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Truck accidents can be much more serious than regular traffic accidents because of the size of the vehicles involved. A car or small truck weighs around 3,000 lbs., while a commercial tractor-trailer (semi-truck) can weigh more than 70,000 lbs. when fully loaded. Consequently, the injuries from a truck accident are often much more severe than other auto accidents.
We’ve represented victims of truck accidents and have seen first hand the severity of the injuries these accidents can cause. They include brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken bones and even death. We have fought hard to ensure that our clients have been fully compensated for their injuries, and we will fight hard for you.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, please call Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter in Orlando today at (407) 712-7300 to schedule your FREE consultation. Our lawyers can answer all of your truck accident questions. We serve clients in Orlando, Florida and nationwide.
Our accident attorneys represent clients who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones in truck accidents due to these circumstances and more:
- Defective Roadways
- Seatbelt Failures in Heavy Trucks
- Bucket Truck Accidents
- Tanker Truck Accidents
- Over/Under-Inflated Tires
- Substance Abuse and Trucking
What Causes Truck Accidents?
Truckers and trucking companies are required to follow unique state and federal laws and regulations. These rules may actually provide more ammunition for the successful prosecution of your claim. We can evaluate the cause of your accident, and our experience can help you recover the compensation you deserve.
Truck accidents can be caused in the same ways as car accidents. However, because of the size of the demands on truck drivers, they may also involve other causes, such as:
- Lack of trucking experience
- Overloaded truck
- Oversized truck
- Large blind spots (caused by trailers)
- Driving too many hours without a break
Compensation For Your Accident
Trucking-related injuries can impact your quality of life physically, emotionally and financially. Whether you were injured or lost a loved one, you could be eligible to recover a variety of damages from the accident including:
- Current and future medical bills
- Loss of income or lost wages
- Permanent disability
- Long-term care
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
- Burial expenses
Truck Accidents and Defective Roadways
While it is the duty of governments and transportation officials to create safer roadways, it truly is everyone’s responsibility to drive safely and promote safe travel. Trucking companies, which send out huge, fully loaded trucks onto the nation’s highways and roadways need to be even more vigilant – in terms of accountability for their drivers and driving safety records. Given that, there are still times when a roadway is so defective that even the safest driver may have difficulty.
Over half of U.S. highway fatalities are related to dangerous, defective or hazardous road conditions. Dangerous roads are often the result of poor maintenance, poor construction and poor design. The definition of a defective roadway is a road that is poorly built, designed or maintained which leads to an increased risk of severe and fatal accidents.
Roadways could be defective due to:
- Poorly balanced or timed traffic signals
- Low visibility
- Uneven road surfaces
- Substandard merge lanes
- Inadequate ability to cope with traffic volume
When there is a defective character or stretch of road or an intersection, accidents may occur with an increased frequency or severity. Many times, the defective roadway can log hundreds of serious or even fatal accidents before action is taken.
Seatbelt Failures in Heavy Trucks
A properly functioning seatbelt can help protect vehicle occupants from injuries during a crash, including ejection injuries. The defective H2 seatbelt buckle was manufactured and sold by Indiana Mills and Manufacturing, Inc. (IMMI) from 2002-2004 for use in heavy trucks. Because the buckles were not recalled, truck drivers still rely on the defective buckles for protection.
The IMMI H2 buckles do not latch properly, allowing them to come unlatched during an accident. When a seatbelt comes unlatched during an accident, it is as if the vehicle occupant were wearing no seatbelt at all. Truck drivers and passengers can be ejected, causing catastrophic injuries and death. When the scene of the accident involving a defective seatbelt is examined, investigating officers often report that no seatbelt was worn.
IMMI introduced the H2 buckle in 2002 and quickly began to receive complaints about latch failure. In September 2003, IMMI engineers began trying to correct the problem. The engineers discovered internal documents from the year 2000 that identified the defect and attributed it to improper design.
The H2 buckle was given the highest possible severity rating. However, IMMI did not correct the problem before it began selling the buckles two years later in 2002. The defect was corrected by the end of 2003, but in 2004, the defective buckles were still being installed in new trucks. IMMI began replacing the defective buckles under its warranty program when complaints were made. It did not, however, issue a general recall or inform drivers of the deadly problem.
Seatbelt buckle failure can cause severe, often permanent, injuries including:
- Head and brain injuries
- Neck injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Fractures and broken bones
Ejection from the vehicle can result in additional injuries caused by being struck by traffic or being crushed beneath the original vehicle. Ejection greatly increases the likelihood of injury or death. Defective seatbelts fall under the legal category of product liability. Manufacturers of defective seat belts can be held responsible for injuries caused by seatbelt failure.
Bucket Truck Accidents
A bucket truck is more formally known as an articulated boom aerial device and refers to the machinery used by phone companies, tree service companies and electricity companies to do installation, service and maintenance. Treetops, electrical wires and phone lines are high and difficult to reach. The people who work on these wires and lines must be lifted by a bucket truck for proper access.
These bucket trucks are also used by freeway workers to hang vehicle signs, which add to the potential danger of traffic interfering with the bucket truck, especially if the boom is extended over a traffic lane that’s in use. This type of work places the worker in a potentially life-threatening situation. Bucket trucks must be well designed, well maintained and properly operated to keep the worker safe. Accidents with bucket trucks may be the result of a defective product or unsafe operation.
Types of Bucket Truck Accidents include:
- Power failure: Bucket trucks use either a hydraulic system or an electrical system for raising and lowering the boom. There must be safety features to prevent boom or bucket movement if the hydraulic line or the electrical power were to fail.
- Overturns: When the boom is raised, so is the center of gravity of the truck, which can cause overturn accidents. Truck operators must be careful not to overload the boom and not to use it when the truck is parked on a steep-sloping surface.
- Electrocution accidents: Electrocution injuries occur when part of the bucket truck touches an electrical distributor. When the line voltage is low, 15 volts or less, these distributors are closer together, increasing the risk of electrocution. There are Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety rules for those who work in bucket trucks, such as wearing rubber gloves or a harness, but sometimes the worker will forget them, especially if there’s a sudden emergency situation. Not all bucket truck workers are electricians. If a tree needs cutting back because it’s interfering with the electrical lines, that can put the tree service worker in danger from electrical lines.
Several studies have been done on bucket truck accidents, which agree in finding that employee training and warnings are not sufficient to protect workers in all circumstances. This means that equipment and truck manufacturers should take a preventive approach when designing and building machinery with safety features that will protect workers in as many situations as possible.
Tanker Truck Accidents
Tractor-trailer rigs and commercial semis weighing in at up to 40 tons can cause serious damage in an accident. However, tanker trucks with flammable, dangerous or hazardous materials and liquids can create catastrophic circumstances. The resulting injuries will most likely be related to burns that cause long-term personal injuries or even death.
Extreme weight shifts caused by a tanker truck’s load being only three-quarters full may also cause the tanker to become unstable. When a tanker rolls, a liquid load will hasten the tanker to continue rolling, causing even more injury.
Tanker truck accidents can be due to driver error, the trucking company that owns the vehicle or both. The actions and decisions of the truck driver and company owning the truck bring forth a set of complex circumstances unique to personal injury litigation and settlement. Unlike a car collision, factors behind tanker truck accidents vary and can include:
- Stopping distance due to the sheer size and load – sudden stops are anything but sudden with tanker trucks, sometimes taking as much as four times longer to stop than a passenger vehicle.
- Tank bodies or tanker maneuverability varies greatly depending upon the type of tanker truck and the load.
- Jack-knifing and the brake system air brakes used on tanker trucks have special characteristics and handling methods. Long distance downhill braking can also create special problems for truckers.
- Empty trailers mean a trucker must be aware of even greater braking distances due to less traction, as all parts of the tanker truck are designed to be fully loaded.
- Drivers are charged with two, often opposing, responsibilities: Truckers are morally responsible for public safety while trying to meet company deadlines and vendor delivery commitments.
Investigation into a tanker truck accident must be attacked from a multitude of directions that help determine the cause. Our accident attorneys will thoroughly review the driver’s logbook and evaluate the trucker’s background to determine the true reason behind the tanker truck accident.
Some of the most common causes involve:
- Driver fatigue
- Operator inexperience
- Overloading or improper balancing
- Poorly maintained vehicle
- Equipment failure
- Inadequate safety policies
- Road hazards
Tires are arguably the most important safety feature of a truck. Drivers are responsible for adequately maintaining them for their own safety as well as those with whom they share the road. Tire failure is a fairly common cause of car and truck accidents. Over and under inflated tires can lead to catastrophic tire failure and cause tragic truck accidents. Driver responsibility in monitoring the wear and tear on tires is more important with trucks than any other vehicle equipment.
Tires must be kept at the manufacturers specified pressures in order to ensure proper wear and long tire life. Although, as the Ford/Firestone lawsuits of 2000 proved, manufacturers and automakers may be found liable for damages, but they will try to pin the fault of tire failure on the driver for not maintaining adequate tire pressure.
Truckers need to take the following precautions and steps in order to maintain tires:
- Obtain a good quality tire pressure gauge
- Check the pressure on a weekly basis
- Log the results in a notebook and keep it in the vehicle
- Add air as needed
Tire pressure and traction are also important factors to consider in tire-related accidents. Traction is the maximum force that is produced between two surfaces. With vehicles, the surfaces are the tires and the road surface. Friction is the force that keeps trucks on the road, travelling safely. All 18 wheels need to be adequately pressurized to ensure safety.
Inadequate tire pressure can cause the following problems:
- Over-inflated tires decrease the amount of tire surface that grips the road, making the vehicle more prone to slipping.
- Under-inflated tires increase friction on the outer edges of the tire, requiring more force to move along the road and causing more heat in the process. Hot tires are more prone to blowout and cause tire failure.
- Both over/under-inflated tires increase the wear of the tire, wearing them out sooner than expected. A driver evaluating tire wear from the date of purchase may be in for a big surprise when there is a catastrophic failure leading to an accident.
Tire blow out can not only cause a truck to leave the roadway, jack-knife or roll over, but tire debris can result in subsequent accidents to other vehicles.
Substance Abuse and Trucking
There are an estimated 1.9 million semi-trucks travelling America's roadways every day. Although you cannot tell by looking, many truck drivers may be under the influence of legal or illegal substances for a variety of reasons.
Truck drivers who abuse alcohol and drugs are not only putting themselves in danger, but are risking the lives of thousands of other drivers with whom they share the road. Illegal substance use and abuse is common, even though there are tight regulations regarding driving with a commercial driver's license.
The most common substances found in truck drivers include:
- Prescription stimulants
- Non-prescription stimulants
Drivers under a tight deadline try to gain an edge over driver fatigue and boredom with natural or man-made substances. In most cases, the substances are legal products like coffee and energy drinks. These stimulants work up to a point, but when taken in excessive quantities may cause additional problems on top of driver fatigue, such as jitteriness.
According to a study by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, approximately 85 percent of drivers interviewed stated that methamphetamines were easy to obtain. Other substance use and trucking statistics show:
- 12.5 percent of fatal truck accidents involve the use of marijuana.
- Approximately 1 percent of truck accidents involve alcohol.
- Non-alcohol related traffic stops for reckless driving show 45 percent of truckers use marijuana and 25 percent use cocaine.
In addition to laws that govern other folks, truck drivers are continually monitored by federal and state agencies. Some of the rules include the following:
- Pre-employment drug screening
- Random drug testing
- Post-accident testing
- Testing based on reasonable suspicion
Drivers who refuse to be tested can be terminated on the spot. Trucking companies must keep accurate records of all drug tests on hand. In the case of truck accident litigation, our attorneys in Florida can obtain access to these files to build a case against the driver, or in some cases against the trucking company itself.
Building Your Claim
Another factor that makes truck accidents more complex than an accident involving two vehicles is the number of parties involved. In addition to you and the truck driver (and any other drivers or vehicles involved if it was a multi-vehicle accident), a lawsuit may also involve the trucking company and manager, the truck owner and the insurance companies of these parties.
The trucking companies and their insurance companies are often very aggressive in trying to settle with the injured parties. They have been known to take advantage of victims and their families who are not represented by experienced attorneys.
At Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter, our truck accident lawyers have the experience and resources to stand up to the trucking companies and their insurers. We know what is at stake, and we know how to win. We’ll not only help you through the lawsuit, but will also help you find the resources to put your life back together.
Trucking accidents unfold as a complex series of events as a result of a number of factors. After an accident, it is often difficult to piece together everything that went wrong, but it is vitally important to find out the ultimate cause. First, the responsible parties must be held liable for the damage they cause. Second, the causes can help lead to new safety regulations or changes in product design to make the roads safer in the future.
If you have been involved in a truck accident, please contact one of our experienced accident attorneys online or by phone at (407) 712-7300 to schedule your consultation. We will evaluate your case for free, and you won’t have to pay any attorneys fees until we win or settle your case.
Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter provide expert legal services to those in Orlando, Florida and nationwide.