Truck Accident Attorneys in Tallahassee, Florida
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Florida witnessed 8,619 crashes involving large trucks in 2019, resulting in 4,443 injuries and 350 fatalities.
The category “large trucks” includes what are popularly known as big rigs, 18-wheelers, semis, and tractor-trailers. Fully loaded, some of these behemoths can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, compared to the 4,000 or so pounds of your average automobile. Not surprisingly, crashes with big rigs can result in devastating injuries.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a large truck—or worse, lost a loved one in a crash—contact the truck accident attorneys at Larry K. White, LLC.
With over combined 40 years of experience in pursuing personal injury and wrongful death claims, we are proud to fight aggressively and passionately for clients in the Tallahassee metropolitan area, in Gainesville, Jacksonville, and throughout Gadsden and Jefferson counties.
Laws Affecting Trucks & Their Operation
Florida has adopted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The rules cover everything from driver qualifications to truck maintenance and, most importantly, to standards of operation on the road.
To help prevent fatigue and resulting accidents on the highways, the federal regulations limit the number of hours a truck driver can be on the road. Drivers are limited to 14 hours of work maximum, with 10 hours of rest minimum, within a 24-hour period. Of those 14 hours, only 11 can be spent behind the wheel. In a 7-day period, work totals cannot exceed 60 hours maximum (or 70 if the truck sits idle for a day).
Drivers must take a 30-minute break when they have driven for a period of 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. The break may be satisfied by any non-driving period of 30 consecutive minutes (i.e., on-duty not driving, off-duty, sleeper berth, or any combination of these taken consecutively).
Assessing Liability in a Truck Accident
Under the principle of vicarious liability, more than just the driver may be responsible for a trucking accident. For instance, the trucking company itself may be liable if it contributed to the accident in any substantial way. Perhaps they rushed the driver into service without proper training, or they fudged the books and let the driver operate the truck beyond the 11-hour daily limit or 60-hour weekly limit.
The maintenance company or crew could also be liable if they, for instance, failed to keep the truck’s brakes up to safety standards or let the truck leave with overly worn tires subject to failure. The cargo crew can also be liable if they load the cargo in such a way that it throws the truck’s center of gravity off, making it harder to navigate the vehicle.
Road conditions—potholes, fallen trees, uneven pavement—can contribute as well. Here, you have to file a claim against the responsible government agency, which tends to set high legal bars for lawsuits.
Seeking Fair & Just Compensation
Florida is a no-fault insurance state. When you’re injured in an accident, you must first turn to your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. PIP will generally cover only 80 percent of your medical expenses and 60 percent of any lost wages due to missing work while injured—and only to the limit of the coverage you purchase. State law requires a minimum PIP policy of $10,000, though you can always purchase a higher limit.
Under no-fault rules, you cannot generally hold the other driver—whether of a car or truck—liable unless your injuries reach the “serious” level. Serious injuries include disfigurement, broken bones, limitation or loss of use of a bodily part or function, and substantially full disability for at least 90 days.
If your injuries rise to this level, you can file a personal injury claim against the truck driver or anyone else whose “negligence” contributed to the accident that resulted in your injuries.
The FMCSA says that the most common cause of trucking accidents is driver error. Other factors leading to accidents include driver fatigue, distracted driving, unsecured cargoes, inadequate training, improper maintenance, dangerous weather, and road hazards. In other words, a truck accident can result in more than one personal injury lawsuit being filed.
Pure Comparative Fault
When your lawsuit, or lawsuits, go to court without a pre-exempting settlement, the jury will be asked to assign a percentage of fault for everyone involved, using a legal standard known as pure comparative negligence.
Say you’re suing only the truck driver. That means both the actions of you and the driver will be examined to determine the fault, or negligence, of each.
Say the truck driver rear-ended you, causing you neck and spinal injuries, but one of your brake lights was not functioning. You could be assigned 20 percent of the fault because of your dysfunctional brake light, and your award for damages would then be reduced by that percentage. Your $50,000 award would end up being just $40,000.
Under pure, as opposed to modified, negligence, you can still recover damages if you’re 90 percent or more at fault, but that would open you up to a possible claim by the other driver.
Filing a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Claim
Florida’s statute of limitations for personal injury and wrongful death claims allows you four years from the date of the accident to file, but you certainly don’t want to wait that long unless your injuries don’t surface until a substantial time after the crash. It’s also important to note that in a personal injury lawsuit, you are not limited to economic claims only. You can also seek compensation for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering and loss of joy in life.
Florida’s law on wrongful death lawsuits requires that the “personal representative” of the decedent must file for the family. A personal representative is a person named in a will or trust to oversee the distribution of assets to beneficiaries and fulfill the wishes of the decedent. If your loved one dies without a will, a probate court will assign one, often a family member. The personal representative will be responsible for ensuring the rightful family members and heirs receive the proceeds from the lawsuit.
Truck Accident Attorneys in Tallahassee, Florida
An accident with a large truck has many more layers to it than a simple fender-bender between Car A and Car B. Other companies and individuals may be liable for damages in addition to the driver. If you or a loved one has been injured, or lost their life, in an accident with a big rig, you need to seek legal advice. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Larry K. White, LLC in the Tallahassee area. We will investigate your situation, assess liability, and guide you toward recovering fair compensation. Whether it involves negotiations with insurance adjusters or exercising your rights in court, reach out to a team who will stand by you every step of the way.