Drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) are required by Florida law to earn and maintain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in order to operate semi-trucks / tractor-trailers on the road. In addition, truck drivers are also required by law to adhere to specific safe driving practices, such as observing maximum number of hours of driving before taking mandatory rests, ensuring loads are properly distributed and do not exceed certain weights, maintenance of tires, braking systems and hitch, etc.
Despite these stringent laws and legally-enforced safety practices, every day there are commercial vehicle accidents with catastrophic results due to the bad decisions of someone behind the wheel of a large truck. In 2012 alone, there were 1,757 truck accidents in Palm Beach County resulting in injury and property damage. The size, weight, and momentum of large trucks causes these types of accidents to be especially devastating and often deadly.
If you have been injured or suffered the wrongful death of a loved one in a commercial vehicle accident, the dedicated West Palm Beach truck accident lawyers at Kogan & DiSalvo understand what you’re going through and will work tirelessly to get you the fair compensation you deserve. Call now to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced injury lawyer. En Español.
Steps to Take Following A Commercial Vehicle Accident
Immediately after a truck accident occurs, it is imperative that you call the police. The responding officers will write a report documenting the details and circumstances of the accident and what they find to be the underlying cause(s) of the crash. This report is critical in proving that the driver of the truck was at fault for the accident.
The trucking company will immediately send an Accident Response Team to the scene of the accident in order to collect evidence, as well. Their primary objective is protecting their insured (in this case, the trucking company) against any possible claims by an injured party or parties.
For this reason, it is also important to take photos and record witness information, if you are able. Seek medical attention right away to treat and document your injuries. Commercial vehicle wrecks can be more complex than traditional automobile accidents because often there are multiple parties involved in the claim. For example, if the truck driver is negligent, the trucking company (their employer) may also be negligent for having hired that driver. The experienced and knowledgeable West Palm Beach personal injury lawyers at Kogan & DiSalvo understand what needs to be done in order to present the strongest case for your claim and in turn, get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses.
Types of Truck Accidents
Some of the most common types of truck accidents include:
- Head-on collisions. These are some of the most dangerous collisions–as the speed of each vehicle directly contributes to the force of impact and has a high risk of catastrophic injury or a fatality.
- Side impact collisions. These T-Bone” collisions occur when the front of a truck strikes the side of a vehicle. These are particularly dangerous because the truck can break through the relatively weak side paneling and windows, hitting the occupants with broken metal and glass.
- Rollover accidents. Often resulting from a side impact collision, a rollover accident is when a car flips onto its side or roof. Cars and trucks are not made to support their weight in this position and often crush inwards into occupants.
- Rear-end collisions. These accidents occur when the front of a truck strikes the back of a vehicle, often due to following too closely or not braking in time.
- Sideswipe collisions. When the side of a truck strikes the side of another vehicle. Because trucks have bigger blind spots, these accidents are common, even with specially designed mirrors.
Why Truck Accidents Are So Dangerous
Trucks weigh around 80,000 pounds, whereas the average passenger vehicle weighs about 4,000 pounds. When an object collides with a significantly heavier object, the lighter object typically absorbs more of the force. Accidents such as sideswipes and rear-end collisions that may be minor fender-benders with cars can become catastrophic when trucks are involved.
Additional factors that often contribute to the severity of an accident involving a truck include:
- Hazardous materials, such as industrial liquids, can cause burns or toxic exposure.
- Longer stopping distances, a car that is struck will be pushed for a much longer distance, exacerbating damage and injuries.
- Height differential can lead to a truck crushing a smaller vehicle.
- Blind spots can lead to delayed reactions during collisions.
- Loose cargo can break loose during an accident and become a hazard to oncoming traffic.
Common Injuries in Truck Wreck Cases
The injuries from truck accidents tend to be similar to those from a car crash but, as noted, more serious. In addition, catastrophic injuries and wrongful deaths also occur at a higher rate.
Some of the most common injuries resulting from truck accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries, also known as a TBI, include concussions, contusions, hematomas, and other conditions that require immediate, emergency medical treatment, involve long recovery periods, and may result in life-altering permanent injuries.
- Crushing injuries include internal injuries involving the pancreas, kidney, bladder, etc.
- Amputations, both surgical and accidental, are also referred to as “traumatic amputations.”
- Neck injuries such as whiplash.
- Spinal cord injuries can result in numbness, paralysis, or other debilitating conditions.
- Abrasions from being struck with broken glass or metal may leave substantial scarring.
Liability Issues in Truck Accidents
Liability in trucking accidents can be complicated because many different third parties may be involved such as:
- The truck driver, who may have broken traffic laws, consumed drugs or alcohol or violated the rules regarding drive time.
- The trucking company, which did not properly inspect the vehicle, did not maintain it per federal safety standards or created unrealistic deadlines and expectations that pushed the driver to unsafe speeds or driving hours.
- The truck owner, who may not have conducted federally mandated maintenance of their vehicle.
- The truck manufacturer, who may have created a product liability issue when they manufactured a defective part.
- The cargo loader, who may have improperly loaded the truck which leads to a loss of maneuverability for the truck.
Potential Compensation for Your Accident
There are three basic types of compensation in a trucking accident case–economic, non-economic, and punitive.
Economic damages are typically the easiest to determine as they are quantifiable financial losses. However, the most complicated aspect of economic damages relates to future medical expenses, e.g., multiple plastic surgeries to fix burn scars, or long-term therapy for PTSD
Economic damages include:
- Medical bills
- This includes physical rehabilitation such as physical therapy, career counseling as well as job training if the injured party cannot return to their previous job due to the accident.
- Damaged property, such as replacing a car that was totaled.
- Lost wages from time out of work.
- Diminished earning capacity.
Non-economic damages are more complicated and nuanced as they address issues such as the emotional harm suffered due to an accident. They are more subjective, more difficult to quantify, and often require more argument, evidence, and creativity to win.
Some non-economic damages that can be relevant in your case include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of consortium
Punitive damages refer to a negligent party whose intentional and harmful actions were so egregious as to warrant punishment. They are also known as exemplary damages because they have the secondary purpose of providing an example to deter potential future defendants from engaging in the same behavior.
Wrongful Death in Truck Accident Claims
When a fatality results from a truck accident, the family may pursue a wrongful death case. Under this, the court attempts to compensate a family for its financial losses.
The damages that can be collected may include:
- Loss of parental guidance and protection
- Loss of services, i.e., childcare or home healthcare for a disabled spouse
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of economic stability
Modified Comparative Negligence
Florida is a modified comparative negligence jurisdiction, meaning that any award of damages will be reduced by the degree of responsibility placed on the plaintiff for the accident up to 50%. For example, a car that was driving over the speed limit went through an intersection and was hit by a sleep-deprived truck driver. The court may say that the truck driver is 70% at fault and the plaintiff is 30% at fault. Therefore, the plaintiff’s damage award would be reduced by that amount. However, if the court determines that the plaintiff is 51% or more at fault, they will be barred from recovery entirely.
Because of the complexity of modified comparative negligence, it is highly advisable to speak with a West Palm Beach truck accident lawyer if you are injured in Southeast Florida. Damages will require experience and industry knowledge to accurately calculate and determine if a settlement offer is adequate or if going to court is right for you and your family.
Scheduling a Free Consultation with Kogan & DiSalvo
If you have been harmed or lost a loved one due to the negligence or reckless driving of a truck driver, call the West Palm Beach truck accident attorneys at Kogan & DiSalvo now. Our dedicated and aggressive personal injury attorneys will gather evidence to prove the truck driver was at fault for your accident, negotiate with the appropriate insurance companies, and, if need be, go to court to fight for the fair compensation to which you are entitled. Remember, the catastrophic injuries often inflicted by trucking accidents can result in significant damages, which the insurance companies and defendants will try to deny or minimize.
Consultations are always free and confidential and no fees are paid unless we negotiate a settlement or recover an award for your losses.