Legal Advocates for Florida Truck Accident Victims
The North Tampa truck accident attorneys at Holliday Karatinos Law Firm, PLLC provide truck crash victims with comprehensive legal representation. Our lawyers will bring more than fifty years of personal injury experience to your truck accident case. We have the financial backing to pursue even the most complex truck crash cases, but still provide you with the personalized attention that only a boutique firm can offer. If you have suffered injuries in a truck accident, contact our office today.
Truck Accidents in Florida
Trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds or more with a special permit. When they are involved in a crash, they can cause catastrophic injuries and significant property damage. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported more than 3,600 fatal truck accidents in 2011. A majority of these accidents involved truck tractors or vehicles that exceeded 26,000 pounds. According to NHTSA, 214 fatal crashes in Florida involved at least one truck in 2012.
Trucking Industry Regulations
The trucking industry is governed by federal and state laws. These laws apply to truck drivers, trucking companies, and other entities involved in the industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversees interstate trucking activities, while the Florida Highway Patrol Office of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement enforces state trucking laws. These regulations govern numerous aspects of the trucking industry to ensure the safety of trucks on our roads and highways. The regulations include those related to:
- Driver qualifications and commercial driver license requirements.
- Hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, such as limits on a driver’s hours on the road.
- Record of duty status or logbooks.
- Permit requirements for overweight trucks.
- Driver drug and alcohol testing.
A truck accident will trigger an investigation into whether the truck driver, trucking company, or any other party possibly violated state or federal regulations.
Truck Accident Liability
A truck accident can have more than one cause, and a thorough investigation will help determine who may be at fault for the crash. You may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against one or more parties if you are involved in a crash.
Negligence is the basis for many truck accident cases. You can hold an at-fault party liable if you can demonstrate that the party had a duty to exercise reasonable care; breached that duty by failing to exercise care; and caused your injuries and damages. Speeding or an overloaded truck, for example, can indicate negligence.
A truck driver’s employer, such as a trucking company, may also be directly liable under a negligence claim if they failed to adequately supervise and monitor their drivers. A trucking company that allowed a driver to violate HOS regulations, for example, may be held responsible for negligence. In addition, the truck driver’s employer can be held vicariously liable for the driver’s negligence. Under the theory of respondeat superior, an employer can be held liable for the acts of its employee if the employee acts in furtherance of the employer’s interest within the scope of his or her employment when behaving negligently.
Accidents Caused by Driver Negligence
Truck Driver Fatigue
Fatigue is a major issue for truck drivers. The very nature of their work often requires extensive hours and driving through time zones in order to make their deliveries. Fatigue can have an impact on the driver’s level of alertness, performance, and response time. If a fatigued driver hits the road with a truck that weighs up to 80,000 pounds or more, the combination can be catastrophic, if not deadly.
To address the issue of fatigued truck drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) has enacted regulations to curb driver fatigue. In 2013, the FMSCA changed its hours-of-service rule by limiting the maximum average workweek for a truck driver to 70 hours. To continue working after the 70-hour maximum, a truck driver must get at least 34 hours of consecutive rest. This includes two nights of rest between the hours of 1am and 5am. In addition, drivers must take a 30-minute break within the first eight hours of a shift. Despite these measures, a fatigued driver may nevertheless continue to operate a truck on our roads and highways.
Liability for Truck Driver Fatigue Accidents
If you were hurt in a truck accident, truck driver fatigue may have caused or contributed to the crash. A diligent and thorough investigation of the accident can determine if a fatigued driver was a factor, or one of several, that contributed to your injuries.
You can hold a truck driver accountable for your injuries if you can show he or she was negligent. All drivers in Florida must exercise care when they drive. You would have to show that the driver was negligent by establishing that the truck driver:
- Had a duty to exercise reasonable care;
- Failed to exercise this duty (by driving while fatigued); and
- Caused you to suffer injuries and damages.
In addition to the driver, you may be able to hold his or her employer liable. If a truck driver’s employer failed to properly monitor the driver’s hours to ensure compliance with the law, the employer may be held directly liable for its negligence. An employer is vicariously liable for its employee’s negligence if the employee’s actions were within the scope of his or her employment and in furtherance of the employer’s interest.
Lack of Truck Driver Training
Truck drivers operate vehicles that are significantly larger and heavier than most other vehicles on the road. Trucks, semi-trucks, and tractor trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds or more, and may carry hazardous materials. Drivers usually work long hours and sometimes travel through time zones to make their delivery deadlines. Given the nature of their work and size of their vehicles, truck drivers must be properly licensed and trained before they can get behind the wheel.
Federal law prohibits a person from driving a truck unless he or she receives the proper training. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires that a person have a valid commercial driver’s license issued by a state. A driver must pass both a written and skills test in Florida to obtain a commercial driver’s license. The skills test includes demonstrating that the driver can properly control the vehicle in a variety of traffic scenarios. Truck driver training also includes:
- Instruction on basic health maintenance (such as avoiding excessive alcohol use);
- Limits on hours-of-service, record of duty status preparation, and fatigue countermeasures to avoid a crash;
- Familiarity with the vehicle’s braking system; and
- Special training for drivers of longer combination vehicles, or LCVs.
Employers must also do background checks on their drivers. This includes an inquiry into a driver’s safety performance history, drug and alcohol testing, and periodic reviews of driving records.
Lack of Training and Liability
If you are hurt in a truck accident, and believe lack of training played a role in causing the crash, you can hold the driver or employer liable under a claim based on negligence. Drivers must have the proper training before getting behind the wheel of a truck. Employers must also ensure that their drivers are qualified and have the training required by law. If a truck driver does not have the proper training, the driver and employer may be held accountable.
To make your negligence claim, you must demonstrate that the defendant in your case owed you a duty of reasonable care; breached the duty of care; caused your injuries as a result of the breach; and that you suffered damages.
A truck driver may be liable if you can show that he or she breached the duty of care by driving despite the lack of training. The truck driver’s employer may be held liable if you can demonstrate that it disregarded its duty to ensure that its driver receive the proper training. In both cases, you must show that the breach caused your injuries. A review of the employer’s records will help determine if lack of training is a factor.
Given the high stakes of many truck accidents, there is the possibility that evidence will go missing. This is called spoliation of evidence, which is the destruction or alteration of evidence in an existing or pending litigation. Florida courts can impose sanctions on the party that “spoils” evidence, such as an adverse inference instruction to the jury or the exclusion of expert testimony.
Driving Too Fast for Conditions
Truck drivers are under tremendous pressure from trucking companies to get their cargo to their destinations by a specific deadline. Truck drivers are paid by the mile, so the more they drive, the more they get paid. Many will resort to speeding, even in poor weather or road conditions, to make their deadlines. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that almost 18 percent of large truck drivers who were involved in fatal crashes in 2012 had at least one prior speeding conviction. Speeding was the most cited factor in fatal truck accidents. Other unsafe driving factors include distracted driving, sudden changes in speed, and careless or erratic driving. Cloudy weather conditions, rain, snow, and other inclement weather played a role in 26 percent of fatal truck crashes and 29 percent of injury crashes in 2011.
Accountability for Unsafe Truck Driving
Truck drivers and their employers may be liable for injuries in a truck accident. A plaintiff in a personal injury suit may recover damages if he or she can establish the defendant’s negligence.
Negligence is a legal theory of liability that forms the basis for many tort, or personal injury, claims in Florida. A plaintiff must prove that a defendant is negligent to hold the defendant liable for injuries. Florida requires all drivers to drive at a reasonable and prudent speed given the road and weather conditions, and taking into consideration any actual or potential hazards. Drivers must control their speed to avoid crashing into other vehicles, pedestrians, or other objects on the road. A truck driver may be negligent if he or she drives too fast for the road conditions or otherwise drives the truck in an unsafe manner.
To prove negligence, the plaintiff must show that the defendant:
- Owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- Breached or violated this duty of care (by driving too fast for the weather conditions, for example); and
- Caused the victim’s injuries and damages.
The driver’s employer, such as a trucking company, may be vicariously liable for the driver’s negligence if his or her actions were within the scope of employment at the time of the accident. An employee acts within the scope of his or her employment if the action is one he or she is required to perform; if it occurs within the time and space limits of employment; and if it is at least partly motivated to serve the employer.
Evidence in truck accident cases may get lost, destroyed, or otherwise become difficult to obtain. This is known as spoliation of evidence. Florida courts can impose sanctions on a party that alters or loses evidence, but an attorney may be able to help you secure critical evidence before it disappears, or otherwise becomes “spoiled.”
Spoliation of Evidence in Truck Accident Cases
Truck accident cases are complex and high-stakes. There is always the potential for evidence to go missing. Spoliation of evidence is the alteration, destruction, or loss of evidence in a lawsuit in an attempt to impede the non-spoliator’s case. A Florida court can impose sanctions, such as an adverse inference jury instruction or exclusion of expert testimony, on a party that “spoils” evidence.
Compensation for Truck Crash Injuries
You may be able to recover damages in your truck accident case. You can seek compensation from those responsible for the accident. Recoverable damages include current and future medical expenses, lost income, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. If your relative died in a truck crash, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim. There is a four year statute of limitations on personal injury suits in Florida, and a two year limitations period in wrongful death cases, so it is important that you act quickly to preserve your rights.
Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys
The Spring Hill truck accident lawyers at Holliday Karatinos Law Firm, PLLC have significant experience handling complex truck accident cases. We can thoroughly investigate your case, move quickly to secure evidence, and work with experts to build a strong foundation for your claim. To schedule a free consultation, please call us today at (866) 597-0009 or complete our online form. We serve clients in local communities including Lutz, New Tampa, and throughout Citrus County.