Truck Accident Attorney in Orlando, Florida
Each day, commercial trucks go into and out of Orlando, delivering products and supplies for consumers and businesses alike. While the city’s economy depends on these goods, the addition of big-rig trucks on the roadways here pose additional hazards for other drivers. If you’ve been injured in a truck accident in Orlando that was caused by a negligent driver, here are some things you should know.
The Truck Driving Industry is Regulated by Both the Federal Government and the State
Commercial truck drivers are held to a higher standard than passenger vehicles when it comes to safety on the road. In addition to upholding the same laws that apply to other motor vehicles, the commercial trucking industry is also subject to a number of state and federal government regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the federal agency involved with regulating and providing safety oversight for commercial motor vehicles. Some of the federal regulations placed upon the trucking industry include:
- Hours of Service rules: Intended to combat fatigue among long-haul truck drivers, the hours of service regulations require that drivers take an off-duty break of at least 30 minutes every eight hours. Drivers can work no more than 60 hours every seven days or 70 hours every eight days, after which time the driver must take an off-duty break of at least 34 consecutive hours.
- Medical fitness for duty testing
- Workplace drug and alcohol testing
- Electronic logging devices to record hours of service
- Proper securement of cargo
- Hands-free cell phone usage
- Prohibitions on texting while driving
- Safe transportation of hazardous materials
Florida also imposes regulations on the trucking industry, including:
- Commercial motor vehicles must carry a valid and current tag registration
- If the vehicle weighs more than 26,000 pounds, has three or more axles and is operating on the interstate, it must carry a Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles fuel decal.
- With some exceptions, the maximum weight for trucks traveling in Florida is 80,000 pounds, and the truck and trailer cannot be taller than 13’6”. In some circumstances, if the truck is 6,000 pounds over the weight limit, the driver may be required to offload some of its cargo before it is allowed to continue on its route.
- The truck must be in safe and working order.
- The truck must display a valid Florida or Department of Transportation number.
Causes of Truck Accidents in Orlando and Beyond
In spite of all of the regulations put in place in order to keep commercial truck drivers from getting into accidents with other drivers on the road, these accidents still happen on a regular basis. Although negligent truck drivers aren’t always the cause of the accident, here are some common examples of negligence in the trucking industry:
- Fatigue: According to information from the National Safety Council, fatigue when driving causes worsening reaction time, awareness, and ability to sustain attention. Surveys indicate that many drivers violate the hours of service regulations and work longer than permitted, increasing the likelihood of fatigued driving.
- Distracted driving: Commercial truck drivers face the same temptations as any other driver when it comes to distractions, including texting or talking on their phones, eating while driving, and adjusting vehicle controls such as heating, air conditioning, or the stereo system.
- Alcohol and drug impairment: Although drivers are subject to drug testing, illicit substances aren’t always the source of driver impairment. A number of prescription and over-the-counter drugs can also lead to impairment when driving.
- Improperly loaded cargo that may shift and make the truck hard to control.
- Poor maintenance: Trucks used for commercial purposes see a lot of miles. With those miles come issues with the truck that must be repaired. Poorly maintained trucks cause hazards to the driver, as well as others on the road.
- Speeding: Commercial drivers have an enormous amount of pressure to meet deadlines that often require them to travel great distances in a short period of time. Speeding is a major cause of traffic accidents involving any type of vehicle, including tractor-trailers. Fully loaded trucks can weigh up to thirty times more than passengers and require a lot more distance to come to a safe stop in response to roadside hazards.
How Your Own Insurance Comes Into Play
Florida dictates that drivers carry no fault insurance. While many states require drivers to purchase bodily injury liability policy to cover the injuries of the occupants of other vehicles if the policy-holder caused the accident, Florida requires vehicle owners to carry a personal injury protection (PIP) policy with a minimum policy limit of $10,000. If you’re injured in an accident with a commercial truck, your PIP policy will be your first potential source of compensation for your injuries.
Your PIP policy coverage extends to you, your immediate family members, and individuals riding in your vehicle who don’t own a vehicle or have their own PIP policy. If you’re injured in an accident, regardless of whether you’re at fault or not, this coverage will pay for 80 percent of your medical expenses and 60 percent of your lost wages, up to the limit of your policy.
What if the Cost of My Injuries Exceeds the Limits of My PIP Policy?
Injuries caused by an accident with a tractor-trailer can be quite severe, often quickly using up the funds available through your PIP policy. Here are some of the more common injuries seen in truck accidents:
- Back and neck injuries: Back and neck can be very severe, resulting in permanent, total or partial paralysis or even death. In the past, about half of all people with spinal cord injuries died due to the injury. While the survival rate has improved over the years, a significant number of people still die from these injuries. Those who survive are typically faced with a lifetime of medical issues and the need for adaptive devices such as wheelchairs and ramps to complete daily tasks.
- Broken bones: It is not unusual for one to regard a broken bone as a less serious injury than others that might be faced by the victims of truck accidents. However, Henry Ford Health System notes that broken bones carry the risk of future complications such as blood poisoning, bone deterioration, chronic pain, permanent limp, and life-threatening infections in the bones themselves or the soft tissues that surround them.
- Traumatic brain injuries: As with back and neck injuries, brain injuries can cause life-long effects. Some of the more severe and long-range effects of a TBI include paralysis, uncontrolled movements, problems walking, talking, or swallowing, vision problems, loss of fine motor skills needed for simple tasks such as buttoning a shirt, difficulty thinking and remembering, difficulty with social relationships.
- Internal bleeding or hemorrhaging, often as a result of the truck rolling over or falling onto a passenger car.
- Cuts or impalement from pieces of broken glass or metal acting as shrapnel due to the force of the collision.
If the costs of your injuries exceed the limits of your PIP policy, you may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit in order to pursue the recovery of damages from the at-fault driver and other liable parties. Florida prevents the filing of a personal injury lawsuit in motor vehicle accident cases unless the injury is determined to be permanent. The law defines a permanent injury as:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important body function.
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.
- Significant scarring or disfigurement.
If your injuries are determined to be permanent, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit to recover both economic and non-economic damages, including the following expenses:
- Current and future medical expenses beyond the limit of your PIP policy.
- Lost wages and the loss of future earning capacity.
- The cost of household services that you are no longer able to perform due to the extent of your injuries.
- Permanent disfigurement or disability.
- Pain and suffering.
- Loss of consortium.
- Emotional distress.
To achieve a successful outcome from a truck accident personal injury or wrongful death claim, the victim must be able to prove negligence. Negligence is established by demonstrating the following elements:
- The at-fault party owed other drivers on the road a duty of care.
- The at-fault party’s duty of care was breached by his or her negligent actions.
- These negligent actions resulted in specific damages to the victim.
What if the Truck Accident Caused the Death of My Loved One?
Information provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveals that most of the fatalities caused in accidents involving big rigs are the occupants of passenger vehicles. If you’ve lost a loved one due to an accident involving a commercial truck, you may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death claim. Some of the damages that you can seek compensation for a wrongful death claim include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- The cost of pre-death medical care
- Emotional distress
- Loss of financial contribution
- Loss of services and support
- Loss of companionship and consortium
Survivors who are eligible to receive compensation from a wrongful death claim include the decedent’s spouse, parents, children, and any other blood relative or adoptive sibling who is wholly or partially dependent on the decedent for support and services. If a child was born of unmarried parents, he or she may recover damages if his or her mother dies. However, if the child’s father dies, the child can only recover damages if the father formally recognized the child as his or her own and contributed to the support of the child.
There May Be More Than One Party Liable for Your Injuries
Truck accidents are rarely simple. In addition to the severity of your injuries, this type of accident often features multiple liable parties. In addition to the driver, those who may be liable for the accident that caused your injuries include:
- The company that employs the truck driver: If the truck driver was an employee of a trucking company rather than an independent contractor, then they may also face liability for your accident if the accident occurred during the regular course of the employee’s job.
- The broker and the shipper: Each of these parties have a responsibility to perform a check of the safety record for the company or the driver, as well as checking licenses, registration, and insurance coverage. Some items that are included in the driver or company’s safety record are past violations such as speeding, reckless driving, or fatigued driving, failure to accurately maintain an hours of service log, improper CDL endorsement, driver fitness, and maintenance records. The shipper may also face liability if they improperly loaded the cargo into the truck, if a weight imbalance was caused and was a factor in the crash
- The individual or entity in charge of maintaining the truck
- The manufacturer or distributor of potentially defective parts which contributed to the accident
- The drivers of other vehicles that were involved in the accident or who did something to create a hazardous condition that led to the accident.
- Governmental entities responsible for maintaining the roadways and keeping them safe from hazards.
If someone is found to have contributed at least 10 percent of the blame in causing your accident, you may seek damages from them. Florida practices a “pure comparative fault” standard with personal injury lawsuits. What this means is that you may recover damages from other liable parties even if you are partially to blame for the accident. However, your award will be reduced by the percentage of blame you bear. For example, if you are found to be 10 percent responsible for causing the accident, then your award would be reduced by 10 percent.
Let Us Help With Your Truck Crash Case
If you were injured or lost a loved one due to a truck accident in Orlando, you need the guidance of an experienced truck accident attorney. Let us help you understand your legal options. Contact the law office of Orlando attorney Jerry Jenkins online or by calling (407) 287-6757.