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Who’s Liable for a Commercial Truck Accident in Florida?

Offered by Pajcic & Pajcic

Determining liability can be difficult without the help of a truck accident lawyer

A commercial truck accident in Florida can be particularly devastating due to the involvement of large and heavy vehicles, such as 18-wheelers, semi-trucks, and other freight carriers. The sheer size and weight of these trucks mean that even a single collision can result in extensive damage, severe injuries, and, tragically, even fatalities.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, or if a family member has lost their life, you may find yourself dealing with the overwhelming aftermath, both financially and emotionally. However, it's crucial to recognize that you have rights and options in such a situation.

Seeking the assistance of an experienced Florida truck accident lawyer is essential to protect your rights and ensure that you receive the maximum compensation you deserve. Whether through skillful negotiation with insurance companies to secure a fair settlement or by pursuing legal action in court, a dedicated attorney can be your advocate during this challenging time.

What causes commercial truck accidents in Florida? 

Commercial trucks often have longer stopping distances and larger blind spots than most passenger vehicles. This makes negligent truck driving more likely to lead to a serious crash. The most common causes of commercial truck accidents are: 

  • Truck driver fatigue: Fatigue can impair a driver’s reaction time, decision-making ability, and overall awareness. Commercial truck drivers are susceptible to fatigue due to long hours spent on the road, which is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has strict rules regarding a trucker’s hours of service.
  • Distracted driving: This often involves using a cell phone, adjusting the radio or GPS, eating, or daydreaming while driving.
  • Improper loading of cargo: Issues with cargo loading can lead to rollovers and spillages. This commonly occurs due to incorrect weight distribution or loading the trailer beyond the truck’s weight capacity.
  • Speeding and aggressive driving: This is particularly dangerous for truck drivers. Commercial trucks take longer to stop and maneuver. The greater the speed, the greater the damage caused in a crash.
  • Poor vehicle maintenance: Neglecting regular inspections and maintenance can lead to mechanical failures such as tire blowouts, brake failures, and steering problems.
  • Impaired driving: The use of alcohol or illegal drugs by drivers significantly increases the risk of truck accidents. Alcohol and drugs impair reaction time, decision-making, coordination, and other functions needed for safe driving. 
  • Inadequate driver training: Lack of proper training in driving large trucks can result in drivers not being fully prepared to handle the challenges of operating these vehicles.
  • Negligent hiring practices: Trucking companies that fail to conduct thorough background checks or provide adequate training can contribute to truck accidents due to unqualified drivers.

Commercial Truck Accident Verdicts & Settlements

$1 billion NASSAU COUNTY, FL

$1B, including $100M in compensatory damages and $900M in punitive damages, for the wrongful death of a teenager who was killed in a fatal rear-end truck accident involving a distracted trucker.

$26 million JACKSONVILLE, FL

$26M settlement for the wrongful death of a high school senior who was killed in a fatal rear-end truck accident caused by an impaired truck driver.

$13 million NASSAU COUNTY, FL

$13M for an individual who suffered a traumatic brain injury in an underride crash involving a log truck. The award included roughly $6.58M for economic damages and approximately $6.32M for pain and suffering and loss of capacity to enjoy life.

Truck accident case results provided by:

Pajcic & Pajcic

1 Independent Dr #1900 
Jacksonville, FL 32202
Phone: (904) 358-8881

How is liability determined in a truck accident in Florida?

Determining liability for a commercial truck accident in Florida involves a careful assessment of various factors and parties that may share responsibility. Commercial truck accidents can be complex, and identifying the liable parties is crucial for pursuing compensation and justice. Liable parties may include:

Truck Driver

In many cases, the truck driver may be directly responsible for the accident. Factors such as driver fatigue, distracted driving, speeding, or impaired driving can all contribute to driver negligence. Police reports, eyewitness statements, the driver's logbook, electronic logging device (ELD) data, surveillance footage, and cell phone records (if distracted driving is suspected) can be used as evidence to prove trucker liability.

Trucking Company

The trucking company that employs the driver can also be held liable. If the company encourages or enforces unrealistic delivery schedules that lead to driver fatigue or neglects proper maintenance of their vehicles, they may share responsibility for the accident. Evidence to help prove trucking company liability includes employment records, driver training and certification documents, maintenance and inspection records, company policies (especially related to scheduling and driver fatigue), and communication records between the driver and the company.

Vehicle Manufacturer

If a defective truck part or equipment played a role in the accident, the manufacturer of the faulty component may be liable. This could include issues with brakes, tires, or other critical components. An attorney can use product recalls, defect reports, expert testimony on the faulty component, maintenance records, and accident reconstruction analysis linking the defect to the accident as evidence.

Cargo Loading Company

If improper loading or securement of cargo leads to an accident, the company responsible for loading the cargo may bear responsibility. Evidence may include cargo loading and securement records, weight distribution reports, cargo inspection reports, and expert testimony on how improper loading contributed to the accident.

Third-Party Maintenance Companies

Companies that maintain the truck may be liable if inadequate maintenance or repairs contributed to the accident. Maintenance and repair records, invoices, service agreements, and expert testimony on how inadequate maintenance led to the accident are common evidence truck accident lawyers use to establish liability.

Other Negligent Drivers

Sometimes, other drivers on the road may contribute to or directly cause a commercial truck accident. In such cases, they can be held responsible for their actions. Evidence can include eyewitness statements, police reports, traffic camera footage, and any applicable traffic citations or violations issued to the other driver.

Government Entities

In rare instances, road conditions or design may contribute to an accident. If so, government entities responsible for road maintenance and design may share liability. Road design plans, maintenance records, accident reports involving similar road conditions, and expert testimony on how road conditions contributed to the accident can be used to establish liability.

Determining liability is a complex process, and multiple parties may share responsibility to varying degrees. As such, gathering and preserving evidence is crucial to building a strong case for liability. An experienced Florida truck accident lawyer will know how to effectively collect and utilize this evidence to establish fault and pursue the compensation you deserve. They may also consult accident reconstruction experts, medical professionals, and other specialists to strengthen your case.

Can a trucking company be held liable for their driver’s actions?

Under the "respondeat superior" principle, a trucking company can be held liable for its drivers' actions if these actions were unintentional and occurred within the scope of employment. This liability extends to ensuring proper driver training and vehicle maintenance.

Respondeat superior applies specifically to employment relationships and not to independent contractors. In cases where truck drivers are designated as independent contractors, the trucking companies may attempt to avoid liability under this principle.

What compensation can I seek after a commercial truck accident in Florida?

If you were injured in a truck accident in Florida, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. The amount depends on how severe your injuries are and their impact on your life. An attorney will determine the value of your claim by adding up the following damages:

  • Current and future medical costs. This includes expenses for medical treatment you've already received (emergency room care, surgeries, hospital stays, medications, rehabilitation, etc.). It also covers anticipated future medical expenses related to your injuries, such as ongoing therapy, medical equipment, and follow-up surgeries.
  • Lost wages and lost future earning capacity. You can claim compensation for income you've lost due to the accident, including wages from missed workdays or time spent recovering. Additionally, if your injuries affect your ability to work in the future or reduce your earning potential, you can seek damages for lost future earnings.
  • Pain and suffering. Pain and suffering damages compensate you for the physical and emotional distress caused by the accident and your injuries. These damages are less concrete than economic damages and can include physical pain, emotional anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental distress.
  • Cost of daily assistance. If your injuries require you to hire help for daily tasks you can no longer perform independently, such as cleaning, cooking, or personal care, you can seek compensation for these expenses.
  • Wrongful Death Compensation: If you've lost a loved one in a fatal truck accident, you may be eligible for wrongful death compensation. This covers damages such as funeral and burial expenses, medical bills related to the final injury or illness, lost financial support, and the emotional pain and suffering caused by the loss of your loved one.

How does the no-fault insurance system in Florida impact truck accident claims?

Florida’s no-fault insurance system requires drivers first to seek compensation from their own insurance regardless of fault. This would typically be done through personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. 

However, due to the severity of truck accidents, these claims often exceed PIP policy limits. That requires most truck accident victims to step outside the no-fault system and seek compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance company.

What is the statute of limitations for truck accidents in Florida?

In Florida, the statute of limitations for filing a truck accident claim is four years from the date of the crash. If you fail to file your claim within this period, you may lose your right to seek compensation, and the court may dismiss your case. 

There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if you were a minor at the time of the truck accident, the statute of limitations may be extended until you reach the age of majority. Additionally, if you’re mentally incapacitated or if the responsible party leaves the state or can’t be located, the statute of limitations may be extended.

Seeking legal help for a truck accident claim in Florida

There’s a lot at stake when it comes to commercial truck accidents in Florida. If you’re pursuing a truck accident claim, you could be dealing with multiple responsible parties. On top of that, there could be other injured parties seeking compensation from the same crash. This can significantly complicate the claims process and be challenging to overcome, especially during recovery.

An experienced Florida truck accident lawyer can help you through the process. An attorney can advise you on your legal rights and options for seeking compensation. They can launch an investigation into your truck accident, determine the value of your claim, and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve.

To schedule a free consultation, contact a Florida truck accident attorney near you today.

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