Florida residents know that when a sudden summer storm hits, it hits hard. The rain can be unrelenting and completely impair your visibility and ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Although commercial vehicle drivers are trained to handle their trucks, semi-trucks, and 18-wheelers during adverse conditions, the weight disparity between the tractor and trailer of a truck coupled with reduced visibility and traction during adverse weather conditions can be fatal to Florida drivers.
Hours of Service Regulations and Weather Conditions
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, each year nearly 100,000 people are killed or injured as a result of large truck crashes. Unfortunately, of those accidents that proved fatal, nearly 73% of fatalities were not large truck occupants. Accordingly, federal law now has hours-of-service regulations for truck drivers to prevent distracted and fatigued driving. These include the following regulations:
The 14-hour Driving Window – truck drivers are provided with a 14-hour “window” with which they can drive up to 11 hours; however, a truck driver must have been off duty for at least 10 hours in order to activate the window;
The 11-hour Driving Limit – A driver cannot drive for more than 8 consecutive hours without taking a 30-minute break and may only drive a total of 11 hours in the 14-hour window;
The 60/70-Hour Duty Limit – A driver is not allowed to operate the truck for more than 60 hours within a seven day period or more than 70 hours within an eight day period;
The 34-Hour Restart – If a truck driver wants to “restart” his 60 or 70-hour clock, he must take 34 consecutive hours off duty.
Due to these hours of service regulations, even when poor weather conditions hit truck drivers may be tempted to push through the weather so that their 14-hour driving window does not expire. Although drivers are typically allotted an additional 2 hours of driving time in bad weather conditions, this may not stop drivers from trying to beat the regulations’ clock, putting more Florida drivers in danger. Because these regulations can be complex, and truck drivers may be tempted to circumvent them in order to return home more quickly, it is important to contact an attorney who understands these complex regulations if you have been involved in a truck accident.
Hours-of-Service and Weather Conditions
Although commercial vehicle drivers are granted an additional 2 hours in order to reach their destination if serious weather conditions have slowed their progress, such slick conditions present their own risks. Because the average truck weighs 20-30 times more than a typical motor vehicle, stopping a truck can be difficult even with air brakes. Sudden stops can require immense break pressure, and if the road conditions are slick, it can cause the tractor and trailer of the truck to fall out of balance due to lack of friction. This can cause what is known as “jackknifing,” which occurs when the front and back end of the truck fold into one another in an “L” or “V” shape. This is particularly dangerous for other drivers, and the truck driver will often have no control over the vehicle once it falls out of sync. A truck driver may also attempt to overcompensate when he or she senses the potential for a jackknife accident, which can have consequences on its own if the overcompensation causes an unexpected sideswipe collision as a result of a truck’s primary blind spots.
However, one of the leading causes of large truck accidents is called a “rollover” accident, which can occur when a truck driver fails to adjust his or her speed to curves in the road, especially when the conditions are slick. Based on the weight and nature of the load being carried, as well as road curvature, a truck traveling at an inappropriate speed around a curved path will begin to lean away from the direction of the curve and may rollover. While traditional motor vehicles such as sedans and small SUVs have a low center of gravity that helps keep the vehicles grounded during curves, trucks, semi-trucks, and tractor-trailers have a higher center of gravity, which is more likely to cause the truck to flip onto its side or roof. As the rollover of a large truck can block nearly every lane of traffic, you may not be able to stop in time in order to avoid the accident, and there may be nowhere for you to turn.
Recovering Compensation After a Large Truck Accident
Because large trucks are generally considered more dangerous to operate than traditional motor vehicles, Florida insurance laws require commercial motor vehicles to carry insurance policies that can be in excess of 1 million dollars. Although commercial motor vehicles registered in Florida or another no-fault state are still required to carry no-fault insurance to help cover your medical expenses, you are still entitled to seek the following compensation if you were injured as the result of negligent truck driving during dangerous weather conditions:
- Out-of-pocket medical expenses;
- Lost wages;
- Future lost wages and earning capacity;
- Loss of enjoyment of life; and
- Pain and suffering.
Further, if the court finds that the weather conditions were so poor and a truck driver was operating his truck at an excessive rate of speed under normal conditions, you may be entitled to a verdict that the truck driver was actually operating the vehicle recklessly, which may entitle you to additional punitive damages in order to deter such behavior in other drivers.
Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Attorney to Review Your Case
If you or a loved one suffered from personal injuries as the result of a truck accident in inclement weather, you are entitled to compensation for your suffering. Take advantage for your no-risk, free consultation with the Dolman Law Group, your premier personal injury and truck accident lawyers in the greater Tampa Bay area. They are here to fight for your right to operate your vehicle in safety, and they can advise you as to whether you have a claim for personal injuries under Florida law. Contact them today online or at (727) 451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765