Attorneys Serving Clients in Trucking Accidents Throughout Florida
A fully loaded semi truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Your vehicle, on the other hand, probably weighs in between just 2,000 pounds to 5,000 pounds. Combine the significant weight difference with high speeds, and it is easy to see why so many truck accidents result in serious injuries and even deaths.
We depend on large trucks to deliver goods around Florida and throughout the country. Unfortunately, the negligence of truck drivers, trucking companies, and other parties often cause devastating crashes.
If you have been injured or a loved one was seriously hurt or killed in a tractor trailer accident, contact the truck accident lawyers at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter by calling (407) 712-7300 today. Your initial consultation is free, and you owe us nothing if we don’t successfully resolve your case. Our attorneys serve clients in Orlando, Tampa, Miami, and throughout Florida.
Why Do I Need a Truck Accident Lawyer?
Truck accident claims are very different from the vast majority of motor vehicle accident cases. As a result, they require experience and specialized knowledge to navigate and litigate effectively.
A few reasons to hire a truck accident lawyer after a collision with an 18-wheeler include:
- The seriousness of your injuries
- The extent of damages in your truck accident claim
- Obtaining fair compensation in a truck accident claim can be difficult
- Liability for trucking accidents is complex
- Multiple insurance companies are involved in trucking claims
- Truck accident investigations are complicated
An experienced attorney can help you navigate these and other aspects of your trucking claim.
What Serious Injuries Occur in Trucking Accidents?
The difference in size and weight between a semi truck and a passenger vehicle virtually guarantees that the driver of the car will lose in just about every crash. Depending on the circumstances, you may suffer a number of catastrophic injuries.
Some of the most common serious injuries in truck accident claims include:
- Head and brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Burn injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Musculoskeletal injuries, including broken bones, torn muscles, tendon and ligament damage, and more
- Internal bleeding
- Damage to internal organs, including the lungs, liver, stomach, kidneys, and more
- Amputation injuries
These injuries often require costly medical treatment and prevent you from working. In extreme instances, you may experience permanent impairment, serious disfigurement, or both.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Truck Accident Claim?
“Damages” is the legal term for the compensation you are entitled to due to someone else’s negligence. The more serious the injury, the more a plaintiff may be able to recover in damages.
Given the serious injuries that commonly occur in truck accidents, the amount of compensation at stake is generally much higher than it is in claims involving car accidents and other motor vehicles.
After a truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation for damages such as:
- Medical expenses: Your medical damages may encompass current medical bills for ambulance services, emergency treatment, surgery, medications, physical therapy, etc., as well as anticipated medical costs based on the nature and extent of your injuries.
- Lost wages: These damages encompass the income and benefits you lose as a result of being unable to work due to your injuries.
- Property damage: The most obvious damaged property after a wreck is your vehicle. However, you may be entitled to compensation for other damaged or lost property – such as your phone, personal computer, and more – as well repairs or replacement of your vehicle.
- Lost earning capacity: In addition to compensation for the wages you lost in the immediate aftermath of the accident, you may be entitled to damages for the income and other benefits you will lose in the future. Damages for lost earning capacity may be significant if you suffer an injury that makes you permanently unable to work.
- Out-of-pocket costs: Expenses often stack up after a serious accident. You may be entitled to compensation for travel to and from medical appointments and sessions with a therapist, the cost of adaptive devices (such as a wheelchair or prosthetic limb), and modifications to make your home and/or vehicle more accessible.
- Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering damages compensate you for the physical pain and emotional suffering you experience as a result of your truck accident injuries.
- Loss of enjoyment of life: A disabling, permanent injury may make it impossible for you to engage in the activities you loved before the accident. If this is the case, you deserve compensation for being deprived of your favorite hobbies.
- Loss of companionship: Also known as “loss of consortium” in relation to spouses and “loss of parental guidance” in relation to children, these damages compensate you and your loved ones for the loss of family relations and services stemming from your injuries.
- Scarring and disfigurement: Scars are not uncommon outcomes in trucking accidents, especially if the collision causes serious lacerations or burns. If you were disfigured in a truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation for both the economic costs associated with scarring as well as the embarrassment such injuries can cause.
- Disability: Also known as physical impairment damages, you may be able to recover compensation for the non-economic costs associated with disability, such as inconvenience, embarrassment, and more.
The compensation you are entitled to after a trucking accident depends on the specific nature of your injuries and other damages. It is important to speak with a truck accident lawyer to determine how much your case may be worth.
Are Truck Accident Claims Difficult to Win?
Without an experienced attorney, it is extremely difficult to be fairly compensated for your injuries in a trucking accident. Given the extent of damages in these claims, both the liable parties and their insurers are likely to play hardball in an effort to minimize the amount they have to pay.
You may receive a settlement offer from the insurance company, but it will likely cover only a fraction of your damages. Our lawyers will negotiate on your behalf to try to secure a fair settlement.
In the event that the parties and insurance companies in the case won’t come to terms, we will not hesitate to file a lawsuit on your behalf. Negotiations typically continue during pre-trial preparation and discovery, during arbitration or mediation (in some cases), and/or during the trial itself. If no settlement is forthcoming, our lawyers will present your case in court with the goal of winning you the maximum amount of compensation possible.
Who Is Liable for Truck Accidents?
Another key difference between truck accident cases and other motor vehicle claims is the number of parties that may be at-fault. Unlike car accidents, which are typically the fault of one or more of the drivers involved, liability for collisions involving semi trucks is often divided among:
- The truck driver: Most accidents begin with an error on the part of the truck driver. However, the driver’s negligence may be just one factor in a series of errors resulting in the accident.
- The trucking company: The truck driver’s employer is responsible for hiring qualified drivers, providing proper training, and monitoring drivers for violations. Unfortunately, companies may place these obligations second to the pursuit of profit, resulting in unreasonable schedules, undue pressure on drivers, and disregard for the rules of the road and federal and state trucking regulations.
- The manufacturer of the truck and its parts: Defective parts can lead to serious accidents or make a collision stemming from truck driver error worse. As with other claims involving defective vehicles, your attorney will need to examine the big rig to determine if a faulty component led to your injuries.
- The individual or the company that maintains the truck: Regular maintenance is key to the safe operation of large trucks. If the owner of the truck and/or the mechanic or service center is negligent in routine maintenance or making repairs, those parties may be partially at fault in your trucking accident claim.
- The shipping company: Negligent loading of cargo is a common cause of accidents involving commercial vehicles. If a third-party company loaded the truck improperly or failed to secure the contents, you may be able to recover compensation.
Other parties that may be at fault in a trucking accident claim include the reckless driver of a passenger vehicle who causes the truck driver to crash, as well as government entities responsible for the safety of the road on which the accident occurred. Ultimately, the only way to determine liability is by contacting an experienced truck accident lawyer in Orlando.
What Insurance Companies Are Involved in Truck Accident Claims?
Each of the parties discussed above may be represented by a different insurance carrier. As a result, your lawyer will often need to negotiate with multiple insurance companies in order to secure a fair recovery on your behalf.
Given the complicated insurance negotiations and the insurers’ desire to pay as little as possible, it is crucial to have a skilled attorney on your side after a trucking accident. Your lawyer can handle the case while you focus on getting better.
What Are the Causes of Truck Accidents?
Due to the number of different parties that may be at fault for a truck accident, it should come as no surprise that a variety of different factors can cause a crash involving an 18-wheeler. Some of these factors include:
Truck Driver Error
As with any vehicle accident, negligence on the part of a commercial driver can take many different forms. The key difference, of course, is the size and weight of the vehicles operated by truck drivers.
The massive dimensions of 18-wheelers make these common mistakes behind the wheel much more dangerous:
- Driver fatigue
- Running red lights and stop signs
- Failure to check blind spots when turning or changing lanes
- Following other vehicles too closely
- Failure to adjust for hazards, traffic, weather, and lighting conditions
- Distracted driving
- Reckless driving
- Aggressive driving
- Lack of driver experience
Accidents with semis may also involve circumstances unique to the trucking industry. For example, driver fatigue may stem from violating the hours of service regulations established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA hours of service regulations limit the hours in a given time period that truckers can drive, as well as mandating rest breaks.
Truck drivers who abuse alcohol and drugs are not only putting themselves in danger, but they 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.
In addition to laws that govern driving under the influence for all drivers, truck drivers are continually monitored by federal and state agencies. Some of the rules include:
- 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 Orlando can obtain access to these files to build a case against the driver and/or the trucking company itself.
Defective Tractor Trailer Components
The parts of a large truck must work together seamlessly for the big rig to operate safely. Defects may be the result of errors in the manufacturing process, inadequate maintenance, or both.
Some of the most dangerous components to be impacted by defects include:
- Tires: Blowouts may occur if truck tires are under-inflated or over-inflated. A tire blowout may cause the driver to lose control of the rig, endangering others on the road.
- Brakes: A fully loaded semi truck already takes longer to stop than most vehicles. If the brakes fail, the driver may be unable to avoid a crash.
- Axles: The axles on an 18-wheeler are designed to carry and distribute the weight of massive loads. When they fail, devastating accidents can follow.
- Trailer hitch assembly: Trailers are connected to the cab of the truck through a series of hitches, pins, hoses, and electrical connections. Failure of any of these parts may limit the driver’s ability to steer the trailer, resulting in a jackknife accident. In extreme circumstances the trailer may become disconnected from the tractor, presenting a major hazard for cars behind the rig.
- Seatbelts: Although the drivers of other vehicles suffer the majority of serious injuries in truck accidents, truck drivers may also be at risk if the seatbelt or buckle fails in the event of a crash.
Trucks used for certain jobs or to haul certain cargo may suffer from unique defects. For example, tanker trucks hauling hazardous or flammable liquids may spring a leak, potentially resulting in fires or explosions. A defective bucket truck, meanwhile, may experience malfunctions in the power or hydraulics, posing a risk to the worker in the bucket.
Truck loads are carefully governed by state and federal regulations. However, all too often these regulations are skirted by truck drivers and trucking companies trying to deliver more goods faster in order to make greater profits. The load limits distributed by axle are as follows:
- Steer axle: 12,000 pounds
- Drive axles: 34,000 pounds
- Trailer axles: 34,000 pounds
Most truck cargo loads are within the legal limits, but it is impossible to tell which vehicle might be overloaded if not properly marked. Extra weight will decrease stopping ability and may change the center of gravity, making the truck more susceptible to rollover accidents.
Over time, overloaded trucks can cause undue stress on the vehicle itself, wearing it out and making it unsafe to drive. Tires pressures may be adversely affected with the additional weight, causing greater friction on the tires and making them prone to blowouts.
Exposed cargo on overloaded trucks decreases visibility for other vehicles sharing the road. Oversize vehicles tend to travel slower, which may affect the speed of traffic and force vehicles to go around them.
Accidents caused by overloaded trucks may be the fault of the truck driver, his or her employer, the shipping company, or a combination of these parties. Another motorist may also be at fault for negligence in overtaking a semi that is overburdened with cargo.
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. There are still times, however, when a roadway is so defective that even the safest driver may have difficulty.
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, resulting in 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
Accidents are more likely to occur on defective roads and in defective intersections. Many times, the defective roadway can log hundreds of serious or even fatal accidents before action is taken.
What Should I Do After a Truck Accident?
You have two priorities after being in a truck accident: 1). getting help for your injuries and 2). starting to build your case. With these goals in mind, the steps you should take after an accident with a semi truck include:
- Call 911. If you or anyone else is hurt in the accident, ask for emergency personnel to respond to the scene of the accident. Do not try to move unless you are in immediate danger.
- Cooperate with paramedics and firefighters. Rescue workers will safely remove you from the vehicle, assess your injuries, and advise whether you should go to the hospital. It is important to heed their advice, as you may have suffered injuries that require emergency treatment.
- Document the scene. The trucking company and/or its insurance carrier will dispatch investigators to the scene as soon as they become aware of the accident. If you were not taken away in an ambulance, you should do the same. Take photos of the crashed vehicles and conditions at the site, then show them to your truck accident lawyer.
- Exchange information with the truck driver and others. Get the license plate number for each vehicle involved in the accident. You also want to get the name, contact information, and insurance information for each driver involved in the crash. Ask the truck driver for the name of his/her employer, as well as any commercial policy information.
- Talk to witnesses. The testimony of anyone who saw the accident may be a valuable asset in building your case. Ask each witness what they saw, and take down their name and contact information if you or your lawyer needs it at a later date.
- Seek medical attention. Once you finish the preceding steps, it is important to go to the emergency room immediately. A hospital will have the technology and staff to assess your injuries fully and determine what course of treatment is needed.
- Do not speak with representatives from the insurance company. You will need to notify your own car insurance provider of the accident as soon as possible. However, if an adjuster for the trucking company’s insurance provider tries to contact you, it is important to end the conversation and seek legal guidance as soon as possible. You are under no obligation to make a statement or provide records to any other driver’s insurance company, and doing so could seriously harm your case.
- Contact a truck accident lawyer. The extent of your injuries and the damages you may be facing after a tractor trailer accident are overwhelming. The insurance company will immediately begin its case to underpay or deny your claim. Therefore, it is in your best interest to begin working with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Your truck accident lawyer will thoroughly investigate the accident. This includes not only thoroughly documenting the scene but researching the truck driver (including his/her driving record, previous substance abuse citations and convictions, medical fitness evaluations, and more), the trucking company (including previous violations of FMCSA and state regulations, the truck driver’s service log, electronic evidence, maintenance records for the truck, etc.), and any other parties that may be at fault.
Our lawyers will also calculate the full extent of damages in your case. This often involves partnering with experts in medical and vocational fields to determine how your injuries affect your quality of life and ability to work.
How Long Do I Have to File a Truck Accident Claim?
In Florida, the statute of limitations for claims involving truck accidents and other types of personal injury cases is 4 years. This means you have 4 years from the date of the accident to pursue compensation. (If your loved one is killed in a truck accident, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is 2 years from the date of your loved one’s passing.)
However, a number of factors may limit the time you have to pursue compensation after a truck accident.
Under the no-fault rule in Florida, you must first exhaust your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage through your own insurance provider before you can proceed with a fault-based claim. As such, you are required to file a claim with your own insurer first – which you must do within just 10 days of the truck accident.
It is crucial to speak with a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after the crash. The tractor trailer accident attorneys at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter can advise you of your rights and obligations and discuss the next steps of your case.
Contact Our Orlando Truck Accident Lawyers Today
The attorneys at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter have decades of experience serving clients in complex trucking accident claims. We understand the toll these accidents take, and we handle your case with professionalism, integrity, honesty, and persistence with the goal of earning you the maximum compensation you deserve.
Please call (407) 712-7300 today for a free consultation with one of our truck accident lawyers. Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter serves clients in Orlando, Tampa, Miami, and throughout Florida.