With interstates, state highways, and a north-central location, many products come in and out of Gainesville, one of the state’s most well-traveled cities for commercial truck drivers. While we all rely on the products that come into Gainesville and exports are a major pillar of our economy, the massive commercial trucks that are the foot soldiers of the industry pose risks to all road users.
If a commercial truck accident injured you, you need an experienced Gainesville truck accident lawyer you can trust to provide the counsel and representation you need. Steven A. Bagen & Associates, PA has been helping the injured of Gainesville recover the compensation they’re entitled to receive for more than 35 years.
During that time, we have obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and court awards for our clients, including:
- A $2.5 million award for a client who suffered severe leg injuries when a semi-truck driven by a drunk driver struck his vehicle.
- A $1 million award for a client who suffered serious hip injuries when a semi-truck driver pulled out in front of his vehicle.
- A $300,000 award for a client who suffered a neck injury when a semi rear-ended her vehicle.
With our proven record of winning for truck accident victims, you can trust our Gainesville personal injury lawyers to handle your case and fight for every dollar you deserve.
Hazardous Features on Commercial Trucks That Lead to Accidents
At 80,000 pounds when fully loaded, a commercial truck is 20-30 times the weight of a passenger car and a lot longer, wider, and taller as well. The massive size of the vehicle not only increases maneuvering difficulty, but also the risk of serious injuries or death in an accident between a truck and a standard passenger vehicle.
The size of commercial trucks creates many potential hazards, including:
- Difficulty stopping the vehicle. No vehicle can stop instantaneously. Instead, stopping is a process where a driver recognizes a hazard, reacts to it by braking, and the vehicle continues its forward motion until the brakes stop it. The laws of physics dictate how quickly a vehicle can stop. Because trucks are so heavy, they require up to 40 percent more distance than a standard passenger vehicle to come to a safe stop. Other factors, such as wet roadways, higher traveling speeds, and overly worn tires can increase the distance required to bring the truck to a stop even more.
- Significant blind spots. A blind spot is an area around the vehicle that the driver cannot see by looking in their mirrors. The driver must, instead, look over their shoulder to see the area, if they can see it at all. All vehicles have blind spots, but the height and length of the commercial truck result in larger blind spots around all four sides of the vehicle, some of which are not even visible by looking over the shoulder. Other drivers are at risk of an accident if a truck driver fails to monitor the blind spots sufficient to clear a travel lane before changing lanes or backing up.
- Higher ground clearance. Trucks sit higher off the ground than other vehicles, in part to account for the weight the load places on the vehicle. Unfortunately, the space between the bottom of the truck and the roadway is just large enough for smaller vehicles to slip beneath it during an accident, an especially dangerous phenomenon known as an underride.
- High center of gravity. Another hazardous feature of commercial trucks is the high center of gravity, which can cause them to overturn when the driver attempts to make a tight corner or curve, or when they attempt an emergency driving maneuver at a high enough speed.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
In one recent year, semi-trucks caused 29 fatalities on Florida roads, 111 incapacitating injuries, 389 non-incapacitating injuries, and another 789 possible injuries. Amazingly, 27,044 truck accidents had no documented injuries associated with them. Still, more than 1,000 lives felt serious effects from these mostly preventable accidents.
Determining liability in these big rig accidents can hold the right people or parties liable for your injuries. Sometimes liability is directly linked to the cause of the accident. Understanding the causes of these accidents can help pinpoint the liable parties.
Common causes of semi-truck accidents can include:
- Driver fatigue: An estimated 13 percent of truck drivers involved in accidents report they were fatigued at the time of the crash. Truck drivers have hours-of-service restrictions that allow them to drive a limited number of hours before they are required to take an off-duty break. While these hours-of-service requirements have helped cut down on fatigued driving, many issues involving driver fatigue remain unaddressed by hours-of-service restrictions. One of those issues is sleep apnea, a sleep-related breathing condition in which the sufferer temporarily stops breathing dozens or even hundreds of times while sleeping. Nearly one-third of all truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea. This can drastically degrade the quality of sleep a truck driver gets with not on duty, meaning they remain fatigued during duty hours.
- Speeding: Truck drivers, especially when facing tight delivery deadlines, may speed or drive too fast for conditions. In some cases, this can cause a truck driver to lose control of the vehicle and cause a crash. Semi-trucks are especially vulnerable to getting in crashes when speeding, as they are already difficult to maneuver and stop and are more prone to roll-overs.
- Distracted driving: Distractions are a hazard for all drivers, and truck drivers are no exception. Common driving distractions for those operating commercial trucks include texting and other cell phone use, adjusting vehicle or GPS controls, communicating with dispatchers, work zones, and the actions of other drivers on the roadway.
- Impaired driving: As previously mentioned, truck drivers have a lower BAC limit than other drivers do. Truck drivers are also subject to random drug and alcohol screenings to maintain their CDL. However, despite these regulations, some drivers find ways to drive impaired. They may use prescription and over-the-counter medications, which often have intoxicating effects similar to alcohol and illicit drugs.
- Wrong-way driving: Truck drivers are often required to transport loads to areas they don’t know. Being unfamiliar with the roadway can produce disastrous situations, such as accidentally driving in the wrong direction on a one-way road.
- Lack of training: While drivers obtain basic training on the operation of a truck while studying for their CDL, this training does little to help the driver gain experience in the actual day-to-day rigors of the job. Trucking companies must properly train their drivers. Lack of training can result in accidents as the driver is still getting a feel of the truck. They may not yet have rid themselves of behaviors that may be safe in a passenger vehicle but are perilous in a truck.
- Lack of maintenance: Truck drivers and/or trucking companies are not only tasked with ensuring the vehicle is regularly maintained, but drivers also must perform visual inspections of the vehicle before every trip to search for signs of wear. Trucks drive thousands of miles on long hauls, which results in the need for more vehicle maintenance. Failure to maintain rigorous inspections and maintenance can result in tire blowouts and other malfunctions while the truck is operating. Common vehicle parts that can wear out due to lack of maintenance and lead to a truck accident include the brake system and the tires.
Whatever the cause of your semi-truck accident and resulting injuries, an experienced Gainesville truck accident lawyer can help you seek to recover full and fair compensation for your damages. After identifying the factors that led to your crash, one of the first steps your lawyer will take is to determine who you can hold liable for it.
Common highways and interstates where truck accidents can occur:
Common Injuries in Truck Accidents
One of the factors that will most affect the compensation you recover is the severity of your injuries. For one, in Florida, you must meet the serious injury threshold to go beyond your own PIP policy and pursue compensation directly from the at-fault party. But meeting the serious injury threshold also typically means experiencing much higher costs in medical bills, wage loss, pain and suffering, and other expenses and impacts.
Injuries sustained in big rig crashes can range from relatively minor lacerations or bruises to incapacitating and life-changing injuries such as spinal cord injuries (SCI), paralysis, and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Some semi-truck accident injuries will heal on their own within a few days or weeks without any medical treatment. Other more severe injuries might become permanent and result in a physical disability.
The type and scope of injuries arising from a semi-truck accident depend on many factors.
- Seatbelt use
- What part of your vehicle got hit—the side, rear, or front?
- The direction the victim was facing when the vehicle was hit— for example, were they straight ahead in their seat, or was their body or head turned in one direction?
- All involved vehicle speeds at the time of the crash
- The presence and effectiveness of airbags
Common big rig crash injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Internal injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Head injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Other soft tissue injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Knee injuries
- Emotional and mental injuries
Who is Liable for Gainesville Semi-Truck Accidents?
Semi-truck accidents are frequently more complicated than other motor vehicle accidents. One reason for this is that it can be challenging to determine liability, and several parties can be liable, more so than in other types of collisions. Because of this and many other reasons, injured individuals benefit substantially from hiring a Gainesville truck accident attorney to settle or litigate their cases.
The following parties may be individually or jointly responsible for causing your injuries in a truck crash:
- Government agencies: Both state and local governments are responsible for maintaining safe road conditions in Florida. Suppose your accident was caused even partially by a large pothole. In that case, a poor shoulder drop-off or other road issues caused by improper repairs or maintenance, a government agency can be liable for your truck accident injuries. Another agency might bear responsibility if there have been multiple accidents in one area and they refuse to change the road design to help prevent more accidents.
- The trucking company: Truck drivers working as independent contractors will likely carry most or even all of the liability in a big rig crash. However, if the driver works directly for a trucking company at the time of the accident, that company will likely have partial responsibility for the damages caused. In determining if this applies to your claim, your Gainesville truck accident lawyer will examine the maintenance and safety records of the semi-truck, the driver’s training documents, and other applicable records and documents.
- The truck driver: All truck drivers have an obligation to obey federal and local laws when it comes to the safety and maintenance of their vehicles, how many hours they drive and when, and the rest they get. Accidents are more prone to happen when they don’t follow these standards, and they can be found solely liable for the damages they cause.
- Private companies: If the big rig was improperly loaded, which caused the dangerous conditions leading or contributing to the crash, the employer, employees, or contractors can be held liable.
Other drivers: Other drivers on the road sometimes play a role in causing a truck accident. Depending on the situation, they might be the only party liable or share liability with any previously listed parties.
Your Gainesville truck accident attorney can maximize your compensation by ensuring that all the liable parties are held responsible for your claim. Whether in settlement negotiations or jury deliberations, under Florida civil personal injury law, each liable party will be assigned a percentage of fault for the accident. Each party will then compensate you for your damages according to their share of the fault. For example, one party might be ten percent liable and the other 90 percent; they will each be respectively responsible for ten and 90 percent of your total damages.
Trucking Industry Federal Regulations
Unlike passenger vehicles, semi-trucks are beholden to federal and state laws of operation. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces several hundred laws governing the actions of trucking companies, carriers, and truck drivers.
From driver training to fleet maintenance, all areas of the trucking industry must comply with these laws. Failure by a trucking company, carrier, or driver to obey these laws will turn into compelling evidence of negligence if a crash occurs involving a big rig. FMCSA regulations include:
Hours of Service Restrictions
Truckers aren’t legally permitted to drive after the 14th consecutive hour after ten straight hours off duty. At least one 30-minute break is necessary for every eight hours of driving time. Truck drivers also can’t drive more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days or more than 70 hours over eight straight days.
Alcohol and Drug Testing
Truckers must comply with pre-employment alcohol and drug testing, random tests, and tests required after severe accidents. California’s legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for commercial truck drivers is 0.04 percent. However, even if a truck driver’s BAC isn’t that high, any amount of detectable alcohol or drugs in their system can give rise to an impairment-related crash, making them liable.
Electronic Record Keeping
Most semi-truck drivers must keep electronic records of their behaviors and activities. These logs aim to help decrease the chances of errors, manage fatigue, and prevent any scheduling issues. Additionally, electronic logging devices can provide reliable proof of negligence if they show that a driver broke an FMCSA rule or wasn’t being honest on their records. Your Gainesville truck accident attorney can leverage this to your advantage.
There are specific cargo loading rules depending on the type of transported materials and their size and weight. Semi-truck loads can’t exceed certain height and weight limitations. Specific considerations also exist for big rigs transporting hazardous materials such as gasoline or other chemicals. Cargo loaders must be aware of and stick to various load securement laws to prevent accidents and lost loads while on the road.
Strict maintenance standards apply to semi-l trucks. Truck drivers must complete daily vehicle inspections and make timely repairs when they become necessary. Failure to properly inspect a semi-truck before putting it on the road can cause part failure and other types of accidents. In addition, part failures can also mean there was manufacturer negligence involved in your accident, meaning there are possible grounds for a product liability claim.
When you hire the well-versed Gainesville truck accident lawyers from Steven A. Bagen & Associates, P.A., they will thoroughly investigate whether any FMCSA or state law violations occurred that might have led to your accident. They know what potential forms of evidence to look for that might support your personal injury claim, such as police reports, eyewitness accounts, and electronic logging devices/black boxes on board the truck.
For example, an investigation can determine that a broken FMCSA law, such as an improper loading or failure to inspect, was the cause or contributed to your accident.
Seeking Compensation After a Truck Accident
Individuals who reckless truck drivers seriously injured can seek compensation for their injuries through the personal injury claims process. It is best to hire an attorney to help.
The process generally involves:
- Your attorney submitting a demand package to the at-fault party’s insurance provider
- Settlement negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurance provider
- If settlement negotiations have not brought a resolution to the matter within the applicable statute of limitations, filing a lawsuit in civil court
- Submitting evidence and presenting witness testimony at trial.
- Receiving the settlement or award, from which your attorney will deduct their fees and pay other expenses as agreed to before representation, then release the remainder of the funds to you.
How Lawyers Prove Liability in Truck Accidents
Because of the federal regulations governing the trucking industry, your attorney will need to review significant evidence and law to prove your truck accident claim. Some of that critical evidence includes truck inspection information, black box information, data gained from high-tech devices that are used by trucking companies to monitor driver activity, the driver’s hours of service information, the driver’s qualifications for the job (including training and work history), dispatch instructions, weigh station and loading dock reports, and the results of post-collision drug and alcohol tests.
Your attorney will review this evidence to determine how to show that the defendant was negligent and liable for your injuries.
Establishing negligence requires proving:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to you.
- The defendant violated their duty, such as failing to adequately maintain the vehicle or operating the truck while impaired by alcohol or fatigued.
- These actions resulted in an accident that caused you to become injured and to incur expenses and impacts for which you are claiming compensation.
Gainesville Truck Accident FAQs
How Do You Prove Negligence in a Truck Accident Case?
Once your Gainesville truck accident attorney determines which parties are liable in your accident, the next step is to build a strong claim proving their negligence so they can recover compensation on your behalf for your damages.
Establishing negligence in a truck crash case typically involves demonstrating these four essential points:
- The at-fault party or parties owed you a duty of care—for example, to drive safely, not overload the big rig, and obey local and state laws
- The at-fault party breached that duty
- The breach caused your injuries
- Your injuries resulted in your damages, including medical expenses, lost income and wages, or pain and suffering
When Should You File a Semi-Truck Accident Claim?
After a semi-truck accident in Florida, it’s in your best interest to contact a seasoned Gainesville truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. They can help you file your claim, investigate your accident, determine liability, and demand compensation from the liable parties. They can also work on negotiating a settlement. Suppose you cannot reach a settlement, and it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit. In that case, you have four years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit as per Florida’s statute of limitations.
You can no longer use civil law to seek compensation if you don’t file your lawsuit within that strict deadline.
Certain factors in your accident can decrease or increase this deadline—for example, if your claim:
- Involves a minor child
- Is against the government
- Is against someone not in the state of Florida
When you hire an attorney, they will be fully aware of all the deadlines that must be met in your case and ensure they adhere to them.
Our Gainesville Truck Accident Attorneys Today for Help
Truck accidents are often chaotic events resulting in severe injuries that leave your life in dire straits. If a truck accident injured you, we have an experienced attorney who is ready to provide you with a free case evaluation. A case evaluation is a time for you to discuss your claim with an experienced attorney, for free and with no obligation to continue with further representation if you decide not to.
You can obtain answers to your legal questions, learn more about the firm and its role in helping clients recover damages after an accident, receive an explanation of our contingent-fee billing method that allows us to begin immediately working on your case without upfront payments, and determine if you would like us to represent you.
For your free case evaluation, contact us online or by calling (800) 800-2575.