Boca Raton Trucking Accident Attorneys
Confronting the Unique Challenges of Trucking Accident Lawsuits
While any motor vehicle accident can cause permanent life-altering injuries, collisions involving a tractor-trailer can pose a particularly significant threat of catastrophic injuries and wrongful death. Tractor-trailers (also referred to as commercial trucks, semi-trucks, big-rigs, and 18-wheelers) can weight up to 80,000 pounds and outweigh a passenger car by 25 times or more. While this size disparity poses a significant risk of personal injury to occupants of the other vehicle in a trucking accident, there are many other factors that make tractor-trailers extremely dangerous. Collisions involving a large truck do not amount to just a car accident involving a large vehicle. Tractor-trailer accidents pose unique issues and challenges for injuries victims.
Why the Trucking Accident Lawyers of Shriver Law Group Make a Difference
Because trucking accidents tend to involve severe injuries and fatalities to occupants of the other vehicle, injury victims need an experienced and dedicated tractor-trailer accident lawyer to handle the unique issues associated with trucking litigation. At Shiner Law Group, we have obtained substantial recoveries for victims of semi-truck accidents. David I. Shiver has developed a reputation for effective representation of his clients and a commitment to providing exemplary customer service. The Shriver Law Group has over 15 years of experience during which our law firm has garnered many accolades and awards that include:
- AV Preeminent® rating by Martindale-Hubbell for legal aptitude and ethical standard based on peer review
- 10.0 Superb AVVO Rating (Rating all attorneys in the U.S.)
- Inclusion in Super Lawyers® and Best Lawyers in America® (Based on professionalism and recoveries for clients)
Our commitment to the tenacious pursuit of our clients’ best interest, substantial settlements and verdicts, and timely communication with our clients has become the touchstone for our law firm. Because trucking litigation is complex and sophisticated, our clients trust our experience and reputation among insurance adjusters, peers, insurance defense attorneys, judges, and our former clients for diligent and effective representation of our clients. We have recovered tens of millions of dollars for our clients while providing the foundation for a new beginning after serious Boca Raton trucking accidents. We understand that our clients are valued family members to their loved ones, so we treat them with the compassion and respect that their loved ones should expect and that our clients deserve.
Trucking Accidents Cause a Significant Number of Injuries and Fatalities
Trucking accidents claimed the lives of 3,852 people during the most recent year for which data is available according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Despite the overall decline in traffic-related fatalities during recent years, the percentage of people who died in trucking accidents increased by 22 percent from 2009 to 2015. While many people would prefer to assume that they will not be injured in a trucking accident, the statistical evidence shows many people lose their lives in crashes involving large trucks and that the number is rising.
Special Issues That Necessitate a Boca Raton Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorney
The threat to roadway safety posed by semi-truck accidents is linked to the inherent limitations of tractor-trailers. The length and weight of large trucks increase their braking distance and limit their maneuverability. When big-rigs collide with passenger cars and cause a fatality, an occupant of the passenger car is the fatality victim 97 percent of the time according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Given the substantial risk of suffering catastrophic injuries or wrongful death when your passenger car is involved in a collision with a tractor-trailer, an experienced Boca Raton trucking accident lawyer can have a substantial impact on the outcome of your claim. Our seasoned and knowledgeable Palm Beach County trucking accident lawyers have the expertise to negotiate the special issues involved in trucking litigation, such as:
Trucking Industry Litigation Resources: Commercial carriers (trucking companies) litigate an enormous number of tractor-trailer accident claims, so they are prepared when one of their big-rigs or drivers is involved in a collision. Trucking companies often have emergency response teams that can be dispatched to the scene of a trucking accident within minutes of a crash. These crash investigators begin analyzing evidence to build a defense to liability. Trucking companies also have an almost limitless litigation war chest and an array of industry experts. Although the trucking company has experts investigating and constructing a defense strategy almost immediately, accident victims can mitigate this advantage by retaining our tractor-trailer accident team immediately following an accident.
Complex Regulatory Structure of Trucking Industry: The trucking industry is closely regulated by federal and state authorities to mitigate the risk of serious injury caused by tractor-trailers. When trucking companies operate across state lines, they are engaged in interstate trucking and regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Commercial carriers that operate entirely within Florida are engaged in intrastate trucking and subject to Florida laws and regulations. Trucking regulations cover a broad range of safety issues that include:
Hours of Service (HOS) Rules: These rules limit a driver’s time behind the wheel and on-duty time while imposing mandatory rest periods. Because more cargo moved over shorter periods of time means higher profits for trucking companies, they often assign unrealistic shipping schedules or look the other way when drivers violate HOS rules. Fatigued truck drivers often are tempted by compensation plans that encourage HOS violations. Sleepy or fatigued truck drivers behind the wheel of forty ton projectiles barreling down the freeway at 60 miles per hour pose an ominous safety threat.
Drug & Alcohol Testing: FMCSA regulations impose strict rules regarding drug and alcohol testing. New hires must be screened. Commercial carriers are required to continue to administer random drug tests. Drivers also must be tested in the wake of an accident. When the commercial carrier fails to conduct such testing, these violations can be a basis for imposing liability on the trucking company when a big-rig crash is caused by a drunk or drugged driver.
Truck Inspections and Maintenance: Federal trucking regulations require drivers to conduct both pre-trip and post-trip inspections. These inspections apply to such critical safety features and equipment as brakes and tires. When an 80,000 pound big-rig on a slight downward grade experiences brake failure, a runaway truck can cause terrifying carnage. When brake calibration or tire replacement is not performed in a timely fashion, inadequate maintenance can be a significant factor in a trucking accident.
Driver Fitness: Drivers must be screened for medical fitness under federal trucking regulations before obtaining and maintaining the right to operate a semi-truck. Drivers allowed to remain in service despite uncontrolled sleep apnea, diabetes, and other conditions can be liable for crashes caused by medical conditions.
Truck Size and Weight: Large trucks must comply with maximum length and weight requirements depending on the configuration of the vehicle. Excess length can endanger other motorists by compromising the handling and maneuverability. When the gross weight of a loaded truck exceeds applicable limits, the excessive weight can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle or cause excessive tire and brake wear leading to brake malfunction or failure and tire blowouts.
Proper Securing of Cargo: FMCSA regulations also establish standards for securing cargo. When cargo is not properly secured, items can fall into the roadway or onto other vehicles. Shifting loads can also affect the handling of the truck, so the driver loses control of the vehicle.
Manipulation of Evidence: When trucking accident victims are not represented by experienced and skilled Boca Raton trucking accident attorneys, their case can be compromised by trucking industry practices involving the destruction and manipulation of evidence. While truck drivers are required to keep log books that document hours of service and inspection logs, these documents are often altered or manipulated. Driver logbooks are so routinely falsified that these vital safety records are referred to in the industry as “lie books.” Our Palm Beach big-rig accident lawyers aggressively use the discovery process to obtain documents that might reveal inconsistencies in driver logbooks, such as fuel receipts, GPS data, emails between the driver and trucking company, lodging receipts, and tire purchase orders. Trucking companies often rush vehicles back into service, which means repairing body damage. Accident reconstruction analysis can be hindered when body damage from the collision is repaired.
Spoliation of Evidence: If a big-rig is put back into service, critical information on the truck’s electronic control module (ECM) or event data recorder (EDR) might be lost. These onboard data recorders are similar to the “black box” used to reconstruct crashes involving commercial flights. Depending on the device, black box data might include information about speed before the accident, sudden braking, shifting, location, malfunctions, and other vital information. Our Boca Raton trucking accident lawyers send “spoliation letters” advising trucking companies that the truck and black box are the subject of litigation and must be maintained in their post-accident condition. The warning letter advises the trucking company that they will be subject to sanctions by the court if they disregard the letter. If we have reason to believe the trucking company might intend to proceed to take actions that could result in loss of the data, our law firm might file with the court for restraining orders.
Multiple Parties and Insurance Companies: Trucking accident litigation can become complicated because many such accidents can involve more than two vehicles, such as when a semi-truck rolls over or a big-rig jackknifes, blocking multiple lanes of a highway. This type of accident might cause a chain reaction, involving multiple vehicles that do not see the roadway obstruction in time. The number of potential parties will swell even more because the commercial carrier, truck driver, truck manufacturer, shipper, truck component manufacturers, or independent maintenance company all might be parties to the litigation depending on the facts or circumstances. The many potential parties that might be involved in a tractor-trailer accident lawsuit will also mean that multiple insurance companies are involved. Our law firm conducts a meticulous investigation and uses the discovery process to identify all appropriate defendants and to determine the source and amount of all insurance coverage.
Industry Practices and Customs: When investigating the actions of a negligent truck driver or commercial carrier, our attorneys have knowledge of trucking industry customs and practices. Our lawyers also work closely with experts with specialized knowledge of tractor-trailers and trucking industry practices so that we can identify potential issues. For example, our big-rig accident lawyers know that many drivers “cook the books” or keep a dual set of logbooks to continue driving in violation of hours of service rules.
Common Types of Trucking Accidents
While tractor-trailers can be involved in the same types of crashes as passenger cars, some types of trucking collisions are unique to these vehicles:
Carriage Underride or Override Accidents: These types of trucking accidents involve a particularly high risk of causing catastrophic injury or wrongful death. In this kind of tractor-trailer crash, a big-rig rides over the top of a passenger car or a passenger car travels under the chassis of the truck. In this type of crash, the top of the passenger vehicle typically will be ripped from the car or collapsed into the passenger compartment. Roof crush injuries, decapitation, and spinal cord damage are common in this type of accident. Trucks are supposed to be fitted with guards that mitigate the risk of these crashes, as well as special markings to make the trailer more visible to other drivers.
Big-Rig Rollover Accident: Although other types of vehicles can be involved in rollover crashes, big-rig rollovers are unique. While a rollover accident involving a passenger car usually poses the most significant threat to the occupants of the car that rolls, big-rig rollovers are different. When an 80,000 pound tractor-trailer rolls, other vehicles can be crushed under the rolling trailer or cab. These accidents often occur when a load is not properly secured, causing the vehicle to become unbalanced and prone to tip.
Jackknifed Tractor-Trailer Crash: Jackknife accidents are among the most common type of big-rig crash. This type of collision occurs when a truck driver makes a sudden stop by applying the brakes of the cab. The trailer skids and swings out creating a 90-degree angle with the cab. If the tractor-trailer jackknifes with any speed, the entire vehicle often will flip and roll over, which can cause more devastating injuries and expand the danger area around the big-rig.
Causes of Palm Beach Tractor-Trailer Accidents
Various types of negligent conduct can contribute to a trucking accident. These include the following:
- Failure of truck driver to properly plan a route that avoids unsafe inclines or other roads that are not safe for large trucks
- Fatigued truck drivers who disregard hours of service rules often with the tacit approval of the commercial carrier
- Medically unfit drivers
- Lack of adequate pre-employment screening of drivers
- Brake failure, inadequate tire maintenance, or other maintenance issues
- Drugged or alcohol-impaired
- Lack of awareness of “no zones” around large trucks (large blind spots)
- Drivers that fail to drive at a safe speed given the braking and handling limitations of commercial trucks
Common Injuries Experienced in Trucking Accidents in Palm County
When Florida truck drivers do not drive their tractor-trailer in a safe manner and fail to comply with federal trucking regulations, the tragic consequences can be permanent and life-threatening injuries or even wrongful death. The victims who suffer a catastrophic injury or wrongful death typically are occupants of the other vehicle in a trucking collision. Our dedicated team of Boca Raton trucking accident attorneys at Shiner Law Group represent individuals that experience serious bodily injury caused by negligent drivers. Trucking accidents like these frequently occur because of indifferent trucking companies that turn a blind eye to the violation of trucking regulations and unsafe driving practices. Serious injuries that may be inflicted in a Florida tractor-trailer accident include:
- Internal organ damage
- Disfigurement necessitating plastic surgery
- Severe whiplash injuries
- Broken bones and fractures
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Spinal cord injuries (SCIs)
- Serious knee injuries (anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), Lateral collateral ligament (LCL)
- Joint injuries
- Wrongful death
Types of Damages Recoverable in a Boca Raton Lawsuit
Serious injuries can result in spiraling medical bills and long periods of disability while trucking accident victims cope with mounting unpaid household expenses. The devastating injuries often associated with a tractor-trailer accident also could have a dramatic impact on your quality of life. Our Boca Raton semi-truck accident attorneys recognize that injuries experienced in big-rig crashes can prevent you from returning to work for extended periods of time while medical expenses and household bills continue to mount. The harm suffered in a semi-truck collision in Florida also may affect your quality of life. At the Shiner Law Group, the attorneys at our law firm pursue many different forms of compensation, including but not limited to the following:
- Lost Income: Wages and salary lost because of time off work during recovery from your injuries
- Medical Expenses: Medical expenses associated with your injuries, including costs incurred and estimated future medical expenses
- Diminished earning capacity: Compensation for inability to earn at the same level because of partial disability
- Property Loss; Cost of replacing or repairing your vehicle or other damaged property
- Emotional distress: Compensation for psychological harm from the injury, such as insomnia or anxiety
- Loss of consortium: Damages for harm to a marital relationship, including the inability to maintain a sexual relationship
- Pain and suffering: Compensation for pain experienced during the accident, as well as ongoing pain
- Loss of enjoyment: Covers loss of ability to participate in hobbies and other forms of recreation
- Punitive damages: Damage designed to punish a wrongdoer for extremely reckless or malicious conduct
When you are injured or you lose a loved one in a semi-truck crash, you must deal with defendants with deep pockets who are used to facing liability claims. Commercial carriers use their ability to gather evidence promptly. They also rely on their trucking litigation experience, so injury victims face almost insurmountable obstacles without a proven and experienced Boca Raton tractor-trailer injury lawyer safeguarding their rights, gathering and preserving evidence, navigating sharp practices by trucking companies and their insurers, and diligently pursuing the fullest recovery in settlements and verdicts.
While the statute of limitations to pursue a trucking accident lawsuit is four years for most personal injury claims, the best option is to seek legal advice as soon as possible after suffering injuries in a semi-truck crash. There are situations where this deadline might be different, such as two years for wrongful death cases. If the roadway design contributed to your trucking accident, you might need to comply with shorter deadlines for giving notice to a public entity. The need for prompt legal advice when pursuing trucking litigation increases in urgency because of the importance of early investigation and preservation of evidence. Our experienced Palm Beach County trucking accident lawyers have the experience, legal knowledge, and tenacity to guide our clients past legal deadlines, procedural pitfalls, and insurance company sharp practices.
Speak with a Boca Raton Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you or someone you love has died because of the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of another, we welcome you to contact our experienced legal team so that we can evaluate your claim and advise you of your rights and options. We are committed to helping victims recover the compensation they need to move past injuries or loss, so call us 24/7 at 561-777-7700 or online for a free case review to see how we can help. The Shiner Law Group represents fatality victims in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Palm Beach County, and throughout the surrounding counties.