Tractor-trailer Accident Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale
As intrastate commerce continues to boom, Florida’s roads have become a dangerous place for drivers. In 2018 alone, Florida witnessed a total of 44,808 commercial vehicle crashes . Tractor-trailer crashes can result in property damage, severe and disabling injuries, or even death.
Due to the complicated nature of tractor-trailer accidents, an experienced tractor-trailer accident lawyer can be key in gathering evidence for litigation and to make the strongest case for compensation. The tractor-trailer accident team at Schlacter Law in Fort Lauderdale specializes in litigating complex personal injury cases. They use a no-nonsense approach to case investigation and litigation, essential in going up against leaders in the tractor-trailer industry. If you have been injured in a tractor-trailer accident, call today for a free case evaluation.
Tractor-trailer Accidents by the Numbers
By definition, a “tractor-trailer” refers to the combination of a semi truck–the actual truck which contains the engine–and its trailer–commonly used for the transportation of goods and materials over long distances. A large truck has a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds. In media reports, tractor-trailers are also commonly referred to as “18-wheelers”, “semi’s”, or “big trucks”.
Tractor-trailer crashes in Fort Lauderdale can result in property damage, severe injury, or even death. The following tractor-trailer accident data was compiled from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s most recent Large Trucks and Bus Crash Facts report . In 2017:
- 363,000 large trucks were involved in property damage
- 107,000 large trucks were involved in injury crashes
- 4,889 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes
- 73% of the large trucks involved in fatal crashes were the result of another vehicle, person, animal, or object in the large truck’s lane or encroaching into it
- 23% of large truck fatal crashes were caused by the driver’s own movement or loss of control
- 5% of the the large truck drivers involved in fatal crashes tested positive for at least one drug, although 59% of drivers were not tested
- 32% of the large truck fatal crashes were caused by at least one driver-related factor–“Speeding of Any Kind” was the most frequent driver-related factor, followed by “Distraction/Inattention”
Florida’s Intrastate Tractor-trailer Laws
The State of Florida, under the direction of the Florida Highway Patrol Office of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (OCVE) and affiliated entities, enforces certains laws to assist the transportation industry in keeping commercial tractor-trailer operations in Fort Lauderdale safe and economical. Some of Florida’s unique rules involve strict weight and size restrictions.
The Office of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (CVE) is designed to protect the Florida highway system’s pavement and bridges from excessive damage due to overweight or oversized vehicles. As a seaside peninsula with over 12,000 bridges, Florida’s tractor-trailer weight limits were established to prevent unreasonable damage due to overweight vehicles on highway systems and structures, protecting the public’s investment in these roadways .
Commercial vehicles in Florida are forbidden from exceeding 80,000 pounds, with a per-pound penalty for all weight over the legal weight for the vehicle . The legal weight for each vehicle depends on the design specifications of the vehicle including the number of axles, axle grouping distances, tire size, and even the type of gross weight carried. Certain vehicles are restricted to lower maximum weight restrictions. For example, Fort Lauderdale trucks engaged in waste collection/disposal or certain fuel oil and gasoline trucks have different speciality gross weight restrictions compared to other types of freight trucks.
Notwithstanding weight restrictions, Florida also limits commercial vehicles to 75 feet in length and 13 feet, 6 inches in height. Automobile trailers may measure up to 14 feet, inclusive of the load carrier. Lane widths on public roads dictate that commercial vehicles in Florida can be no wider than 8 feet, 6 inches, not including any additional width for appropriate side mirrors . Oversized vehicles without a valid permit can be penalized a fine of up to $1,000 per violation.
In addition to the physical regulations imposed on tractor-trailers, there are national and state regulations for the protocol and management of the truck drivers themselves. Such rules are put in place to prevent driver fatigue, distracted driving, and drug and alcohol use while on the job.
Commercial motor vehicle drivers are required to maintain a logbook (unless exempted) showing the time the driver reports for duty, the number of hours on duty each day, and the time the driver goes off duty. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provides certain hours for commercial motor vehicle drivers operating in intrastate commerce:
- The driver may drive no more than 12 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty
- A driver may not drive after the 16th hour after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty
- Driver may not drive after 70/80 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days
- A 30 minute rest period must be taken if more than 8 hours have passed since the last off-duty period of less than 30 minutes
Drivers are required to keep records for at least 6 months. Florida law makes certain exceptions for drivers transporting unprocessed agricultural products, livestock, and other agricultural products.
According to the Florida Department of Transportation, 67,000 inspections of tractor-trailers yielded 18,000 violations, with the number one violation being logbook reporting violations in 2015 . Restrictions on hours of operation ensure that truck drivers are properly rested and able to give proper attention to the road and to other drivers. Improperly recording hours of service allows drivers to work over hours, impairing driver’s responsiveness and judgment on the road.
Distracted driving is a leading cause of tractor-trailer accidents. A 2009 study found that 71% of large-truck crashes occurred when the truck driver was doing something besides driving the truck . Distractions for tractor-trailer drivers can come from both inside and outside of the truck cab. External distractions can include looking at a passing buildings in Fort Lauderdale, a billboard, or a person. Distractions inside the cab can come from using dispacting devices, eating, reading, adjusting the radio, and, most commonly, using a cellphone. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted legislation that banned texting while driving for commercial drivers (6). A 2009 study of real-world driving found that texting while driving increases a driver’s chances of being involved in a safety-critical event by 23 times.
Drug and Alcohol Use
While drug and alcohol driving laws are enforced throughout the United States, the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration sets stricter regulations for commercial tractor-trailer drivers. The U.S. blood alcohol limit for regular mototirits is .08%. For truck drivers with a commercial drivers license, that limit is cut in half. Tractor-trailer drivers can receive a DUI or DWI charge for a blood alcohol concentration of just .04%, meaning even a single beer can push drivers over the limit and lead to expensive legal charges or even job termination.
In addition to a lower blood alcohol limit, federal regulations state that a commercial driver may not use alcohol within four hours of going on duty or operating a commercial vehicle. Fort Lauderdale drivers cannot possess alcohol in the cab, and any driver who appears to have consumed alcohol in the past four hours must be placed off duty for 24 hours . The use of illegal drugs, such as amphetamines, cocaine, opiates, marijuana, and phencyclidine, are completely forbidden.
These regulations have been put in place for the safety of both the tractor-trailer driver and others on the road. There are additional federal rules that pertain to vehicles that travel through different states, and each state is allowed to set forth additional rules. Because of these multiple regulations, it is often difficult to assess which regulations a lawyer would employ in a particular accident case. A consultation with Schlacter Law’s Fort Lauderdale tractor-trailer accident team can help evaluate the specifics of your suit and assist in recovering the greatest compensation available following an accident.
Common Causes of Fort Lauderdale Tractor-trailer Accidents
Unlike car accidents, a tractor-trailer accident poses a more dangerous threat to drivers. The weight and speed at which tractor-trailers travel mean that any sort of crash or accident can result in severe injuries or death, and shifting or falling cargo can lead to massive pile ups on the road. A Fort Lauderdale tractor-trailer accident lawyer can point to several common causes as to why accidents with trucks occur.
Improper Equipment Maintenance
Federal regulations and inspection authorities exist to ensure that tractor-trailers are kept in good condition. Improperly maintained vehicle parts, including faulty braking systems, worn tires, malfunctioning engines, and unsafe trailers, can lead to serious accidents. Federal regulations require periodic maintenance, including break checks, before each trip.
Improperly Stored Cargo
As companies are incentivized to get cargo to its destination as fast as possible, individuals may hurriedly load a trailer to get the driver on to the next destination more quickly. A Fort Lauderdale tractor-trailer driver must ensure that their payload is properly loaded and falls within the vehicle’s size and weight limits. How weight is distributed throughout the vehicle affects the maneuverability of the tractor-trailer and can prevent a tractor-trailer from traveling at an appropriate speed. Improperly secured payloads can shift in transit, affecting the driver’s ability to control the vehicle and creating an additional hazard for other drivers on the road.
Of the 4,600 drivers of large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2017, 270 were 25 years of age of younger. Many Fort Lauderdale trucking companies are inclined to hire inexperienced drivers because they generally charge less per mile than more experienced drivers. Putting new drivers behind the wheel of very large and potentially dangerous vehicles poses a risk to everyone on the road. Driver inexperience or inadequate training increases the likelihood that the truck driver will inadvertently injure someone on the job.
Many federal and state regulations are on the books to ensure that driver’s eyes are kept on the road. But long, monotonous hours behind the wheel can entice drivers to look for distractions both inside and outside the cab. Driver inattention is a leading cause of tractor-trailer accidents.
Inclement Weather Conditions
As a tractor-trailer driver travels over long distances for many hours, weather conditions can vary and change quickly. Rain and snow storms can cause wet or slippery roadways, and impede a driver’s ability to make proper turns or break adequately. A driver must be able to anticipate a vehicles’ needs under unusual weather conditions, and use proper protocol. This usually includes increasing the following distance between other vehicles and decreasing speed. Additional stress and anxiety in all weather conditions can impede a driver’s judgment and lead to accidents.
Regardless of the cause, an accident involving a tractor-trailer can lead to serious injury, disability, or even death.
Common Tractor-trailer Injuries
When a person is injured in a Fort Lauderdale tractor-trailer accident, the injuries are often more severe than injuries caused by a car accident. Common injuries include:
- Head and brain injuries– concussions, traumatic brain injuries, brain bleeding, skull fractures, and lacerations
- Neck and back injuries–whiplash, herniated disc, spinal cord damage, muscle strains
- Internal bleeding
- Soft tissue injuries–muscle, tendon, or ligament tears
- Broken bones
- Burn injuries
Injuries from tractor-trailer accidents can range from mild to severe, causing lasting damage, permanent disability, or even death. The costs associated with such severe injuries can be exorbitant, and the victim should direct their energies toward healing following an accident. Hiring a tractor-trailer accident lawyer to fight for compensation on your behalf can allow you the peace of mind to know you will be taken care of, and give you the space to focus on your recovery. The accident team at Schlacter Law in Fort Lauderdale takes great pride and care for their clients, and will work towards recovering maximum compensation for all losses associated with your accident.
- https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/tractor-trailer-and-commercial-truck-accidents-on-the-rise-in-florida-1028128575 ↩
- https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2017 ↩
- https://www.tampabay.com/news/transportation/Florida-among-the-states-with-the-lowest-number-of-structurally-deficient-bridges_164998481/ ↩
- http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0300-0399/0316/Sections/0316.515.html ↩
- https://www.flhsmv.gov/florida-highway-patrol/commercial-vehicle-enforcement/safety-enforcement/size-and-permit-enforcement/ ↩
- https://fdotwww.blob.core.windows.net/sitefinity/docs/default-source/content/rail/publications/motorcarriersystemplan/materials/all-motor-carrier-issue-fact-sheets.pdf?sfvrsn=fb3b277d_0 ↩
- https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/driver-safety/cmv-driving-tips-driver-distraction ↩
- https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&ty=HTML&h=L&mc=true&=PART&n=pt49.5.392#se49.5.392_15 ↩
How We Handle Cases
- Your attorney will aggressively investigate your case. Schlacter Law will compile all necessary evidence needed to maximize the value of your case. Which includes but is not limited to photographs, police reports, security camera footage, witness statements, medical bills and medical records.
- You will remain in constant contact with Schlacter Law about the progression of your case.
- Your attorney will present your case to the insurance company and will attempt to resolve your case before the case goes to court for maximum compensation.
- Your attorney will make every effort possible to resolve the case as quickly as possible for the most amount of money you may be entitled to. You will be actively involved in the negotiation process with your attorney. Schlacter Law understands that this is your one opportunity to get justice for your loss.
- If settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, Schlacter Law will be fully prepared to bring your case to court to fight for the justice you deserve.
- At no cost to you, Schlacter Law will hire any experts and professionals needed to maximize your recovery and present your case in the strongest form possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you were injured in a Fort Lauderdale tractor-trailer accident, it is important to consult a tractor trailer accident lawyer to understand how the tractor-trailer driver, company, or manufacturer may be at fault.
Regulations are put in place to protect the unsuspecting motorist from overworked on undertrained tractor trailer drivers. When tractor-trailer drivers fail to follow these precautions, accidents and injuries are common.
Establishing who is responsible for a tractor-trailer accident can be difficult, as there may be several parties whose negligence contributed to the crash. Some examples of involved parties might include:
- The driver of the tractor-trailer
- The company or individual that owns the tractor-trailer
- The company or individual that leased the tractor-trailer
- The tractor-trailer’s manufacturer or manufacturer parts for the vehicle (including tires)
- Any party responsible for loading the cargo onto the tractor-trailer
The different parties involved in a tractor-trailer accident will each argue against their contribution to the crash. Determining the party at fault is necessary to establish which insurance carrier will cover the costs associated with the accident. A Fort Lauderdale tractor-trailer accident injury attorney can assist in holding the chief parties liable for your injuries.
After a tractor-trailer accident, a Fort Lauderdale attorney will help secure evidence and collect industry-expert testimonial that could prove crucial to your case, including:
- Police reports and eyewitness statements from the scene of the accident
- An accident survey conducted by a tractor-trailer accident specialist
- Vehicle damage report
- Injury report and treatment records
- Expert medical testimonial about injury prognosis and future needs
- Proof of losses and out-of-pocket medical expenses
Unlike a normal car accident, a tractor-trailer accident often involves the backing of a large trucking company, with all the monetary privileges and legal power that large companies are generally privy to. Much of the evidence needed to establish negligence lies in the hands of the trucking company or owner, including:
- The driver’s rest logs
- Truck maintenance logs
- Onboard computer data from the tractor-trailer
- Tractor-trailer damage documentation
- Company personnel records
- Mandatory post-accident drug and alcohol test results
While tractor-trailer companies are required to disclose this information to victims after an accident, the average person does not know what information could be pertinent to a future lawsuit. A tractor-trailer company will often only offer the minimum of what is asked, especially if any information is possibly incriminating. A Fort Lauderdale tractor-trailer accident attorney could be key in collecting relevant information. The attorneys at Schlacter Law are used to dealing with powerful companies and will work aggressively to gather all evidence quickly and completely.
In addition to gathering baseline evidence, a tractor trailer accident lawyer will also ask certain questions to determine what factors allowed the accident to occur. Examples of questions a lawyer will ask include:
- Does the tractor-trailer driver and the company have an acceptable safety record or are crashes common among the company?
- Was the tractor trailer driver qualified to drive the tractor-trailer? Did the driver have the proper licenses and permits for the specific cargo load (if applicable)?
- Did the company perform a proper background check to ensure that its tractor-trailer driver was safe? If a thorough background check was not done, what would a background check have uncovered?
- Did the tractor-trailer driver have the physical and mental capacity to be driving the tractor trailer at the time of the crash?
If you have been injured in a tractor-trailer accident, consulting an attorney can provide you with the knowledge and expertise needed to win compensation for your injuries.
A Fort Lauderdale tractor-trailer lawyer can fight for several different types of compensation, with compensation amounts varying. Compensation may include:
- Compensation for medical bills incurred following the accident, as well as for any long term care or future surgeries
- Loss of income after the accident, and loss of future income due to temporary or permanent accident disability
- Compensation for emotional pain and suffering resulting from the accident
- Reimbursement for property damage, usually to the car, as a result of an accident with a tractor-trailer
The amount of recoverable compensation depends on the severity of your injuries, the fault of the tractor-trailer driver, and other considerations specific to the accident. A tractor-trailer accident lawyer can be key in the amount of compensation you can receive.