Truck Accidents by the Numbers
Commercial Truck Crashes (Florida, 2018)
Truck Crash-Related Passenger Car Deaths (US, 2018)
Truck Crash-Related Deaths (Florida, 2018)
Force x Mass = Destruction
Commercial vehicles, semi-trucks, and tractor-trailers pose an acute threat to other Florida drivers. Due to their mass and size relative to other vehicles on the road, truck accidents are more likely to result in catastrophic or life-threatening injuries for those involved. Moreover, their size and cargo, which can dislodge from the truck, can turn initial truck accidents into multi-car pileups.
Fully loaded semi-trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, while a typical car or SUV only weighs 3,000–4,000 pounds. To put that in perspective, an 80,000-pound truck traveling at only 2 mph has the same momentum as a 4,000-pound SUV traveling 40 mph. Obviously, semi-trucks tend to travel faster than 2 mph, which means that, due to the laws of physics, a small passenger car won’t stand a chance in a head-to-head matchup.
Truck accident data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety bears this point out. Although a total of 4,136 people died nationwide in commercial truck crashes in 2018, most of the deaths were the passenger vehicle occupants. In fact, in two-vehicles crashes, 96% of those killed were occupants of the passenger vehicles.
Florida is no better than the nation at large statistically. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports that nearly 45,353 accidents involving a commercial truck occurred in 2018, and 16,459 of those accidents happened in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties. Despite the injuries caused by commercial trucks, they will continue to be a part of daily life. For this reason, take extra precautions when driving near semi-trucks and commercial vehicles.
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Characteristics of a Truck Accident
If you are unlucky enough to have been in a commercial truck accident, you need to keep in mind that there are significant differences between truck and car accidents. Here are just a couple of ways that truck accidents are different than car accidents.
Commercial Vehicle Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has created numerous regulations for semi-trucks and truck drivers. Florida has adopted most of these commercial vehicle safety regulations (F.S. §316.302) as well. This means there are legal nuances at play in a truck accident that make it more important that you hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to handle your case who knows these rules and regulations. Some of the most common FMCSA violations include:
- Failure to properly secure a load or overloading a truck
- Failure to keep required trip logs
- Driving while fatigued or not taking required breaks
- Use of drugs or alcohol whole driving
Who Should You Sue?
When Michael runs into Meredith with his car, Michael is at fault and Meredith will bring a suit against him.
But in truck accidents, the number of different parties potentially responsible for your injuries multiplies, making commercial accidents more complicated. The truck and trailer components are often owned separately and by corporate entities, not individuals. This results in potentially two separate companies being responsible for your injuries.
Who Is at Fault?
Determining fault and liability in a car accident is relatively simple. If Dwight rear-ended Andy, Dwight is probably at fault.
Liability for a commercial truck accident could include the driver’s employer, the trucking company, the truck manufacturer, third-party contractors, and the insurance companies who insure each of the aforementioned. Determining which parties have liability in the situation is key because each of these entities will likely carry separate insurance policies that could potentially all pay out separate amounts.
Larger Insurance Policies
Commercial trucks typically carry much larger insurance policies than the state-required $10,000 PIP and PDL minimums. There are also often multiple policies in play, e.g. one for the truck, one for the trailer, and another for the cargo. This is the case both because of the cost of the equipment and because of the amount of property and personal damage a truck can inflict.
However, with these larger policies comes a more dedicated team of insurance claim adjusters who will employ every possible tactic to reduce their client’s liability and shift the blame onto the injured party to reduce or avoid paying a claim. It’s critical that you get a qualified truck accident lawyer on your side as soon as you can.
Statutes of Limitation
In general, the Florida statute of limitations for personal injury claims for car, motorcycle, and truck accidents is four years from the date of the accident. But don’t forget that the 14-day statute of limitations for seeking medical attention still applies to truck accidents, and that PIP will not cover any medical bills if you do not seek treatment within 14 days of the accident.
Where injured parties could get tripped up is if someone in the truck accident was unfortunately killed. In this instance, you would bring a wrongful death claim, in which case the statute of limitations would be only two years, not four.
Common Causes and Types of Truck Accidents in Florida
Although everyone uses the term “accident,” most truck crashes aren’t accidents at all. Rather, they are caused by driver negligence, equipment malfunction, environmental factors, or a mix of all of three. Some of the most common causes of truck accidents in Florida are:
“Driver error” is an umbrella term we use to refer to a broad category of actions that are under the direct control of the truck driver. Driver error is the leading causing of truck accidents, including:
- Violations of FMCSA regulations
- Distracted driving
- Tired or fatigued driving
- Driving under the influence
- Aggressive driving
Occasionally the truck or trailer or other mechanical parts will fail and cause a wreck. These instances may not be attributable directly to driver error, but various parties can still he held negligent for:
- Manufacturing defects
- Improper truck maintenance
- Overloading cargo
- Improperly securing or loading cargo
Regardless of the root cause, truck accidents can wreak terrible destruction. As we said above, because of their size and their cargo, a semi-truck can cause serious damage on a crowded highway all by itself. Here are six frequent types of truck accidents.
A cab and trailer bed of an 18-wheeler are attached by a device called a “coupling.” When the coupling fails or when the trailer gets thrown off balance, the trailer can swing out perpendicular to the bed, much like a folding jackknife. A jackknifing trailer bed can crash into cars in adjacent lanes and cause widespread damage and injuries.
A 40-ton semi-truck moving at 60–70 mph has a lot of momentum. If a driver loses the ability to slow down or stop because of a mechanical failure, the truck’s momentum will carry it down the road demolishing anything in its path. Runaway trucks are more common in mountainous terrain, but they can also happen on even ground.
Semi-trucks have high centers of gravity, which makes them prone to tipping over if drivers go too fast around turns or curves. High winds, over corrections, and evasive maneuvers can also lead to rollovers. When a large semi-truck rolls over, any car near it will be smashed, and it is likely to cause blockades in the road that could lead to multi-car crashes.
A rear-end collision with two cars is considered a minor fender-bender. This is not the case with large commercial trucks. When a semi-truck rear-ends a smaller car, the truck may actually drive onto the back of the car. In the worst cases, the truck will crush the rear seats, which is usually deadly for any passengers.
The reverse of an override, an underride is when a car crashes into the back of a truck. In such cases, the front ends of smaller vehicles can become wedged underneath the truck’s rear wheels, often killing drivers and front-seat passengers.
Semi-trucks don’t even need to crash into other cars to cause damage. Often commercial vehicles carry cargo that is as large as the other cars on the road (or actual cars!). If cargo is improperly secured or overloaded, it can fall off of the trailer during transit and cause massive devastation on the road.
Most Common Truck Accident Injuries
The physical forces involved in a commercial truck crash are much greater than in most car accidents. Even relatively minor truck accidents can cause serious injuries to accident victims. More often, truck accident victims suffer long-term or life-threatening injuries, such as:
- Crush Injuries
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Multiple Broken Bones
- Spinal Fractures
- Amputated Limbs
- Disfigurement or Permanent Scarring
Recoverable Damages from Truck Accidents
It’s difficult to give exact figures for how much a truck accident victim can recover from a truck accident case because each victim’s losses and damages are different. The better question to ask is “what types of damages can I recover?” Approached from this way, accident victims can recover both economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic or Special Damages
Economic damages are your compensation for the out-of-pocket expenses related to the injuries you sustained in the accident. They may include:
There are not really any “fender benders” when it comes to truck accidents. If you’ve been in a truck accident, the cost of your medical treatments could be massive. Emergency room visits, hospitalizations, surgeries, physical therapy, prescription medications, and assistive devices (e.g. wheelchairs) can all be necessary to help you recover from a serious accident. As long as you have seen a doctor within the required 14-day window, the medical expenses you incur (and are likely to incur in the future) as a result of an accident are recoverable damages—including mileage to and from appointments!
There are 80.4 million hourly workers in the U.S. Simply being in a serious accident and receiving medical treatment can result in fewer working hours and lost wages. Certain injuries can further prevent these employees from returning to work while they are recovering. In this case, future lost wages may also be recoverable damages.
The damage done to your vehicle will depend on the circumstances of the accident, but in a truck accident it’s likely that your vehicle is going to sustain heavy damage. Sometimes items inside or on your vehicle can also be damaged, such as laptops, bicycles (on racks), or cell phones. If an accident is caused by the negligence of the other driver, you can make a claim against the various parties involved for the physical damage to your car or items inside your car.
Funeral and Burial Expenses
If someone you love has died from the injuries sustained in a car or truck accident, the funeral expenses may also be covered. However, after a person dies, their spouse, family, or personal representative must bring a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf, which is a somewhat different undertaking than a personal injury lawsuit.
Non-Economic or General Damages
Non-economic damages are a fuzzy category that are hard to quantify. They often include future harms or injuries that lack specific dollar values. You and your lawyer will assign values to these items by their impact on your quality of life.
Loss of Capacity of Earn
In the worst case scenario, very serious injuries may result in a long-term absence from work or even a permanent inability to work or to return to a current job. This is known as a loss of “capacity to earn,” and accident victims can be compensated for this loss of future earnings.
Loss of Consortium
Consortium is Latin for “partnership” or “close connection.” These damages are recoverable when an injured party can no longer provide the same love, affection, companionship, parenting, care, or sexual relationship due to their injuries. Spouses and close family members of accident victims can be compensated for the loss of consortium.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering damages are usually the most highly compensated damages, but they come with caveats. Florida law allows accident victims to recover damages for “pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience” only if a person is permanently injured and the pain and suffering is a direct result of the injuries sustained in the accident. Certain types of accidents are more likely to cause permanent or life-altering injuries. Regardless of whether you deserve them or not, the insurance company will do everything it can to prevent you from being compensated for your emotional damages.