The Hazards Created by Unqualified Truck Drivers

Unqualified Truck Drivers

Inexperienced drivers are at a higher risk of causing accidents than drivers with more experience: most people take that simple fact for granted. Teenage drivers, for example, tend to face more serious restrictions than adult drivers due to their lack of experience on the road. Many people, however, fail to consider the specific hazards created by unqualified or inexperienced truck drivers.

Truck drivers spend long hours out on the road hauling large loads and driving vehicles that require a great deal more attention to control safely than the average passenger vehicle. Unfortunately, many trucking companies continue to send out unqualified truck drivers.

What Standards Must Truck Drivers Meet?

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recognizes the dangers posed by big trucks out on the road.

As a result, it requires the drivers of big trucks to meet specific standards before they hit the road:

  • Truckers must meet federal Commercial Driver’s License standards.
  • Truck drivers must receive training through an approved truck driving school. In some states, they may have to pass a test issued by the school before they can apply for a license.
  • They must take a test that shows their ability to safely operate a big truck.
  • They must meet minimum medical standards that show they can safely operate a big truck.

Sometimes, truck drivers who have earned a commercial license may no longer meet federal standards because they have developed a medical condition that would cause them to now fail medical or visual tests. Other times, truck drivers might better fit the classification of “underqualified.” They might have obtained a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), but they lack the experience and skills necessary to safely operate a big truck out on the road or they may not have received adequate training before taking a load out alone for the first time.

Common Reasons Why Unqualified Truck Drivers Hit the Road

Most trucking companies would certainly rather hire qualified truck drivers than drivers who lack the skills necessary to keep their loads safe. Unqualified or poorly qualified truck drivers also open the company up to potential liability charges.

Unfortunately, some trucking companies feel they have little choice but to send out drivers who lack the experience needed to handle themselves as safely as possible on the road. They may push unqualified drivers to drive before they’re really ready including drivers who have passed minimum licensing standards but who may not yet have the experience they need to safely navigate out on the road.

Alternatively, they may push drivers to put off medical exams and other requirements if those exams would remove the driver from their pool, even though those technically unqualified drivers could pose a serious hazard to other road users.

1. Truck driver shortages create a major problem for many companies.

The truck driver shortage has become big news across the nation. Truck drivers continue to leave the industry in large numbers, seeking jobs that will allow them to spend more time at home with friends and loved ones. With increased shipping needs during the pandemic as more people chose to order online instead of going to stores in person, many trucking companies have found themselves in need of more drivers than ever at a time when it is incredibly difficult to bring on new truckers.

Unfortunately, with shipping needs running high, many trucking companies feel as though they have little choice but to put drivers behind the wheel as soon as they can get them. All too often, this includes drivers who lack the experience necessary to safely navigate challenging road conditions.

2. Drivers may not receive adequate training before taking their road tests.

CDL training requirements vary by state, which means that drivers in some states undergo considerably less overall training than drivers in others. Many CDL schools try to provide candidates with a fast track to get their license, rather than taking the extra time needed to ensure that drivers get the right experience out on the road. Most schools push their candidates out within a matter of weeks, which means that those drivers have minimal actual road hours under their belts before they take the test for their CDL.

3. Driver training may not include many of the conditions the driver will actually face on the road.

Some drivers, for example, get their CDLs in the spring and summer months, when they do not have to deal with ice and snow on the roads. They may not have any experience in fog, in the rain, or during rush hour, especially if the school they attend does not prioritize those specific experiences. Unfortunately, that means many drivers end up licensed before they get that experience.

4. Some states have stricter requirements for truck drivers than others.

In New York, for example, truck drivers need to have specific mirrors that allow them to see pedestrians around the vehicle more easily. Truck drivers in California need to prepare for much heavier traffic than drivers traveling through Mississippi or Alabama. Truck drivers, however, often end up carrying loads across the country and that means no matter how strict the laws of a specific state are, there will be big truck drivers on that state’s roads who have not had to meet the state’s high standards.

5. Driver training may not prepare drivers for some of the realities of the job.

Driver training usually aims at preparing truck drivers for the basics of the job, including how to safely manage road conditions. However, it may not prepare truck drivers for the reality of 11 hours a day out on the road, often with just one break. As a result, truck drivers may have a hard time dealing with distraction or drowsiness once they get out on the road.

6. Drivers may put off medical exams or even falsify information to keep their license.

Truck drivers must meet physical fitness standards in addition to driving capability standards. Unfortunately, over time some truck drivers may no longer meet those physical fitness standards or may develop a condition that prevents them from navigating the road safely. As a result, they may try to falsify information or avoid medical exams to prevent the loss of their CDL certification.

The Hazards Posed by Unqualified Truck Drivers

Unqualified truck drivers can present a significant accident risk out on the road.

1. Unqualified truck drivers may not know what to do in an emergency.

While truck driver training generally offers a basic look at many of the potential emergencies that can happen out on the road, drivers may not leave training prepared to safely control a big truck in the event of an emergency. Short-term training simply does not provide the experience drivers need to handle many common situations.

Suppose, for example, that a truck driver who got their license in the spring encounters ice on the road for the first time the following winter. They may not have adequate experience to get the vehicle back under control, increasing the odds that they will cause an accident. Likewise, a truck driver who has not ever experienced a jackknife, when the trailer swings forward away from the body of the truck and out of control, may have very poor odds of getting the vehicle back under control, while a more experienced truck driver would be able to regain control of the vehicle and prevent a collision.

2. Unqualified truck drivers may skip steps in their vehicle inspections or fail to notice potential problems.

Experienced truck drivers become very familiar with their vehicles: what they sound like, what they feel like, and what potential problems look like. They may know even before a mechanic can diagnose a problem that it is an issue. Unfortunately, inexperienced truck drivers, especially those who did not go through adequate training, may have a harder time identifying potential problems and may, as a result, be at a higher risk of causing a serious accident.

Suppose, for example, that a tire starts to wobble. An experienced, highly qualified truck driver might know immediately that they need to pull over and either replace the tire or figure out what has caused the problem. An inexperienced truck driver, on the other hand, might not even feel the wobble, or might assume that it occurred due to the condition of the road. They might not pull off in time to prevent a tire blowout, which could cause serious injury to them and others around them.

An unqualified truck driver might also fail to recognize the signs of an impending shifting load incident. On a flatbed, for example, heavy straps usually help hold down the cargo to keep it in place as the truck travels down the road. If a strap becomes overloaded, fails, or gets stretched too far, it could result in serious injury as the cargo falls from the truck. An inexperienced, poorly qualified driver might not be able to recognize this potential danger.

3. Unqualified drivers may not meet medical fitness standards.

Truck drivers, to acquire the Class D license they need to operate on the road, must pass a medical standards test that shows that they can physically handle the rigors of operating a big truck out on the road. Truck drivers might not meet medical qualifications for many reasons, from potential heart problems to a risk of narcolepsy. These and other health problems can be dangerous for drivers and everyone who has to share the road with them. Unfortunately, many truck drivers put off their medical exams for as long as possible, especially if they know they have a looming failure ahead of them. As a result, they may end up out on the road with serious health problems that could interfere substantially with their ability to operate a big truck safely.

4. Unqualified drivers may struggle with inebriation.

Truck drivers have a higher than average rate of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Often, truck drivers struggle with the loneliness that can come from long hours on the road, missing events with friends and family, or simply not spending time with their loved ones. Some end up drinking to alleviate some of that loneliness. Unfortunately, all too many truck drivers take to the road while still inebriated.

An inebriated truck driver poses a serious danger to everyone around them, particularly if the truck driver continues to drink while on the road. Drivers can lose their CDL if they are convicted of a DUI, but truck drivers may try to keep their licenses anyway, avoid reporting the DUI, or even lie to their employers to keep their jobs.

5. Fatigue can pose a serious problem for many unqualified truck drivers.

Many unqualified truck drivers do not know how to manage fatigue well, from the natural fatigue that occurs when drivers take to the road for too long to fatigue that comes from late nights, excessive drinking the night before, or illness. Sometimes, certain chronic health conditions increase the risk of fatigue. Fatigued drivers experience many of the same symptoms as inebriated drivers on the road, making them a danger to everyone around them.

What Should You Do After an Accident With an Unqualified Truck Driver?

You have the same rights after an accident with an unqualified truck driver that you would after an accident with a fully licensed truck driver. Even if the driver did not meet minimum qualifications because of a medical condition or they did not receive adequate training, they bear liability for any negligent decisions they make behind the wheel. If a driver causes an accident, you have the right to file for compensation through the driver’s insurance company.

To help protect your right to compensation, you should:

  • Report the accident. Do not let a truck driver convince you that your report will get them in too much trouble because they do not have their license. Instead, report the accident to the police and allow them to sort it out.
  • Seek medical attention, if you need it. Truck accidents can result in serious injuries, many of which have long-term consequences, and should receive prompt treatment.
  • Contact an attorney to help you manage your case.

A truck accident lawyer can help you understand your rights, including how much compensation you may deserve for your truck accident injuries. Contact a lawyer as soon after your truck accident as possible.

Truck T-Bone Accidents

Truck T Bone Accidents

T-bone collisions, also known as broadside collisions, can be one of the most frightening and terrible accidents anyone can experience, especially when it involves a truck. There are thousands of commercial vehicles on Florida’s interstate routes every day. According to the Motor Carrier Safety Progress Report, 103,811 large truck crashes took place in one year in the U.S., causing 3,260 fatalities.

In addition, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that approximately 15 percent of all fatal truck accidents in the United States are side-impact collisions. Unlike rear-end collisions, in a T-bone accident, the door and window are the only buffers. Passengers in cars do not have a bumper, trunk, and possibly additional seats to blunt the impact.

In most T-bone accidents, the driver and passengers on the impacted side suffer the most significant injuries. However, the severity of the injuries depends on several factors, such as what part of the truck hit, how fast the vehicle was traveling, vehicle weight and construction, and safety features.

The force of the impact may cause one or more vehicles to spin out or rollover.

Common Causes of Truck T-Bone Collisions

Most T-bone accidents happen in intersections. But, of course, traffic is not supposed to cross an intersection at right angles simultaneously. Therefore, one of the two entered the intersection wrongfully; such as a truck that runs a red light and hits a car that is passing through the intersection.

As with other accidents, a variety of factors may cause a crash, including:

  • Speeding. Truck drivers are often under pressure to meet strict deadlines. However, they are only allowed to drive a limited number of hours each day. If their employers pay them by the mile, they may speed to make more money. A large truck traveling at high speed is difficult to maneuver and stop, which may cause an accident.
  • Failing to stop: Large commercial vehicles require more time and distance to come to a stop. If the driver is speeding or inattentive, they may not be able to stop in time to avoid a T-bone accident.
  • Failure to yield the right-of-way. For example, a truck driver may fail to yield the right-of-way at an intersection, resulting in a collision.
  • Improper turns: Truck drivers must make turns carefully and allow plenty of clearance to keep everyone safe. If a truck driver makes an improper turn, the truck may block a travel lane and cause a T-bone collision.
  • Blind spot accidents. A big commercial truck has significant blind spots on all four sides, which can make it hard for them to see other vehicles and increase the risk of an accident.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Drunk or drugged drivers cause approximately 28 percent of traffic deaths in the U.S. An impaired truck driver has slower reaction times and may be unable to maneuver their vehicles safely or properly navigate challenges on the road, including intersections.
  • Drowsiness. Driving while drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Fatigued drivers have difficulty controlling their trucks and focusing on the road. For example, the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) reported that 13 percent of truck drivers were driving drowsy when the crash occurred.
  • Distractions. Small or large distractions, whether inside or outside the truck cab, can divert a driver. Distractions inside the cab include cell phones, using dispatching devices, or changing the radio station. The law prohibits CMV drivers from texting while driving. Outside distractions may consist of watching people, places, or things of interest. One study found that in 71 percent of large-truck collisions, the truck driver was doing or paying attention to something other than driving the truck at the time of the crash.
  • Defective equipment: If a truck or a truck component is faulty, the driver may lose control of the vehicle. For example, brake failure is a risk, especially for big semi-trucks, which require significantly more time and space to stop.
  • Poor weather conditions. Poor weather, such as rain and snow, can increase the risk of a truck accident. If the wheels cannot gain enough traction, the driver may not be able to stop in time. In addition, rain, snow, and fog can lead to decreased visibility, making it hard for truck drivers to see other vehicles.

Laws Regarding Truck Accidents

All drivers have a responsibility to drive safely. Like all drivers, a truck driver is negligent when they fail to act with the level of care that anyone, under similar circumstances, would have used. A commercial driver’s license is a privilege and not a right. That means operating the truck responsibly and following the standards and regulations for truck drivers under state and federal law.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a government agency responsible for providing oversight for commercial vehicles. Its fundamental goal is to reduce accidents, fatalities, and injuries involving commercial vehicles. The FMCSA does this by establishing and enforcing a comprehensive set of regulations.

Florida also has laws regarding commercial motor vehicles. The Office of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (OCVE) enforces such laws. For example, no vehicle may exceed a height of 13 feet and six inches and a width of 102 inches, exclusive of safety devices installed for the safe operation of the truck. Exterior rearview mirrors can only extend the distance that is necessary to provide an appropriate field of view.

State and federal law also regulate other elements of commercial vehicle operation, such as:

  • Driver qualification.
  • Vehicle inspection, repair, and maintenance.
  • Financial responsibility for motor carriers.
  • Cargo securement. The FMSCA enforces strict rules about loading and securing cargo so that it remains secure during transport.
  • Parts and accessories necessary for safe operation.
  • Noise emissions.
  • Transportation of hazardous materials. Flammable cargo can cause dangerous fires or explosions.

Violation of state or federal regulations is negligence, and in the event of an accident, the at-fault parties may be liable.

Who May Be Liable?

Each collision is unique. There may be more than one person or entity responsible for the crash. The obvious responsible party may be the negligent driver of the truck that broadsided your car. However, the trucking company may also be liable for the actions of its employee. Trucking companies also are responsible for operating their business safely for everyone on the road. It is their responsibility to hire competent, well-trained drivers who have the appropriate licenses to operate commercial vehicles.

The trucking company also must maintain their trucks and keep them in good working order. Commercial vehicle owners must keep strict maintenance records. Federal law restricts how long a driver can stay behind the wheel without a rest period. Requiring drivers to maintain unreasonably long schedules can lead to accidents.

If a mechanical failure or poor truck maintenance led to the accident, the truck owner or the person or entity responsible for its maintenance might be liable. If a defective part, such as malfunctioning tires or brakes, caused the accident, then the manufacturer of the truck or its components may be liable for the resulting harm. If the roads were inadequately constructed or maintained, the appropriate governmental entity might be responsible.

Injuries That Result From T-Bone Truck Accidents

T-bone truck accidents can cause devastating and possibly fatal injuries. The average passenger vehicle weighs approximately 3,400 pounds, while a fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Therefore, if a truck strikes a passenger vehicle broadside, the occupants of the passenger vehicle have a high risk of injury.

Common severe injuries that can result from a T-bone truck collision include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries: A jolt or blow to the head can cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Even a “mild” TBI, such as a concussion, can cause long-term damage, and more severe TBIs can cause permanent brain damage. A TBI can leave the injured person with impairments affecting their mobility, cognition, and emotional health.
  • Spinal cord injuries: A spinal cord injury may interrupt messages between the body and the brain. There are numerous debilitating symptoms, such as weakness, loss of movement, loss of sensation, and difficulty breathing. In some cases, the victim suffers partial or complete paralysis.
  • Organ damage and internal bleeding: The force of a truck crash can also cause internal bleeding and other damage to internal organs, such as the liver, bladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, and lungs. If not treated quickly, internal bleeding can be fatal.
  • Crush injuries. Truck accidents often lead to crushing injuries, such as compressed nerves, crushed organs, and limbs.
  • Burns. Large trucks also have large fuel tanks. Therefore, in a crash, they are more likely to explode, and everyone involved could suffer burn injuries, which are painful and often disfiguring.
  • Severe lacerations: in an accident, sharp objects such as glass or metal may cut vehicle occupants. These lacerations can cause life-threatening blood loss, infections, and permanent nerve damage.

What Compensation May Be Available?

If you have been injured in a truck crash, you may face enormous medical bills, lost wages, and an altered future. The damages you may receive depend mainly on the nature and severity of your injuries, their impact on your life, the strength of your case, and the financial resources of the at-fault party.

Generally speaking, victims of T-bone truck crashes can file a lawsuit seeking payment for:

  • All expenses related to medical care for the injury;
  • Other losses related to the accident or injuries;
  • Lost wages. In some cases, the individual can never return to work or never resume their previous career;
  • Pain, suffering, loss of consortium and diminished quality of life; and
  • In some cases, punitive damages to punish the party who caused the crash for extreme or outrageous conduct.

In the event of a fatal T-bone truck accident, family members of the deceased victim may seek compensation for their loss through a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death occurs when one person dies due to the legal fault of another party. State law governs who is entitled to sue for wrongful death. The damages they recover through legal action generally include costs and financial losses related to the death.

Were You Injured in a Truck T-Bone Accident?

Even if you believe you have not been injured or your injuries are minor, it is essential to seek medical attention. Some injuries, such as internal trauma, do not become apparent right away, or you may not be aware of the full extent of your injuries. If you delay medical care, your injuries may worsen. Medical records also are valuable evidence if you pursue a truck accident claim.

Do not leave the scene of a T-bone collision unless you must seek necessary medical care or call the police. If it is dangerous to remain at the scene, move to a safe area and call for help. If possible, take photos of your injuries, the damage to the vehicles, and the accident scene. Note any video cameras in the area that may have recorded the accident. Avoid posting pictures or comments about your accident on social media.

Contact your insurance company, but avoid talking to or signing any documents from the other party’s insurance company without advice from your own attorney. The insurance companies covering truckers and trucking companies against liability will try to pay as little as possible. Their policies often have higher limits and more detailed, complex provisions.

There are strict deadlines for filing lawsuits, called Statutes of Limitations, so contact an attorney as soon as possible. Truck accidents are complicated. Your attorney can handle communications, gather and preserve evidence for your claim, negotiate on your behalf to obtain the compensation you deserve, and take your case to trial if necessary.

If you suffer injuries in a T-bone collision with a truck, you should speak with an experienced, dedicated legal team. For more information or to arrange a free consultation, contact a truck accident attorney today.

Truck Rollovers Cause Too Many Fatal Accidents

Truck Roll Over

Thousands of commercial vehicles travel the Florida interstates every day. Trucks provide a valuable service to businesses and consumers all across the nation. Unfortunately, 5,237 large trucks and buses were in fatal crashes in the most recent year for which there is data.

Driving a big truck requires training and skill. Most truck drivers drive safely to protect themselves and the passenger vehicles that surround them. Still, all too often, someone’s negligence causes a rollover accident. The insurance industry publication Claims Journal reports that rollovers caused a disproportionately high number of fatalities.

Common Causes of Truck Rollovers

Some factors, such as a truck driver failing to watch out for traffic conflicts or not checking carefully at intersections, contribute to many truck accidents. Other factors are especially likely to cause rollovers. The actions of other drivers may also play a part. For example, other drivers may drive erratically, forcing trucks to maneuver abruptly, or other vehicles may collide with a truck.

Truck rollovers still happen despite crash avoidance technology such as electronic stability control (ESC), which the law requires on all new truck tractors and buses since 2019. Although rollovers often occur during turns and on highway ramps, many also happen on straight, dry roads. Truck rollover accidents most often happen due to centrifugal force, which causes the truck to lean away from the direction of a curve as it travels along that path.

Speed increases the centrifugal force exerted against the truck, so there is a greater risk of an accident. Tractor-trailers typically have a high center of gravity. Therefore, they have a greater chance of getting into a rollover accident than other vehicles, especially if they carry unstable loads. Statistics show that 63 percent of rollover accidents happen to trucks with partial loads.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Large Truck Crash Causation Study studied 239 crashes in which a truck rolled over. Researchers observed that a rollover “increases the roll moment about the longitudinal axis of the vehicle, generally either turning too quickly or allowing one side of the vehicle to drop or rise suddenly.” Frequent causes of rollovers include:

Speed. Many truck rollovers happen because of speed. Excessive speed is involved in 45 percent of all crashes. In many cases, the truck driver misjudged the safe speed for entering and navigating a curve. Researchers have concluded that when the truck’s front wheels turn more quickly than the cargo the truck is pulling, or when the truck’s cargo is unstable or improperly loaded, the center of gravity shifts and may cause a rollover.

Distracted driving. The second most common contributor to truck rollovers is truck driver inattention or distraction. Any time a truck driver’s attention wanders from driving, the driver is more likely to react to hazards by sudden changes in direction, which may lead to a rollover.

The three main types of distraction for truck drivers:

  1. Visual – taking their eyes off the road;
  2. Manual – taking their hands off the wheel; and
  3. Cognitive – taking their mind off what they are doing.

Studies show that due to inattentional blindness, a driver may fail to see something, such as a stoplight, even when looking at it. Distractions are everywhere, from radios to passing scenery. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations prohibit texting and hand-held mobile phone use while operating a commercial motor vehicle used in interstate commerce. When it comes to using mobile devices by truck drivers, the FMCSA says a driver should not be reaching, holding, dialing, texting, or reading.

Losing control of the truck. When a driver loses control of a truck, they are at risk of causing a rollover. This loss of control sometimes happens due to over-steering when changing lanes or swerving harder than necessary to avoid a possible hazard. Sharp changes in direction are similar to what happens when a driver takes a curve too fast. They cause an imbalance that leads to rollover. Under steering, such as failing to steer away from a road shoulder, which causes the wheels to leave the road, and overcorrection can also cause rollovers.

Precautionary measures. Factors that happen even before the truck is on the road can lead to rollover accidents. The failure of the driver or cargo loaders to check the safety and security of the cargo is a significant factor in rollovers. An unbalanced load or sudden shift in cargo can cause a driver to lose control of the truck. Other factors can include alcohol or drug use, fatigue, or a medical condition.

Vehicle condition. The condition of the truck’s system and parts, particularly brakes, tires, and steering mechanism, are crucial in preventing all kinds of accidents. The trucking company, those responsible for maintenance and repairs, and the drivers themselves are all responsible to inspect the truck carefully before starting.

Other consequences of rollovers. Even if no other vehicle collides with an overturned truck, the rollover can lead to secondary accidents. These may happen because other vehicles swerve to miss an overturned truck, or are dangerously distracted by the accident. In addition, when a truck rolls, cargo may fall onto the road, potentially creating hazards. Goods can block traffic lanes and drivers may swerve to avoid it. Liquid cargo can cause an unexpectedly slippery road. Toxic or chemical cargo can lead to fires and explosions.

Common Injuries Resulting From Truck Rollovers

Truck rollovers are terrifying. In many accidents, the trailer tips over first, and then it snaps the cab over. While rollovers are fairly uncommon compared to other types of crashes, they tend to cause catastrophic injuries. A truck rollover can cause more than one injury. For example, a victim may suffer a spinal injury as well as serious burns from a tanker that catches fire. These injuries can cause months or years of pain and require expensive medical treatment.

Common injuries from truck rollovers include but are not limited to:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI). Often, a TBI is a life-changing injury. The Centers for Disease Control describes a TBI as a “bump, blow, or jolt, or penetrating head injury that disrupts normal brain function.” A severe TBI can affect cognitive and motor functions. It may also result in behavioral and emotional problems. An individual who suffers from a severe TBI may require medical care and additional help for the rest of their lives.
  • Spinal cord injury. Depending on the location and severity of the injury, someone who suffers a spinal cord injury may be partially or totally paralyzed. They may need assistance with transportation and daily tasks.
  • Broken bones. Bone fractures are common in a truck rollover. Recovery is typically slow and painful. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.
  • Internal injuries. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms, you should always seek medical attention following an accident. You may have internal organ damage or internal bleeding, which, if left untreated, can be fatal.
  • Burns—Doctors classify burns as first, second, third, or fourth-degree burns, according to how deeply and severely they penetrate the skin. Burns are extremely painful and may result in permanent and disfiguring scars.

Laws Regulating Trucks

Two U.S. Department of Transportation agencies plus individual states oversee large truck safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets standards for new truck equipment. The FMCSA oversees the safety of commercial vehicles in interstate commerce (vehicles operating across state lines) and has some jurisdiction over equipment standards for trucks currently on the road. FMCSA regulations cover equipment, licensing, hours of service, and vehicle inspection and maintenance. The department of transportation in individual states governs intrastate commercial trucking.

Truckers must follow many laws including:

Maximum weight permitted. The size of the truck determines its maximum weight permitted by law. For instance, a single axle truck can carry up to 20,000 pounds. However, a two-axle truck can carry up to 34,000 pounds. The federal commercial vehicle maximum weight standard on the interstate highway system is 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight. Off the interstate highway system, states may set different commercial vehicle size and weight standards. In most states, the maximum permitted length for a single trailer is 53 feet. Tractors pulling two 28-foot trailers are called twins or western doubles.

Commercial driver licenses. Drivers of commercial trucks must have the appropriate commercial driver’s license. A Commercial Drivers License is required in Florida for any driver operating a tractor-trailer with a declared weight of 26,001 pounds or more. There are various classes of commercial drivers licenses.

Hours of service. The law regulates how long a driver can drive without taking a break, or “hours of service.” Generally, there is a 14-consecutive-hour window, called the daily limit, in which the driver may spend 11 hours behind the wheel after 10 or more consecutive hours off. Regulations require an off-duty break of at least 30 minutes when more than 8 consecutive hours have passed since a driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth half-hour break. Thirty-minute meal breaks, or a half-hour of other off-duty time, count for this break requirement.

There is also a weekly limit on hours of service.

A driver whose company does not operate trucks every day of the week is not allowed to drive after being on duty 60 hours during seven consecutive days. If the company operates every day of the week, an employer may assign a 70 hour/eight consecutive day schedule. Every commercial driver must maintain a daily driver’s log. Since 2015, drivers have been using electronic logging devices that automatically record driving time and monitor engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven, and location information.

Vehicle defects.

If a defect in the truck or any component of the truck causes an accident, the injured person may have a product liability claim against the manufacturer, supplier, or repairer of the truck. There are federal laws regarding the manufacturing and repairs of commercial vehicles, such as air brake systems.

Hazardous waste.

The Office of Hazardous Materials Safety regulates the transportation of hazardous materials.

Who May Be Liable

Federal and state truck regulations are only effective if the drivers and companies adhere to them. If they do not, and this failure to follow the law leads to an accident, the person or entity responsible could be liable for the accident victims’ injuries. More than one party may be liable for a truck rollover accident.

Possible negligent parties can include:

  • The driver;
  • The company that owns the truck;
  • The company that owns the trailer;
  • The truck manufacturer;
  • The truck loader (overloading a truck is dangerous);
  • The manufacturers of the truck and its components; and/or
  • The individual or company responsible for the truck’s maintenance.

Compensation for a Truck Rollover Accident

A truck rollover injury can lead to devastating personal and financial losses.

Compensation, also called damages, can include:

  • Medical expenses – including ambulance fees, emergency room care, hospital stays, doctor’s visits, therapy, rehabilitation, adaptive devices, and hiring help to handle daily tasks.
  • Pain and suffering – this refers to the physical pain and the psychological and emotional distress caused by the accident and resulting injuries.
  • Lost wages – any lost income due to the accident and ongoing medical care.
  • Lost earning capacity – in some cases, the injured person can’t return to their job or may even be unable to continue in their present career due to impairments from their injuries.
  • Loss of companionship – this can be either the loss of familial affection or relationships.
  • Wrongful death.
  • Punitive damages, provided for in Florida Statute § 768.72, which states “[a] defendant may be held liable for punitive damages only if the judge or jury, based on clear and convincing evidence, finds that the defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.” Fla. Stat. § 768.72(2). Florida’s laws limit punitive damages to three times compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.

Were You Injured in a Truck Rollover Accident?

No one should experience physical, financial, and emotional losses due to someone else’s negligence. The law limits the time you have to file a lawsuit after an accident, called the statute of limitations. Truck accidents are very complicated, so act promptly. If a truck rollover accident injured you speak with an experienced truck accident lawyer. A lawyer can help protect your rights and guide you through the legal process.

Distracted Driving: The Most Common Cause of Collision

Distracted Driving

“I just looked down for a second.”

“I never saw him.”

“I was texting/changing the radio/checking my GPS.”

All too often, these responses, and others like them, come tumbling from the mouths of people who have just caused a serious collision. Unfortunately, distraction serves as one of the top causes of collisions.

The NHTSA notes that distracted driving claims more than 3,000 lives each year. In addition, it causes substantial injuries to many victims of those accidents. Nevertheless, as many as 42 percent of high school students admit to texting or emailing while driving.

Distracted driving may account for as many as 27 percent of crashes each year. In some cases, it may account for even more.

Distracted Driving: Defined

Distracted driving involves taking the driver’s hands, eyes, or attention off the road while operating a motor vehicle. Each distraction involves a serious breach in the driver’s duty of care to others around him.

Visual Distractions

Most drivers do not think twice about glancing away from the road for a moment or two, whether they need to change the settings on the radio or check the directions on a GPS device. Unfortunately, visual distractions can pull the driver’s attention from the road and make it impossible for the driver to see what has happened around him.

Without that warning, a driver may drive straight into a collision without even hesitating to reduce the risk of an accident, whether the problem includes a child darting out into the street or the car in front of him slamming on his brakes.

Manual Distractions

Driving a vehicle safely involves keeping both hands either on the wheel or ready to respond quickly. Some drivers, however, will take one or even both hands off the wheel to engage in other behaviors, from texting and driving to changing a station on the radio.

Unfortunately, often, drivers will take their dominant hand off the wheel to perform those tasks, which means they may lack the ability to respond quickly and safely in the event of a hazard. While it may take only fractions of a second to get the hand back on the wheel, those fractions of a second could prevent a driver from reacting fast enough to stop an accident.

Cognitive Distractions

Many drivers find it easy to grow distracted behind the wheel, especially when it comes to allowing their attention to drift. The roads may all appear the same.

Drivers who have spent a long time behind the wheel may find themselves growing drowsy and turn to distractions to keep themselves awake. Other times, drivers may allow their attention to drift from the task at hand keeping the vehicle safely on-course and turn instead to other activities and behaviors, from singing along to the radio to chatting with someone in the vehicle.

Even daydreaming or, in some cases, needing to use the restroom can cause drivers to grow increasingly distracted behind the wheel, increasing the odds that they will cause an accident due to overall inattention.

Distractions do not necessarily fit into one category or another. Texting and driving, for example, involves all three types of distractions: the driver must take his eyes off the road to read a text message and look at the keypad, his hands off the road to use the phone, and his attention off the road as he considers the content of the text message instead of the road around him.

Common Distractions

Most people think first of texting, or at least cell phone use in general, when they consider the dangers of distracted driving. After all, cell phone use poses a potent distraction that takes the driver’s full attention off of the road. However, cell phone use does not cover the only distractions that a driver may have to contend with behind the wheel.

#1.Conversations With People in the Vehicle

Conversations with people in the vehicle often prove safer than conversations with people outside the vehicle, since people in the vehicle can more readily respond to road conditions and stop talking or reduce distractions in hazardous moments.

However, drivers engaging in highly involved conversations with other people in their vehicles may also suffer from substantial distractions. A very engaging discussion, or a contentious one, can cause drivers to pay more attention to the conversation than they do to the road around them, which may cause them to miss potential hazards and ultimately cause a serious accident.

#2.Programming or Using a GPS Device

GPS devices and apps offer considerable benefit to many drivers, whether they need to navigate to a place they have never visited before or they simply need to check on traffic as they head to their destinations.

Many traffic apps will warn drivers of potential hazards before they appear, including cars stopped on the road, heavy traffic, or even accidents. However, those apps can pose a potent distraction when people start paying more attention to them than they do to the road around them.

People may also notice significant distractions when they try to program a GPS while driving. Sometimes, a driver may realize halfway to his destination that he does not know how to reach his destination, or that he does not know where to turn next.

To avoid distraction, he may benefit from actually pulling off the road or allowing someone else in the car to program the device. A driver who attempts to program the device while driving, whether he uses a device attached to the vehicle or a handheld one, may find himself suffering from substantial distraction.

#3. Eating or Drinking in the Car

Most drivers do not think twice about eating or drinking behind the wheel. Eating in the car seems, on the surface, as though it can save time and effort, not to mention allowing them to pull that first crispy fry out of the bag while it remains hot.

In many cases, however, eating or drinking behind the wheel can have catastrophic outcomes, especially if the driver chooses to eat something messy. Eating requires the driver to take at least one hand off the wheel. If something spills, it could result in a substantial visual and cognitive distraction, especially if the driver overreacts or over-steers to control a spill.

Drinking, especially without a straw, can also serve to obscure the driver’s vision.

#4. Dealing With Kids and Pets

Kids and pets, in the car, can pose some of the most potent distractions that a driver may have to deal with. A distracting child may make it very difficult for the parent to keep eyes on the road. Sometimes, parents may even turn around to deal with their children or reach behind them to fetch a fallen item. Furthermore, parents may have more attention on their children than the other cars moving around them, which could spell disaster out on the road.

Pets can pose an equally potent problem, especially if allowed to roam around the vehicle while the car remains in motion. A roaming pet can not only cause a distraction when the driver tries to call it down, it may result in serious problems when it interferes with the driver’s ability to steer or puts its paws or nose into the gear shift.

#5. Putting on Makeup

Some women become very talented at putting on makeup quickly. Trying to do it while driving, however, could spell disaster. As people put on makeup behind the wheel, they must look at the mirror, rather than at the road. Putting on makeup also involves taking at least one hand off the wheel. Unfortunately, many drivers continue to try to put on makeup or finish getting ready for the workday while they drive down the road, raising the odds of a serious incident.

#6. Changing the Music

With the growth of modern technology, it has become easier than ever for drivers to grow distracted by changing the music in their vehicles. Even older vehicles may pull drivers’ attention from the road as they change the station on the radio or adjust the volume. More modern vehicles, on the other hand, often have music controls tied to the driver’s phone.

The driver may flip through albums, pull up an app, or try to find the perfect song. Even a driver who does not pull out the phone directly, choosing instead to use the vehicle’s controls to change music settings, may have his eyes on the screen in the vehicle, rather than on the road ahead.

#7. Changing Temperature Controls

Temperature controls do not seem like they should pose a potent distraction. Simply turn the heat or air up or down, then move on. Unfortunately, some people have a hard time setting things exactly where they want them without looking.

Here, too, modern vehicles may pose a more potent problem, since they have more options for heat and air conditioning settings. Not only do drivers have to decide exactly where they want to set their temperature controls, they may need to adjust them for passengers in the rear or even on the passenger side of the vehicle. The more drivers have to fiddle with those controls, the more their attention may pull away from the road.

#8. Smart Devices

Many people use smart, connected devices, particularly watches, to quickly respond to information that would normally appear on their phones, including text messages. Unfortunately, those smart devices may prove an even more potent and problematic distraction than smartphones themselves.

While many drivers have learned not to keep their phones in reach when on the road, smartwatches are frequently right there on the user’s arm. It can prove much more difficult to ignore a buzz from the user’s hand. Not only that, many users think they can get away with just sneaking a glance down to see the basic content of the message.

Smartwatches, however, have much smaller screens than the average smartphone. Text has to scroll across the screen for the user to read it, which may make it much more difficult for the user to take in the necessary information at a glance. Ultimately, that may lead to more time with eyes focused off the road, which may increase the risk of an accident or the severity of a collision.

#9. Watching Something Outside the Car

Sometimes, events outside the vehicle may seem more interesting than watching the road itself. A driver may shift his attention to an accident that took place nearby, to construction, or even to reading the store names as he drives past an unfamiliar shopping center, rather than keeping his attention on the road. Those external distractions can take over so much of a driver’s focus that he fails to pay attention to his tasks on the road, which may result in a serious collision.

#10. Zoning out or Daydreaming

Zoning out or daydreaming may not seem dangerous, especially on a familiar road. Unfortunately, many drivers may zone out so far that they stop paying attention to what happens around them, raising the risk of a collision.

Daydreaming can cause a driver’s attention to drift so far from the road that they no longer notice potential hazards, or even cause them to drive absentmindedly, which could cause them to cross into another lane or cut off another driver. Zoning out could also cause a driver to respond absentmindedly instead of mindfully, resulting in challenges like rear-end collisions or sideswipe accidents.

Drivers who grow distracted on the road may cause serious accidents, regardless of the source of the distraction. If you get into an accident with a distracted driver, report the accident immediately, and seek medical attention. If you have questions about your right to compensation following an accident with a distracted driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me After a Rear-End Collision?

Any type of car accident is an unfortunate situation that can often lead to devastating injuries. Out of all car accident scenarios, rear-end collisions sometimes cause the most serious damage to your body.

Perhaps you are going through this now after recently experiencing a rear-end collision on a busy road here in Florida. Things like this can happen so fast, you are potentially in a state of shock at the devastation it left behind.

Not only is your car possibly totaled, but you also suffered serious injuries that put you in the hospital. Let’s look at what you need to do next to put your life back together, including how a lawyer can help you after a rear-end collision.

How Did Your Rear-End Collision Happen?

According to statistics, rear-end collisions are the third most common type of car accident next to head-on and angle crashes. Some of those rear-ends are fatal due to the extreme impact.

Others, like you, manage to survive and incur injuries that change your life forever. The big question is, how did it happen?

A rear-end collision can happen in any number of ways. Often, it is not your fault as the victim. All too commonly, it is someone who ran into you due to a particular driving distraction.

Sometimes the defendant’s car is to blame due to a maintenance or manufacturing problem. Negligence, in this case, could go to more than one person, using Florida’s pure comparative fault law.

In other situations, smartphones, car radios, or passengers talking too much distract drivers.

It is a warning tale about the prevalence of distracted driving. Just one critical driving error like this from the negligent person could alter your life in a manner of seconds.

Not all rear-end collisions come from ordinary passenger cars either.

Other Vehicles Causing Rear-End Collisions

A regular car can cause enough damage to your vehicle if it rear-ends you. Your injuries can turn ten times worse after being hit from behind by a truck.

Far too many rear-end collisions from trucks occur on Florida roadways and highways. Some of those happen during busy commuter times when traffic is at its heaviest.

The reasons for the collisions are nearly identical to those who drive cars. Except, there is one difference in that truck drivers are far too commonly exhausted while at the wheel. Due to the pressure of delivering goods and driving into the morning hours, fatigued truck drivers are still a big problem.

After being hit from behind by a truck, your injuries are likely much worse than just mere whiplash. You may have major spinal injuries or traumatic brain injuries.

Of course, it is not just trucks that pose a threat in rear-end collisions. Other large vehicles like farm equipment, buses, or SUVs could plow into your car from behind and give you sustained injuries with ongoing life repercussions.

Spinal Injuries From Rear-End Collisions

One of the most common injuries in rear-end collisions is injuries to the spine. Severity levels with this injury are either complete or incomplete, with both altering how you live your life.

A complete spinal injury paralyzes you entirely from below the waist. Quadriplegia is also possible under this category where even your upper body is paralyzed. It means the likelihood of living in a wheelchair while possibly being unable to function normally without assistance. You may have the inability to communicate.

Incomplete spinal injuries might paralyze some of your motor functions, albeit not entirely. Even if it prevents you from being in a wheelchair, it can still cause enough issues where your physical mobility is no longer the same.

In these situations, you do not easily go back to the way things were before. Any job you had is possibly no longer workable, leading to no income for years to come.

Traumatic Brain Injuries From Rear-End Collisions

Rear-end collisions also cause brain injuries, usually from flying you forward from the crash impact. Your head possibly hit the dashboard or the windshield at high impact, leading to a major concussion.

While seeking medical treatment, you may have found out that you had a traumatic brain injury. Despite most brain trauma healing over time, it could also lead to permanent brain damage.

Any sort of injury to the brain is as serious as a spinal injury. Do not let anyone minimize the seriousness of a brain injury in a rear-end collision. Unfortunately, insurance companies of the defendant sometimes attempt to make it look like your injuries are exaggerated.

Broken Bones or Nerve Damage

Other injuries are possible in rear-end crashes like broken bones and nerve damage, leading to just as much physical difficulty. Not all bones easily repair themselves if severely broken in a car accident.

Nerves are also challenging to repair, leading to possible impairments that affect your ability to function normally. Many of these injuries could end up even more severe if you rode in the back seat of a car driven by someone else. Being closer to the car impact location means taking a more severe physical toll on your body.

Let’s also not forget about the mental aspects of these injuries. The pain and suffering you will go through could lead to depression and other mental issues for years to come. Personal injury lawyers call this intangible evidence.

Your First Step After a Rear-End Collision

After any of the above injury scenarios, you are likely stuck in a hospital at the moment, leading to questions about your future. What should you do to get yourself recovered and gain any compensation to pay your medical bills?

Your first step is to just take time for yourself. Take all the time you need to get yourself well, and always seek medical attention immediately after experiencing your rear-end collision.

Once you are well enough, it is time to think about seeking legal help to win you a settlement. How you go about this could require the help of someone close to you if you are unable to call due to your injuries.

Should you not have the ability to call a lawyer, allow someone close to you to call on your behalf. Time is of the essence in your case due to some very good reasons.

As soon as you have a personal injury lawyer on your side, they can help you through the next legal steps.

Gather Evidence

It is always a good idea if you gather as much evidence as you can on your own since evidence can easily disappear quickly. Understandably, your injuries may prevent you from gathering anything after the rear-end collision occurs.

To get started, your car accident lawyer can go to work visiting the scene where your car accident took place. Whether in an intersection, along a highway, or in a parking lot, they can take action in acquiring any evidence available.

This usually begins by interviewing witnesses who happened to see the accident occur. Thanks to smartphones being ubiquitous in our culture, the chances are occasionally good that witnesses captured video of the rear-end collision as it happened.

Physical traces of the accident are also possibly available. Pieces of your car are hopefully still there before cleanup occurs. Acquiring this is sometimes more difficult since the city attempts to clean up all accident residue within hours.

Traffic camera footage also helps. Most intersections here in Florida have traffic cameras that have easy-to-acquire video footage. Any private security camera footage usually requires a subpoena to acquire.

Finally, your medical bills are a big part of the evidence gathered.

What Your Medical Bills Say About Your Rear-End Collision Injuries

Your car accident lawyer takes the initiative on gathering all your medical bills while you are still in recovery mode. It is not likely the last of your medical bills. Nevertheless, placing the existing ones in safekeeping is going to help immensely in proving your case to an insurance company.

Going to trial later also requires evidence like this. Your bills can prove how much treatment you have needed to try to restore your physical health after the rear-end collision happened.

Medical records also show the major impact of what rear-end collisions do to the body. All your X-rays and scans could show severely broken bones and other internal injuries. Clear evidence of this becomes undeniable when questioned about the severity of your injuries in your claim.

Beyond your medical bills, your lawyer also looks to your likely future and your probable financial condition. Your medical bills will prove your financial difficulties.

Parts of this are the intangible side of evidence as well. Pain and suffering due to your injuries is one thing. Mental pain from not being able to work and keep your head above water is another.

Insurance Negotiations

Evidence gathering and presentation is a big first step in proving your rear-end collision case. Next is the more complicated work of negotiating with the defendant’s insurance company.

There is a small chance the defendant had no car insurance. In this case, it might require your lawyer working with your own insurance company if you had coverage for non-insured drivers.

Otherwise, dealing with the insurance company of the defendant is a challenging path only your lawyer can handle. Never attempt to communicate with the insurance company on your own, even though they are sure to contact you.

One of the first things they will attempt to do is offer you a low settlement amount to end the case early. They do this to avoid a trial or going through lengthy negotiations with your lawyer. Insurance companies also frequently ask you questions about how you feel, something to avoid. Anything you say now could easily get twisted later.

Only your lawyer should have any contact with the insurance company adjuster. Thanks to their legal experience, they know the tricks insurance companies pull to get you to settle early.

Along the negotiation path, your legal team presents evidence of how your rear-end collision occurred. As much as insurance adjusters try to minimize your injuries, compelling facts make all the difference. Insurance companies eventually do settle when this happens, but how much should you expect?

Settlement Expectations

No one should deny you compensation as you prove your rear-end collision was as devastating physically and mentally as any other car accident. How much you might receive in a settlement is variable based on the evidence you present.

Never expect a certain amount just because your car accident lawyer has a strong track record of large settlements. While compelling evidence matters in how much you receive, the final amount is sometimes less or more than what is typical.

During the negotiation process, your lawyer keeps in contact with you to present each offer. Only you decide which final offer you want to take. The insurance company may continue to send overly low offers, making you decide to take the case to trial.

Your lawyer always adheres to your wishes. Just keep in mind trials do take longer. Sometimes it is a better bet because you are presenting your case to a jury rather than to a judge.

Also, keep in mind the final settlement is not always the end of the story.

Punitive Damages for Your Rear-End Collision

Suing for punitive damages against the defendant is made to send a message that they were especially egregious in their actions. For instance, if the driver was drunk or willfully crashed into the back of your car, punitive damages would be an additional suit directly against the negligent person.

Depending on the defendant’s financial situation, you could see more compensation from them due to the injuries you will battle for the rest of your life. Once in a while, the defendant is also a major company found negligent in maintaining a vehicle that crashed into you.

Get Legal Help Now!

Contact a personal injury attorney immediately if you have just been injured in a rear-end collision. Despite Florida’s statute of limitations on personal injuries being four years, you do not want to wait too long. Evidence can all too easily disappear without quick action.

A personal injury attorney can help you through the legal process with empathy and respect for the pain you are going through.