk of serious injury or death is markedly higher for the occupants of the vehicle. Truck drivers have a duty to be attentive and safe while driving.
Distracted Driving Causes Truck Accidents
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of all motor vehicle accidents on the road today. Common examples of distracted driving include:
- Talking while driving
- Texting while driving
- Using the in-dash display
- Applying make-up
How do you prove if the driver that hit you was distracted? By collecting evidence, which can include “black box” tracking data, as we’ll consider briefly below.
Drowsy or Fatigued Truck Drivers are Liable for Damages they Cause
Driving an 18-wheeler or semi-truck is demanding work that requires careful and attentive driving. The demands on an increasingly under-staffed trucking industry, however, have led to increased work for truck drivers. Regardless of how much work might be available, trucking companies are still required to provide their drivers enough time off between shifts to ensure adequate rest to protect against drowsy driving.
The risks of drowsy driving include:
- Decreased response time
- A negative impact on decision-making ability
If a truck driver is drowsy when they hit you, they may be held liable for the damages associated with the accident and any injuries that you might experience. How do you know whether or not the truck driver was given enough time off between shifts? Was the truck driver out the night before drinking until the early hours of the morning before driving? The answers to these questions determine whether you’ll have to pay all the bills related to your accident and injuries or if you’ll be covered.
Your Truck Accident Lawyer Collects Evidence to Prove Liability
When you are injured in an accident with a truck, you can only collect compensation for your damages if the truck driver, trucking company, or some other third-party is proven to be liable for the accident. A party is proven to be liable when the evidence shows that they were negligent in their actions.
Negligence is a complex legal term with four parts: duty, breach, causation, and damages, as we’ll explain through an example below. To prove it, the unique facts, circumstances, and evidence of your case will be applied to the four parts of negligence. While this might seem complex, the Tallahassee truck accident lawyers from Searcy Denney have decades of combined experience helping persons injured in truck accidents collect what they deserve.
A truck driver is negligent and liable for the damages from an accident if:
- They have a duty like following the speed limit or not overloading their truck
- That duty was breached by speeding or overloading
- The breach caused the accident with you
- The accident resulted in damages like medical costs or lost earnings
Your truck accident lawyer will use legal instruments like requests for production, interrogatories, depositions, and other measures to gather evidence in support of your case, to both prove liability and fully measure your damages.
The “Black Box” Can Provide Invaluable Evidence for Your Case
How do you know if a truck driver was texting before they hit you? Was the driver given enough time off between shifts to ensure they were rested and not driving drowsy? Given that a truck is higher than most automobiles, SUVs, or vans, it is almost impossible for you to have been looking into the truck’s cab in the moments before you were hit.
Your Tallahassee truck accident lawyer will collect evidence from the trucking company and the “black box” technology they use to track trucker productivity. Every moment that a commercial trucker is on the road, more often than not, their employers have a computer system installed in the truck to track their speed, distance, and whether or not their eyes are focused on the road. The “black box” registers any moments that the driver is “driving blind”, which means they are not paying attention to the road, and driving unsafely and irresponsibly.
Your Attorney Gathers Evidence to Measure Your Damages
You can only collect for an accident that you can prove was caused by someone or something else, as we discussed above. When that is done, you’ll only be able to get compensation for damages that you can also prove with evidence.
How do you accurately measure and calculate the lifetime medical costs linked to your injuries, including all medications, treatments, and other measures? What is the financial cost of any disabilities from your injuries for the remainder of your working life?
The answers to those questions can be obtained through follow-up appointments with medical experts, which your Tallahassee truck accident lawyer can schedule on your behalf to make it easy for you. We have a local network of medical and occupational experts to provide accurate estimates to be used as evidence in support of complete compensation for your injuries.
FAQs: Your Tallahassee Truck Accident Lawyer is Here to Answer Your Questions
Why are trucks so much more dangerous than other vehicles?
A commercial tractor-trailer can weigh over 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. This long, heavy vehicle takes much longer to stop than the consumer vehicles most of us are used to driving, and the design creates huge blind spots for the driver. Other drivers on the road often fail to take account of the reduced maneuverability, and they may weave in and out of traffic in a way that causes a truck driver to have to brake too suddenly, sending the truck out of control. A Tallahassee truck accident lawyer knows that if a truck veers out of position for any reason and collides with a passenger vehicle weighing only 3-5,000 pounds, the smaller vehicle can easily be crushed, resulting in serious injuries to the occupants.
Is the driver the only one who can be held responsible for a truck accident?
Even when a driver is primarily at fault for a truck accident, the actions of the trucking company or other parties involved may have contributed to the problem, which could enable a Tallahassee truck accident lawyer to hold these companies liable for injuries resulting from the accident. For instance, if a driver was operating while fatigued because they were pressured to do so by others, those parties could be held accountable. Of course, if the actions of third parties such as maintenance companies or the owners of vehicles who dropped debris on the road also contributed to the cause of the accident, they can be held liable as well. If an accident victim’s own conduct contributed to causation, they can still recover compensation from others involved, but the amount of compensation they receive will be reduced to account for their share of comparative negligence.
How long do I have to bring a claim for a truck accident?
For most vehicle accident cases, including car and truck accidents, injured victims must prepare and file a claim within four years. However, it is best to begin working with a Tallahassee truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after the accident to give your legal representative the best opportunities to locate and preserve evidence while it is fresh. Evidence providing causes of the accident is necessary for insurance claims and settlements as well as in situations where a case goes to court.
What types of injuries typically result from truck accidents?
Truck accident victims frequently suffer from injuries such as:
- Damage to the spine and spinal cord
- Neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
In many cases, these injuries lead to lifelong pain, disability, disfigurement, and even death. A Tallahassee truck accident lawyer works to ensure that victims and their families receive compensation to offset their substantial losses.
What happens if I’m in an accident with a rented truck?
Consumers and businesses routinely rent trucks of all sizes. The operators of these vehicles can be held liable for negligence in operation, but the company renting the vehicle may also share in the liability, particularly if they did not ensure that the operator was qualified to rent the vehicle or that the vehicle was in proper operating condition.
How Our Tallahassee Truck Accident Lawyers Can Help
During a truck crash investigation, the experienced Florida truck accident lawyers at Searcy Denney take effective steps to determine if the driver was using a cell phone or participating in some other form of distracted driving at the time of your accident.
- Our expert analyzes the black box data for erratic driving behavior, such as swerving, wild steering corrections, or failing to brake.
- Our truck crash attorneys meticulously watch the driver’s dash-cam for signs of distracted conduct.
- We can even subpoena phone records to pinpoint the times the driver sent and received phone calls and text messages.
The trucking company and their insurance carrier have every incentive to offer you a lowball settlement. Their job is to minimize the costs of their driver’s mistakes. And yet, the corporation is usually culpable for the driver’s errors — for example, hiring an unqualified driver, pressuring the driver to speed or text, failing to maintain the truck or encouraging false hours of service log entries.
We have substantial resources and special knowledge to investigate complex truck accident cases. You face many challenges in the weeks, months and years after your 18-wheeler wreck, but our personal injury lawyers in Tallahassee will handle every aspect associated with recovering and examining the evidence surrounding your accident to help you recover the compensation you are entitled to. Give our firm a call and schedule a consultation with a top Tallahassee truck accident attorney.