Central Florida has some of the busiest roads and highways in the country. For instance, I-4, which connects Orlando and Tampa, is one of the most congested roadways in the state. I-75 also runs north to south, with Highway 27 and 41 crisscrossing Central Florida. So it is unsurprising that the number of accidents, one truck accident, is on the rise.
Most truck accidents that Tampa roads encounter are fatal or life-altering injuries. For example, the most recent report from the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles indicates that the state recorded nearly 32,000 accidents involving commercial trucks.
The report further points out that 57 suffered incapacitating injuries, 27 lost their lives, and 1053 people sustained other injuries. Tampa truck accident lawyers know that these statistics can be overwhelming.
But they also understand how important it is to have an experienced attorney on your side who will fight hard to get you the compensation you deserve.
At the Law Offices of Ryan T. Hughes, we are committed to helping victims of truck accidents recover damages for medical expenses, pain, suffering, loss of income, property damage, and more.
We offer a free consultation so that you can learn about your legal options and decide whether our firm is right for you. So do not hesitate to contact us now to schedule yours today.
Why Seek Counsel From Reliable Truck Accidents Tampa Attorneys?
In addition to being dedicated to fighting for justice, our highly skilled lawyers at the Law Offices of Ryan T. Hughes are committed to providing quality service at all times.
We work closely with clients to ensure they receive the best possible representation throughout the process.
Moreover, we take absolute pride in ensuring each client gets the attention and care they need. This is why we have built such a strong reputation over the years.
Our team comprises highly skilled professionals with extensive experience handling cases like yours. They are passionate about what they do and will put every effort into helping you achieve desirable results.
We handle cases ranging from personal injury claims to wrongful death lawsuits. If you or someone close to you was injured due to another person's negligence, call us today at (727) 266-0022 to discuss your legal options.
Our attorneys are ready to answer any questions and offer a free initial consultation.
How Common Are Truck Accidents in Florida?
As we hinted at earlier, Florida is a hotspot for truck accidents. And it is easy to see why; the state has recently transformed into a logistics and transportation hub, thanks to its strategic location. Major highways like I-4 and I-75 have become incredibly busy as a result.
And as you may have rightfully guessed, increased traffic creates a greater risk of collisions. A Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles 2017 report indicate that almost 32,000 accidents involved truck drivers.
Of those, 57 were incapacitated, 27 died, and 1053 others sustained non-fatal injuries. The NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) further indicates that the northbound stretch between Miami-Dade and Broward Counties has seen an increase in traffic accidents in the recent past.
For instance, the stretch from Miami Exit 1A through Broward Deerfield Beach exit experienced 1.73 accidents per mile. Another worrying data on the FARS report is that of the I-10, the fourth-longest highway in the U.S. Deemed one of the deadliest roads on the FARS list, the I-10 records 278 fatalities annually.
One common factor is that the most affected people in trucking accidents are occupants of other vehicles. That is because trucks are 20-30 times more gigantic and have undercarriage clearance, making smaller cars more vulnerable to being trapped underneath.
What Are the Most Frequent Causes of Truck Accidents in Tampa, Florida?
Following an extensive analysis, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) narrowed down the causes of truck crashes to ten core categories:
- Driver fatigue
- Distracted driving (Inadequate surveillance)
- Drug use
- Brake problems
- Traffic flow interruptions
- Inadequate experience with roadways
- Prescription drug use
- Being required to stop before the crash
- Roadway problems
- Moving too fast for conditions
This section takes a deeper dive into the top causes of truck accidents in Tampa, Florida.
1. Driver Fatigue
Driver fatigue is one of Florida's leading causes of truck accidents. And it is not surprising; fatigued drivers are much less alert than usual. As a result, drivers often need to react more quickly to avoid collisions.
Hours of Service (HOS) - federal trucking laws - usually govern driver hours on the job by regulating:
- The number of hours a driver can log during a specific week
- The amount of time a driver must take off between shifts
- How long can a driver be on the road in a single stretch
But despite these well-documented regulations, some drivers still need to correct their logs to drive longer than they should. Sadly, most trucking companies encourage drivers to falsify their driving logs to fit unreasonable scheduling demands.
The result? This leads to more tired, sleep-deprived drivers who make mistakes behind the wheel.
2. Drunk Driving
Another common cause of truck accidents Tampa residents face is drunk driving. If you are wondering, a driver is deemed intoxicated if their blood-alcohol level exceeds 0.08%. At this point, the driver becomes vulnerable to cognitive issues like blurred vision or impaired judgment.
These impairments can lead to dangerous situations like crashing into another vehicle or running over pedestrians. Operating a semi-truck in such a condition is even riskier because its massive size makes the accident's impact more destructive.
Furthermore, it is easier for a truck to ram into several vehicles, onlookers, or pedestrians simultaneously, increasing the chances of severe injury or death.
3. Inadequately Trained Personnel
Hiring inadequately trained personnel is another significant cause of most truck accidents in Tampa. These may include inexperienced drivers, negligent maintenance officers, or careless mechanics.
When any of these individuals fail to perform their duties properly, they put the lives of others at risk.
But how do you establish that insufficient training was the primary cause of your trucking accident? When you hire an experienced lawyer, we will conduct a thorough investigation and interview all involved parties to determine what happened. We will also examine things like:
- The driver's employment history and whether they have the requisite training or experience to operate the truck
- Signs of defective, retread, or unevenly worn tires
- The proper functionality and regular maintenance of such parts as brakes, axles, and hitches
- Whether the maintenance logs were updated according to state and federal statutes
- The federal and state provisions about due diligence that trucking companies must follow in establishing the driver's criminal record and safety history
4. Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is yet another major cause of truck accidents in Tampa. It occurs when drivers take their eyes off the road for too long, increasing the likelihood of colliding with other vehicles and objects.
A truck driver driving distracted is even riskier, given the truck's massive size, making it more challenging to avoid an accident after losing control.
But what causes distracted driving? Here are the most common circumstances:
- Eating and drinking
- Talking on the phone
- Listening to the radio
- Searching through the glove box
- Engaging in a conversation with the passenger
- Looking at a GPS
- Applying makeup
- Posting on social media
5. Improper Loading/Unloading Procedures
Trucking companies must pay more attention to proper loading and unloading procedures. But they can be a leading cause of truck accidents. For example, if a load is improperly secured, it could shift during transport, causing damage to the trailer or cargo itself.
Similarly, if a truck is not loaded correctly, it could tip or roll over while transporting goods. These errors are especially prevalent among small businesses that use independent contractors to deliver products.
They may need to learn how much weight their trucks should carry, so they rely on the contractor to ensure the loads are safe. But if the contractor fails to do their job, they could endanger the lives of everyone on board.
What Are the Florida Laws Affecting Truck Drivers and Accident Claims?
Unlike smaller vehicles, trucking cases are more complex because of the number of people involved. That means you should work with a knowledgeable attorney with extensive knowledge of Florida laws affecting truckers and their claims.
At the Law Offices of Ryan T. Hughes, our attorneys have years of experience handling trucking accidents, including those involving large commercial carriers.
We have extensive knowledge of Florida Statute 316.302, which governs the liability of the drivers and owners of commercial motor vehicles operated on public roads and streets.
That said, here are a few rules/conditions that a driver looking to secure employment as a commercial truck driver must meet:
- Drivers must be at least 18 years and 21 years, respectively, to be eligible for intrastate and interstate commercial truck driving employment.
- Employees can only consider those with a resounding command of the English language, i.e., they can read road signs, communicate with officials, and write fluent reports.
- Drivers must have a CDL license and a clean driving history. Besides, they must have a clear vision, i.e., a field of view of at least 70 degrees from the horizontal meridian and a 20/40 vision in each eye.
Also, rules exist on how long a driver's shift can last at any given period. Here is a quick outline:
- A truck driver cannot drive after 80 hours in the last eight days or 70 hours in the previous seven days. Consequently, the driver should take 34 hours of rest after this period before resuming work.
- After ten consecutive days off work, the driver can drive between 12-16 hours, but nothing more.
- The Department of Transportation requires all drivers to maintain an updated logbook in case of a random audit.
- Drivers are only expected to maintain a log book if they are within a 150-air-mile radius. The same is true if they transport hazardous materials. But if they exceed 12 hours of service, they must document everything.
You must also adhere to truck size requirements dictated by Florida trucking laws. Here are the specifications to pay attention to:
- A truck-tractor trailer must be at most 65 ft. in length. At the same time, any other truck cannot exceed 75 ft.
- A commercial truck's overhang cannot exceed 3 ft.
- A commercial truck's width cannot exceed 102 inches.
- An automobile carrier cannot exceed 14 ft. in height.
- A commercial vehicle's gross weight limit is 80,000 pounds.
What Is the Legal Process After a Truck Accident in Tampa, Florida?
After a truck accident, it's essential to know what happens next. First, you must file a claim with the truck owner's insurance company. They will then send out adjusters who assess the damage and offer a settlement.
If you accept the offer, you will sign a release form. However, if you are not satisfied with the amount provided by the insurance company, you may want to consult with an attorney.
The legal process after a truck accident in Tampa takes anywhere from 30 days to several months, depending on the circumstances. You will be required to provide medical documentation and undergo physical therapy.
You must also complete paperwork for filing claims with various government agencies.
Here is a more straightforward, step-by-step breakdown of what to expect when pursuing compensation after a truck accident in Florida:
Step 1: File a Claim With the Insurance Company
You must first file a claim against the truck's insurance provider. To do so, you must obtain proof of ownership and contact the insurer directly.
Once you have done so, you will need a copy of the policy and the name and address of the insurance agent handling the claim.
Step 2: Send Out Adjusters
An adjuster will visit your home or office to inspect the damages and discuss the settlement terms. They will also ask about any injuries suffered as well as the extent of those injuries.
At this point, the adjuster will make a settlement offer, which you can accept or reject.
But remember, the adjuster's mission is to pay you as little as possible to settle your claim, allowing the insurance company to keep the lion's share.
Step 3: Sign a Release Form
If you accept the adjuster's offer, the next step is to sign a release form. But before signing the release form, you must review it carefully. Ensure all information is accurate and there aren't any hidden clauses that could affect your rights later.
Step 4: Get Medical Documentation
To prove your injuries, you must submit medical records documenting them. The adjuster will request these documents within a few weeks of submitting the claim.
Step 5: Complete the Paperwork
Once the adjuster has received the necessary documentation, They will begin processing your claim. They will then forward your case to their supervisor, who will decide whether to approve the claim. If approved, the adjuster will issue payment to you.
Step 6: Let Your Lawyer Lead the Negotiations
If the adjuster makes you an unacceptable offer, don't just accept it. Instead, hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to represent you at mediation or arbitration. This way, you can get a better deal than you would otherwise.
In addition, having an attorney present will give you more leverage during negotiations.
Step 7: Prepare for Trial (If Necessary)
If the insurance company rejects your claim, they may try to drag things out until you have patience. Or worse yet, they might refuse to pay altogether. If this happens, it is time for your truck accidents Tampa attorney to prepare for trial.
That means gathering evidence, preparing witnesses, and ensuring all is ready for court.
Step 8: File a Truck Accident Claim With the Courts
After exhausting all other options, you should consider filing a lawsuit against the truck driver responsible for causing your crash. Doing so allows you to recover monetary compensation from the person most likely to be able to pay you back.
A qualified truck accident lawyer in Tampa will work hard to ensure you receive fair treatment. We will table indisputable evidence, argue your best interests, and fight for every penny you deserve.
Who Could Be Liable for My Semi-Truck Accident in Tampa?
You could hold them liable for damages if another party's negligence caused your semi-truck accident.
This includes negligent acts such as speeding, drunk driving, texting while driving, and failing to yield the right of way.
But aside from the truck driver, other parties could also be liable for your damages, including the trucking company, the truck manufacturer, and even the government.
Let us explore the details:
1. The Truck Driver
As mentioned earlier, truck drivers ensure their truck remains safe during operation. They could carry the liability burden if they fail to comply with the necessary safety measures, causing a trucking accident.
In most instances, the truck driver will be held liable if they were drunk driving, texting while operating, or failing to follow traffic regulations.
2. The Trucking Company
When it comes to trucking companies, they are responsible for hiring qualified drivers who know how to operate a truck safely. They are also required to provide adequate training programs for new hires so they can learn the basics of trucking operations.
Aside from these responsibilities, they are also accountable for maintaining proper records regarding the trucks' maintenance and upkeep.
3. The Truck Manufacturer
Manufacturers must ensure that their products meet specific standards. For instance, manufacturers must ensure their vehicles have the latest technology and safety features.
They must also ensure that their trucks are properly maintained. So if a mishap like a tire burst is found to have been due to a manufacturing defect, the manufacturer would be liable for the accident.
4. The Government
Regarding truck accidents, the federal government plays a significant role. It is responsible for enforcing all existing trucking rules and regulations. These include road maintenance, speed limits, lane restrictions, and the use of electronic devices.
As long as the government complies with its duties, it should not be held liable for any injuries resulting from a truck accident.
What If I'm Blamed for a Truck Accident in Florida?
It is common for the truck driver to pin or share the liability with you after the crash. After all, Florida is a pure comparative state, and the driver may be looking to reduce their share of the blame. However, this does not mean you are automatically guilty.
You may still prove that you did not cause the accident. Here are some ways to do so:
1. Prove That Your Vehicle Was Not Negligent
It would be best to show that your vehicle was not defective or negligently operated. You must present evidence proving that your car meets industry standards during the crash to do this.
If you show that your vehicle was in good condition before the accident, you can argue that the truck driver was responsible for the collision.
2. Show That There Was No Fault on Your Part
If you can prove that there was no fault on your part, you will easily avoid having to pay damages. That means you did not violate any laws or drive recklessly.
You may also be able to prove that the truck driver violated the law by failing to yield the right of way, following too closely, or running a red light.
3. Prove That the Truck Driver Was Drunk Driving
If you can show that the truck driver was drunk driving, you may be able to get the blame off your shoulders.
This is because the truck driver is legally prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
4. Rely on Witness Statements
Witness statements sometimes make the difference when the at-fault party accuses you of being partly or wholly responsible for the accident. Witnesses may testify that you were not speeding, swerving, or causing the accident.
5. Hire an Experienced Attorney
The best way to defend yourself against a truck accident claim is to hire an experienced attorney. An attorney knows what questions to ask and which defenses to raise. For instance, if the trucking company accuses you of partly contributing to the accident, a reliable lawyer will table evidence that thwarts the claims.
For example, if the driver accuses you of tailgating them, your lawyer will gather witness statements and work with accident reconstruction experts to show that you were not speeding.
How Much Is My Tampa Truck Accident Case Worth?
The compensation available after a Tampa truck accident depends on many factors because no two cases are similar.
Here are the top factors that determine your case's actual worth:
- Have you been injured, and if so, what is the extent of your injuries?
- How much money have you lost due to medical bills, missed work, and other expenses?
- What is the total value of your car and other personal belongings destroyed in the accident?
- What is your statement about the accident, and how has it impacted your life?
- How long will it take you to recover from your injuries?
- What does your doctors' prognosis reveal on the type of treatment you will need in the future to recover fully?
- What are your loved ones' statements on how your relationship with them has changed since the accident?
And as we alluded to above, Florida is a pure comparative negligence state. So if investigations reveal that you were partly responsible for the truck accident, it may also impact the amount you're eligible to receive.
For instance, if you were found to be 10% at fault for the crash, you would only be entitled to 90% of the settlement.
What Damages Are Available to Truck Accident Victims in Florida?
Suppose you or your loved one have been involved in a commercial semi or tractor-trailer truck accident in Florida. In that case, you may be entitled to economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
But to ensure you receive maximum compensation for your losses, it is in your best interests to work with a seasoned truck accident lawyer who will pursue all avenues of recovery. Let's dig deeper into the damages:
These encompass compensation for objectively verifiable monetary losses. They include:
- Past, current, and future medical costs. Medical expenses may include emergency room visits, hospital stays, doctor's appointments, prescriptions, physical therapy, and more.
- Lost wages and business income. If you've had to miss work because of your injuries, you can collect past and future lost earnings.
- Loss of future earning capacity. You can collect compensation for any loss of future earning potential. These may include future promotions, raises, bonuses, and overtime pay.
- Property damage. If your vehicle was damaged in the accident, you could recover the cost of repairs or replacement.
These include compensation for personal losses that cannot easily be quantified.
- Pain and suffering. Injuries cause immeasurable pain and discomfort. When left alone, compensation can help cover these types of losses.
- Mental anguish. Mental anguish occurs when someone experiences extreme emotional distress over an injury. It can result in depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even suicidal thoughts.
- Loss of consortium. A spouse or partner may suffer mental anguish if their significant other is injured in a truck accident.
- Loss of enjoyment of life. Someone who suffers severe injuries may lose the ability to enjoy life. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness, guilt, anger, frustration, and despair.
- Disfigurement. The appearance of your body may change after an injury. This can make people feel self-conscious about themselves. So to help you cope with this situation, Florida laws allow you to seek compensation for disfigurement.
Florida allows victims to sue for punitive damages if they believe the defendant acted recklessly or intentionally. Punitive damages punish the wrongdoer and deter others from committing similar acts.
The following factors should be considered when determining whether punitive damages are appropriate:
- Whether the defendant has engaged in similar conduct before.
- How much money did the defendant make off of their wrongful actions
- What the defendant knew about the risks associated with their actions
- Whether the defendant tried to conceal their wrongdoing.
The Law Offices of Ryan T. Hughes Can Help
Our law firm handles all types of truck accident cases. We know how important it is to get proper legal representation immediately. Our reliable attorneys have years of experience handling truck accident cases.
Therefore, we understand what it takes to win a truck accident claim. We will put our best foot forward and work with you throughout the process to ensure you receive fair compensation for your loss.
Best of all? We handle all truck accident claims on contingency. That means there are no upfront costs or fees unless and until we recover your compensation. So why wait until the last minute? Contact us for a FREE, no-obligation case review!
Truck Accidents Tampa FAQs
How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit After a Truck Accident in Tampa?
If the truck accident case is based on negligence, the statute of limitations is four years.
That means you have four years from the incident date to file a personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver.
Who Can Share the Blame in a Truck Accident Claim?
Naturally, the person responsible for causing the crash will share liability in a commercial truck accident.
This can be the actual driver, the driver's employer, the trucking company, the truck manufacturer, third-party contractors, or insurance companies that hold policies for the parties mentioned.