Commercial vehicles cause some of the most devastating accident injuries, owing to their heavy weight and large size. In addition to fatalities, a commercial vehicle accident can also cause permanent, life-altering injuries such as traumatic brain injury and spinal trauma.
Unfortunately, Florida is one of the top 10 states in the US for large truck accidents. In fact, in 2018, Florida’s large truck accident fatalities along with those in nine other states made up over half of all truck accident deaths in the nation, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In Orange County that year, 15 people died and nearly 1,000 were injured in commercial vehicle accidents, according to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle Department.
Unfortunately, many of these injuries and deaths could have been prevented if commercial drivers — or in some cases their employers — had honored their obligation to perform their jobs as safely as possible. When drivers and commercial vehicle carriers behave negligently and that negligence can be proven, accident victims and their families may have the right to sue for damages.
Here’s what to know about Orlando commercial vehicle accidents, and what to consider as you begin weighing your legal options.
Commercial vehicle drivers face some unique challenges that put them at a higher risk for accidents. The commercial trucking industry puts enormous pressure on drivers to deliver truckloads quickly. The stress of those deadlines, and in some cases employer mismanagement, can incentivize drivers to ignore safety best practices, causing accidents.
In particular, some of these issues include:
Commercial vehicle drivers are especially prone to drowsy driving. Although the government mandates rest periods for drivers, these regulations don’t really go far enough to prevent driver fatigue.
Additionally, drivers sometimes ignore these rules. Per-mile pay structures and pressure to meet delivery timelines motivate drivers to work when they should be resting. In some cases, employers even encourage drivers to falsify rest records.
Drowsy driving is very dangerous. In fact, drivers who only get four to five hours of sleep a night have similar crash rates to those operating vehicles under the influence. Driver fatigue plays a part in an estimated 21 percent of fatal accidents, according to statistics cited by the Insurance Information Institute.
An Orlando commercial vehicle accident lawyer can help you by investigating the circumstances that contributed to your accident and requesting documents that can help prove your case for drowsy driving.
Drugs and Alcohol
Drugs and alcohol also factor into a large number of commercial vehicle accidents. Drivers face immense pressure on the job and spend a lot of time away from home, which increases their risk of substance abuse.
Drivers may take methamphetamines or other “uppers” to help them stay awake while driving, or they may abuse alcohol and other drugs to help them cope with the stress of being on the road.
Of course, this increases the risk of an accident. Driving while under the influence is considered gross negligence, and any drunk or drugged driver who causes an accident may be responsible for paying damages to other parties involved.
Speeding and Reckless Driving
Commercial drivers may also engage in risky driving. Drivers may feel pressured to meet a delivery deadline and speed to make up time. Or they may fail to take proper precautions when passing, braking, and so on.
Reckless driving can have dire consequences. Many large trucks weigh over 10,000 pounds, so their impact on another vehicle — particularly when traveling at high speeds — can cause devastating injuries or even death.
Operating, loading, and offloading large commercial vehicles requires specialized safety training. Carriers have a legal duty to train drivers, even if they already have a commercial driving license.
It may be more challenging to prove, but if you can clearly show that carriers neglected this duty or performed training improperly, then you may have a case for compensation. An Orlando commercial vehicle accident lawyer can help you make that determination and obtain evidence to prove it.
Injuries in commercial vehicle accidents can range from mild scrapes and bruises to devastating spinal and brain injuries. If you have been seriously injured in a truck accident, you may have a stronger case for compensation, since those injuries will have a larger effect on your finances and livelihood.
Examples of these types of commercial vehicle accident injuries include:
The types of damages and losses you can claim in a commercial vehicle accident lawsuit will depend on the severity of your accident and its impact on your life, specifically your health and financial welfare.
While some damages, like medical bills, are obvious, there may be some expenses, losses, and harms that are more subtle or harder to assign a value to. Some common categories of damages in commercial vehicle accidents include:
Some of these damages can be very difficult to calculate. It’s hard for accident victims to estimate the cost of future medical care or assign a value to pain and suffering, for instance.
This is where a lawyer can provide immense value to your case. They will be familiar with injury outcomes and can work with medical providers to assess your injury’s impact on your abilities and well-being in the long term.
Determining liability in a commercial vehicle accident case can be especially difficult. Unlike car accidents, where there are usually only two drivers and two individual insurance policies, commercial vehicle accidents may involve not only the driver and their insurance provider but also their employer, who may have a separate insurance policy.
Insurers will almost always argue that another party is liable for paying for damages, which can cause a lot of finger-pointing between different providers.
Additionally, it’s not always easy to understand exactly the true underlying cause of the accident and who is responsible for what. For instance, if an employer was improperly training drivers or enforcing illegal policies, they may bear some or all of the responsibility of paying for the accident.
Last, your role in the accident may also factor in. If you share some of the responsibility for the accident, then the amount of compensation you can claim may be limited. In Florida, accident victims who are found to be partially responsible for an accident are subject to the rule of “comparative fault.” That means they will be assigned a percentage of blame for the accident and have their damage award reduced by that percentage.
Accident victims involved in serious commercial vehicle accident cases almost always require the advice of an accident and injury lawyer. Commercial vehicle attorneys provide expert knowledge and guidance. And, should you decide to pursue an accident case, hiring a lawyer will make you much more likely to win damages and receive a higher settlement or award.
Specifically, an Orlando commercial vehicle accident lawyer can help you:
If you have been injured in a commercial vehicle accident in Orlando, it’s important to consult with a lawyer. But it’s just as important to choose the right law firm — one you can trust to act in your best interest.
At FVF, transparency has always been one of our key values. We’re not here to pressure you into signing a contract. That’s why we offer free case consultations where you can explore your options without an obligation to hire us. Our Orlando commercial vehicle lawyers take all cases on a contingency basis, which means you bear no responsibility for payment unless/until you receive compensation.
It’s all part of our commitment to our clients. We strive to provide ethical, objective advice in a sympathetic, supportive environment. Our goal is to educate you on your rights and options, and make your life easier as you navigate your case and focus on your recovery.
We encourage all Orlando commercial vehicle accident victims to contact us today to arrange a free consultation.
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