Heavy Truck Accidents Can Take a Heavy Toll on Your Finances, But Personal Injury Attorneys in Florida Can Help

Tractor-trailers, semi-trucks, eighteen wheelers, tankers, and big rigs: Florida depends on these heavy commercial vehicles to keep our economy running. However, the mammoth trucks on our state’s highways can easily pose serious dangers to others. When a large truck gets tangled up in an accident, major injuries and even death can occur.

These accidents are not uncommon, either. Large commercial trucks were involved in 31,960 accidents in Florida in 2017, according to the most recently available state reports. Looking at Florida accidents in general, the average passenger car driver is around four times more likely to be seriously hurt or killed in an accident compared to a truck driver. That added risk comes from the fact that tractor-trailers can weigh up to 80,000 lbs, which is over 16 times the weight of a typical passenger car, truck, or SUV. More weight means more force in a collision, leading to serious risks for the smaller vehicles involved.

Fortunately, you may have legal recourse for paying for the costs of your major injuries and other damages after your car accident. If you file a personal injury claim, which can be done with the help of a Florida truck accident lawyer, you can potentially recover all of the costs of your medical bills and treatment from parties who are liable for the truck crash. In some cases, you may also be able to recover compensation for any lost wages as well as lost domestic services, pain, and suffering, or permanent disfigurement.

Our lead personal injury attorney, Steve Hoskins, is Board Certified by the Florida Bar because of his expertise, and he has over 30 years of successfully representing injured clients.  Steve Hoskins has skilled and attentive attorney teams to help you file your claim and to fight for your rights. All of our attorneys and associates meet the highest standards for knowledge, skill, and a history of winning cases.

Common Terms to Know About the Trucking Industry

In your case, you may hear some terms that are unfamiliar to you to describe mechanical components or the type of truck involved. Here is some commonly-used trucking industry lingo that can help you understand the things being discussed.

Truck Components and Equipment

Jake Brake — When you hear a truck make a loud rattling sound, you are probably hearing the Jake Brakes. It is a type of braking system that slows the engine down (kinda like putting a stick shift car in neutral) instead of just relying on the wheel brakes. 

Cab — The cab is where the driver sits. There are two common types of truck cabs: a sleeper cabin and a day cab. Drivers who drive long distances (called long-haulers) require a sleeper cabin that is situated like an RV with a bed and refrigerator. Drivers who deliver locally usually have a day cab with only two seats and no sleeping quarters. 

Bobtailing — This refers to a tractor that is not pulling a trailer. 

Dead-Head — This refers to an empty trailer or a trailer that has very little cargo in it.

Wiggle Wagon — Also known as “tandem trailers” this refers to a tractor that has more than one trailer connected to it. In Florida, full-size tandem trailers are illegal. However, tandem trailers under 28 ½ feet are allowed so long as it doesn’t exceed maximum tractor-trailer length.

Skateboard — This term refers to a flatbed trailer.

Alligator — This is not referring to the reptile. Instead, it refers to the tread on the tractor-trailer tires. Big Rig tires are often re-treaded using a special adhesive to secure the new tread to an existing wheel. The tread can come off while driving and it poses a significant hazard to other vehicles. It can fly off and strike another vehicle or flatten the tires of vehicles that drive over it.

Different Names for Types of Trucks

Semi-Truck, 18-Wheeler, and Big Rig — All refer to large trucks.

Car Hauler — These trailers haul 6-8 passenger vehicles stacked on two levels.

Cargo Truck — Any type of truck that hauls cargo.

Cattle Hauler or Cattle Truck — This type of trailer may haul cattle, sheep, pigs, or other large livestock.

Chicken Hauler — This type of trailer is enclosed with cages and hauls chickens or other birds.

Fuel Truck — Also known as a tanker truck, but exclusively hauls flammable liquids.

Lumber Truck— These can either be flatbed trailers hauling cut lumber or a log truck with a special trailer to hold entire logs.

Reefer Truck — The trailer is refrigerated.

Straight Truck — Also known as a box truck. This trucker doesn’t have a disconnectable trailer.

Tanker Truck — Refers to trucks that haul liquids in large tanks

Tractor-Trailer — Refers to both the truck engine and the trailer.

Tractor Truck — Another term for a bobtail truck with no trailer.

Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents

The cause of a semi-truck accident is something that is better left to be determined by the investigators. One should not assume immediately that one party or the other is more at fault until all of the facts become clear. However, there is often a common denominator in nearly every accident case: inattentive driving. 

Inattentiveness can take many different forms. While we most commonly think of using an electronic device such as a cell phone, there are other ways it can happen. Other ways include talking to passengers, listening to music, letting your mind wander as you drive, becoming distracted by something on the road, and much more.

Drugs and alcohol can affect your reaction times and perception, causing you to be inattentive. Fatigued driving can be almost as bad as being under the influence. If you’re behind the wheel, you should be as attentive as possible to your entire surroundings. 

Common Types of Truck Accidents

Intersection Accidents

Drivers of commercial trucks are required to adhere to certain rules and regulations. One such regulation is that they must signal before making a turn in an intersection, whether it’s with a stop or yield sign. If the driver doesn’t give any indication of their intent to make a turn, then other drivers in the intersection will have difficulty gauging how fast they should slow down for safety purposes. This can lead to accidents like truck intersection accidents, which often result in serious injuries because of the size and weight difference between cars and trucks.

Hit and Run Accidents

The majority of truck accidents are caused by the driver’s negligence. Truck drivers often have to drive long hours and they’re prone to fatigue, which can lead to making mistakes on the road. Fear of losing their license or other punitive actions may cause a truck driver to flee the scene of an accident. Knowing your rights after a truck hit and run accident is an important step to getting the compensation you deserve.

Carriage Underride Accidents

Carriage underride accidents are common in truck vs passenger vehicle accidents. This is because the height of the trailer is enough to allow vehicles to become wedged underneath it during an accident. These types of collisions are very dangerous and often lead to devastating injury and death for occupants in smaller vehicles. 

Jackknifed Trailer Accidents

Truck accidents happen all the time and they can be caused by a variety of different factors. One such factor is a jackknifed trailer. Jackknifing often occurs in high-speed situations, but it can also occur during slow speeds if the truck is pulling too much weight for the vehicle to handle or if there are hazards in the road that cause the truck to make a sharp turn. Jackknifed trailer accidents are quite dangerous and can lead to severe multiple-vehicle pile-ups and injuries.

Rear-End Collisions

One of the most common causes of truck rear-end accidents is when a driver doesn’t follow the minimum distance behind another vehicle. This can be the case by either the truck driver or the driver of a passenger vehicle. A driver’s failure to maintain adequate following distances can result in serious injuries and fatalities. Find out more about what to do if you’ve been involved in a truck rear-end accident.

Truck Rollover Accidents

Truck rollover accidents are caused by a variety of factors. From driver fatigue to poorly maintained trucking machinery, there are many common causes that can lead to these types of accidents. These accidents typically result in serious injuries and fatalities for the people inside the truck as well as other motorists on the road at the time, so it is important to know how they happen and what you can do to prevent them from happening again.

T-Bone Truck Accidents

A T-bone truck accident is a common type of collision that occurs when two vehicles collide and one vehicle crashes into the side of another car, truck, or another vehicle. These types of accidents are often caused by distracted drivers who aren’t paying attention to their surroundings. T-bone accidents are considered one of the most deadly types of accidents and often lead to debilitating injuries.

Some Florida Trucking Regulations You Should Know

If you’ve been involved with a semi-truck, you may find yourself wondering if the truck driver disobeyed the law as you wait for the investigation to be finished. Here are some Florida trucking regulations you should know that may help answer your questions. 

Which Agencies Set Trucking Industry Regulations?

There are a few state and federal agencies that are responsible for drafting and enforcing various trucking industry regulations. These include the following:

What are the Truck Size and Weight Restrictions in Florida?

There are certain situations where these dimensions may be different and require a permit. If the trucking company has a permit for dimensions that exceed these, they will also be required to have one or more escort vehicles (also known as pilot cars) that act as a buffer between the truck and other traffic.

Lengths — For straight trucks, 40 feet maximum. Semitrailers, 48 to 57 feet. Tandem trailers, 28 ½ feet. The total length may not exceed 65-75 feet depending on the type of vehicle.

Overhang — Three feet is the limit with some exceptions for certain types of vehicles.

Height — Trucks and their loads cannot exceed 13’6” or 14’ for car haulers.

Width — 102” is maximum width in most cases, or 96” if the road lanes are less than 12’ wide.

Weight — 80,000 pounds maximum on highways, though this may be reduced depending on the number of axles or when traveling on city streets.

Driving Time Limits for Truck Drivers

Truck drivers are required to keep a log of the hours they spend on the road, either by a paper or electronic logbook. More and more trucks are getting electronic logging systems, which cannot be changed. However, for those still using paper logs, drivers will often use two sets of logbooks to illegally fudge the numbers on their driving hours. 

Federal driving limits for truck drivers are set by the DOT. Regulations state that drivers cannot be on the road for more than 11 hours after a 10-hour break. There are also regulations on how many consecutive days they can drive, as well as provisions on sleeper cabs or inclement weather. 

Limits on Cell Phone Use for Truck Drivers

Under federal law, truck drivers are not allowed to use hand-held cell phones or devices that require more than one push button to communicate. Communication via CB is allowed.

Drug and Alcohol Testing for Truck Drivers

A truck driver may be stopped and tested for drugs or alcohol at any time, including randomly. The limits for alcohol are much lower than with non-commercial drivers and there must be no illegal drugs detected in their system.

Regulations on How Truck Drivers Follow and Pass Vehicles

Under Florida law, truck drivers must allow at least 300 from the front of the truck to the back of the vehicle in front of them. The exception to this is if they are passing a vehicle or within city limits. 

Truck Convoy Laws in Florida

Convoys are when numerous trucks travel together in a group. Convoys are not permitted in Florida as they are a violation of Florida’s following laws.

Who Could Be at Fault for Your Florida Truck Accident

Trucking is a complex industry that has become embedded in the foundations of our economy. Every year, 3.6 million heavy-duty commercial vehicles haul 10.5 billion tons — roughly 71% of all freight tonnage moved in the United States. Drivers making these hauls may be self-employed, contractors, full-time fleet employees, or a complicated mix of the above.

As a result of tangled relationships within the trucking industry, determining who could be liable for a truck accident often requires a great degree of legal expertise and experience. Possible at-fault parties can include the driver, the employing hauling company, the freight contractor, the company responsible for maintaining the vehicle, or a combination of any or all of these.

In order to assign fault and claim liability for the costs of a truck accident injury, a Florida personal injury attorney must be able to determine who was negligent and how this negligence directly led to an accident that caused an injury.

Possible types of negligence include driver behaviors, such as getting distracted or failing to check blind spots before merging. The driver’s employing or contracting hauling company may also be liable if it were found to not be enforcing mandatory rules for giving truckers breaks and limiting their weekly hours. The company that is responsible for inspecting trucks and trailers and logging their condition may also be found to have cut corners, resulting in dangerous hazards, like faulty brake lines.

Truck accident injury victims must know exactly who is at fault and why before they can seek compensation for their injury claim. They must be able to produce evidence documenting these negligent actions while citing the laws that they violate. On top of these duties, an injury claim seeker must also provide proof of damages by way of documenting all medical bills and other losses.

All of these responsibilities can be overwhelming and go far beyond the average person’s skill set. In response, semi-truck accident injury victims may wish to seek out representation from a proven personal injury truck accident lawyer who can handle their case, help them strategize, and fight back against defense lawyers who try to help their clients dodge liability.

Steve Hoskins is capable of performing all of these services and more for our clients. For over three decades, we have fought for the rights of our injured clients and worked hard to secure for them the compensation they deserve.

What to Do After Your Truck Accident

  1. Quickly check on the health status of you and others involved
  2. Call 911 as soon as possible, requesting a police respondent and ambulances for any injured parties
  3. Exchange insurance information with the truck driver and any others involved. If possible, ask to see the truck driver’s employee information.
  4. If you are not immobile, take photos of the accident scene and your injuries. Gather witness statements using your cell phone video recorder.
  5. Receive medical attention immediately once it is available. Do not refuse an ambulance or an emergency exam if you might be hurt at all. Many injuries do not appear until later.
  6. Keep all medical bills and other documentation. Ask your supervising healthcare provider to take detailed notes that mention any pain or immobility you may feel.
  7. Track your expenses directly related to the injury. This can include parking fees as well as absence slips from work. All missed paychecks may be eligible for recovery.
  8. Strongly consider contacting an experienced truck accident attorney in Florida to represent your injury claim

Do Not Wait Until Your Medical Bills Pile Up or Your Injury Becomes Unbearable; Speak With a Truck Accident Lawyer Today

If you have been injured in an accident with a tractor-trailer or heavy commercial truck, remember that you have the right to work with an attorney to assemble the strongest case possible.

You can contact Steve Hoskins now for a free, private, no-obligation consultation regarding your case. One initial phone call could be the start of a successful injury claim that puts your life back on track.

Contact us today online or by phone at 866-460-1990. You will be put in touch with an attorney who will work at your side, reduce the stress of filing your claim, and guide you towards a proven strategy that has a high chance of successful financial recovery.

Verdicts and Settlements


$1.2 Million

Auto Accident Settlement

$1.6 Million

Wrongful Death Settlement

$11.1 Million

Settlement for motorcycle accident

Locations


Ft. Pierce Office
302 South Second Street
Ft. Pierce, FL 34950
Phone: (772) 464-4600
Fax: (772) 465-4747
Port St. Lucie Office
1887 S.E. Port St. Lucie Blvd.
Port St. Lucie, FL 34952
Phone: (772) 344-7770
Fax: (772)344-3838
Okeechobee Office
1910 S Parrott Ave
Okeechobee, FL 34974
Phone: (863) 357-5800
Fax: (863) 763-2237
Vero Beach Office
2101 15th Avenue
Vero Beach, FL 32960
Phone: (772) 794-7774
Fax: (772) 794-7773
Sebastian Office
1561 US Highway 1 Sebastian, FL 32958
Phone: (772) 646-0662
Fax: (772) 646-0662