The trucking industry is a staple of the American economy. Truck drivers travel millions of miles every year to deliver goods all over the country, and the Florida trucking industry is one of the state’s largest. In 2015, the trucking industry provided more than 312,000 Florida jobs and paid more than $14 billion in wages. Florida truck drivers transport more than 300,000 tons of goods every day. However, with this tremendous contribution to the economy comes some risk. Commercial truck drivers have a higher standard than other drivers when it comes to the duty of care they have behind the wheel.
Truck Accident Resources:
Fort Lauderdale’s Truck Accident Attorneys Can Help
Anyone injured in a trucking accident in the Fort Lauderdale area should know where to turn for legal counsel. Fort Lauderdale truck accident lawyers at Kelley/Uustal have extensive experience in handling all manners of personal injury claims in Florida, including tractor-trailer accidents. We offer free case evaluations to new clients, so reach out to our team to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys. We will review the facts of your case and let you know what kind of compensation you could expect, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and property damage.
How to File a Lawsuit After a Truck Accident
If you have suffered injuries or other damages in a truck accident in the Fort Lauderdale area, it’s vital to be aware of the laws concerning personal injury claims. Florida imposes a four-year statute of limitations on claims for injuries and property damage. If a person dies in a truck accident, the surviving loved ones have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim.
The statute of limitations starts on the date of the accident or the date your injuries became apparent, commonly called the “date of discovery.” It’s crucial to act quickly after suffering injuries and damages from a truck accident. The legal process is complex and time-consuming, and failing to meet your filing requirements with the court could result in your case being thrown out before it even reaches the courtroom. Most tractor-trailer accidents fall under the purview of personal injury law, though there are some exceptions. Depending on the nature of your accident and what caused it, you could have one or several claims ahead and may face one or more defendants in court to secure compensation for your losses.
Types of Trucking Accidents
A fully-loaded tractor trailer can weigh nearly 80,000 pounds, making them several times larger and much heavier than standard passenger vehicles. Tractor-trailers sit much higher off the road than other vehicles, giving them higher centers of gravity. A higher center of gravity means a tractor-trailer is more likely to tip over during sharp turns.
In one year, more than 4,000 people died and about 116,000 suffered injuries from trucking accidents. This indicates a 4% increase in fatal accidents from 2014, although since 2006, there has been a 19% decrease in the total number of people killed in large truck accidents. Despite this apparent progress, it is essential for truck drivers to understand their obligations and for other drivers to be aware of the risks involved with these large vehicles. The Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers at Kelley/Uustal want drivers to know the dangers that semi-trucks and tractor trailer vehicles present, and what to do in the event of a trucking accident.
Truck Accident Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
How Do I Know I Have A Truck Accident Claim?
- Truck accident claims can involve multiple parties and complex matters of litigation and law. In general, you might have a truck accident claim if:
- You were involved in an accident with a commercial motor vehicle such as a semi, delivery truck, school bus, or big rig. Commercial Driver License (CDL) holders have a higher duty of care to motorists on the road because of the dangers their vehicles present. Any act of negligence could give rise to a truck accident claim.
- You incurred injury in an accident with a commercial motor vehicle. In order to file a claim for damages, you must be able to show that a party’s negligence directly led to your injuries.
- You suffered tangible harms as a result. This requires proof of medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses.
What Steps Can I Take After an Accident?
- Your actions following a truck accident can affect your right to compensation. After incurring injuries in an accident with a commercial truck, we recommend taking the following actions:
- Seek appropriate medical care. Your first priority should be your safety. Go to the nearest emergency department and get the care you need. Be sure to follow all your doctor’s orders regarding treatment and follow up. This also helps establish an official record of your injuries and tangible losses.
- Provide a statement for the police report. Chances are you were at the hospital receiving treatment when an officer arrived at the scene. When you’re feeling up to it, call the police department and ask to add your statement to the report, as insurance companies often use these documents to conduct their own investigations.
- Do not sign any documents from an insurance company or agree to recorded statements without an attorney’s permission.
- Contact a truck accident attorney. A lawyer with experience in commercial truck accidents and litigation can help you defend your right to compensation under the law and demand fair reimbursement for your tangible and intangible losses.
What If the Truck Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance?
- If a commercial motor vehicle does not have insurance, you have a few different options: one of your first options will likely to be filing a claim with your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. You also have the option of filing a claim against a third party, such as the driver’s employer. Finally, you may be able to file a civil claim against the driver’s personal assets. An attorney can help you explore your options and decide on the best legal course of action for your case.
When Is the Truck Company to Blame?
- A trucking company might be partially or wholly responsible for your injuries if:
- The driver of the vehicle was their employer, or should be. Trucking companies often hire their drivers as independent contractors to escape liability, but do so illegally, since they have too much control over a driver’s work. In this case, a driver might actually be a legal employee and under a trucking company’s purview.
- The trucking company engaged in negligent hiring. If a truck accident was preventable because a trucking company knew or should have known about a poor driving record, it might be liable for any damages you incur.
- The trucking company knowingly allowed the trucker to break FMCSA regulations. The federal government sets strict rules regarding duty hours, breaks, and keeping logs. Failure to supervise a truck driver could constitute negligence on the part of the company, establishing liability.
- Determining liability in a trucking accident can be complex. Often multiple parties share the blame for your injuries. Talk with one of our attorneys for help deciphering who is responsible for your injury.
Proving Negligence in a Truck Accident Lawsuit
If a truck driver’s negligence caused your accident, you will most likely focus your lawsuit on the driver or possibly the trucking company. If the truck driver was performing job-related duties at the time of the crash, the employer carries liability for the actions of its employees. It’s not uncommon for a truck accident case to involve multiple defendants, including the truck driver, the driver’s employer, the owner of the truck, and even the company who paid for the shipment the truck was carrying at the time of the crash.
Proving negligence in a truck accident case follows the same general format as any other personal injury lawsuit:
- The plaintiff must prove the defendant had a duty to act with reasonable care. This means following the posted traffic signs and driving responsibly.
- The plaintiff must then show the court how the defendant violated this duty. This could be a specific action or, in some cases, inaction. For example, failing to use a turn signal before executing a lane change is extremely dangerous for a vehicle as large as a tractor-trailer.
- Finally, the plaintiff must prove his or her injuries and damages were the direct result of the defendant’s breach of duty.
It’s important to realize that personal injury claims are civil actions aimed at securing compensation and getting justice for the seriously injured. An injured plaintiff’s attorney may advise suing the truck driver’s employer instead of the truck driver for the simple reason that the plaintiff is more likely to secure an acceptable amount of compensation from the employer than from the driver. A jury will also be more likely to sympathize with an individual truck driver than with a faceless corporation. Your attorney may advise you to sue the trucking company if poor vehicle maintenance or improper training caused the accident. Tractor-trailers are driven for longer distances more often than typical passenger cars. Their large size and the high degree of wear and tear means they require careful, consistent, and thorough maintenance.
Truck Part Failure & Product Liability
In some cases, a defective car or part may cause a serious accident. In this situation, the accident is not the truck driver’s fault, nor is it the fault of the trucking company. Liability for injuries and damages caused by defective products rests with the products’ manufacturers. If this is the case for your truck accident, your lawsuit will take the form of a product liability claim against the manufacturer instead of a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent truck driver or trucking company.
Unlike personal injury claims, plaintiffs in product liability claims do not have to prove the manufacturer was negligent. They only have to prove the product in question was defective, and then show the court the defect caused the accident. Products can be defective in any of three possible ways:
- There is an inherent flaw with the design of the product making every unit of the product unfit for use.
- There was some flaw in the production or assembly process that produced the defect. This may only affect certain units or lots of units, and the manufacturer will likely issue a recall for the affected items.
- Manufacturers must accurately report the capabilities of a product, provide clear safety warnings for all hazards associated with normal use of the product, and instructions for use.