Semi-Truck Accident Lawyers in Florida
Serving You and The State of Florida
What You Deserve to Know if You are Injured in an Accident Involving a Tractor-Trailer Rig
Accidents involving a semi-truck often result in severe trauma, or even death, for those involved. The causes of such accidents have been studied by the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration and published in The Large Truck Crash Causation Study. The results of the study found that the crashes were complex events, usually involving two or more vehicles. Driver training and experience, highway conditions, vehicle design, and weather conditions can all play a role in the likelihood of a crash. During crash reconstruction, there is rarely a single factor that leads to a devastating crash.
Driver error caused 87% of the cases studied, and the critical reasons are divided into four areas:
- Non-Performance: The driver was physically impaired, fell asleep, or was disabled by a heart attack or seizure.
- The driver was distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle. The distraction resulted in a failure to recognize and react to the situation quickly enough.
- The driver did not perform correctly, such as instances when the driver panicked, overcompensated, or demonstrated poor directional control.
- The driver engaged in poor decision making such as driving too fast for the road conditions or following other vehicles too closely.
The ten most common factors associated with a semi-truck wreck
- Brake problems–Unlike personal vehicles, commercial tractor-trailers are high-performance vehicles that experience a lot of wear and tear. When it is not maintained correctly, parts such as breaks can start to fail, leading to often catastrophic results.
- Traffic floor interruption (heavy congestion, or backed-up traffic from a previous wreck)—Most drivers have experienced topping over a small hill to find the traffic stopped in front of them. Given that semi-trucks take a much longer distance to stop, conditions like this can lead to a semi-truck rear-ending stopped traffic.
- Prescription drug use—We know that prescription drug use of opioids is at a crisis point in our country. However, there are more than just opioids that can affect a driver’s ability to drive safely. Anti-depression medication, heart medicine, and even prescriptions to treat seasonal allergies can all cause drowsiness and other side-effects that make it unsafe for a driver to drive.
- Traveling too fast for conditions—heavy traffic, a fog that limits visibility, ice or snow, and rain can all cause unsafe road conditions that require vehicles to slow down. Truck drivers trying to remain on-schedule may be traveling to fast for the road conditions.
- Unfamiliarity with the roadway—Sharp turns, steep inclines, and numerous other unexpected road conditions can lead to accidents.
- Roadway problems—Construction zones or an uneven road surface can cause a trailer to sway, contributing to a driver losing control of the vehicle.
- Required to stop before the crash (traffic control device or a crosswalk)—As we have stated before, semi-trucks have a much harder time stopping than do other vehicles. Drivers can end up in a crash by either running a red light because they know they can’t stop in time or by losing control of their vehicle while trying to stop too suddenly.
- Over-the-counter drug use—Many truck drivers use caffeine and energy tablets to help them stay awake and alert for long hours behind the wheel. Unfortunately, those over-the-counter medications can cause shakiness, blurred vision, and a host of other side effects that make driving unsafe. Some people have varying reactions to over the counter meds, and it is possible to feel drowsy from “non-drowsy” cold and flu medication.
- Inadequate surveillance—With endless hours staring out the windshield, it can be extremely difficult to remain alert to all your surroundings ceaselessly. Inadequate surveillance can lead to unsafe lane changes or approaching slower traffic at too high a rate of speed without realizing it. A tractor-trailer can drift across a center line and cause them to strike another vehicle in a split second it takes for a driver to look away at a phone or radio.
- Fatigue—driver fatigue is a common cause of semi-truck accidents. Drivers of tractor-trailers often travel thousands of miles in a short amount of time. Driver compensation is usually contingent on the number of miles driven, leading drivers to drive as far as possible to earn a living. They sometimes extend themselves beyond their physical capabilities, leading to unsafe behavior behind the wheel. There are federal regulations to limit the amount of time a driver can drive without a break, but unfortunately, the regulations are not always followed.
What makes accidents involving semi-trucks so much more dangerous?
A fully loaded semi-truck is multiple times heavier than any personal vehicle. Most trucking accidents involve tractor-trailers that are loaded, and the weight of the load also factors into the accident. In the event of a crash, the laws of physics take over. When a semi and a personal vehicle are involved in a collision, the occupants of the private vehicle are unlikely to walk away without serious trauma.
Even low-speed conditions can pose a significant risk. Semi-trucks often carry hazardous materials or flammable liquids. An accident that punctures that trailer can pose the risk of an explosion, or toxic exposure to dangerous substances.
Few drivers of personal vehicles realize how long it can take a semi-truck, especially when loaded, to stop. According to the IIHS, loaded tractor-trailers take 20 to 40 percent farther than cars to stop, and the discrepancy is more significant on wet, slippery, or icy roads. The tractor-trailer can also take longer to stop if the brakes on the truck and trailer are not appropriately maintained.
Driver error also contributes to the dangerousness of the semi-truck. Professional drivers are responsible for operating the rig under the law. Many laws that are designed to keep semi’s and other drivers safe on the road are ignored because trucking companies put unrealistic deadlines on their drivers. Maintenance on the rig that is mandated by law is often skipped over, leaving the platforms in poor operating condition.
Fatigued truck drivers have the potential to operate their vehicles less safely, and this can contribute to accidents. Federal hours-of-service regulations maintain that a driver can drive up to 11 hours at a stretch. Drivers often go beyond that allotted time, but even an 11-hour shift behind the wheel of a big rig can lead to fatigue and exhaustion.
Semi-Truck Accident Lawyers in Florida
Let The Lopez Law Group help you get the compensation you deserve if you were injured in an accident involving a semi-truck.
The first step in receiving compensation for your injuries is proving that the semi-truck driver or the company responsible for the truck was negligent in a way that contributed to the accident. It might be clear, by the accident report, that the truck driver was at fault. However, the company that employs the truck driver may have been negligent in hiring or continuing to employ the driver, and we will investigate that avenue as well.
Litigating a semi-truck or other commercial vehicle accident can be an expensive and time-consuming process. There might need to be a detailed accident investigation performed by outside experts, and the firm will retain expert witnesses to support claims of negligence. Commercial trucks, in most states, have black boxes similar to what you hear about in airplane crashes. Those boxes are often crucial to determining what happened during the moments before and during the crash.
Knowing what to look for, like the black box data, the maintenance records for the truck, and the driving history of the driver are crucial to winning the compensation you deserve. We will investigate how the trailer was loaded, whether the load was secured properly, and the driver’s logs as part of our investigation into the accident.
Accidents involving semi-trucks are inherently complicated. In addition to the facts mentioned before, companies may lease trucks from other companies, or the driver might be an owner-operator. Trucks and trailers may be owned and insured separately by two different companies. There can be multiple lines of insurance coverage on the truck and driver, and each insurance carrier will throw up roadblocks to attempt to avoid paying for the damages you experienced. The Lopez Law Group has experience handling commercial vehicle accidents, and we are prepared to fight for the compensation you deserve. We have the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to take on complicated cases, and unlike some firms, we will keep you informed during every step of the process.
What type of injuries are common in accidents involving a semi-truck?
Injuries can vary depending on the mechanism of injury and things like the speed of the accident and the type of personal vehicle you were in when the accident occurred. Injuries can range from devastating fatalities to minor sprains and soft tissue injuries. High impact accidents can cause:
- Neck and back injuries can include herniated disc, torn ligaments, or spinal cord damage.
- Broken bones –bones in a crash can sustain anything from a hairline fracture to being completely shattered.
- Head injuries are common in automobile accidents. You may have suffered a concussion, but concussion can often disguise a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A TBI may take weeks or months to manifest all the associated symptoms. If you feel foggy, forgetful, or have trouble remembering certain things, please see a neurologist for a thorough evaluation. Severe head trauma is also not uncommon, and those can lead to a lifetime of impairment.
- Facial contusions and lacerations, as with other injuries, can occur across a wide range. You might sustain a black eye that fades in a week or so, or you could be looking at months or years of reconstructive surgery.
- Whiplash is common in motor vehicle accidents. Whiplash occurs when your body is submitted to forceful forward motion and then abruptly stopped. Symptoms of whiplash can include:
- Spasms or tightness in the muscles of the upper back or neck
- Difficulty swallowing or hoarseness
- Pain when you move your neck
- Headache and dizziness
- Abnormal burning or tingling sensations along with the nerve roots into your arms
- Shoulder pain
- Severe whiplash can cause injury to the intervertebral joints, ligaments, disc, and cervical muscles.
How to recover damages after a semi-truck involved accident
Damages in a semi-truck involved accident are often very similar to those suffered in a regular car accident. You are entitled to recoup losses related to the injuries you suffered, including the costs of medical bills, and any lost work which resulted from the accident, and your recovery. You might also deserve compensation for the pain and suffering you experienced as a result of the crash. If you have permanent disablement or loss of function due to the accident, you are entitled to compensation based on the severity of the damage.
It can often take months to know how much you will recover from complicated injuries versus how much pain and loss of function might be permanent. We urge our clients who are injured in motor vehicle accidents to not rush to settlement until you know you have achieved maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement is a phrase used to describe the point where you are unlikely to make more progress in your rehabilitation.
The Lopez Law Group will request copies of all your medical records and help determine a reasonable compensation amount based on the physical damages you suffered. You will need to provide us with information about your job and the time off work so that we can determine the past and present loss of income due to the accident.
Contact an experienced trucking accident attorney in Florida
If you, or someone you know, was injured by a semi-truck and have questions about the best way to move forward, contact the attorneys at the Lopez Law Group. We are available to speak with you and make an evaluation of your case. You can count on our experienced attorneys to be honest with you about the potential strengths and weaknesses of your claim, and we will make a recommendation for the best path forward.
A trucking accident can be the scariest moment of someone’s life, and the fear remains after the accident is over. It helps to have the right attorney by your side, fighting for the compensation you deserve. Call us today for a free case review at 1-727-933-0015. Our attorneys are standing by, and most importantly, we genuinely care about our clients.
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What Our Clients Say
Mr. Lopez was a Godsend and really helped me with my situation. Him and the entire firm were very diligent and helped speed the early stages of the process along due to a pressing situation. Throughout my experience working with the firm, they were always responsive and available any time I had a question or wanted to check on the state of affairs. Hopefully I won’t have to recommend Lopez Law Group to my friends or family, but if those unfortunate circumstances arise then there’s only one name I would trust. Thank you again for all your help!
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