Any accident involving a truck can be fatal and terrifying. The massive weight and magnitude of the trucks explain why the crashes they are involved in can be dangerous to both the truck driver and the victim. If you have been involved in a truck accident, you deserve to get the right compensation based on whether you were liable for the accident or not. However, it is hard to get proper compensation without involving a professional attorney. We at the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney have committed ourselves to ensure you get compensated as you deserve. Even so, you need to familiarize yourself with relevant information about truck accidents.
Types of Vehicles Classified as Trucks
Before going further, it is essential to understand the kind of trucks common in Florida roads. They include a wide variety of vehicles designed to handle the demands of the industry. The trucks are as follows:
Passenger buses ferry people from one point to the other. They include commercial bus lines, charter buses, tour buses, and transit buses.
These are the types of trucks used to handle specific jobs. Some of the examples include cement trucks, dump trucks, and furniture trucks.
The main characteristic of the tractor-trailer is its 18 wheels. They are also referred to as semi-trucks,18 wheelers, and big rigs. There is a combination of both trailers and semi-trailers, which are the common types found on the highways.
Tractor-trailers contain different types of trailers, such as tanker trailers used to transport gases and liquid, livestock haulers that ferry livestock, and refrigerator trailers used to transport perishable cargo.
These are transport vehicles used to ferry consumers' products from one point to the other. Common delivery trucks transport essential packages through carrier services such as the U.S Postal Code, UPS, and FedEx. With the rise of online shopping, you will possibly note that there is an increased number of delivery trucks on the roads.
Florida Truck Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the state laws govern the operation of commercial trucks within Florida. The Florida Highway Patrol Office of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (OCVE) is responsible for enforcing the rules and regulations that have been set forth. Florida truck rules and regulations apply in different aspects, as explained below:
Restrictions in Size and Weight
Florida laws are strict to the point of having limitations in the weight and size of their trucks. The regulations are as follows:
- Length - Under Florida regulations, a commercial truck should maintain a 75 foot limit in its length. The rule only restricts vehicles with a particular combination.
- Overhang - Under Florida regulations, commercial vehicles should maintain an overhang of three feet. Even so, the restriction is quite lenient with public vehicles and waste collection and can allow an overhang beyond the limit. However, the regulations on speed are more strict.
- Height - Florida laws provide a height restriction of 13 feet, 6 inches. Automobile transporters have an exception of 14 feet. There are no federal laws that apply in this category.
- Width - Commercial truck owners follow federal regulations to provide a limit in the width of vehicles within their jurisdiction. They maintain a limit of 102 inches, which translates to 8 feet, 6 inches.
- Weight - The maximum weight allowed on both interstate and intrastate highways is 80,000 pounds. However, the actual weight might vary depending on the kind of axles the vehicle has.
Floridians follow the federal hours of service in restricting the number of hours a truck driver can drive consecutively in a specific time without taking any rest. Drivers are required to observe an 11 hour-driving limit when carrying cargo and a 10 hour-driving limit if carrying passengers.
Also, Florida laws provide a restriction of 12 hours for a driver who is carrying property. The hours' restrictions allow the driver to drive for 6-8 days span. Afterward, they should take a 34 hour-break before returning to the 6 to 8 days of consecutive driving.
Regulations on Distracted Driving
Commercial truck drivers within Florida observe federal laws when it comes to distracted driving. Federal laws restrict truckers to text while driving and prohibit the use of hand-held cells as well. The regulations limit the driver to pressing only one button and avoid any other device with additional buttons.
Also, motor carriers should not allow their drivers to carry hand-held cell phones.
Regulations on Alcohol and Drug Test
A trucker and other commercial drivers must give consent to being tested for Blood Alcohol Content( BAC) at any time. Both federal and state laws provide a restriction of 0.04% BAC for commercial drivers.
The Federal laws also prohibit any consumption of alcohol within four hours before driving and eight hours following an accident. When it comes to drugs, there is no amount of drugs allowed on the driver.
Therefore, the federal laws subject the driver to random alcohol and drug testing, especially those who perform safety-sensitive functions. The driver must achieve a negative result to obtain the capacity to drive a vehicle. The driver must also take a drug test after an accident, especially one that resulted in death. In such a case, the driver must register a BAC not exceeding 0.02%. Along with the identification of alcohol, the test must identify whether there is the presence of:
- Amphetamines and Methamphetamines (Meth)
- Phencyclidine – PCP
Regulations on Trucking Companies
Much of the responsibility related to truck safety falls on the trucking company. Some of the rules the trucking companies must observe are:
- Strict adherence to the regulations provided in the Commercial Driver's License Act
- Keep a detailed file of their drivers, which include at least ten years of experience, a copy of the right driver's license, a recent motor vehicle record, and a medical certificate
- Review their drivers' log regularly and take corrective actions. The driver's record should be maintained for at least six months
- Ensure that their vehicle complies with federal regulations related to inspection, repair, and maintenance of their cars
- Comply with safety standards governing factors
Truck Drivers Requirements
A truck driver has the first obligation of applying and obtaining a Commercial Driver's License ( CDL) issued by the state but compliant to the federal laws. The CDL is classified into three classifications, which link to the trucks that the driver can operate. The truck driver usually requires additional testing to transport trucks such as tank vehicles, transport hazardous materials, and operate double or triple trailers.
Leading Causes of Truck Accidents in Florida
As provided by FMCSA, the majority of truck-related accidents result from trucking errors from the driver. In most cases, trucking companies usually keep their drivers under a lot of pressure to perform, which, as a result, leads to poor performance. Also, regulatory bodies put a lot of strict standards on commercial drivers, which in one way or another lead to an accident. Here is a breakdown of significant factors that lead to truck accidents in Florida.
When it comes to judgment, the driver might fail to make the right decision depending on the driving conditions they encounter. For instance, when the truck is speeding, the truck driver might misjudge other vehicles, which are following closely and brake abruptly. If the other driver is not conscious enough, he or she might end up hitting the truck from the back.
In cases of non-performance, the driver fails to adequately perform his/her duties as provided by the trucking company or the law. Some of the factors that can lead to non-performance include sleeping while driving, physical impairment, or a condition such as seizure and heart attack.
Recognition refers to the inability of a driver to recognize the situation at hand and respond accordingly. This kind of failure might result from inattention, a distraction from something inside or outside the truck, and inadequate observation.
Truck performance issues cause problems. Such challenges are a result of panicking, overcompensating particular errors, poor directional control, and overperformance.
These common causes are particularly associated factors that play a significant role in causing an accident. Some of the factors recognized by FMCSA include:
- Unfamiliarity with the road
- Brake problems
- An interruption in traffic flow after a crash happens ahead
- Side effects of prescription drugs
- Encountering mechanical issues on the way
- Driver fatigue
Common Tractor-Trailer Accidents in Florida
Every kind of truck accident that happens is usually unique in its way. There are specific sets of circumstances that lead to accidents prompting the unique nature of the accidents. Some of the common types of accidents include:
Rollover accidents are terrifying and exceedingly dangerous. In this sort of accident, the vehicle flips when it curbs another car or object, where it loses its momentum. Other factors that lead to the rollover accident include slippery roadways, speeding, and unsafe driving.
Jack-knife accidents affect the two connected parts of a truck, the driver's cab, which contains the engine, and the massive trailer which carries the load. As the trucks are on the move, the driver has a role in maneuvering the vehicle while both parts remain in tandem. However, if the truck loses control, there is a possibility of a jackknife accident, which makes the trailer to fold on the cab. This kind of accident is close to the action of a jack-knife blade.
An underride accident is a terrifying accident of all. It involves the rear vehicle that is following closely to the truck plunging to its big rig or underbelly from behind. In most cases, the roof of the smaller vehicle shears off, which, as a result, leads to a total fatality of the occupants.
A semi-trailer is usually a lot heavier compared with common non-commercial vehicles. Therefore, they require a longer stopping range. According to FMCSA reports, a truck requires a distance that equals two football fields placed end to end to come to a safe halt while on highway speed.
However, if the vehicle has a heavy load and overweight hauls, inclement weather and speeding require a considerable stoppage distance, which can lead to a rear-end collision if the car in front is at close range.
Liable Parties in Truck Accidents
The trucking industry has a lot of players, and it can be hard to determine who is responsible for an accident. Naturally, determining who is liable for an accident is quite hard and requires the investigating officer to be thorough with the investigations to be sure of the responsible party. Here is a list of all liable parties in a truck accident.
The truck driver stands to be the number one liable party in an accident. Most of them cause an accident due to their negligence while operating the truck. Truck drivers who work on contracts carry their insurance policies. However, even though they might lack a separate insurance policy, they stand to be liable for the accident.
The Trucking Company
Most truck drivers do not own the trucks they operate. Most of them work under a trucking company that hires them permanently or under contract to offer services within a specific period. The trucking company might also assume the responsibility of an accident if all investigations point out that they were at fault. Under Florida law, the trucking companies should have their vehicle insurance with them even though they are not directly involved in driving them.
The Trailer Owner
In some cases, you might find that the trailer owner is different from the driver's cabin. This means that the trucking company probably hired the trailer to handle a job. In such a case, the trailer owner can be liable for an accident if the trailer did not have proper signage and safety devices needed to minimize the possibility of a crash.
The cargo owner can also play the part of the liable party in case of a truck accident. For instance, if the cargo being ferried falls when in transit, which results in an accident, the cargo owner might be responsible for the accident. Cargo owners also carry their insurance to protect their cargo.
Truck Repair and Maintenance Parties
Semi-trucks are complicated machines that require frequent repairs and maintenance. However, if the party responsible for such a task fails to handle the duties responsibly, their errors or negligence might lead to an accident. For such cases, they end up taking responsibility for the accident.
Outside parties represent the federal and state agencies responsible for the safety responsible for various aspects related to trucking. For instance, the federal government is responsible for ensuring the highways are well-marked and maintained. In case an accident occurs due to poor maintenance of the roads, then they become accountable for the accident.
How to Determine Liability After a Truck Accident
There is a lot of complexity involved in determining who is liable for a truck accident due to the numerous parties involved in such an incident. However, the truck owner or another party takes the lion's share even when the truck driver was negligent of his/her duties.
Under Florida law, the truck owner is deemed liable for the accident if the negligence portrayed by the driver was unintentional and occurred within the scope of employment. This is explained in an old-aged legal principle known as respondeat superior (a Latin phrase meaning let the superior answer), which holds the company owner liable for the accident caused by one of their driver employees.
Elements of a Respondeat Superior
For a victim or his/her attorney to successfully hold a trucking company for the damages caused by their trucks, they should prove a couple of things.
Proof that the Driver was an Employee of a Trucking Company
The injured person should prove the driver was an employee of the responsible trucking company rather than working as an independent contractor. This consideration is essential to avoid holding an independent contractor liable for an accident. An independent contract driver usually works under his/her own rules rather than receiving and following the instructions provided by the employee.
Ensure the Accident Happened Within the Scope of Employment
It can be hard to determine whether a particular act happened within the scope of employment. However, the court provides the following aspect to determine the scope of the accident:
- The intention of the driver during the accident
- The time and place of the driver's conduct
- The kind of job that the driver was hired to handle
- Incidental acts that the trucking driver expected the driver to do
- The amount of freedom allowed on the driver while performing his/her duties
- The amount of time used to handle personal activities
If the truck accident happened outside the provided scope of employment, the driver becomes liable due to negligence. On the other hand, if everything was within the scope of work, you should raise your claims based on the following factors:
- Fatigued truck driver
- Overspeeding to meet unreasonable delivery deadlines
- Under-trained truck drivers
- Poor truck maintenance
- Poor truck inspection
- Intoxicated or drunk truck drivers
- Improper loading of the truck
Intentional Acts of the Driver
Under Florida law, a deliberate act of causing a truck accident becomes an intentional tort. Intentional torts include crimes such as battery, kidnapping, and assault. The trucking company or employer is not liable for the acts since the rationale of the scope of employment is not met in such an action.
Accidents Involving a Pedestrian
The Florida laws understand that trucks are dangerous to pedestrians more than the pedestrian is to the trucks. Therefore, the law provides leeway to the pedestrian during a collision despite being at fault. This does not mean that the driver usually has the upper hand after an accident. If the pedestrian is in violation of a Florida Traffic law and ends up getting involved in an accident, then he/she might be at fault.
Passengers Rights in a Commercial Vehicle
Passengers riding in a commercial vehicle can end up severely injured. They have the same right to reimbursement for their damages, just like any other victim. Therefore, the insurance company involved in the compensation should consider the passengers involved in the accident.
Damages for a Truck Accident
Under Florida laws, any party found liable for the truck accident should compensate the victim with a monetary amount equivalent to the damages sustained. Even so, trucking companies and insurance carriers usually put a strong legal claim against such requirements. With a strong defense strategy, you can recover fair financial compensation. The financial compensation cover damages for:
- Medical expenses
- Emergency Room Care
- Lost Wages
- Diminished earning ability
- Mental anguish
- Long-term disability
- Wrongful death
Statute of Limitations in a Truck Accident
There is a limited time to bring a legal claim related to a truck accident. Florida laws provide four years to bring the case to court after the date of the crash. The four-year limit applies to victims who sustained injuries after the accident. If the victim died from the injuries sustained from the accident, claimants have a two years limit to bring the case to court.
Since victims usually bring such cases to court after failing to agree with the at-fault insurance company, the victim should file the lawsuit within the years since it is the only time that one has. Remember that the timeline applies after the accident, which disregards your negotiations with the at-fault insurance firm.
Contact a Clay County Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
There is a lot of complexity involved in claiming compensation as a victim of a truck accident. Therefore, it is always advisable to seek professional attorney intervention who can help you get the right compensation. If you are living within Clay County, FL, Clay County Personal Injury Attorney is the best legal representative to consider if you are involved in a truck accident. With over 55 years of experience, we can guarantee excellence and professionalism in our services. Contact us today at 904-494-8242 to get a free case evaluation.