A semi-truck accident can be a life-changing event for those involved. An empty semi-truck weighs somewhere between 30,000 and 35,000 pounds and can weigh up to 80,000 when fully loaded, compared to the 5,000-pound average weight of passenger vehicle. This extra weight and mass results in increased property damage and more severe injuries which are more likely to be fatal than other traffic accidents. Challenges associated with a large truck accident require the skills of an experienced semi-truck accident lawyer who can handle the complexities involved.
If your injuries or those of a loved one resulted from driver or trucking company negligence, Florida law entitles you to seek compensation in civil court. Get an experienced semi-truck accident lawyer working on your case as soon as possible to hold liable parties accountable for their negligence.
Types of Semi-Truck Accidents
Semi-truck accidents are among the most severe of all traffic accidents. Multiple types of crashes might result in serious injury or fatality. They include:
A head-on collision with a semi-truck often results in severe injury or fatality, especially at high speeds on an interstate. A head-on collision typically occurs when a truck driver loses control of the semi and veers into another lane, not providing oncoming vehicles enough time to avoid a collision. Loss of control might happen because of a tire blow out, fatigued driving, distracted driving, and a variety of other reasons.
The heavyweight of a semi requires drivers to take more for maneuvering and stopping. When motor vehicle drivers make erratic movements and quick stops, they risk being involved in a rear-end collision, especially if a truck driver is following too closely or driving while distracted.
These types of crashes occur most often at intersections and can be deadly, especially to passengers. A broadside collision might occur if a semi driver tries to play beat the red light or blows through a red light or stop sign when distracted. Fortunately, broadside collisions are not as common with semi-trucks as other types of collisions.
When a truck driver slams on his breaks, the trailer can skid until it’s almost perpendicular to the tractor, causing a jackknife. If jackknifing doesn’t cause the semi to go into the median, other drivers face the risk of colliding into the truck. This is especially common on wet or icy roads.
Rollover crashes are the most dangerous for truck drivers, who usually live through a truck accident. Rollovers occur because a driver loses control of a semi. Loss of control might occur because of weight and balance issues and excessive speed, especially around corners. Tire blowouts also cause rollovers, which put other motorists at risk if the semi blocks traffic causing other vehicles to strike them.
An underride collision is an extreme type of a rear-end collision which occurs when a motor vehicle gets lodged under the rear of a semi’s trailer. When a truck stops suddenly in heavy traffic or to avoid a road hazard, and another vehicle is following too closely or distracted, they slide under the trailer. Small cars get stuck and ride under the trailer until the driver realizes what has happened. These collisions are typically fatal.
Motorists are at risk from an accident when a flatbed semi-trailer spills its cargo on the road. Cargo spillage can occur because the load wasn’t secured properly and the vibration of driving releases whatever security mechanism was used. When semis are unevenly loaded or loaded above their maximum weight, instability can also cause the truck to roll over and spill, potentially causing a deadly multi-car pile up.
Injuries in Semi Accidents
If you are involved in an accident with a semi, you risk sustaining the same injuries you might in any other type of traffic collision. Yet, the force from the mass and speed of a semi lead to the most severe injuries, many of which might be fatal. Some common injuries in semi-truck accidents include:
- Multiple fractures
- Deep cuts which might leave permanent scars
- Head injuries including traumatic brain injuries causing life-long damage
- Neck injuries including whiplash and other soft tissue injuries
- Spinal cord injuries which might result in full or partial, temporary or permanent paralysis
- Back injuries included fractured and herniated discs
- Organ damage and internal bleeding
- Amputation of limbs
- Burns when an explosion or fire occurs
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) creates and oversees rules and regulations for commercial vehicles, including semis. While many situations can lead to a semi accident, many preventable accidents occur because of negligent truck drivers who violate traffic regulations. The FMCSA reports the follow traffic violations as causes of semi accidents:
- Distracted driving is anything which takes a driver’s hands, eyes, or mind off of the road. Examples include entering information into a GPS, adjusting the radio or another setting, eating, personal grooming, and daydreaming. Doing these things is not illegal, but truck drivers who use their cell phones are breaking federal law. Drivers can use one button to make a call, but all other operations must be hands-free.
- Speeding is semi-trucks can be treacherous. The FMSCA reports approximately one-third of all fatal semi accidents involve speeding. When drivers speed or go to fast for conditions, they have difficulty controlling their truck. This makes it difficult to stop or maneuver to avoid road hazards, especially in the rain, wind, and other inclement weather.
- Failure to yield to other drivers can also result in a semi accident. Truck drivers might not have enough time or distance to yield, they might be distracted, or a motor vehicle might be in one of their blind spots.
- Following too closely is often an artifact of the demanding schedules of truck drivers, who are always in a hurry to make deliveries. Driving instructors typically recommend a two-second gap between vehicles to leave enough room for quick stops and erratic movements. Semis require longer distance and more time to stop and slow down. The FMSCA suggests truck drivers leave four to five seconds between the cab and the vehicle in front of them. Higher speeds and inclement weather require up to eight seconds to avoid rear-ending the vehicle in front of them.
- Driving while impaired is not a regular issue for truck drivers, but it can and does happen. Semi drivers work hard with long hours and demanding schedules, leaving some to use drugs and/or alcohol to deal with their jobs. Semi drivers are held to higher standards than regular drivers; the legal breath alcohol comment (BAC) limit for semi drivers is only 0.04. Drug and alcohol use impairs reaction time for semi drivers, which can result in serious accidents causing fatalities or severe injuries.
- Failure to obey traffic signals and signs can result in devastating injuries. It’s highly unlikely a semi driver will intentionally disobey signals and signs, but distracted drivers can easily miss signs and signals. Cars who strike a semi who has run a red light might experience an underride collision, resulting in catastrophic and/or fatal injuries.
Liability in Semi-Truck Accidents
Semi-truck accidents can include multiple parties beyond the driver. If you seek compensation, you might name the driver, the trucking company, and/or the insurance company. A Florida court might find the following parties partially or fully at fault for a semi accident.
- Truck drivers who violate traffic regulations such as texting and driving, drinking and driving, or making other negligent choices behind the wheel might be liable in a for an accident.
- Trucking companies might share liability with a driver for many reasons. Companies who don’t maintain their vehicles, encourage drivers to break FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations, or require cell phone use can be liable if these behaviors result in an accident and injury.
- Motor vehicle drivers who violate traffic rules might also cause an accident. This can include reckless driving, drunk driving, drugged driving, or anything which causes a truck to lose control and strike another vehicle.
- Semi-truck manufacturers and dealers who design, build, or sell defective trucks can also be liable for a semi accident. This also includes defective truck part manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers. If a defect causes an accident, any party in the chain of distribution might be liable in Florida civil courts.
- The State of Florida, county, city, or other government entities might be liable if poorly maintained roads or inoperative traffic signals cause a semi accident.
Recovering Damages in Semi-Truck Accidents
If you or a loved one has sustained injuries or died as a result of a semi-truck accident, Florida law entitles you to seek compensation to recover damages related to the accident and injuries. Negotiated settlements and court awards differ based on circumstances, the extent of the injury, and the amount of loss. If you settle with the defense or a Florida court rules in your favor, you might be able to recover the following damages:
- Medical expenses including ambulance and emergency services, hospital stay, surgery, X-rays, diagnostic scans, lab tests, medication, and follow up doctor visits
- Future medical costs when an injury results in permanent disability requiring life-long care or catastrophic injuries requiring multiple surgeries and/or extended recovery time
- Rehabilitation costs including physical therapy and assistive devices such as wheelchairs, artificial limbs, crutches, walkers, and canes
- Lost wages for time away from work due to injury, hospitalization, and recovery
- Lost earning capacity in the event a severe injury causes permanent disability preventing an injured person from returning to their job or forces them to switch careers to a lower-paying position
- Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, loss of companionship, and loss of consortium with a spouse
- Punitive damages in cases of intentional harm or gross negligence
If you lost a loved one in a semi accident, you might be able to recover damages depending on your relationship to the deceased. Your attorney can advise you on your situation. If you are eligible to file a wrongful death claim, you might recover some of the above damages in addition to funeral expenses and burial costs.
Look for a Skilled Attorney After a Florida Semi Accident
Getting the best outcome after a semi accident injury lawsuit requires hiring a skilled attorney who can advocate for you during the legal process and fight against the defense’s tricky tactics. You need to focus on healing and recovery and let a qualified semi-truck accident attorney handle your case and investigate the details of your accident by checking driving logs, looking at truck maintenance records, checking for driver violations, and inquiring about any other relevant aspects of your case. Look for a truck accident lawyer who offers a no-obligation free consultation so you can learn about the ways an attorney can help you after a semi accident without fear of additional bills piling up.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765