A spate of serious and fatal Florida truck accidents has drawn attention to the fact that such collisions are on the rise – here and across the country, prompting safety officials and trucking carriers to weigh possible solutions.
State and federal crash data show that large semi-trucks are a substantial part of the reason Florida drivers face so much danger on thoroughfares like I-75.
In a single recent year, there were more than 4,300 large truck accidents just in Florida alone – more than 70 percent of those being the occupants of other vehicles, thanks to the size disparity between semis and passenger cars. In 2017, there were nearly 32,000 large truck crashes in the U.S.
As our Fort Myers truck accident lawyers can explain, part of making our roads safer in the face of increasing commercial truck presence is holding accountable the drivers, trucking carriers, shippers and other parties responsible when their negligence causes or contributes to the seriousness of a crash.
Sometimes, that accountability happens in criminal court. That’s the case in North Fort Myers, where a commercial truck driver ran a red light and killed another motorist, age 61, in June. Now, the 31-year-old trucker has been charged with reckless driving and vehicular homicide.
However, change can also come about from civil damage awards. Although civil cases, in general, are intended to be compensatory and not punitive, the damage awards in these cases are a proven incentive for trucking companies to adhere to federal regulations – in some cases, taking initiative to take additional safety precautions in the future.
U.S. Truck Crash Causes
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that fatigue, alcohol impairment and speed are the primary causal factors in large truck accidents that prove fatal. Other catalysts include:
- Brake problems
- Traffic flow interruption (congestion, previous crash)
- Prescription drug use
- Traveling too fast for conditions
- Unfamiliarity with roadway
- Roadway problems
- Required to stop before crash (traffic control device, crosswalk)
- Over-the-counter drug use
- Inadequate surveillance
Government Efforts to Curb Truck Accidents
Since the 1990s, the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended additional safety features on large trucks nearly a dozen times. Specifically, forward crash avoidance and mitigation systems sometimes referred to as advanced driver assistance systems. These kinds of technology alerts, as well as emergency takeover functions, are increasingly offered in feature lists on new rigs sold – but they have yet to be mandatory by regulation.
Attempting to tackle this issue, the Florida Department of Transportation launched a study to determine whether constructing additional vehicle lanes was a viable option to improve safety on I-75. Researchers concluded this was not feasible due to impacts on the environment and cultural sites.
This makes adoption of truck safety features all the more important.
Costs of Florida Truck Accidents
Some trucking companies have voluntarily made this a priority, partially anticipating eventual regulation and partially because Florida truck accidents can be very costly for them too.
Among the costs incurred by carriers for truck crashes:
- Workers’ compensation paid to injured truckers;
- Property damage to the rig;
- Loss of cargo belonging to shippers, which carriers often insure;
- Liability insurance settlements/verdicts stemming from personal injury/wrongful death lawsuits.
Per Title 59, Section 387 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations, commercial trucks with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or more with non-hazardous cargo, must maintain a minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance. Trucks carrying dangerous materials are required to maintain between $1 million and $5 million. Smaller trucks not carrying hazardous cargo are required to maintain at least $300,000.
These might seem like substantial sums, but those are per-accident amounts – meaning they can be divided among all who are injured or families of those killed, possibly reducing the per-person compensation. Further, Florida truck accidents have the potential to cause catastrophic injuries, with losses easily in the six-figures. Sometimes, even those seemingly large sums aren’t enough to cover the full extent of one’s losses.
Our Fort Myers truck accident attorneys do all we can to fight for full and fair compensation of each of our injury and wrongful death clients.
If you are injured in a Fort Myers truck accident, contact our injury attorneys at the Garvin Law Firm at 800.977.7017 for your free initial consultation.
Why aren’t we talking about the high number of fatal semi-truck accidents? Sept. 2019, Miami Herald Editorial Board