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 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 us 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
The size of commercial trucks and the accompanying hazards they create are among the many reasons the federal government heavily regulates the trucking industry and why truck drivers have a higher duty of care for others on the roadway.
This increased duty of care includes requiring truck drivers to obtain a special license to drive the vehicle and further endorsements if they wish to transport hazardous materials. Drivers are also required to carry more liability coverage to compensate individuals the truck driver injures.
As part of maintaining their commercial driver’s license (CDL), a truck driver is subject to random drug and alcohol screenings. The law considers them intoxicated at a lower blood alcohol limit. Truck drivers are also required to document how many consecutive hours they drive and how often they have maintenance performed on their trucks.
Despite heavy regulation of their industry, truck drivers can and do commit errors that result in accidents.
Some of the common driver errors associated with truck accidents 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.
Common Injuries in Truck Accidents
More than 4,000 people die in the U.S. each year in accidents involving commercial trucks. Injuries suffered in truck accidents are often catastrophic, meaning they pose a high likelihood of impacting the sufferer’s ability to earn an income or to live independently. These types of injuries include traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and other types of injuries involving the back and neck, or the loss of a limb or critical senses, such as hearing or sight.
Some less-likely catastrophic but serious injuries that result from truck-involved accidents include:
- Bone fractures
- Internal organ damage
- Soft tissue injuries
- Deep cuts and lacerations
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.
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 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.
Truck Accident? Steven A. Bagen & Associates Can 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) BAGEN-LAW.