Large truck accidents, frequently resulting in substantial property damage, serious injuries, and fatalities, have a unique set of complicated insurance and liability issues. In fact, collecting financial damages following a Florida truck accident can be much more complicated than a basic car crash crash.
In a single recent year, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported more than 4,100 people died in large truck crashes nationally. Of those, nearly 70 percent were people in other vehicles. Another 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. The number of people killed in large truck crashes rose more than 30 percent just from 2009 to 2019.
After a commercial truck accident, it’s imperative to work with an injury lawyer who has extensive experience handling these types of claims. The reality is that pursuing any claim for personal injuries can become complicated rather quickly, but crashes involving commercial vehicles are often even more complex.
Primary Ways Truck Crash Claims Differ From Other Crash Claims
There are several ways truck accident claims differ from those involving only passenger vehicles. Among those differences:
- The severity of injuries. Truck accident injuries are often very severe. Per the National Safety Council, large trucks account for 4 percent of all registered vehicles, but 10 percent of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes. It makes sense when you consider that transport trucks can outweigh passenger vehicles by 20 to 30 times. Now toss in factors like load volume, breaking capacity, and speed – it’s almost inevitable that the impact of the force is going to be greater than that of a typical crash. The more significant the injuries, the higher the damages claimed. In cases of a death, the decedent’s surviving spouse or dependents can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, pursuant to F.S. 768.21. An experienced civil trial lawyer will understand how to handle arduous disputes that involve sophisticated medical evidence and issues.
- More laws and regulations are applicable to commercial vehicles. Policymakers have long recognized the outsized risks that commercial vehicles pose. That’s why operators and owners of large trucks are held to stringent standards for the licensing, maintenance, and loading of rigs, as well as the screening, training, and monitoring of drivers. For example, federal laws spelled out in 49 CFR Parts 300-399 cover a wide range of rules and safety standards. Hours of Service rules dictate the number of consecutive hours a driver is allowed to be on the road at any given time. This is critical because fatigued driving is an often-cited factor in large truck accidents in Florida. Drowsy driving can be difficult to prove, but evidence of an hours of service rule violation by a truck driver can be used as evidence that the trucker (and/or the employer, trucking carrier, shipper, etc.) is negligent per se, or as a matter of law. If the violation is significant enough, it might even lead to an approval of punitive damages, pursuant to F.S. 768.73.
- The number of parties involved. Lots of Fort Myers car accident claims involve just two parties – the person injured (plaintiff) and the driver alleged at-fault (defendant). And even those can get complicated. But in a truck accident claim, it’s not just the driver and the person injured. Often, even if it’s only the two vehicles, other defendants may include the driver’s employer, the carrier or third-party logistics provider, the shipper/owner of the goods on board, the owner of the vehicle, etc. Trucking contracts can be complicated, and the liability of each party may be dependent on certain factors. The driver owes a duty of care to operate the commercial vehicle with reasonable care. The employer of the driver may be vicariously liable for his/her negligence behind the wheel. They might also be directly negligent for things like negligent hiring and retention, inadequate supervision, or failure to abide by certain federal and state safety regulations. The owner of the vehicle has a responsibility to ensure it’s well-maintained. The carrier has a responsibility to ensure the cargo is properly loaded. There are many different interests involved here. Plus, the number of parties involved could mean there are several applicable insurance policies. Note that federal minimum insurance coverage for interstate trucker insurance is usually somewhere between $750,000 to $1 million. That sounds like a lot, but you’d be surprised how fast it goes when serious injuries are involved, especially with multiple plaintiffs.
With stakes so high in commercial truck accidents, defendants tend to fight back vigorously. It’s critical to have an experienced truck accident attorney advocating on your behalf. Much of the defense of these cases occur early with the trucking companies sending investigators to the scene early to secure evidence and otherwise take steps that strengthen the defense of these claims and make them harder to pursue for the injured party. When you hire a trial lawyer experienced in these type of cases, such as our firm, we also have investigators and crash reconstructionists who arrive at the scene and do the same thing; in the more severe cases our attorneys them selves will usually go to the scene or junkyard before any evidence is destroyed.
Know that even if you were partly responsible for the crash, you can still often collect substantial damages from a negligent trucking company or driver because Florida is a pure comparative fault state. That means your damages are proportionately reduced by your degree of fault – even if you were 99 percent at-fault. (Our goal, however, will be to push back against any finding of comparative fault on your part.) Ultimately, we want to ensure all Florida truck accident victims are fairly compensated for the losses caused by negligent carriers and careless drivers.
If you are injured in Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, Cape Coral, Naples, or Key West, contact Garvin Injury Law at 800.977.7017 for a free initial consultation.
2020 Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus Accident Statistics, October 29, 2020, FMCSA
More Blog Entries:
Overcoming Challenges in Florida Large Truck Accident Cases, Feb. 10, 2021, South Florida Truck Accident Lawyer Blog