Who is Responsible in a Commercial Truck Accident?
Crashes involving a commercial truck are more complicated than collisions involving two passenger vehicles. In a commercial truck accident, multiple parties may share liability. The potentially liable parties include the commercial truck driver, the trucking company, a cargo shipper, a packing company that loaded the cargo, the trailer owner and the manufacturer of faulty truck equipment.
Commercial truck drivers are involved in a disproportionate number of serious and fatal crashes compared to the number of large trucks on the roads.
Commercial Driver Error—Driver errors account for a significant portion of the accidents in which tractor trailers and buses are determined to be at fault. A driver may cause a crash by speeding, tailgating, making an improper lane change, failing to yield the right of way, driving distracted and violating federal truck safety regulations. When a driver’s error causing an accident, the trucker and often the trucking company may be held accountable for any injuries caused.
Trucking Companies—A trucking company or bus company may be held liable for the conduct of their commercial drivers or for failure to maintain a vehicle properly. Commercial carriers have a legal responsibility to hire qualified drivers, maintain vehicles in safe condition and comply with federal and Florida safety regulations. Our truck accident attorneys at Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant have experience standing up to negligent trucking companies and holding them accountable for the harm caused by their disregard for safety.
Cargo Shippers—The company responsible for loading a tractor trailer may be liable for a truck accident caused by an unbalanced load or by improperly secured cargo falling off a truck into the roadway.
Vehicle Manufacturers/Parts Manufacturer—When truck accidents are caused by a defective vehicle design or a faulty truck component such as faulty tires or brakes, the manufacturer may be held responsible. The truck accident victim may have a right to demand compensation for their injuries and losses.
The complexity of determining liability in a commercial vehicle accident involving a large truck or bus is an important reason to consult with an experienced truck accident lawyer. When dealing with commercial vehicle accidents, our truck injury attorneys at Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant start a prompt investigation to preserve evidence before it is lost.
Common Causes of Commercial Vehicle Accidents
Florida is among 10 states that have the highest average fatal accidents involving commercial trucks and buses, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Tractor-trailer trucks are massive vehicles and require special handling to operate safely and prevent accidents. The state of Florida limits the weight and size of commercial trucks to protect motorists from the hazards posed by overweight vehicles and oversized loads on the roads.
Even ordinary driving maneuvers such as changing lanes, making turns and rounding banked curves are more complicated with 18 wheelers.
Speeding—Speed was a contributing factor in 17 percent of fatal crashes involving a large truck, according to 2016 data. The faster a heavy truck is moving, the more distance a truck driver will need to stop to avoid an accident. When commercial drivers exceed the posted speed limit, they may cause a serious accident.
Driving Too Fast for Conditions—Truck drivers often drive at speeds that are unsafe for the road or weather conditions such as when driving through a construction zone or when the roads are wet. Trucks need more distance to stop on rain-slick roads. Nearly a fourth of crashes involving large trucks involved a commercial driver who was driving too fast for conditions, according to a widely cited federal study of truck crashes.
Drowsy Driving—Commercial truck drivers spend many hours behind the wheel to meet delivery deadlines. Driver fatigue is a contributing factor in many truck accidents. Commercial drivers may be in violation of federal hours-of-service and logbook rules that limit the number of daily and weekly hours a driver can operate a commercial vehicle. Our attorneys’ investigation looks for evidence that a driver disregarded the hours-of-service limits or falsified logbook entries.
Unsecured Loads—Unsecured and unbalanced loads create a serious accident hazard. Trucking companies and shippers that load freight must abide by federal rules that specify how cargo is positioned and secured to prevent it from shifting unexpectedly, leaking, spilling or falling off a truck. If freight or heavy machinery shifts on a trailer, it can lead to an unbalanced load, making a semi-truck prone to jackknifing or rolling over, particularly on a banked turn.
Brake Failure— Brake problems are the most commonly cited issue with truck safety equipment. Trucking companies often fail in their legal responsibility to keep brakes in proper adjustment.
Driver Distraction—Distracted drivers are a leading cause of traffic accidents in Florida. Anything that diverts a driver’s attention from the road is a distraction. There were 3,700 accident in Florida in 2017 involving drivers distracted by cell phones, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Federal laws prevent commercial drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating a commercial vehicle.
Improper Lane Changes—Tractor trailers and buses have large blind spots on either side. If a commercial driver fails to see a vehicle in its blind spot and attempts to move into the lane occupied by the smaller vehicle, it can cause a serious accident.
Turning—Tractor trailers make wide turns and require a lot of room to swing wide at intersections. Large trucks must veer to the left in order to clear the curb when executing a right turn. If a truck driver fails to pay attention to nearby vehicles, the truck driver may hit another vehicle with the trailer during the turn.
Large trucks are involved in serious accidents every day in Florida, often because their drivers ignore safety rules and regulations. You cannot prevent a commercial driver from driving aggressively or a trucking company from failing to maintain its fleet. But you can hold them accountable for the accidents they cause with the help of an experienced Florida commercial vehicle accident law firm. The attorneys at Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant are ready to help the victims of commercial bus injuries and commercial truck accidents in Florida.