Commercial vehicles are all over the road. Whether transporting passengers or cargo, these heavy vehicles make up a large part of vehicles traveling today, particularly on highways.
Unfortunately, when they are involved in an accident in Florida, serious injuries can result. To discuss their liability, it is helpful first to understand how these vehicles are defined in the Sunshine State.
Definition of Commercial Vehicle in Florida
Commercial vehicles, generally, include motor vehicles used to transport goods or paying passengers. The International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers defines commercial vehicles to include light commercial vehicles, heavy trucks, coaches, and buses.
It’s important to note that commercial vehicles are defined by both federal and state regulators, as well. Federal safety regulations define a commercial vehicle as one that:
- Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more
- Is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation
- Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, not used to transport passengers for compensation
- Is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous
The definition of commercial vehicle in Florida is found in the state’s statutory code. According to that law, a commercial motor vehicle “means any vehicle which is not owned or operated by a governmental entity, which uses special fuel or motor fuel on the public highways, and which has a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more, or has three or more axles regardless of weight, or is used in combination when the weight of such combination exceeds 26,001 pounds gross vehicle weight.”
Key Differences Between Commercial and Other Vehicles
There are many different types of commercial vehicles on the road. Under Florida’s definition, the most prevalent ones are:
- Busses and coaches, which usually carry passengers
- Trucks, including tractors, trailers, and semi-trailers, which usually carry cargo
- Heavy trucks and truck tractors, which have a specific definition under Florida law
According to Florida law, the specific qualifications that make a vehicle a “commercial motor vehicle” involve weight and the number of axles involved. Commercial vehicles differ from other vehicles on the road: due to their sheer size and weight, they can be dangerous on the road, causing serious injuries during an accident. Moreover, because commercial vehicles are most often driven on highways, speed can contribute to the seriousness of those injuries.
Additionally, there are also differences in the way commercial vehicles are insured and registered. First, drivers of these vehicles must satisfy the requirements for a commercial driver’s license, including passing several knowledge tests and skills tests. Second, the commercial vehicle must be registered properly with the state of Florida. There are also specific requirements for insuring a commercial vehicle, including minimum coverage requirements based on weight.
Injuries From an Accident With a Commercial Vehicle
When an accident occurs involving a commercial vehicle, it can lead to serious and severe injuries. Victims of commercial vehicle accidents often experience some of the following:
- Head injuries, concussions, or even traumatic brain injuries
- Personal injuries, such as broken bones, abrasions, and more
- Spinal cord injuries, and even paralysis
- Whiplash and back pain
- Pain and suffering and mental anguish
- In some cases, wrongful death
These types of personal injuries can result in significant damages — when you add up medical bills, hospital stays, doctor’s visits, medical testing, and prescription drug costs, a severe injury can have a detrimental financial impact. Additionally, victims of commercial vehicle accidents can have significant damage to their vehicle, requiring costly repairs, which may also be recoverable in court or during settlement negotiations. Moreover, if the accident prevents you from working, you may experience a loss of wages or loss of future income.
It is also important to note that commercial motor vehicle accident lawsuits often involve multiple parties. For example, you may sue the driver for their negligence while they were driving on the road. Additionally, you might sue the trucking company for its own negligence, as long as that contributed to the cause of the accident — for instance, by failing to properly secure cargo or maintain its fleet. On top of this, there may be several insurance companies involved in the suit or in settlement negotiations. This makes for complex cases, and a knowledgeable and experienced attorney can be an invaluable asset to your case.
FVF Can Help
If you have suffered injuries in an accident involving a commercial vehicle, we will work with you to explore your options and discuss the legal process for negotiating a settlement and filing a suit. Being informed about commercial vehicle settlements is crucial.
FVF wants victims of commercial vehicle accidents to be equipped with the knowledge they need to make decisions about what is best for them, regardless of pressure from insurance companies. Contact our commercial vehicle accident lawyers for a free consultation about your case.