If you were recently involved in an accident with a commercial truck, you might be confused as to whose truck caused your bodily injuries and the damage to your vehicle. The fact is, Florida trucking accidents involving commercial carriers are not as straightforward as you might think. There is a good chance a driver, the trucking company, shipper, maintenance company, loader, or even a manufacturer may be liable for compensating a victim following a collision with a tractor-trailer. Although it is easy to blame the truck driver at the scene, the negligence involved may not fall solely on the driver of the big rig. Since the driver of the truck was likely representing multiple entities, it is difficult to immediately know who should take responsibility for a truck accident claim, which could include:
- the driver of the semi-truck
- employer of the truck driver
- owner of the tractor-trailer rig
- a company that hired the truck
- a company that loaded the trailer
- equipment or truck manufacturer
- third-party maintenance company
It is important that you understand a truck accident claim is not a personal injury lawsuit. The claim notifies the truck driver, the trucking company, and others that you are seeking compensation for damages. Even though your insurance may have paid for some medical expenses, catastrophic accidents involving large trucks can leave you with a mountain of bills that can quickly exceed PIP policy limits. Since enormous medical debt is a primary cause of personal bankruptcies in our country, chances are an attorney will need to file an actual lawsuit, which, in Florida, must be done within four years of the date of the crash for non-fatal trucking accident injuries. If you fail to file the suit within the time specified by the statute of limitations, it will not be considered by the court.
Rules of the Road for the Trucking Industry
Like all motorists driving on Florida roadways, truck drivers must follow traffic laws. These include safe driving practices, such as not driving under the influence, operating their vehicle in accordance with general traffic laws, staying alert behind the wheel, and not driving distracted or carelessly. Nonetheless, truck drivers do commit serious driving errors and many major truck accidents are caused by driving when fatigued, failure to check for vehicles in blind spots, improper merging, lane changes, or exceeding safe speed limits. The driver of a large truck is also responsible for checking their tractor cab and trailer and may be considered at fault due to equipment failure, including a lack of mirrors to keep a proper view of other vehicles.
At the state level, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) defines the statutes that govern the operation of commercial trucks including regulations for transporting hazardous materials. Federal agencies also regulate truck driving through the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). In addition, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) governs the hours a truck driver has behind the wheel, health requirements and other trucking issues like load weight limits. Equipment failure is also a common cause of big truck accidents, such as faulty tires, misloaded cargo, faulty maintenance, or wrongfully putting equipment back into service. Although drivers are responsible for checking their vehicle, a single individual may not have sufficient insurance coverage for a catastrophic event. So, tractor-trailer lawsuits may target the rig’s owner, the trucking company, the hauler, a third-party provider, or others.
Seeking Compensation after a Semi-Truck Accident
With the legal weight for a tractor-trailer being 40 tons, semi-truck accidents are often much worse since it is much more difficult for them to change direction or stop. Unlike a car crash where liability is more straightforward, it is not uncommon for commercial carriers to deny fault, especially in cases where the truck did not hit your vehicle full-on. To establish a link to the truck driver, you will need to investigate, document, and present a truck accident claim. Remember, when you are involved in a semi-truck accident, hiring a personal injury attorney can ensure your rights to compensation are protected when suing the truck driver, trucking company, owner of the truck, the company who acquired the services to ship the goods, and other liable entities.
Seeking compensation for both economic and non-economic damages following a semi-truck accident can be quite confusing, so it is important to prepare for the long legal road ahead. Moreover, the truck driver, trucking company, and other liable entities often are located outside the state of Florida. In some instances, punitive damages may be applicable if the defendant’s actions were reckless, malicious, fraudulent, or willful. Awarding punitive damages to a victim of a tractor-trailer accident is the court’s way of punishing the offenders and dissuading similar future behaviors. If you or a loved one were severely injured in an accident involving a big rig, you should contact Schackow & Mercadante. Our experienced legal team can help you recover fair compensation for the damages you suffered in a collision with a commercial carrier.