Truck accidents are not the same as car accidents. They don’t occur for the same reasons. They usually result in different kinds of accidents, and they typically cause different types of injuries. Indeed, although large commercial trucks account for only 4% of the vehicles on the road in the United States, they contribute to approximately 10% of deaths from motor accidents. Because truck accidents are so different from ordinary auto-to-auto accidents and because the drivers are often represented by the insurance company lawyers of their employers, victims should consult experienced counsel before making any decisions or settlements in a truck accident case.
The Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents occur for several common reasons, including:
The federal government regulates the number of hours of service a driver can remain behind the wheel in any given week. Although these hours have recently been reduced in an effort to prevent fatigue, truck drivers still do drive when they are fatigued. That fatigue contributes to highway accidents. Victims must do all they can to ensure that driver logs and travel records are preserved in any accident case.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving while under the influence of drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, is a significant factor in some truck accidents. In fact, prescription drugs are identified as a factor in one-fourth of all truck accidents. Drunk driving, on the other hand, is far less common. In either case, however, the driver’s impairment can lead to poor performance and motor accidents.
Speeding and Passing
Driving too fast for conditions was a factor in 23% of large truck crashes, according to a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Speeding by all types of vehicles is involved in more than 30% of traffic fatalities. Truck drivers are often under time constraints to reach their destinations; thus, speeding becomes a natural result. Speeding can reduce reaction time and is a significant factor in both rollover and jackknife accidents.
Distracted driving is a plague of the digital world and is responsible for one of four car accidents in the United States every year and almost 10% of traffic fatalities. Federal and state laws prohibit truck drivers from reading or sending texts while driving and dialing a mobile phone. Truck drivers are only permitted to use hands-free devices while operating their vehicles. Interestingly, in a recent study by Progressive Insurance, 90% of the public think distracted driving causes more accidents than drunk driving. Still, many of them, including 60% of 18 to 34-year-olds, believe that they personally are good enough at texting to drive and text without causing a hazard for others.
Lack of Familiarity With the Road
Surprisingly, with drivers who do, after all, drive for a living, fully 20% of truck accidents involve a lack of familiarity with the road. Confusion can result from road repairs or changes in the road’s makeup, including modifications to on- or off-ramps, auto-only lanes, and lower speed limits for commercial vehicles or trucks. On the other hand, drivers familiar with a route will pay less attention to their driving while on the familiar road.
A staggering 88% of truck accidents in a recent federal study cited human error or driver decisions as the critical reason for the accident when the truck was the vehicle at fault. Truck drivers themselves are a significant factor in more than half of all truck accidents.
Types of Accidents Resulting From Truck Accidents
The type of accidents or crashes that result in an accident also varies depending upon the circumstances. Unfortunately, the physics of one vehicle hitting another favors the truck driver hugely in a truck-auto collision. The types of accidents involving trucks include:
- Blowout accidents – Truck tire blowouts are extremely common, with the shredded results being familiar to anyone who travels the highways. However, according to the FMCSA, only 2.5% of truck accidents involve tire issues. Others say that tire defects account for nearly a third of all truck-related accidents.
- Head-on and rear-end collisions – According to the FMCSA, large commercial trucks experience a fatal collision with a vehicle in 74% of all crashes, 81% of all injury cases, and 76% of all property damage cases. A head-on collision occurs when a large truck collides head-on with another vehicle. A rear-end collision happens when a large truck drives over the back of another vehicle of any size. Both types are exceptionally hazardous, especially for those in the smaller vehicle.
- Jackknife accidents – A jackknife accident occurs when the trailer of a suddenly braking truck swings out at a sharp angle. This jackknifing can easily result in the truck rolling over, a perilous situation. Jackknife accidents are often caused by excessive speed or following too closely to another driver. Bad weather is also often a factor.
- Blindspot accidents – Every driver has seen the sign on truck mirrors, “If you can’t see me, I can’t see you.” These signs are to remind other drivers that large trucks have significant blindspots. Blindspot accidents are common; the NHTSA says that over 800,000 blind spot accidents occur each year.
- Rollover accidents – A truck driver can lose control of the vehicle leading it to roll over, creating a hazardous condition with both the truck and the cargo. These accidents are among the most dangerous for truck drivers, with nearly half of truck driver fatalities resulting from a rollover accident. The FMCSA notes that 54% of the vehicles involved in a rollover accident had a brake defect.
- Underride accidents – An underride accident occurs when another vehicle gets stuck under the trailer of a rapidly slowing truck. The top of the smaller vehicle is often completely torn off, with usually catastrophic results for the passengers. Underride accidents represent approximately one-fourth of truck accident fatalities.
Truck Accident Injuries
Truck accidents can also result in a wide variety of often severe injuries to those involved. A truck accident is more likely to result in death or injury than an accident between two cars. According to the National Institute of Traffic and Highly Safety, nearly three-quarters of the injuries in truck accidents are suffered by those in the vehicle hit by the truck. Further, 97% of those who died in two-vehicle accidents involving a truck were occupants of the passenger vehicle.
- Wrongful death – An accident with a trailer truck is ten times more likely to kill you than an accident involving another car. Almost all of the deaths in two-car accidents involving trucks and cars were passengers in the smaller vehicle. Remember that a wrongful death claim has a shorter statute of limitations than the negligence claim covering all other accident results.
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis – Spinal cord injuries suffered in a truck accident can be devastating, leading to paralysis. Spinal cord injuries can result in loss of use and feeling in all four limbs or only two or three. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, vehicle crashes cause nearly 40% of spinal cord injuries. Lifetime care costs for these victims run into the millions of dollars. These potentially extreme consequences make working with an experienced truck accident attorney critical for the victims.
- Internal injuries and injuries to the torso – The bony structure of your torso protects your vital internal organs. In a truck accident, it isn’t always successful. The resulting internal injuries can cause internal bleeding and hard-to-treat damage to essential organs like the liver, pancreas, and spleen. You can also experience fractures to the torso’s bony structures, and these fractures can result in further organ damage and internal bleeding. Further, burns, which can leave severe scarring and accompanying psychological harm, are common injuries to the torso, as well as to the face and limbs.
- Lacerations and broken bones – Lacerations in a truck accident are seldom minor cuts. They can cause significant pain and leave massive scars. Similarly, the mass and power of trucks in comparison to cars means that bones are far more likely to be broken and to be more seriously broken than in a car-only accident.
- Head injuries and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) – Injuries to the head in a truck accident can often result in life-changing injuries such as brain bleeds to the brain. Even without head trauma, brain injury can result from the rapid acceleration or deceleration occurring during the accident. Such injuries can cause loss of cognitive or motor function, leaving the victim changed for life. Traumatic brain injury can cause long-term effects on cognitive and motor skills and leave the victim suffering debilitating pain.
What to Do After a Truck Accident
As is clear from everything in this article, a truck accident can be quite different from a car accident. So, you want to be sure you take the correct steps right from the beginning.
- Stop and report the crash – Remember, you have to remain at the scene by law. However, if you are transported from the scene by an ambulance or law enforcement personnel, or other authorized personnel, that removal would not violate the statute.
- Seek medical treatment – Many truck accident injuries are catastrophic, even if you cannot see them right away. For this reason, you will want to see medical personnel as soon as possible. Officials at the scene may even obtain an ambulance or other emergency medical transport for you.
- Exchange information with the other party – It is critical that you exchange information with the other party or parties to the accident. If it appears that you need to seek to recover damages, you will need to be able to contact the other parties. Furthermore, truckers are often employees of large companies, with many lawyers handling car accident claims against them. You will want to be sure that you do not lose track of anyone involved.
- Check for any witnesses present – Get the names and contact information of any witnesses that are present.
- Document everything you can – To the extent you can, write down what you remember of the accident and anything anyone has said to you about it (particularly the other driver or driver of the truck). Don’t rely on your memory alone.
- Preserve any records – Dash camera films are admissible in Florida, and you should therefore be sure to preserve any recordings of the accident. You should also keep or obtain copies of any tickets issued at the scene and any accident reports prepared.
- Speak carefully – Anything you say may become a factor in the eventual settlement or lawsuit. Under Florida Statute 316.066(4), accident reports and statements made by participants in an accident to police officers investigating an accident are privileged and are not admissible at trial. However, the officer may testify to any statement made to the officer so long as the testimony does not violate the individual’s privilege against self-incrimination. Breath, urine, and blood tests, properly administered, are admissible.
- Contact a lawyer who concentrates on truck accidents – Truck accidents, as you have seen, have subtle complexities not necessarily present in other personal injury lawsuits. Moreover, the potential injuries and damages are life-changing, catastrophically severe, and expensive. You will want to be sure that you are working with counsel with extensive experience and knowledge of this type of accident.
How Long Do I Have to File a Truck Injury Claim?
In Florida, the statute of limitations for a vehicle accident is four years. If you include a wrongful death claim, the statute of limitations is two years, not four.
Proving Truck Driver Negligence
As is true in all negligence cases, a person seeking compensation in a truck accident needs to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that:
- The truck driver had a duty to the victim to operate the truck in a safe and reasonable fashion.
- The truck driver breached that duty by not operating the vehicle safely and reasonably.
- The truck driver’s failure caused the victim’s injuries.
- The injuries resulted in damages to the victim.
The truck driver’s employer may also be liable for the injuries based on a theory called respondeat superior, a Latin phrase used in law to represent the concept that an employer is responsible for damages caused by an employee in the course of employment. It is also called “vicarious liability” and is common in truck accident cases because the accidents often happen while the drivers are engaged in the work of their employers.
What Information Do Truck Accident Lawyers Need From Me?
Your lawyer will want to see any or all of the following that you have. If you do not already have these items at hand, you should get them as soon as you can.
- Any tickets issued concerning the accident
- Any photographs or dashcam recordings of the accident
- Any information exchanged with the other parties at the scene
- Information provided by the police at the scene
- Copies of your insurance policies and proof of premium payments
- Copies of any statement you might have made to your insurance company
- Medical and psychological records
- Pay records reflecting pre- and post-accident earnings and showing lost wages
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer?
Like most negligence accidents, truck accidents are usually handled on a contingency fee basis. The contingency at issue is that you only have to pay attorneys’ fees if you win your case. If you lose, your only out-of-pocket expense is any court costs and similar expenses. Under Florida bar association rules, the fee cannot be excessive and must be reasonable. The fee agreement must be in writing. It must state how the fee is determined, including the percentage payable in the event of settlement, trial, or appeal, which expenses are deducted from the fee, and whether expenses are deducted before or after calculation of the fee. There are particular required provisions in a Florida contingency fee agreement and limitations on the percentages that can be charged, depending upon the stage of the litigation at which an award is made. A court must approve any upward departures from these limits.
What Damages Can I Collect for a Truck Accident?
Generally, a victim can recover any actual damages for which the victim can be made whole by cash in a truck accident case. These include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost Wages
- Certain non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, emotional hardship, mental trauma, loss of enjoyment of life, and disfigurement.
- You can recover for wrongful death in a truck accident, but the statute of limitations is different, as are the filing requirements. Be sure to let your truck accident lawyer know if you are contemplating including a wrongful death claim in your truck accident case.
How Can an Attorney Help You after a Trucking Accident
Iscoe Law has long been assisting clients with truck accident claims. Contact us today for a free analysis of your case and a free initial consultation. An experienced slip and fall attorney can help you in several ways.
- Identifying the potential parties liable for your damages – Your case will not necessarily be solely against the driver of the truck. The truck driver is probably the employee of a trucking company and, since the driver is legally acting as their agent, the company may also be liable for your damages. There may have been other causes (such as another vehicle, road damages, or poorly signed construction) any number of conditions that can create other defendants in your case. An experienced truck crash lawyer will be able to spot these potential defendants better than you.
- Assisting with filing your insurance claim – Your insurance claim is likely to be complicated, even in a no-fault state like Florida. You have to make your auto policy claims and your PIP claims, and then claims involving the third parties’ insurance. And once you have made your claim, your attorney can be potentially even more critical.
- Negotiating a settlement – You do not have the expertise or experience to know the difference between a reasonable settlement of your claim and the bare minimum the company could offer. Plus, your attorney is not emotionally tied to the case the way you are. This distance leaves an attorney far more able to negotiate with experienced insurance company lawyers than you would be.
- Filing and litigating a lawsuit, if that becomes necessary – Filing a lawsuit, if that’s what it takes to get you made whole, is the domain of the layers. Don’t try to go on your own as a pro se litigant. Your attorney’s skill and expertise will be worth it in the long run.
In other words, helping to get the best possible result for you!
Free Case Evaluation, Free Consultation
Generally, a personal injury law firm will be happy to provide you with a free case evaluation and consultation on your claim. A contingency fee agreement will likely precede any action after that if the lawyer thinks your case has a likelihood of success.
Call Our Truck Accident Attorneys After Your Truck Crash
Contact truck accident attorney Gary T. Iscoe today. Iscoe Law’s long experience in vehicle crash cases will help you to get the best result you can!