November 11, 2021
Large trucks, including tractor-trailers, big rigs, and 18-wheelers regularly traverse roadways daily in and around Florida. These vehicles often come loaded with up to 80,000 pounds of cargo and typically operate at high rates of speed wherever they travel. Consequently, when one of these large vehicles collides with a smaller vehicle, the driver and occupants of the smaller vehicle will usually become injured in the resulting accident.
Regulations hold tractor-trailer drivers who operate commercial vehicles for a living to a higher standard of care than non-commercial drivers. Specifically, they have to operate their vehicles in a safe, careful, and responsible manner at all times. In addition, the trucking companies that employ these individuals have a responsibility to make sure that they hire capable, responsible, and safe drivers to operate their vehicles.
When a serious vehicle accident happens because of a truck driver or trucking company’s negligence, the accident victim should recover monetary compensation and damages for various injuries he or she might have sustained.
If you or a person you care about has suffered an injury in a Florida truck accident that an 18-wheeler tractor-trailer caused, you have legal options that are available to you. A knowledgeable and experienced truck accident attorney could assist you with filing your claim against the negligent truck driver or trucking company’s insurer. Your attorney could also negotiate a favorable settlement on your behalf, or if necessary, litigate the case to a fair conclusion in the Florida state court system.
Regulations that are Applicable to Tractor-Trailers that Operate on Florida Roadways
Operators of tractor-trailers and big rigs on Florida roadways have to abide by certain regulations, including both federal and state motor carrier regulations. Specifically, truck drivers and trucking companies can only load so much cargo, as well as how whoever loads the truck must secure cargo to the trailer—particularly one that has an open bed.
The cargo must also be securely fastened to the trailer so that it does not fall off and into the roadway, potentially causing an accident. In addition, regulations govern tractor and trailer lighting, including overhead and undercarriage lighting for the trailer.
When truck drivers and trucking companies fail to abide by these regulations and do not regularly check to ensure that the truck is properly maintained, serious accidents and injuries can occur.
Types of Tractor-trailer Accidents
Truck accidents can happen just about anywhere. Sometimes, these accidents happen on small, sparsely traveled country roads, while they can happen on major interstate highways at other times. No matter the exact location, a truck accident can result in a serious impact, leading to severe injuries that require medical care and treatment for the affected accident victim.
Some truck accidents happen with the front of the truck, called the tractor, colliding with the rear of another motor vehicle. These rear-end impacts can happen when a truck driver is operating his or her vehicle too fast for the roadway or weather conditions (such as rain).
The truck driver might also be following too closely, causing the front of the tractor to plow into the rear of another vehicle. And in some instances, these rear-end accidents happen with such a degree of force that the car on the receiving end that the impact pushes it into the vehicle in front. In turn, these accidents can sometimes lead to a chain reaction series of collisions in which multiple drivers and passengers suffer an injury.
At other times, the tractor’s front may collide with the side of another motor vehicle in a classic T-bone type accident. When that happens, the vehicle on the receiving end might spin around several times or may even overturn in the center of the roadway, leading to a massive pile-up of vehicles.
In other instances, the front or side of a tractor-trailer might collide with the side of another vehicle as part of a sideswipe collision. These accidents are common on highways with multiple lanes, especially where the tractor-trailer driver is not paying attention or negligently veers into a lane of oncoming traffic. The truck driver might also be distracted or might fail to use a turn signal when he or she switches lanes.
Finally, tractor-trailer accidents can happen when an operator is driving too fast or the braking system gives out. When this happens, the tractor-trailer could overturn in the middle of the roadway, leading to a pile-up collision. The same type of collision happens when tractor-trailers jackknife and the tractor and trailer fold in together, resembling the shape of a jackknife. The tractor-trailer driver could lose control and skid down the road when this happens, leading to a pile-up collision.
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in one of these types of tractor-trailer accidents, you must seek legal counsel as soon as you possibly can in your case. A knowledgeable truck accident lawyer will be able to review the facts and circumstances of your accident with you, along with a copy of the police report, and determine if you might be eligible to recover monetary compensation for your injuries.
Injuries Suffered in Tractor-Trailer Accidents
Whenever a large tractor-trailer collides with a smaller vehicle, it is almost always the driver and passengers riding in the smaller vehicle who suffer an injury in the collision. This is because the speed and weight of the tractor-trailer often result in a forceful impact.
In the resulting collision, an accident victim might strike his or her head or another body part on something in the vehicle, such as the headrest, window, door, console, or steering wheel. In addition, the impact force might thrust the accident victim’s body forward and backward or from side to side, resulting in a variety of soft tissue injuries or even bodily fractures.
Some of the most common injuries that victims of a tractor-trailer accident can suffer include soft tissue contusions, neck and back injuries, traumatic head and brain injuries, broken bones, internal damage, and spinal cord injuries, including paralysis. In some instances, such as when an accident victim is involved in a head-on collision, these accidents can be fatal.
As a result of a tractor-trailer accident, the accident victim might need to undergo a variety of medical treatments. First and foremost, the accident victim should follow up at a hospital emergency room and seek medical care and treatment there. In addition to performing the necessary diagnostic tests, including MRIs, X-rays, and CAT scans, the emergency room doctor can assess the accident victim’s overall medical condition and recommend future follow-up treatment.
For example, the accident victim might need to follow up with an orthopedist or other specialist for a surgical procedure to correct a fracture. In addition to this initial medical treatment, the tractor-trailer accident victim may need to attend physical therapy sessions or other medical appointments to recover from his or her injuries.
Suppose you or a person you care about has suffered one or more of these injuries in a tractor-trailer accident. In that case, a knowledgeable truck accident attorney may be able to assist. Your attorney could help you with all of the legal aspects of your claim or lawsuit, including filing the claim with the right insurance company, negotiating a favorable settlement offer on your behalf, and, if necessary, litigating your case through the Florida state court system.
Filing a Claim in a Tractor-trailer Accident Case
Suppose you have suffered an injury in a motor vehicle accident that a negligent tractor-trailer driver caused. In that case, you might be eligible to file a claim against the negligent truck driver or trucking company’s insurer.
Since Florida generally follows no-fault laws when it comes to motor vehicle collisions, most accident victims will need to turn to their own insurance companies to recover compensation for medical expenses and lost wages. However, accident victims suffer serious, debilitating, and permanent injuries in many accidents, including tractor-trailer collisions. When that is the case, the accident victim might be able to pursue a claim with the at-fault truck driver’s insurance company.
The claims process begins when an accident victim’s lawyer submits a demand package to the insurance company. This demand package typically includes a settlement demand letter that makes a monetary demand for settlement. In addition, the accident victim’s settlement demand package will usually include copies of all of the accident victim’s medical records, medical bills, and lost wage documentation.
Suppose photographs of the accident victim’s injuries are available, as well as photographs of the property damage to the accident victim’s vehicle. In that case, the attorney may request those photographs also as part of the settlement demand package. Finally, the accident victim may prepare an impact statement that could be part of the settlement demand package.
When the insurance company adjuster receives and reviews this settlement demand package, he or she might make an offer to resolve the case. Initial settlement offers by insurance companies are usually low, and they typically undervalue the claim significantly.
However, if you have a knowledgeable tractor-trailer accident lawyer on your side, you will increase the chances that the settlement offer on your truck accident case will increase. Your attorney can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and work to get you the rightful compensation that you deserve for your injuries. Oftentimes, it takes several rounds of negotiation between the accident victim’s lawyer and the insurance company adjuster before they find a middle ground in the case.
In the event the insurance company for the truck driver or trucking company is not willing to offer you full and fair compensation for the injuries you suffered in the accident, you will have the option of litigating your case in the state court system. Litigation begins when the accident victim’s lawyer files a lawsuit in the court system. The case then continues through the litigation process, at which point each party agrees on a favorable settlement offer.
If the case is not resolved by way of a settlement, the accident victim’s lawyer may be able to take the case to trial. In the alternative, mediation and arbitration options might be available as ways for the case to resolve favorably. Your lawyer can help you decide upon the best possible option for getting you the compensation you deserve—for the injuries you suffered in your tractor-trailer accident.
Possible Deadlines to File a Claim or Lawsuit in a Commercial Truck Accident Case
In Florida tractor-trailer accident cases where an accident victim suffers a permanent injury or disability, and/or the amount of the medical bills is significant, the accident victim might be able to file a claim or lawsuit against the truck driver’s insurance company. When that is the case, the accident victim has a period of four years from the date of his or her truck accident in which to do so.
If no one files a claim or lawsuit within that four-year time frame, the state statute of limitations will prevent it from going forward. This means that the accident victim, at that point, will no longer be able to pursue and recover monetary compensation and damages for his/her injuries.
The Florida statute of limitations applicable to personal injury cases, including tractor-trailer accidents, is a hard-and-fast rule. There are extremely limited exceptions. Therefore, you should assume that the statute of limitations applies to the facts and circumstances of your case. Four years might seem like a long time, but many steps must happen before you even think about filing a lawsuit. In addition, the longer you wait, the less quality evidence your attorney might be able to gather to support your claims.
A knowledgeable tractor-trailer accident attorney on board in your case will ensure that your claim or lawsuit is filed well within the applicable statutory deadline. Your attorney can file the claim or lawsuit on your behalf on time and set you on the road to recovering the compensation you need for your tractor-trailer accident injuries.
“These lawyers are not only very efficient, but caring as well. I would not hesitate to refer them to anyone.”
MATTHEW T. / FORMER CLIENT