Bonita Springs has a laid-back beach vibe that attracts residents and visitors alike. However, beyond the beach and the area’s natural beauty, much of what makes Bonita Springs so enjoyable—such as the restaurants and shops—also invites commercial truck traffic to the area filled with the products consumers rely on. Trucks generally access Bonita Springs from the north or south by either I-75 or U.S. Highway 41 but can be found on arterial streets throughout the city.
While trucks are an essential part of daily life in Southwest Florida, they cause many severe accidents, leading to serious and even catastrophic injuries or death for occupants of smaller vehicles.
If a commercial truck accident injured you or took a loved one from you, a Bonita Springs truck accident lawyer from Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, can help you understand the personal injury claims process. We can help you seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury or loss. Contact us today for information about our firm and the services we are prepared to offer to assist you with your claim.
For nearly two decades, Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, has been helping the injured across Florida to receive the compensation they need after being injured due to someone else’s negligence.
We aggressively advocate for our clients and are proud of our results, including:
- A $3.85 million award for a client who suffered a brain injury due to a semi-truck accident.
- A $3.2 million award for another client who suffered a brain injury in an accident involving a commercial truck.
Truck accident injury claims are often complex. While no result can be guaranteed, contact us today to see what we can do for you. For answers to the legal questions you have about your claim, contact us.
What Causes Truck Accidents in Bonita Springs?
According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, nearly 30,000 truck accidents in Florida happen each year. These accidents result in around 30 fatalities and hundreds of injuries, including more than 100 individuals who suffer incapacitating injuries from the collision. Commercial vehicles are massive, weighing 20 to 30 times more than the average passenger vehicle when fully loaded. The size of the vehicle makes it hard to maneuver.
Bonita Springs is a popular place among tourists, who often share the same interstates and highways with commercial trucks (along with commuters and other roadway users) as they make their way to the beach. These interstates and highways are notoriously congested, which adds a layer of difficulty to operating a massive motor vehicle on the roadway.
Once truck drivers reach the city, they are greeted by busy and narrow roadways—particularly in the downtown area—and an even bigger mix of uses, including the presence of pedestrians and bicyclists.
All these factors make a frustrating journey for truck drivers, one in which everyone—particularly the occupants of other vehicles—is at risk. Here is a look at other factors that can lead to accidents involving commercial trucks in Bonita Springs.
For many truck drivers, Southwest Florida is the end of the line. They have transported products from ports, many of which are in other regions of the country and involved a multi-state journey. Truck driver fatigue is not an uncommon occurrence for these drivers.
In fact, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)—the agency responsible for overseeing and regulating the trucking industry—13 percent of all commercial vehicle drivers in accidents reported feeling fatigued at the time of the crash.
While fatigue is an understandable condition for those who have just driven hundreds or even thousands of miles to deliver products to Bonita Springs, it can happen anytime. Truck drivers who sleep in their sleeper berths often experience accidents within the first hour of driving due to a condition known as sleep inertia, which can impact several performance tasks, including a driver’s cognitive function and reaction time.
Many drivers operate their vehicles late at night when traffic is lighter. However, this results in the driver working when the body is naturally and instinctively wired for sleep. Additional causes of fatigued driving include certain medical conditions, such as sleep apnea, and taking certain over-the-counter or prescription medications, including common types of allergy and cold relief medications.
Most drivers in Bonita Springs are in a hurry to reach their destination, including those operating commercial trucks. Unfortunately, driving too fast for roadway conditions leads to hazards for any roadway user. These hazards can include causing the driver to have less time to react to dangers on the roadway and difficulty for other drivers to judge a safe gap in traffic to cross or enter a travel lane. Another significant risk involved with fast-moving commercial trucks is their ability to stop.
No vehicle stops in an instant. Instead, braking is a process that involves many steps starting when the driver sees a hazard and responds by braking. The brakes then begin to pull the vehicle’s weight, slowing it until it stops. Heavier vehicles, such as commercial trucks, will travel a longer distance before stopping. The faster the vehicle goes, the more additional force the brakes must overcome to stop.
In the best of circumstances—such as dry roads and a moderate speed—a commercial truck needs 20 to 40 percent more distance than a passenger car to come to a stop. Additional speed will increase this distance further, increasing the chances of a collision.
The FMCSA has several regulations that truck drivers and trucking companies in the U.S. are expected to follow. One of these regulations is that the driver must obtain a special license to operate the truck, known as a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Part of obtaining and maintaining the CDL is the requirement that the driver submits to regular drug and alcohol screenings.
Additionally, truck drivers have a lower legal impairment limit. For most adult drivers in Florida, the legal blood alcohol concentration limit is 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood. For truckers, this limit is cut in half at 0.04 g/dL; violations not only result in a DUI, but also usually result in the suspension of the driver’s CDL.
Despite these regulations, some drivers are tempted to drink or abuse drugs while working. Others consume common medications that have similar effects of impairing the skills and reflexes the driver needs to operate their vehicle safely.
Improperly Loaded Cargo
Commercial trucks in the U.S. are typically around 72 feet long, 8.5 feet wide, and 13.5 feet tall. Vehicles that are so tall and narrow often feature a high center of gravity and a propensity for rolling over if the driver is attempting to turn a corner, negotiate a curve in the road, or even swerve to avoid colliding with a hazard.
This risk is further increased if the cargo in the truck’s trailer is improperly loaded and there is a weight imbalance. While shippers often load the cargo for the driver, the driver is responsible for ensuring that the truck is loaded correctly before starting its journey.
The size of a commercial truck also makes it difficult to turn. To make a sharp corner, such as a 90-degree right turn, the truck driver must swing into an adjacent travel lane instead of completing the turn from the turn lane. Drivers who fail to ensure that the lane alongside them is clear to make their turn risk colliding with another vehicle.
If the driver fails to signal their intentions, another driver can conclude that the truck is driving straight and attempt to squeeze into the turn lane beside it, risking becoming caught between the truck and the curb as the truck driver completes their turn.
Significant Blind Spots
Yet another hazard involving commercial motor vehicles that leads to truck accidents in Bonita Springs is significant blind spots on all four sides of the vehicle. All vehicles have blind spots, areas the driver cannot see simply by looking into their rear-view or side-view mirror. For passenger vehicles, this blind spot is generally a small area along the rear sides of the car.
A truck’s blind spots, however, typically involve:
- About 20 feet in front of the truck
- About 30 feet behind the truck’s trailer
- The entire length of each side of the truck, extending diagonally
- The area just beneath the driver’s side window
Traffic safety agencies commonly refer to these blind spot areas as “no zones,” and encourage drivers to avoid lingering in the no zone, as a truck driver might forget they are there and collide with them while attempting to change lanes. However, it is important to understand that the onus is on the truck driver to ensure that a travel lane is clear when merging into it, just as drivers of other types of vehicles do.
When a no-zone accident occurs, it is often not the fault of the driver traveling in a lane beside the truck but rather the truck driver’s fault for failing to ensure that they had ample room to pull into the lane.
Federal Trucking Regulations: Protection for You, Complexity for Your Case
The FMCSA has put forth several regulations to protect roadway users from injuries or death in commercial truck accidents. While these regulations are essential, they add complexity to the case, as a number of potential forms of evidence must be considered to prove liability.
In addition to drug and alcohol screenings and a lowered legal impairment limit, these regulations include the following:
- Hours of service rules, which impose an 11-hour driving limit for truckers who are transporting property. Once the driver reaches their 11-hour cutoff, they must take at least 10 hours of off-duty time. The rules also prohibit drivers from being on duty for more than 14 consecutive hours, prohibit drivers from driving more than 60 hours in a 7-day period or more than 70 hours in an 8-day period, and mandate a 30-minute break after eight consecutive hours of driving. Drivers are required to electronically log their hours to show compliance with the regulation. This electronic log can be used as proof in accidents where fatigued driving is suspected.
- Physical health screenings. To obtain a CDL, the driver must submit to a physical health screening to ensure that they do not have health conditions compromising safety. Many drivers diagnosed with chronic conditions are permitted to drive as long as the condition is medically treated. In cases where the driver’s health status is considered a factor, the results of the driver’s most recent health screening can be considered.
- The driver’s personnel file, which they (or the company they work for) are required to keep on hand to show the driver’s background and driver history, as well as the training they have received. Suppose the truck driver is suspected of committing a traffic offense such as speeding. In that case, it will often be helpful to see if they have had previous driving infractions and their qualifications for driving a commercial vehicle.
- Maintenance and inspection rules. Trucking companies or owner/operators must commit to a regular maintenance schedule to keep their vehicle running correctly despite the tremendous wear and tear the weight and miles cause. Additionally, drivers must perform a pre-trip inspection of the truck on every journey to ensure that there are no visible signs of issues that would compromise the truck’s safety. When an accident occurs due to a suspected maintenance issue, your attorney will likely want to see service and inspection records.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Bonita Springs Truck Accident Claims Process
Commercial truck accidents often produce some of the most serious, life-altering, and even life-ending injuries on the roadway. Understandably, personal injury and wrongful death claimants from truck accident cases have many questions about the process of seeking compensation for the expenses and impacts of their injury or loss. Here are some answers to general questions that we are commonly asked about the truck accident claims process in Bonita Springs.
What process would I use to seek compensation after being injured in a truck accident?
Individuals who have been injured in a Bonita Springs truck accident are generally required first to seek compensation through the personal injury protection (PIP) policy that they were required to purchase when registering their vehicle in Florida. This policy provides partial coverage of medical expenses and wage loss related to the accident, regardless of fault.
Suppose the individual’s expenses exceed the limit of their PIP policy, or their injury meets the state’s serious injury threshold. In that case, they are permitted to file a claim seeking compensation against the liability insurance policy held by the trucking company or the truck driver.
When the at-fault party’s insurance receives the claim, they will assign it to the claims adjuster. A claims adjuster is an insurance company employee tasked with evaluating a claim and determining whether the insured was liable for the accident. If they were liable, the claims adjuster must decide how much compensation the claimant owes. The insurance company performs its evaluation through the lens of saving the company money, so even if it finds a liability, it will generally offer a low initial settlement offer.
If the insurance provider fails to compensate the claim, it can be filed as a personal injury lawsuit in the civil court system in Bonita Springs. It should be noted, however, that the at-fault party’s insurer can still offer a settlement after the claim is filed. Suppose no settlement agreement has been reached by the time the trial date arrives. In that case, the claim will be presented in court for a judge or jury to determine liability and the amount of compensation owed to the claimant.
What process would I use to seek compensation after losing a loved one in a truck accident?
If you have lost a loved one to a truck accident, compensation can be sought for the expenses and impacts of the family’s loss in Bonita Springs through the wrongful death claims process.
This process is similar to a personal injury claim, with a few notable exceptions:
- The claim is not filed by the family members who stand to benefit from it, but by a named or appointed executor of the decedent’s estate.
- The amount of punitive damages are capped in wrongful death claims at three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is more. Punitive damages are different than compensatory damages, as they are not intended to compensate the claimant (or a decedent’s beneficiaries for the expenses and impacts of their loss. Instead, the court awarded this type of compensation as a financial consequence for reckless actions leading to the accident and death.
- The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is usually four years from the date of the injury, while the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is generally two years from the date of the death.
What compensation can I receive through a Bonita Springs truck accident claim?
Both personal injury and wrongful death claimants in Florida can seek compensation for the expenses of their injury—known as economic damages—and the psychological impacts of the injury, known as non-economic damages.
Economic damages are often awarded in personal injury claims for the costs of the accident, such as medical treatment, lost wages, and lost earning capacity in claims involving permanent injuries that will impair the sufferer’s ability to earn an income.
Claimants can also seek compensation for the expenses involved in repairing or replacing the vehicle that they were driving when the accident occurred. Non-economic damages can include psychological impacts of the injury, such as physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
The economic damages that can be available through a wrongful death claim include: the loss of the decedent’s services and support, the payment of final medical expenses, the cost of a funeral service and burial or cremation, and loss of prospective accumulations to the deceased’s estate that would have likely occurred if the decedent would have survived the injury and continued their career.
Non-economic damages in wrongful death claims often include compensation for the loss of companionship, care, protection, guidance, and parental instruction, as well as mental distress suffered by the decedent’s family members due to their unexpected passing.
How long do I have to file a truck accident claim in Bonita Springs? Why does it matter?
While there are exceptions for mental incapacity, claims involving minors, and wrongful death claims involving estates that have not yet gone through probate, most personal injury claimants must file their lawsuit in court within four years of the injury. Most wrongful death claimants must file theirs within two years of the date of death to retain the right to use the court process when seeking compensation for their injury or loss.
Meeting the state’s statute of limitations is crucial to your ability to receive compensation. If you attempt to file a claim after the statute of limitations has expired, the court will almost always decline to hear the case. While most personal injury and wrongful death claims are resolved by settlement, failing to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations will usually destroy your chances of receiving one, since litigation is the only legal consequence for an insurance company’s failure to compensate a claim.
When a truck driver causes an accident, are they liable, or is the trucking company?
When a truck driver causes an accident, they are considered at fault. If the accident involved a traffic infraction or criminal act, the truck driver could be held responsible for that offense, and the consequences will be theirs. However, fault and liability are not necessarily the same thing.
Many truck drivers work for trucking companies, who are vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. The trucking company owns the truck and is responsible for ensuring it is adequately maintained and insured. They are also responsible for ensuring that the driver is qualified to operate the vehicle.
Personal injury and wrongful death claims involving at-fault truck drivers are filed against the insurance policy on the truck, which means the trucking company is technically liable for compensating the claim unless the truck driver involved was an owner/operator who maintains their own trucks and liability insurance. Slightly more than half of the 3.5 commercial truckers in the U.S. are employed by trucking companies.
How do I prove Fault in a Bonita Springs truck accident?
To show who was at fault for a Bonita Springs truck accident, you must show:
- The at-fault driver had a duty to take reasonable actions to avoid causing bodily or property harm to others. The duty of care owed by most drivers in Bonita Springs is to operate their vehicle safely and legally. However, truck drivers owe a higher duty that involves higher levels of liability insurance, more training for drivers, regular maintenance and vehicle inspections, hours of service regulations, and regular drug and alcohol screenings.
- The driver breached the duty of care. This can involve traffic infractions such as speeding or failing to yield the right-of-way, or violations of FMCSA regulations, such as working for 15 hours straight, driving with an impairment limit of at least 0.04 g/dL, or operating the vehicle without a commercial driver’s license.
- This breach resulted in an accident that injured or killed someone.
Can I file a truck accident claim alone if I cannot afford an attorney?
Anyone can file a claim on their own. However, having an attorney is crucial in a truck accident claim, as they have the experience to fight against insurance companies and the knowledge to properly value your claim and secure the evidence needed to prove it in court. The attorney’s legal team is available to assist with gathering documentation and considering the evidence, which is often overwhelming to claimants seeking compensation on their own.
Fortunately, personal injury and wrongful death attorneys use a contingent fee billing method to ensure that their services are available for anyone who needs them, regardless of the claimant’s financial status when the attorney is hired.
Here is how the contingent fee billing method works:
- When you decide to hire an experienced Bonita Springs truck accident lawyer to assist you with your claim, you will be asked to sign a contingent fee agreement. This agreement details the types of services your legal team will provide. It will also designate a percentage of the proceeds from a negotiated settlement or court award going to your attorney as payment for those services.
- Because you are not required to come up with an upfront retainer for work on your claim to begin, your legal team can start working immediately on your case and can continue working without worry about whether you are current on your attorney bill because you are not billed while the case is in progress.
- After your claim, your settlement or award proceeds will be sent directly to your attorney. From these funds, they will deduct the amount necessary to satisfy any medical liens that were placed on your award and will also deduct the agreed-upon percentage of your award for payment. They will meet with you to finalize the case, give you an accounting of the services provided and the payment received, and turn the remainder of the compensation over to you.
Why should I consider Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, when searching for a truck accident attorney?
When looking for an attorney to assist you with your claim, it is vital to have someone who goes beyond the “settlement mill” business model offered by many personal injury firms. Because truck accidents often result in catastrophic injuries that will result in a continued need for support throughout the injured person’s life, having an attorney who is willing to go to court and fight for the maximum amount of compensation available is far preferable than having one who will seek a quick and easy settlement that will not necessarily provide enough compensation.
The problem with settlements is that once they are signed, the claimant no longer has the right to seek additional compensation if they discover that what they received was insufficient to cover the expenses they incurred due to the accident.
Contact a Bonita Springs Truck Accident Attorney Today
Our Bonita Springs truck accident lawyer not only understands the legal process, but they also have experience in facing high-powered attorneys who work for the trucking industry and their insurers. They understand the amount of compensation that is needed for those who have suffered severe injuries in a truck accident, and they know the type of evidence necessary to prove the claim in court.
The legal team from Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, is ready to answer the questions you have about your truck accident claim and tell you more about the services we offer. For your free case evaluation, contact us online or by calling (239) 307-2634.
Bonita Springs Office
9220 Bonita Beach Rd SE suite 200-12
Bonita Springs, FL 34135