Liability in Commercial Vehicle and Semi-Truck Accidents
Semi Truck Accident Lawyer in Florida
“Semi-truck” is a catch-all name for the largest of commercial trucks: tractor trailers, also called big rigs and 18-wheelers. The name originally comes from the trailer itself; because it has no front wheels, cannot operate independently and must be hauled, it is a “semi” truck. The total length of a semi-truck- trailer combination can be up to 75 feet on national network highways and usually a maximum of 65 feet on non-national network roads. Federal rules prohibit states from reducing acceptable lengths to less than 53 feet on interstate or access roads. Many states, including Florida, impose a 53 foot maximum on roads that are not federally funded.
Big Rig and Semi Truck Accident Statistics
With commercial ports of entry on I-10, I-75 and I-95 on Florida’s highways and suburban streets, accidents involving semi-trucks are an everyday occurrence. In Palm Beach County alone, there are hundreds – if not thousands – of commercial truck accidents every year. The following are important statistics
- About 4% of all registered vehicles in the United States are semi-trucks that carry huge loads of merchandise and equipment, much of it across state lines.
- In 2018, semi-trucks accounted for 9% of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes and 4% of vehicles involved in injury and property-damage-only accidents.
- 98% of accidents involving semi-trucks result in at least one death.
- Fatal semi-truck accidents in the U.S. cost about $20 billion a year, $13.1 billion of this associated with fatalities and loss of quality of life due to injuries.
- For every 100 miles driven on U.S. roads, there are about 2.3 deaths and 60.5 injuries caused by these big rigs.
Extensive data on truck accidents compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (March 2020) indicates that there were 4,951 deaths caused by large truck crashes in 2018 alone, a more than 50% increase over the last ten years. When we add to that the 151,000 truck drivers, passenger car drivers and occupants, and others injured in 2018, this gives us a sense of the suffering wrought by trucks in accident scenarios.
Here at Searcy Denney, we understand that those who have been injured in a truck accident may have sustained losses that have put them in an extremely vulnerable position. Some of our clients may struggle to return to work, reintegrate into their normal social and recreational activities, and — in some cases — simply survive.
Florida Semi Truck Accident Attorneys With Decades of Experience
At Searcy Denney, we bring decades of experience to representing individuals and families who have been injured and lost loved ones in semi-truck accidents throughout Florida. With our focus on personal injury and wrongful death representation and with a large team of attorneys, we have what it takes to fight against the biggest trucking and insurance companies in the industry. We have won millions of dollars for clients in semi-truck accidents, and accumulated more than $5.8 billion in verdicts and settlements across our areas of practice.
Here are just two examples of cases for which our Florida semi-truck accident lawyers have secured substantial settlements:
- A team of Searcy Denney attorneys represented a mother who was severely injured when her van was rear-ended by a semi-truck carrying two loaded trailers. Our investigation revealed that the truck driver did not apply the brakes for more than three seconds after hitting our client’s vehicle, and secured the evidence necessary to refute the defense’s accusations that our client was partially at fault for her own injuries. With the trial approaching, our attorneys were able to successfully negotiate a confidential eight-figure settlement.
- Two attorneys from our litigation team represented the family of a man who was tragically killed when the dump truck in which he was riding was struck by a UPS semi-truck. By obtaining the truck’s black-box data, conducting an exhaustive investigation and performing a full-scale accident reconstruction, our attorneys were able to demonstrate that the UPS driver was negligent in causing the collision. The parties agreed to a $2,850,000 settlement before the close of trial.
This is only a brief glimpse at our success in truck accident claims. Let a semi truck lawyer in Florida from Searcy Denney help you with your claim.
Our Law Firm Can Navigate Complex Employer Liability Situations
The legal strategies and claims brought by those who have been injured in a truck accident may be different than one might expect from a typical car accident. Before our semi truck accident lawyers in Florida explore the various types of truck accidents that you’re likely to encounter on Florida roads, it’s important to understand certain fundamental liability concerns, such as employer liability.
Often, and this is particularly true in cases involving larger trucks and buses, the defendant who caused the accident at-issue is a professional truck driver employed in a commercial capacity. Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to sue and recover from their employer.
Florida employer liability is perhaps better understood separated into two categories: vicarious liability and independent employer negligence.
In Florida, those who are injured due to the negligence of an employee — such as a truck driver — are entitled to bring an action for damages against the employer under the doctrine of vicarious liability. Vicarious liability lets you hold the employer directly responsible for the losses caused by their negligent employees, as long as you can show that the employee was acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time of the accident.
In Florida, employers can also be held separately liable for their own, independent fault contribution to your injuries. For example, if a trucking company fails to perform a background check on one of their drivers, and therefore fails to discover that the driver is unlicensed and has a history of reckless driving, then — if you are injured by their truck driver employee — you could hold the company liable for negligent hiring.
Additionally, trucking companies often overwork their employees and schedule them in such a way that they drive fatigued, exposing others on the road to a serious risk of injury. If you are injured by a trucker who was fatigued at the time of the accident, and further investigation reveals that they were overworked and scheduled in such a way as to negligently limit resting time, you could bring an action for damages against the trucking company. Having a lawyer will help you better assess and understand the circumstances surrounding your accident with a truck driver in Florida.
Common Truck Accident Scenarios Explained By Our Florida Semi-Truck Accident Lawyers
Truck accidents can be quite variable, depending on the circumstances. In one case, a negligent driver may fail to properly secure his cargo, thus leading to falling debris and serious injuries. In another case, a truck driver may be driving in a distracted manner or speeding, thus leading to a T-bone accident. The outcome of your case following a truck accident will depend on the specific circumstances of your accident.
Our semi truck accident lawyers in Florida explore some of the most common types of truck accidents. Consider the following.
Side impact collisions, sometimes referred to as “T-Bone” collisions, can lead to particularly severe injuries, or even death, particularly in the truck accident context, where the impact forces are so significant.
Side impact collisions are so dangerous because they avoid the built-in structures that allow cars and trucks to absorb significant impact forces. Whereas a driver would have several feet of material protecting them in a head-on collision, they have mere inches of protection (i.e., door and pylon) on either side during a T-Bone accident. Depending on the angle of the impact, the defendant’s truck might even make actual physical contact with the plaintiff.
When truck cargo is not properly secured, this can pose a serious risk of injury to others sharing the roadway — including drivers, passengers, and pedestrians — if the cargo load falls out of or off the truck and causes a collision.
It’s important to note that there are regulations concerning cargo loading to ensure that it is adequately secured and will not shift or come loose during truck operation. When any party (driver, cargo loaders, etc.) fails to adhere to the applicable regulations, or otherwise fails to exercise reasonable care in inspecting and handling cargo, then those who are injured by subsequent “lost loads” may have a right of action for damages under Florida law.
Rollover accidents are among the more common types of truck accidents, and they often lead to catastrophic injuries and fatalities. According to a report conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rollover accidents accounted for nearly 25 percent of all truck crash fatalities across the United States.
Oftentimes, the defendant’s liability is clear in a rollover accident lawsuit. Rollovers are generally avoidable if the driver exercises reasonable care and does not attempt to exceed safe operating speeds when making turns. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report found that most rollover accidents occurred in areas where the speed limit was greater than 55 miles per hour.
To know who should be named as the defendant, a lawyer will want to evaluate the facts to determine who or what is responsible for the rollover accident (i.e., unsafe driving by the truck driver, improper loading by a third party, mechanical failure due to faulty production or inspection, or any other reason – or combination of reasons – that could contribute to causing a rollover). Consulting with a semi truck accident lawyer in Florida is an important first step if you have been the victim of a truck rollover accident.
Safety Tips to Avoid a Truck Accident
You can do your part in preventing a semi-truck accident when you find yourself sharing the road with one of these monster tractor trailers.
- Remember that an 18-wheeler has significant limitations that you do not have in a passenger car. For example, a semi-truck cannot maneuver quickly; it cannot accelerate fast or “stop on a dime.” So it is highly dangerous to cut too closely in front of a semi-truck.
- Keep your distance from these big rigs because it is hard to see around them, and it can be even harder for the driver to see you if you are pulling up alongside or passing. If you are trailing too closely, you won’t be able to see potential road hazards such as potholes. You could be in the path of cargo failing off or spilling out of the truck. You may not be able to react quickly enough in the event of a tire blowout, which can be a common occurrence in trucks this size.
- Avoid pulling off on the shoulder in an emergency when the shoulder is not sufficiently wide to keep passing tractor trailers from side-swiping you as they whiz by in the right- hand lane. Either park completely off the road or try to forestall your emergency until you come to a rest area, parking lot, or other ample space.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Searcy Denney
Regardless of the circumstances, if you were injured or a loved one was killed in a semi-truck accident, you deserve to be fairly compensated for your losses. For more information about your rights, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation. We are ready to fight for you, even if we have to take your case to court.
To speak with an experienced semi-truck accident lawyer in Florida, please call (800) 780-8607 or contact us online. Your initial consultation is completely free, and you pay nothing unless we recover compensation for you.