Across the United States, truck accidents were responsible for 4,102 deaths in the last year for which statistics are available. Truck accident deaths climbed 30 percent in the years between 2009 and 2017. Florida was among the 10 states with the highest number of truck accident fatalities, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Approximately 107,000 large trucks were involved in collisions that caused injuries nationwide that year.
Accidents involving trucks are some of the most dangerous on the road. Why? First, trucks are larger and heavier than other vehicles. They are roughly 20 to 30 times heavier than cars, for example. As a result, occupants in any vehicle that collides with a truck run a high risk of severe injuries or death.
Collision is not the only risk. Certain errors can cause trucks to overturn. Parts of the truck, debris from the truck, and even flammable fuel from the truck can be spread over the road in all directions, increasing the risk of secondary accidents, collisions with debris, and fire. Trucks are higher than passenger vehicles. As a result, a type of accident called an underride can occur when a vehicle is either backed over by the truck or is caught underneath it.
Because the risk of injuries and death is so great in a truck accident, you need to have an experienced truck accident attorney who will fight aggressively for justice on your side, to ensure that you are treated fairly and receive compensation for any damages.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
Truck drivers drive very long hauls on Florida’s roads. They are often trying to make it to a specific destination by a specific time, or may feel pressured to make it by a certain time. As a result, they may drive faster than the speed limit or faster than it is safe to drive given traffic or weather conditions.
A speeding truck can be deadly. If a truck travels too fast to stop in time or too fast to go on or off a freeway ramp safely, for example, attempts to stop can cause the truck to roll over. While 22 percent of accident deaths in cars are caused by rollovers, more than double that—48 percent—of fatal truck accidents are caused by rollovers.
Speeding can also cause a jack-knife, in which the tractor truck turns perpendicular to its trailer, like an open jack-knife. These can cause great danger to other cars, and even bicyclists and pedestrians.
2. Drowsy or Fatigued Driving
Accidents in which the driver was sleepy or fatigued caused 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths in all vehicles during 2013, the last year for which statistics are available, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, commercial truck drivers are much more likely to be drowsy or fatigued when driving. Trucking companies are subject to regulations requiring their drivers never to drive for more than 11 consecutive hours and to get regular breaks. But some may try to drive longer, or feel that they must to meet the company’s requirements for distance covered.
Being sleepy or fatigued behind the wheel can cause drivers to fall asleep, thus causing accidents. It can also impair judgment and reaction times, which can both lead to accidents.
3. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
Although commercial truck licenses can be suspended if drivers are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), drivers still may use alcohol to excess. Alcohol impairs judgment, reaction times, and motor coordination, all of which can cause accidents.
Some studies have indicated that stimulants may be more common than alcohol use in truck drivers, who may take amphetamines or cocaine to stay awake while driving. Approximately 30 percent of truck drivers say they have driven under the influence of amphetamines. Amphetamines and cocaine can lead to driver aggression, speeding, poor judgment, and unpredictable, unsafe lane changes.
4. Distracted Driving
Distracted driving kills nine people every day in the United States and injures 1,000, according to the CDC. While many people associate the term “distracted driving” with texting or talking on a smartphone, distracted driving is in fact anything that takes a truck driver’s attention off the road, including daydreaming, reaching for a snack, or looking at a map.
5. Failure to Check for Blind Spots
Trucks have blind spots that are much larger than those in a car. They have blind spots on the left and right where they can’t see a passing passenger car, and also in front of their cabs and directly behind their trailers. While experienced commercial truck drivers know to compensate for these blind spots, drivers with less experience, or those with impaired judgment, may fail to clear those blind spots, resulting in accidents.
6. Improper Maintenance
All vehicles need proper maintenance to be safe, and trucks are no exception. Poor brakes, for example, can cause deadly accidents, as can poor maintenance of other features of the truck. Maintenance is sometimes subcontracted out by trucking companies.
7. Improper Loading
Truck cargo poses a danger to truckers and others on the road if it isn’t properly loaded. An unbalanced load can make it difficult for a driver to control a truck. It can also cause a tendency to roll over or jack-knife more easily, particularly if speeding occurs.
8. Inadequate Training
Large commercial trucks like 18-wheelers and tractor-trailers are very complicated to drive. Driving a car or other type of vehicle does not make a person competent or qualified to drive a commercial truck.
Training procedures are lengthy and complex as a result. An inadequately trained driver may not fully understand how to operate the vehicle in all conditions (such as operating the brakes) or may make poor judgments in certain conditions.
9. Improper Licensure
Truck drivers are required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Studying for and passing a CDL ensures that drivers have proper knowledge of how to drive a commercial vehicle like a truck and are aware of safety requirements for the trucks. Some trucking companies, however, may not have proper procedures for checking to see whether a driver has a valid CDL.
10. Negligent Hiring
There is currently a shortage of truck drivers; trucking companies have more demand than they can meet. As a result, some companies may be tempted to hire people without proper background checks and proper training. Drivers with poor driving records or DUI convictions may slip through. These drivers may not drive as safely as drivers with good driving records, and may be more prone to cause accidents.
Weather conditions can cause accidents. Sudden downpours and even high winds can make driving dangerous. While experienced drivers should be able to drive defensively to account for the danger posed by weather, inexperienced drivers may be more prone to accidents in which poor weather is a contributing factor.
12. Road Conditions
Poor road repair and even traffic jams can all make accidents more likely. Deep potholes, for instance, can impact driving and steering difficult. Traffic jams may necessitate braking quickly, which is difficult for trucks to do.
How Can a Truck Accident Injure Me?
Because of the potential for a collision with a very large and heavy vehicle, the fact that there might be debris, a truck spread across lanes, or a fire, people can be injured in a truck accident in multiple ways. Truck accident injuries can be catastrophic, meaning they can affect your ability to do activities of daily life and to work the rest of your life. A spinal cord injury causing quadriplegia, for example, is catastrophic.
An underride accident can cause decapitation or loss of limbs. Other types of accidents can be less severe, such as fractures and lacerations.
The most common injuries caused by truck accidents include:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Loss of limbs
- Crush injuries, such as nerve damage
- Brain injuries, including traumatic brain injury (TBI) such as concussions
- Damage to internal organs, such as the bladder, spleen, liver, pancreas, lungs, and kidneys
- Neck injuries
- Back injuries
- Wrist injuries
- Severe lacerations
- Scars and disfigurement
If a Truck Accident Injures Me, Who Is to Blame?
First of all, finding out who is at fault in a truck accident can be complicated. The reasons for an accident can be multiple. A truck may overturn, for example, because the driver was speeding or because the truck was not loaded properly, or because the brakes were not properly maintained. All three can be contributing causes of an accident.
In an example like this, the driver could be at fault, for speeding. Or the company could be held to be at fault, for pressuring the driver to cover too many miles on a run. If the truck overturned because it wasn’t loaded properly, the company who did the loading could be at fault. They may have subcontracted the loading work, in which case the subcontractor could be at fault.
If a truck overturns because the brakes weren’t adequately maintained, the company could be at fault, or a subcontractor who did maintenance could be at fault.
In short, one needs to know the ultimate cause of an accident to know who might be liable for any injuries or damages suffered. Any party to an accident who didn’t exercise the duty of care they were supposed to under the law could be deemed negligent. If they are negligent, they can be liable for injuries caused as a result of the negligence. Drivers, for example, must drive according to traffic laws and safe driving practices. Companies must properly service and maintain vehicles. Failure to do these things is failure to exercise duty of care.
Because truck accidents can have complicated and multiple causes, it is often necessary to investigate the causes.
Can I Sue for Damages Caused by a Truck Accident in Florida?
Florida is a no-fault state for vehicle accidents. That means that generally, you turn to your own insurance company to pay for bills related to injuries and property damage in an accident, rather than the at-fault party’s insurance. You must carry $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP), which will compensate you for monetary damages in case of an injury (for doctor’s and physical therapy bills, for instance). You must also carry $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) in case a vehicle or other property is damaged in an accident.
However, Florida law also permits you to bring a suit for damages against the at-fault party or to pursue a third-party car insurance claim in cases of severe injury. Severe injury is defined as significant disfigurement, a bone fracture, permanent limitation of use of a body member or organ, significant limitation of use of a body function or system, or any injury that has caused you to be on substantially full disability for 90 days.
If any of these have occurred, you can also bring a suit for damages that are noneconomic in nature, such as pain and suffering, which ordinarily wouldn’t be covered under the scope of no-fault insurance.
Can They Try to Claim I’m Responsible for My Injuries?
If you bring a personal injury suit or a third-party insurance claim for your damages in an accident, there is always a risk that the defendant or the insurance company will either try to claim you are responsible for the accident or try to say the causes are other than they are, if that shifts the burden of responsibility off themselves. If, for example, an accident was caused by the truck driver not seeing your car in a blind spot, they could attempt to argue that being in the blind spot was your fault, and thus that you are partly or fully responsible.
Work with a seasoned truck accident attorney who can investigate the accident and its causes, so that you are not found responsible if you were not. In addition, experienced truck accident attorneys are highly experienced at negotiating with insurance companies to get injured parties the settlements they deserve.
If You Need a Fort Myers Truck Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a truck accident in Ft. Myers or throughout Florida, let us help. We fight aggressively to see that justice is done.
We offer a free consultation to discuss your case. Please contact us online or call 239-334-3933 now.