Tractor-trailer Accident Lawyer in Miami
Tractor-trailers are some of the biggest vehicles on our roads, carrying tons of supplies over long distances day in and day out. With poorly maintained equipment, poor weather conditions and driver errors, it’s understandable why tractor-trailers are responsible for an ever-growing number of accidents on our highways. If you were in an accident with a commercial vehicle, a tractor-trailer accident lawyer in Miami can help.
Common Causes of Accident with Tractor-trailers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)  has seen truck accidents increase by 62% between 2009 and 2015. Broken down even further, between 2016 and 2017, commercial vehicle accidents increased by over 10%, and in 2017 alone, there were over 5,000 deaths involving over 4,000 accidents with large trucks. This represents an increase of 7% in fatalities from the previous year.
Tractor-trailers on the roads today weigh more than 70,000 pounds. With an average weight of only 4,000 pounds, passenger vehicles are significantly lighter than most commercial vehicles. When a truck is involved in an accident with a car in Miami, serious injuries and even death often occur due to this large weight disparity
A Miami accident lawyer can point to several common causes as to why accidents with trucks occur. Some of these causes include:
- Poorly maintained vehicles
- Driver error
- Inclement weather conditions
- Equipment failure
- Improperly stored cargo
Vehicle maintenance can play a large role in tractor-trailer accidents. Commercial vehicles endure greater wear and tear over time than the average personal vehicle due to the long distances they travel and the heavier payloads they carry. While commercial fleets may require daily maintenance from a crew of professionals, important safety considerations can often be overlooked. Improperly inflated tires, cracked windows, worn brake pads and improperly functioning indicator lights are all factors that contribute to accidents with truck. To successfully file a claim after an accident with a commercial vehicle, a tractor-trailer accident injury attorney may request a truck’s maintenance records leading up to the accident. These records could show that the tractor-trailer company failed to adequately maintain its fleet of vehicles.
Driver error is another all too common cause of tractor-trailer accidents. Mistakes can and do happen. Tractor-trailer accidents are more common when the driver is distracted, hasn’t adequately rested, or is under the influence of illegal substances or alcohol. A tractor-trailer accident attorney may seek driving logs and other related information pertaining to the driver’s driving history to help determine if lack of sleep or drugs and alcohol were a factor in a tractor-trailer injury.
Poor weather is often a common factor involved in tractor-trailer accidents in Miami. With heavy payloads, long stopping distances and large turning radius, snow, ice, and rain can be particularly hazardous conditions for truckers. The driver of a tractor-trailer needs to be particularly diligent in inclement weather. This might include driving slower under the conditions, and leaving more space between vehicles so there is enough room for the truck to stop without damaging another vehicle. Tractor-trailer drivers should also receive adequate training during different weather conditions to prepare and anticipate a vehicles’ needs under these unusual weather conditions. A tractor-trailer lawyer may request a driver’s training history to see if the driver was adequately trained for the road conditions present during the accident.
Equipment failure is another relevant factor that contributes to many tractor-trailer accidents. In addition to improper maintenance, equipment failures may also include any improper or defective designs by a manufacturer. The vehicle manufacturer, the parts manufacturer, the company that maintains the vehicle, the company that installed a defective part, or possibly even the company that sold the vehicle to the trucking company in the first place may have all contributed to the equipment failure. A tractor-trailer accident attorney may need to pursue any possible leads as to what might have caused these faulty manufacturing processes.
A tractor-trailer is very sensitive to how cargo is distributed throughout the vehicle. A commercial vehicle driver must ensure that their payload is properly loaded and falls within the vehicle’s size and weight limits. Improperly secured payloads can shift in transit, affecting a driver’s ability to control the vehicle. Additionally, oversized or overweight cargo can cause hazards to other vehicles that pass nearby, as well as prevent a truck from traveling at a speed appropriate under the conditions. Tractor-trailer accident lawyers in Miami will request any records of the cargo the vehicle was transporting at the time of the accident to help determine if the cargo was properly secured and within the weight and size limits of the vehicle.
Florida Interstate Trucking Rules
Florida has its own unique interstate trucking regulations for tractor-trailers. Florida’s trucking regulations can be found in the Florida Highway Patrol Office of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement . Some of Florida’s unique rules include:
- Weight restrictions
- Size restrictions
- Distracted driving
- Time restrictions
- Drug and Alcohol testing
Commercial vehicles in Florida are forbidden to exceed 80,000 pounds. Under certain circumstances, some vehicles are restricted to even lower maximum weight restrictions. Florida also limits commercial vehicles to 75 feet in length and 13 feet, 6 inches in height. Automobile carriers may rise as high as 14 feet. Any commercial vehicle in Florida must be no wider than 8 feet, 6 inches. This width does not include any additional width for side mirrors. Lastly, a commercial vehicle in Florida must not overhang more than three feet. Exceptions for an overhang may be made for certain vehicles that collect waste.
In addition to Florida’s trucking rules, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has additional guidelines that apply to all types of trucks and tractor-trailers. Both the Florida statute and the FMCSA prohibit truck drivers from texting while driving their vehicles. The FMCSA further prohibits the use of handheld cell phones at any time while operating any commercial vehicle.
Florida also places limits on the amount of time a tractor-trailer driver may operate a commercial vehicle over the course of one day. Florida’s regulations do not permit a truck driver to operate any commercial vehicle for more than 12 hours throughout the course of each 24-hour time period. This time limit applies primarily to vehicles that are transporting property. The Federal regulations also limit the number of hours a tractor-trailer driver may operate their vehicle; however, the FMCSA limits a driver to operate a vehicle to only 11 hours throughout each 24-hour time period. Additionally, Florida law places a limit on the number of hours a driver may operate their vehicle over the course of a six to eight-day time span, and a 34-hour break is required to reset the next time period.
Tractor-trailer drivers must also follow strict rules for alcohol and drug use while operating their vehicles. Commercial tractor-trailer drivers must consent to a test for alcohol at any time and their blood alcohol concentration cannot be higher than 0.04%. Additionally, illegal drugs are completely forbidden. When a safety-sensitive task is required, a tractor-trailer driver may be required to take an additional random drug or alcohol test. Furthermore, a test for any illicit drugs or alcohol consumption must be performed immediately after an accident has occurred. Illegal substances such as amphetamines, cocaine, opiates, marijuana, and phencyclidine are all prohibited and must not be present following a drug test.
The FMCSA has additional rules pertaining to vehicles that travel through different states. These guidelines go beyond the individual rules set forth by each state. Examples of the Federal regulations that are applicable to tractor-trailer drivers include:
- A fuel decal from the Department of Highway Safety must be on display for any interstate commercial vehicle with more than three axles or weighs more than 26,000 pounds
- Alcohol testing, proper vehicle maintenance, and regulatory compliance issues may be reviewed to determine if a Florida motor carrier operator is in compliance with the rules
- All interstate trucks must display a registration number provided by either Florida or the Department of Transportation
- Commercial vehicles may be required to weigh in at a weigh station and both the driver and vehicle will be inspected by The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s established procedures
- Florida’s adoption of the federal rules regulating precautions on fueling, commercial licensing procedures, electronic device use, and other prohibitions are listed in § 390-397 of the Code of Federal Regulations 
Because there are both federal and state regulations it is often difficult to assess which regulations a lawyer would apply after an accident with a truck. Therefore, a consultation with a Schlacter tractor-trailer lawyer in Miami can help evaluate a claim following an accident and assist in recovering the greatest compensation available under the law.
Who is liable after a Tractor-trailer Accident in Miami?
Establishing who is responsible for a tractor-trailer accident can often be difficult. This difficulty arises when there are several parties involved and each party denies liability for the accident. Some examples of involved parties might include:
- The individual that was driving the truck
- Any company or individual that owns the tractor-trailer
- The individual or company that leased the tractor-trailer
- The tractor-trailer’s manufacturer
- Any company that manufactured parts for the vehicle
- The tire manufacturers
- Any party responsible for loading the cargo onto the tractor-trailer
Often the different parties involved will argue amongst themselves to determine which insurance carrier will cover the costs associated with the accident. In cases where the leasing company, hauling company, the vehicle owner or the driver are unable to determine whose insurance company should cover compensation, the help of a tractor-trailer accident injury attorney would be necessary to assist in establishing which parties would be liable.
It was common practice for commercial vehicle companies to evade liability by distancing themselves from the driver, the tractor-trailer and any related equipment by obtaining a permit to operate the tractor-trailer, but not own the vehicle nor any equipment related to its use. Instead, the trucking company would create a lease agreement for the equipment with the equipment’s owner. This lease agreement would shield the trucking company from any liability in a lawsuit.
Additionally, trucking companies would often make it a practice of hiring drivers but treating them as independent contractors. By doing so, the company would assert that a driver did not work directly for the trucking company and instead worked for themselves. Therefore, the company was not liable for any mistakes made by the driver.
The use of these former tactics has been limited by new Federal regulations. Now, any company that possesses a trucking permit is considered the responsible party for any accidents that result from the permitted vehicle, regardless of who owns or operates it. Therefore, most leases that attempt to put a limit on a company’s liability would be ineffective. A Schlacter Law tractor-trailer lawyer consultation in Miami may be helpful in determining liability under these circumstances.
Tractor-trailer Insurance Requirements?
Following an accident with a tractor-trailer in Miami there are steps one can take to preserve information for an insurance claim or possible lawsuit:
- Always be sure to exchange insurance information with the driver of the other vehicle
- Be sure to write down the driver’s name and their license information
- If possible, photograph any damage done to your vehicle
- Photograph any injuries as soon as possible
- Contact the police and file an appropriate police report
- If necessary, be sure to seek proper medical care as soon as possible
After receiving the tractor-trailer driver’s contact and insurance information, it may be necessary to file a claim with the proper insurance carrier. Fortunately, commercial vehicles in Florida must carry liability insurance that is far greater than the minimums required for passenger vehicles.
The amount of tractor-trailer insurance coverage will vary based on the cargo being carried at the time the accident occurred.
- Household goods – obligated to carry a minimum of $300,000 of liability insurance
- Oil products – the minimum required liability insurance is $1,000,000
- Freight vehicles – the required minimum is $750,000 in liability insurance
- Hazardous material – a minimum of $5,000,000 of liability insurance
Additionally, any truck that travels out of the state of Florida must satisfy additional requirements, which range between $750,000 and $1,000,000.
While it is possible to negotiate with a driver’s insurance carrier to reach a settlement, an insurance company is looking out for its best interests and may attempt to settle for an amount that fails to adequately compensate for all damages related to the accident. Therefore, talking with a Miami tractor-trailer accident lawyer is essential in determining the next steps required to seek proper compensation.
Compensation Following a Tractor-trailer Lawsuit
An insurance company should attempt to make a victim whole following a tractor-trailer collision in Miami. This would include compensation for both the economic damages that occurred as a result of the accident, as well as any non-economic damages that occurred. Economic damages are typically easier to calculate and may include:
- A victim’s loss of income following an accident
- Compensation for any medical bills incurred following the accident
- Compensation for any required long-term care
- Property that was damaged as a result of an accident with a tractor-trailer
To verify the amount a plaintiff needed to pay for expenses following a truck accident in Miami, it is recommended that a victim keep all written receipts, doctor’s bills, repair bills, and any other proof that shows the actual costs associated with the accident. These records are important going forward and a tractor-trailer lawyer will use them to help calculate overall compensation.
Additionally, non-economic damages are sometimes recoverable following a collision, although these damages are typically harder to calculate. The pain and suffering experienced by the victim is one example of non-economic damages. Disfigurement or scarring that occurred as a result of the collision is another example of non-economic damages. Emotional distress is another form of non-economic damages. This type of compensation may also include the value of the loss of one’s enjoyment of life, which is the victim’s inability to continue doing the things they enjoyed doing before the accident.
When an insurance carrier is unwilling to fully compensate a victim following a truck accident, it may be necessary to hire a Miami tractor-trailer accident injury lawyer to file a lawsuit on the victim’s behalf. While non-economic damages are typically far greater than economic damages, there was a time when Florida law placed a limit on the amount of non-economic compensation recoverable in a lawsuit. These laws were struck down by the Florida supreme court, and now there are no limits on the value of non-economic damages that a victim may receive following a tractor-trailer accident.
However, oftentimes it is difficult to recover any successful award amount that exceeds the defendant’s insurance coverage. Unless a Miami defendant has “deep pockets” (the ability to pay out of pocket any amount their insurance policy fails to cover), a judgment in the plaintiff’s favor will do little to help. If the defendant has no assets, the judgment would stand, but there would be no funds available to pay the actual amount owed. Under these circumstances, it may be necessary to recover additional compensation through the victim’s own uninsured motorist policy.
An additional type of non-economic damages includes punitive damages, which are awarded in cases when the defendant was reckless, or malicious in their actions. In these cases, punitive damages are used as a way to punish the defendant and send a message to future defendants that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
Even if a lawsuit is successful in recovering punitive damage compensation, Florida continues to place a cap on the amount of punitive damages recoverable following a tractor-trailer accident.
Because personal injury lawsuits are complex, and compensation is not always easy to calculate, a Schlacter Law tractor-trailer accident lawyer should be consulted before considering whether or not to pursue a lawsuit. Contact us today.
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
Can I negotiate with the insurance companies on my own?
While it is possible to work on your own with the other party’s insurance carrier, a tractor-trailer accident lawyer in Miami can help. Understanding the complexities involved in an accident ensures that no detail will be overlooked, and nothing will be left to chance.
What application deadlines do I need to be concerned with?
Florida has a statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit in court for a personal injury lawsuit. Failing to file a lawsuit with this statute of limitations might result in the case being dismissed. In Florida, this time limit is four years for negligence.
How much does a personal injury lawyer cost?
The cost of a tractor-trailer accident lawyer will vary based on several factors. Typically, an attorney would work on a contingent fee, meaning they would only get paid if they successfully receive compensation on your behalf. The amount the lawyer would receive is usually somewhere between 33.33% and 40% of a successful award.