Truck accidents often have devastating consequences. Unfortunately, while “ordinary” vehicle drivers are rarely to blame, they often suffer the brunt of these consequences—including life-altering and life-threatening injuries in many cases.
These injuries can impact all aspects of victims and their family members’ lives. They can also prove incredibly expensive—costing hundreds of thousands if not millions, of dollars over the victim’s or surviving family members’ lifetimes. While it is challenging to characterize anything about the aftermath of a serious or fatal truck accident as “good,” the good news is that truck accident victims and their families will be entitled to financial compensation in many cases.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents in Florida
With this in mind, determining the cause of a truck accident is extremely important. If the truck driver, trucking company, or another party is responsible for causing the accident, then that party can—and should—be held accountable. This involves filing a claim, and filing a claim requires evidence of causation.
While filing a claim requires evidence of the specific cause of your (or your loved one’s) truck accident, being aware of the most common causes is helpful. This will inform the investigative process, and an experienced lawyer should be able to examine the available evidence and determine what the evidence says about causation. With this in mind, some of the most common causes of truck accidents include:
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA), brake failures and other brake-related issues are among the leading causes of significant commercial truck accidents. Broadly speaking, brake failures can happen for two main reasons: (i) components of a truck’s braking system can be defective when they leave the factory, or (ii) the truck’s brakes can fail due to inadequate maintenance. In the first scenario, the truck’s manufacturer (or brake component manufacturer) can be held liable. In the second scenario, the truck’s owner can be held liable if it failed to perform necessary maintenance, or the company that performed the maintenance can be held liable if its employees were negligent.
Distracted driving is a leading cause of all motor vehicle accidents in Florida—truck accidents included. Driving a large commercial truck while distracted (i.e., while texting) is dangerous for three main reasons:
- It takes truck drivers’ hands off of the steering wheel.
- It takes the truck driver’s eyes off of the road.
- It takes truck drivers’ minds off of the task of driving.
Distracted driving is negligent driving, and truck drivers who cause accidents while they are distracted deserve to be held accountable. As a practical matter, however, filing a claim after a distracted driving truck accident typically involves dealing with the truck owner’s (and the driver’s employer’s) insurance company.
Fatigue is common among truck drivers, as long hours behind the wheel can wear on both the body and the mind. Unfortunately, despite strict federal limits on how many hours truckers can drive each week, not all truckers and trucking companies follow the law. Studies have shown that fatigue can negatively impact driving ability, similar to low-level alcohol impairment—highlighting the substantial risks of driving an 18-wheeler or other large commercial truck without adequate rest.
Ignoring Traffic Signs and Signals
When truck drivers ignore traffic signs and signals, the consequences can be deadly. Running a red light or stop sign can result in a fatal T-bone accident, while ignoring yield signs, flashing yellow lights, and other signs and signals can leave other motorists not knowing what truck drivers will do next. Truck drivers must follow the law just like everyone else, and when they don’t, they (and their employers) can be held legally accountable.
While speeding falls into the category of ignoring traffic signs and signals, it warrants special consideration. Exceeding the posted speed limit in a large commercial truck can be extremely dangerous, as these trucks’ brakes often aren’t designed to slow them at high speeds safely. Speeding also limits truck drivers’ ability to turn or swerve; as a result, it is a common factor in T-bone, rear-end, jackknife, and other common types of accidents.
The fact that large commercial trucks are rigid to stop also means that tailgating takes on heightened risks. Additionally, when a large commercial truck rear-ends another vehicle, the forces are magnified regardless of the speed at which the truck travels. Rear-end collisions that result from tailgating often result in serious injuries, including whiplash, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), back and spine injuries, and seatbelt-induced trauma.
Tire Blowouts and Retread Failures
Tire blowouts and retread failures can cause truck drivers to suddenly and unexpectedly lose control. While skilled truck drivers will be able to regain control in some cases, tire blowouts and retread failures often lead to severe collisions. Like brake failures, the party liable for a truck accident caused by a tire failure depends on why the tire failed.
Truck Driver Inexperience or Inability
Driving an 18-wheeler or other large commercial truck isn’t easy. While this isn’t an excuse for causing an accident, it is one of the main reasons truck accidents happen. When trucking companies and other businesses hire inexperienced or unqualified drivers, they can—and should—be held liable when their drivers make mistakes that lead to severe or fatal collisions.
Other Truck Maintenance Issues and Defects
Along with brake failures and tire blowouts, other truck maintenance issues and defects can (and often do) also play a role in truck accidents. This includes everything from engine and electrical system malfunctions to problems with trucks’ couplers, cargo tie-downs, and other trailer components. Depending on why a specific component failed, the manufacturer, the trucking company, and/or a shop or dealership that performed negligent service could all be liable.
Common Claims for Damages After Serious and Fatal Truck Accidents
Once you know why a severe or fatal truck accident happened, you can determine what claim (or claims) must be filed to recover just compensation. Different parties can be held liable under other circumstances, and you must file the right claims based on the available evidence. For example, in most cases, truck accident victims and their families will have a claim (or claims) against one or more of the following parties:
- Owner-Operators – Some truck drivers are owner-operators. This means that they own their trucks and are responsible for their own trucks’ safety, maintenance, and insurance. When an owner-operator is liable for a truck accident, the owner-operator’s insurance policy will typically apply.
- Trucking Companies – If a truck driver isn’t an owner-operator, he or she will typically be an employee. Many truck drivers are employees of trucking companies. Trucking companies can be held liable for their employees’ negligence (known as “vicarious liability”), and they can also be held responsible for their negligence in some cases. For example, suppose a trucking company hires an unqualified driver or forces an employee to drive too many hours. In that case, the trucking company may be directly liable in the event of a crash.
- Other Businesses that Own and Operate Truck Fleets – Along with trucking companies, numerous businesses own and operate truck fleets. This includes everything from delivery companies to grocery store chains and major retailers. Like trucking companies, these businesses can be held liable when their truck drivers (or their trucks) are to blame for a driver’s or passenger’s accident-related injuries.
- Truck and Component Manufacturers – If a truck defect is to blame for an accident, the manufacturer or the individual defective component can be held liable. A truck or component is considered “defective” if it is unsafe when it leaves the factory due to a design or manufacturing issue. Truck defects are alarmingly common and can cause (or contribute) to serious truck accidents in various ways.
- Maintenance Shops and Dealerships – If negligent maintenance work is to blame for an issue instead of a defect from the factory, then the shop or dealership that performed the work can be held liable. Like all other businesses listed above, these businesses will almost always have insurance covering accidents caused by their employee’s negligence.
- Other Drivers, Government Agencies, and Other Third Parties – From other drivers (who cut off truck drivers) to government agencies (that build dangerous roads), various other parties can be liable for truck accidents in varying circumstances. With adequate evidence, an experienced truck accident lawyer can identify all viable claims for just compensation.
Common Losses Resulting From Serious and Fatal Truck Accidents
While many victims and family members are initially apprehensive about filing a claim, the importance of doing so can come into sharp focus once you understand the long-term costs of your injuries or your loved one’s wrongful death. The costs of a truck accident – both financial and non-financial – can add up quickly; and, in some cases, they will continue to accrue for the rest of a victim’s or their family members’ lives.
Understanding the Long-Term Costs of Traumatic Accident-Related Injuries
When you get seriously injured in a truck accident, your medical bills are likely to be your most immediate concern. However, they are also likely to represent just a small fraction of the total costs you will incur over your lifetime. Consider this. Even when an accident victim escapes with relatively minor injuries, he or she can still face costs including:
- Medical costs for initial diagnosis and treatment
- Medical costs for follow-up care
- Out-of-pocket costs for medical supplies and prescriptions
- Out-of-pocket costs for rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Loss of income due to inability to work
- Long-term pain and suffering
- Long-term emotional trauma
- Permanent scarring and disfigurement
If your injuries are serious (as will often be the case after a truck accident), your costs will begin to add up quickly, and they will continue to add up throughout the recovery process. If you have a claim, not only are you entitled to compensation for your financial costs, but you are also entitled to additional damages for your non-financial losses.
Understanding the Long-Term Costs of a Fatal Truck Accident
The costs of losing a loved one in a fatal truck accident are difficult to put into words. While it may also seem difficult to put them into dollars and cents, there are well-established standards and methods for calculating families’ damages in cases of wrongful death. Losing a loved one too soon can truly impact all aspects of your life; and, if you are entitled to financial compensation for these impacts, filing a successful claim will be an important step in the coping process.
Discuss Your Legal Rights with a Florida Truck Accident Lawyer at Silva & Silva
Do you need to know more about your legal rights after a serious or fatal truck accident in Florida? If so, we invite you to get in touch. For a free, no-obligation consultation, call us at 305-445-0011 or tell us how we can reach you online today.