UNDERSTANDING AND DEALING WITH TRUCK ACCIDENTS IN FLORIDA
The best truck accident lawyers in Miami-Dade understand that an accident involving a truck can result in damages and injuries that will require legal representation by a professional truck accident attorney. Why? Because over half a million trucking accidents occur yearly across the U.S., with roughly 10% of those truck accidents ending in fatality. Furthermore, filing an insurance claim for compensation against an insurance company is no walk in the park, as insurance providers are in the business of making money not spending it. Thus, insurance companies will most often offer accident victims a settlement which is lower than their real claim value. Only a dedicated and experienced truck accident lawyer will be able to maximize an insurance claim and make sure just compensation is granted to the accident victim.
In Miami, a truck accident on a congested street can affect, not only other motorists, but also bikers, joggers, pedestrians, and anyone making their way amid traffic. This is because city streets are now designed for trucks, and neither is today’s modern society; which spends more time looking down at their phones rather than where their going. In other words, cell phones are distracting people when they are walking, driving, eating, and partaking in any activity in which their hands has access to their phones. Texting and driving among passenger cars, for example, is one of the leading causes of traffic accidents in Miami. A truck driver negligently using a cellphone to text & drive, or that is distracted by a GPS service, can easily be involved in an accident. At present, private and commercial vehicles are relying heavily on GPS service such as Google Maps and Waze to help them reach their destination more quickly. This has led to a rise in traffic along suburban streets and a cause for concern among rural communities as well.
COMMON CAUSES OF TRUCK ACCIDENTS ON CITY STREETS
- Negligent truck drivers or other motorists
- Negligent third-parties such as bikers or pedestrians
- Poor vehicle maintenance
- Poorly loaded cargo
- Poor weather conditions
- Poorly lit streets or roads
- Reckless driving or driving under the influence
- Negligent cell-phone use by people in general
TRUCKS AND THE LAW
Though Miami truck accident lawyers know that accidents on high speed roads and highways are much more severe than on city streets, victims usually suffer injuries and damages that require legal representation. Furthermore, delivery businesses are growing, and commercial vehicles are required to carry insurance and meet certain safety standards. For example, truck drivers are limited to the number of hours they may spend behind the wheel and small business must use trucks of certain dimensions. Furthermore, small business operators must meet Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulations, which includes random drug testings of their drivers and mandatory testing after a fatal accident. Commercial truckers must have a commercial driver’s license to operate trucks with a gross weight over 26,000 lbs or that hauls hazardous substances. Passenger vehicles transporting 16 or more people, must also have a driver that holds a commercial driver’s license.
TRUCKS AND INSURANCE COVERAGE
As with all motor vehicles, trucking companies and truck owners, must carry insurance with which to compensate victims that suffer injury or loss. In Florida, registered vehicle owners must carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage (PD). However, different laws apply to truck operators and trucking company owners.
There are seven common truck insurance policies that commercial trucks can carry. They are:
- General Liability Insurance
- Trucking Liability Insurance
- Non-Trucking Insurance
- Bobtail Insurance
- Physical Damage Insurance
- Motor Truck Cargo Insurance
- Worker’s Compensation Insurance
General Liability Insurance: Covers injuries and damage to third-parties when it involves an accident that is not linked to the operating of a truck. This may include an individual that trips and falls over a box or has an accident classified as a business risk.
Trucking Liability Insurance: Covers third-party injuries and damages when the truck driver is found at fault for a trucking accident. The minimum amount of liability insurance stands at $750,000 for vehicles operating along interstate roadways and that carry non-hazardous substances.
Non-Trucking Insurance: Covers third-party injuries and damages when a truck is being operated for reasons that go beyond business purposes; such as drivers hired by a trucking company that have accident while not providing a service.
Bobtail Insurance: Protects a semi-truck owner while operating their truck for business purposes and with no cargo aboard; for example: between jobs, on route to a pick up or following a drop off, or after work. As opposed to the other three types of insurance above, Bobtail insurance covers legal fees in the event of a lawsuit brought on against the truck driver or owner.
Physical Damage Insurance: Covers the cost of repairs from damages brought on by an accident, a natural disaster, theft, or vandalism. It is highly recommended though not required by law unless a truck is financed or leased.
This type of insurance can include:
- Collision Insurance
- Comprehensive (see Insurance Policies).
Motor Truck Cargo Insurance: Covers liability for the cargo being hauled in the event it is damaged or lost. Though not legally mandated, it is highly recommended for commercial vehicle operators transporting goods which may be damaged as a result of:
- A collision
- A fire or explosion
- Theft or vandalism
- Loss of refrigeration or heat
Worker’s Compensation Insurance: Covers the employee’s medical expenses and lost wages from injuries sustained in a trucking accident. Though not mandatory in all states, it covers:
- Severe injury following an accident
- Injuries as a result of the loading or unloading of the cargo hauled
- Falling ill from being exposed to hazardous substances
WHAT TO DO FOLLOWING AN ACCIDENT INVOLVING A TRUCK
-Do not give a statement.
-Do not move or let anyone move you, or your car, unless there is a threat of further injury. Wait for the paramedics and the police.
-Seek medical care and give a complete description of all injuries immediately following the car accident.
-If no injuries are evident, take pictures of all damage to the vehicles involved in the car accident (and photograph the VIN and license plate for identification)
-Take pictures of injuries (all cuts, bruises, wounds, burns or other injuries no matter how small as the insurance company may dispute that a specific part of the body was injured or affected by the accident later on.
-Gather all of the trucking company’s insurance policies and Group Health Insurance information to assist with the processing of payment for your treatment and lost wages while your claim against the negligent party is ongoing.
-Notify your insurance company of the trucking accident (your auto insurance policy requires that you contact them immediately after the accident and failure to do so may jeopardize your coverage).
-Visit your family doctor for a follow-up.
-Contact the Perazzo Law Firm as soon as possible.
THE TYPES OF VEHICLES INVOLVED IN TRUCK ACCIDENTS
- Tractor trailers
- Semi Rigs
- Big Rigs
- 18-Wheel Rigs
- Delivery Trucks
- Tow trucks
- Dump Trucks
- Trash Trucks
- Long Distance Buses
- Emergency Rescue Vehicles
- Road Maintenance Trucks
- Ride-share Trucks
- Transit Buses
- And more…
What To Know If You Have Been Injured In a Truck Accident
The State of Florida, due to its geography, is a center of trade given its number of ports and airports. A high volume of goods moves into and out of the state every day. Most of the transportation over land involves semi trucks, which can carry everything from produce to heavy construction equipment. Large transport vehicles are far more difficult to maneuver and operate than lighter passenger vehicles given their size and turn radius. In addition, the height of the trucks, long stopping distance and the extent of the blind spots of the driver make collisions with passenger vehicles far more fatal then other types of car accidents.
Trucking law involving personal injury fall within the category of negligence. That is the injured party, who may subsequently become a plaintiff, would have to prove the four elements of negligence, that is duty, breach, causation and damages. To prove the driver/operator of a truck was negligent, the injured party must prove that party had a duty, which was breached through some action or failure to act and resulted in damages. This standard is also shared with car accidents to do not involve a heavy truck.
However, truck accidents, unlike those involving passenger vehicles, may also involve not only traffic laws and civil liability rules but also the rules established by the Department of Transportation and also the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Trucking accidents often are a result of active negligence such as excessive speed, failure to observe distance with surrounding vehicles, driving under the influence of sleep suppressing drugs. Additionally, accidents may be caused by transporting excessive cargo loads and failing observe to observe all safety regulations while transporting dangerous cargo.
A large number of truck accidents are also caused by inaction. Trucks are commercial vehicles generating revenue when they are in service transporting goods. As such, these vehicles are under constant stress and require frequent maintenance and repairs. Unfortunately, many repairs are overlooked or delayed in order to avoid incurring extra costs. Moreover, a defective part may also cause the operator to lose control of the truck and also result in the trailer becomes detached mid transport causing significant damage.
Trucking accidents may become very complicated due to the large number of parties involved. Those liable for the accident may be the operator of the truck, the employer, the owner of the dangerous cargo and even the manufacturer of the truck or any of its part if they contributed to causing the accident. Due to the complexity of tracking accident litigation, it is important to consult an experienced attorney to preserve your rights and to seek just compensation for the damages and injuries caused.
At The Perazzo Law Firm, we pride ourselves in representing the people of Florida and their families. We will always put our clients’ needs at the forefront of the fight against the insurance industry. Our Miami personal injury lawyers have dedicated their entire careers in fighting for your rights. Whether you seek compensation for injuries, fighting for justice for wrongful arrest or looking for a home, you can rest assured our lawyers will be there for you.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury, we encourage you to call us at 786 LAWS-411 (786-529-7411) to set up a FREE consultation to discuss your legal rights
Trucking Company and Truck Driver Safety
Taking to the wheel of a semi, tractor trailer, or 18-wheeler requires much more than driver awareness; it also requires proper safety measures on behalf of the trucking company and all those in charge of vehicle maintenance and loading or unloading the freight to be transported. Trucks carrying heavy cargo or hazardous materials that can jeopardize the health or wellbeing of other motorists or society, must abide by strict measures and ensure proper loading and unloading procedures. Cargo must meet the required weight limits by not exceeding their load capacity. Furthermore, cargo must be securely fastened, and precautionary steps should be taken in the event of an accident or an unexpected or aggressive maneuver that ends in a rollover or cargo spillage. Hazardous materials such as chemical substances, fuels, or other liquids, must be properly loaded and transported in containers that are prepared to withstand the impact from an accident or controlled if spilled onto roadways. Though driver negligence is top of mind when it comes to a trucking accident, they are not always at fault. Third-party negligence plays a huge part in many trucking accidents on Florida roadways. Poor weather conditions may also place truck drivers at high risk of suffering an accident. Large rigs that are hauling heavy cargo are very difficult to maneuver under heavy rains or poor road conditions in which they must make aggressive maneuvers such as sudden stops or diversions. In this article we will look at some of the causes behind trucking accidents and how they can be adverted.
Before looking at some of the reasons behind trucking accidents, it’s important to note that some 500,000 trucking accidents take place every year in the U.S.A. Sadly, close to 10% of those in tragically and with some 800 truck drivers killed yearly from truck related accidents. This is because when a truck slams into a passenger vehicle or motorcycle, the chances of suffering a fatality are very high, especially when accidents occur at high speeds and on highways or in rural areas; which account for close to 65% of all fatal trucking accidents. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, passenger vehicles represent 98% of all truck accident victims. Nevertheless, truck drivers and trucking companies are not always at fault. Let’s look:
Trucking and Poor Weather Conditions
Though operating a motor vehicle amid poor weather conditions requires much greater care and attention, it is not always the cause of trucking accidents. In fact, more trucking accidents happen on dry roads under clear skies than in bad weather and wet roads. Why? Basically, because velocities increase when road conditions are good and speed is a determining factor behind almost all accidents, regardless if they involve trucks, cars, or motorcycles. Vehicles traveling at high speeds are much harder to slow down or handle in case sudden maneuvers are required to advert an accident or prevent a collision. Sadly, large trucks, especially those hauling heavy cargo, are much harder to handle and many times must collide in order to avoid losing control of the vehicle, which may cause a rollover accident and spillage of its cargo. Cargo that spills onto roadways may cause even further mayhem and result in more vehicles colliding. Furthermore, truck drivers, especially those that drive cautiously, operate their trucks at lower speeds under poor road or weather conditions. This helps them lower their chances of being involved in a trucking accident. However, that doesn’t always hold true for truck drivers that operate their vehicle negligently by driving while fatigued, under the influence, or even distracted by cell-phone use. Spending long hours behind the wheel and under poor weather conditions can increase fatigued and lead to distraction. Truck drivers must always stay alert, regardless of the weather. However, when the weather is poor, third party negligence by other motorists plays a huge part. Passenger vehicles such as sportscars and SUV drivers tend to disregard poor weather and operate at speeds not recommended for poor road conditions. Braking and handling are very important issues to consider when operating at high speeds on a highway. Visibility is reduced, thus, a truck operating at a slow speed might appear suddenly before a motorist approaching at a high speed. This will most likely result in a rear-end collision or sudden maneuver which will probably cause an accident involving several vehicle. When trucks are operating along highways or rural roads, it is highly recommended to proceed with caution and drive safely.
Trucking (Dimensions and Cargo)
Trucking companies and operators must make sure that they’re cargo is properly loaded and fastened. There are limits to the amount of weight, height, length, and overall mass of the cargo to be transported from one place to another. Furthermore, trucks, such as semi and tractor-trailers, must abide by Federal controls regarding weight, given that not all highways are designed to withstand the weight of extremely large trucks and their hefty loads. The Federal Government for instance, limits the weight of trucks on interstate highways to 20,000 lbs. for one-axle trucks, and a limit of 34,000 lbs. for dual axle trucks, with the maximum gross weight of a truck and its cargo limited to 80,000 lbs. when operating on the National Network. Though legal dimensions and weights may vary within the US, a vehicle which surpasses the allowed dimensions usually needs a special permit and added fees for legally traveling on roadways, and this may apply to certain schedules and timetables. With regards to the length of semitrailers and semitrailer combinations, they are limited to 59 feet and a truck or pole trailer combo may not surpass 65 feet. A truck and semitrailer combination may not exceed 65 feet in overall length. With regards to height, the limit stands at 13 ft, 6 in. in most states and 14 ft in others. This includes the cargo load dimensions height as well. That said, It is also vital for cargo to be fitted and fastened properly, as well as to make sure any hazardous substances are stored in containers that can absorb impact in the event of an accident that results in cargo spillage or rollover.
Trucking company owners and operators must guarantee that the vehicles operating along US highways and roads are in proper operating conditions. This includes regular maintenance of the trucks most important parts and safety equipment.
This may include:
- Control panels and dash instruments
- Fire or emergency equipment
- GPS services
- And more.
Trucks involved will almost always be subject to investigation by insurance providers and the authorities. If found at fault for operating vehicles which are not road-worthy, the trucking company will have to compensate injured parties and those that have suffered damages or losses as a result from negligence. Trucking companies must make sure the vehicles that take to the road are safe and well-maintained, if not, they will be sued and held legally liable.
Truck Driver Negligence
Human error is behind almost every trucking accident, be it the trucking company’s negligence to make sure their vehicles are safe and properly loaded, to guaranteeing that the driver is mentally and physically sound to operate a large truck on a public highway or street. It goes without saying that truck drivers must endure extreme conditions through fatigued brought about by long hours behind the wheel and on the road, as well as negligence by consuming alcohol or substances that may hinder their ability to drive properly. Whatever the case, truck drivers are exposed to these from of negligence. There are laws that limit the number of hours a driver may operate a truck without resting. In fact, the law states that a driver may not be behind the wheel for more than 168 in a two-week period. In other words, drivers may not drive over 11 hours during a duty period of 14 hours. During said time, the truck driver must rest 30 minutes for every 8 hours of driving. According to the 70–hour rule, a driver may not drive more than 70 hours in a period of 8 days. Though many exceptions apply and rules vary according to the number of hours a driver can operate a truck without stopping for a break, the best rule of thumb for trucking companies is to make sure they hire responsible drivers and limit the hours their drivers will spend behind the wheel by allocating flexible delivery deadlines. This will help ease the stress of arriving on time and give the drivers the freedom to rest when they feel they may nod off at any time.
When behind the wheel of a large truck carrying valuable or hazardous cargo, it’s better to be safe than sorry.