The holidays are almost upon us once again, and as joyful as these occasions can be, the holidays can also make traffic a nightmare in Central Florida. The malls will be packed, the attractions expect their biggest crowds of the year, I-4 reaches peak congestion, and the bridges and interstates connecting Tampa with St. Petersburg and both cities with Bradenton and Sarasota are no place for nervous or novice drivers. There’s going to be a lot more traffic, and much of that traffic will be the large commercial trucks delivering the items we buy during the holidays.
A big truck’s weight and momentum can cause devastating, catastrophic injuries in a collision. Every traffic crash is a potential disaster, of course, but statistically speaking, commercial truck crashes are the most dangerous of all traffic collisions. A fully-loaded large truck can weigh forty or more tons; the typical passenger vehicle weighs in at about 3,000 pounds. Their size and weight make trucks difficult to stop, and if a truck and an automobile hit something at the same speed, the truck will do considerably more damage.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tells us that in 2014, accidents involving large trucks resulted in 3,660 fatalities. While 16 percent of these fatalities were truck drivers or passengers, 68 percent were passengers in autos, SUVs, and other vehicles, while 15 percent were motorcyclists, bicycle riders, and pedestrians. The number of fatalities in large truck crashes was up by 16 percent in 2014 over 2009. And if you think truck accident fatalities only happen on the interstates, you would be incorrect. In 2013, fewer than three in ten truck accident fatalities happened on an interstate highway.
Personal injury attorney Jeffrey W. Hensley says, “Trucking accident cases are not your ordinary motor vehicle accident cases.” He adds, “First, over-the-Road truck drivers are required to comply with many complex rules and regulations. Secondly, determining who is responsible for an accident isn’t as easy as you may think. Semi-trucks are often owned by Company A who then leases it to Company B who in turn subleases the truck to someone else; maybe an independent driver or a trucking company. Figuring out who should be responsible can be quite challenging. Finally, there are often other parties, such as maintenance and repair facilities that contribute to the cause of the accident.”
When a truck driver’s negligent driving is the direct cause of a collision with injuries, victims are entitled by Florida law to reimbursement for all past, present, and future medical expenses and all related losses. Entitlement under the law, however, doesn’t mean that the reimbursement is certain or automatic. It’s not. In Florida, an injury victim receives reimbursement only if he or she can prove that the driver of the truck was negligent and that the negligence was the direct cause of the injury. In central Florida, an experienced Tampa truck accident attorney can provide the legal help that a truck accident victim will need.
WHAT CAN AUTOMOBILE DRIVERS DO TO AVOID TRUCK ACCIDENTS?
Whenever you are driving, put as much distance as possible between your vehicle and large trucks. When you pass a truck, do it as quickly as possible while staying safe. Pass on the left, because a truck’s right side is almost all blind spots, and a truck driver may not even know you are there. After passing a truck, don’t jump right back in front – stay in your own lane until there’s substantial distance between the truck and your own vehicle.
Be extraordinarily careful in the vicinity of a large truck making a turn, and give the truck driver as much space as you can. When a truck driver initiates a right turn, the driver will first swing wide to the left. When you see a truck make this move, do not move to the truck’s right side. The truck will move back to the right during the turn, and you’ll be stuck. The same principle applies in reverse to left turns.
Research published by Road Safe America, an organization that promotes trucking safety, found that one out of three truck accidents on the nation’s highways involve the blind spots around trucks. Automobile drivers need to know where a truck’s blind spots are – to avoid them. The blind spots on a truck are comparable to the blind spots on your own vehicle. Still, the wisest driving strategy is to stay as far from big trucks as possible.
IS TRUCKING ADEQUATELY REGULATED?
The U.S. Department of Transportation has established a number of federal regulations governing truck drivers and the trucking industry. Drivers may not be behind the wheel more than 11 hours a day or 70 hours a week. Additionally, truck drivers in the U.S. must possess a commercial driver’s license, understand and speak English, understand all road signs, and may not have any trace alcohol in the blood while driving. Truck drivers must be at least 21 years old to drive across state lines. Apart from these rules, however, there’s little regulation regarding the training that new truck drivers receive.
The Department of Transportation requires trucking companies to conduct maintenance on a standardized schedule and to keep comprehensive maintenance records. Every driver must also conduct a daily inspection and fill out a report about the condition of the truck he or she is driving. The Department of Transportation has also established rules for loading and securing cargo. The regulation states, “Cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured on or within a vehicle.” When a driver makes a turn, trucks with inadequately secured cargo can become unbalanced and even roll over.
Permanent disability, catastrophic injury, and wrongful death are too often the result of truck collisions. The injuries sustained most frequently in truck crashes include head and chest bruises, spinal cord injuries, bone fractures, soft tissue injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. If you’ve lost a limb to amputation, sustained a spinal cord injury, or suffered a traumatic brain injury because of a truck driver’s negligence, you’ll need the maximum possible compensation for long-term medical care.
IF YOU’RE INJURED IN A TRUCK COLLISION, WHAT’S YOUR RECOURSE?
If you’ve been injured by a commercial truck driver’s negligence – or if you are injured in the future – you may pursue a personal injury claim for full reimbursement for your past and future medical care, past and future lost wages, and compensation for pain, suffering, and loss of the “enjoyment of life.” If you’ve suffered injuries because of negligence, you’ll need to work with an experienced Tampa truck accident lawyer who knows what it takes to win the compensation and justice that victims of negligence need and deserve.
Permanent disability and wrongful death are the end result of far too many truck collisions in the state of Florida. The eventual answers may include more regulation of driver training, video feeds that allow drivers to see a truck’s blind spots, and a readjustment of the way truck drivers are paid to eliminate the temptation to drive while fatigued. For now – and especially through the holidays – drive carefully and keep your distance from the large commercial trucks on Florida’s streets and highways.