Truck Accidents Differ Greatly From Passenger Car Accidents, and Truck Accident Personal Injury Cases are Handled Differently Than Car Crashes
For a number of years now, Florida has unfortunately ranked third in the nation as the state with the most fatalities caused by truck accidents. Only California and Texas have more fatal truck accidents than Florida. Between 2010 and 2019, truck accidents in Florida increased by 93%.
Truck driving accidents may be common in Florida, but they are not common personal injury cases.
Due to the complications that a truck accident presents, each case requires the guidance of an experienced Florida truck accident lawyer.
One of the first things to understand about accidents involving commercial trucks (semi-trucks,18-wheelers, and other “big rigs”) is that the sheer size and tonnage of a commercial vehicle causes damages that far exceed those generally incurred in passenger car-only accidents.
A commercial truck (semi-truck,18-wheeler, or tractor-trailer), when hooked up to a trailer, weighs about 35,000 pounds—empty. Loaded, these vehicles can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.
Most accidents that occur between passenger cars result in a range of injuries—anywhere from minor to serious injuries. But they do not frequently result in death or catastrophic injuries. In contrast, commercial truck accidents almost always cause catastrophic injuries (e.g., paralysis, spinal cord injuries, loss of limbs) and often cause death.
As a result, almost all truck accidents require the assistance of a Florida truck accident lawyer.
But the severity of injuries is not the only reason why truck accidents are so different from car accidents and why they so often require the assistance of a Florida truck accident lawyer.
Truck Accident Cases are Complicated.
Some car accidents, of course, can be complicated or difficult cases. But every truck accident case is complicated and requires the assistance of a Florida truck accident lawyer.
There are several reasons. Some pertain to the law, some pertain to the defendants in the case, some pertain to the evidence in the case, and some pertain to the accident itself.
Let’s start with the law.
Federal, State, and Other Agency Regulations
Truck drivers and trucking companies are heavily regulated by the federal government, your state’s laws, and several transportation agencies.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the government agency responsible for regulating the commercial trucking industry.
The Department of Transportation (DOT), the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), and state governments also promulgate regulations applicable to commercial trucks, truck owners, and truck drivers. This means that truck accident cases involve a lot of different laws. Therefore, having a Florida truck accident lawyer who understands the law is critical if you are involved in a truck crash.
A Florida truck accident lawyer will understand the federal hours of service rules and will know whether the facts of your case support a violation of those rules. He will also know whether any or all of some of the other regulations applicable to trucks and truck drivers were violated, such as:
- Fleet maintenance
- Weight restrictions
- Truck length restrictions
- Cargo loading
- Logbook entries
If a trucking company or truck driver violates any of these rules or any of the rules of the road, they may be held liable for any damage or injury they cause.
Potential Defendants in a Truck Accident Case
Trucking accidents are also complicated because of the number of potential defendants that can be named in a truck accident litigation.
The defendant in a typical car crash is the at-fault driver.
In contrast, truck accidents have many potential defendants. Depending on the facts of the case, a defendant in a truck accident could be:
- The trucking company
- The truck driver
- The parties responsible for maintaining the fleet
- The parties responsible for loading the truck
- Truck manufacturers A Florida truck accident lawyer will investigate your case to determine who is a potential defendant, what that defendant may be liable for, and how to prove it.
Preserving the Evidence
Another factor complicating truck accident cases is getting and preserving evidence of the crash. Unlike passenger cars, commercial trucks are required to be equipped with Electronic Logging Devices (“EDLs”), and trucking companies are required by law to retain evidence of a truck crash. These are essentially the “black box” for a truck. The EDL records everything that happened right up to the time of the accident. The information in these “black boxes” can be invaluable in establishing liability in a truck accident case.
While it may be great that most trucks have these devices, getting your hands on that “black box” after a truck accident isn’t easy. That is why working with a Florida truck accident lawyer is necessary. Commercial trucking companies don’t want to pay the costs associated with truck crashes, so they resist handing that evidence over. While the law requires them to retain this evidence, it is only for a very short period—generally six months or so.
This means that obtaining and preserving the evidence in a truck accident case is of paramount importance, but difficult to do. Working with a Florida truck accident lawyer is one way you can be assured that the evidence in your case will not be lost.
How Truck Accidents Occur
While a truck accident, like any other personal injury accident, can occur in many ways, there are some common factors that cause truck accidents. These tend to be:
- Truck Driver fatigue
- Improperly maintained trucks
- Driver error
- Drinking or taking drugs while driving
- Overloaded cargo
- Distracted driving
Investigating the cause of the accident and gathering the evidence to prove it is what a Florida truck accident lawyer does. Regardless of how the accident occurred, it is a fairly good bet that the injuries to those riding in passenger cars will be serious. An experienced Florida truck accident lawyer will help you navigate the situation and get the compensation you deserve.
Statute of Limitations for Truck Accident Lawsuits in Florida
Like car accidents, truck accidents in Florida are subject to Florida’s statute of limitations. If, after consultation with your Florida truck accident lawyer, it is determined that you should file a lawsuit against the truck driver or trucking company or any other potential truck accident defendant, you must file your action within the law’s specific deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit.
In Florida, that deadline is generally two years from the date of the accident. What this means is that you only have two years from the date the accident occurred to file your lawsuit. If you miss that deadline, your case will be rejected: it will not be filed with the court, and the judge will not hear your case.
The statute of limitations has very few exceptions. Unless you file your action in a timely manner, you will not be able to sue the defendant or defendants—no matter how injured you are. Meeting the statute of limitations deadline makes consulting with a Florida truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after the accident absolutely imperative. Cases take time to investigate and prepare for court. The sooner you act, the sooner you will be able to recover for your damages.
Should I Hire Florida Truck Accident Attorney?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Yes. You should hire a Florida truck accident lawyer if you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck in Florida.
As noted above, truck accident cases are complex and complicated cases that need the attention of an experienced Florida truck accident lawyer. Attempting to handle such a case on your own is not a good idea. An experienced Florida truck accident lawyer understands the law, can identify all potential defendants, will be able to obtain and preserve the evidence, and can get you the compensation you deserve. Contact John Fagan today if you need an experienced Florida truck accident lawyer.