One day an elderly Florida veteran was driving along 95 in a rental car when he realized he couldn’t operate the windows. Taking every precaution, he pulled into the emergency lane to figure it out. But while looking around his tiny Toyota Yaris, a tractor-trailer drifted into the lane and crashed into his vehicle. He was rushed to the hospital with a brain bleed and was lucky to survive. But the traumatic impact changed his life forever.
Trucking accidents are more dangerous than standard collisions because of the sheer size and weight of the vehicles. They are also highly intricate cases to win in Florida due to state and federal laws, liability issues, and the burden of proof. Even the most seemingly straightforward cases are anything but, which is why you really need a personal injury attorney with the skills and experience to succeed.
Complexes of truck accident cases
You might think it’s clear who’s at fault in cases like the Florida veteran who a negligent driver struck. But you’d be wrong. The truck driver in question always has too much at stake if he loses. He could be forced to forfeit his commercial driver’s license (CDL) and lose his entire livelihood. Additionally, the trucking company he works for could lose millions of dollars. And the business that hired the trucking company could face penalties too. The web of trucking stakeholders and their incentive to win means personal injury attorneys, like our KL team, must work harder to prove fault compared to standard automobile accidents. We must conduct a thorough investigation, and we have to act fast to preserve evidence.
Trucking cases are also highly specialized in the laws that apply to them. Therefore, your personal injury attorneys must have a keen understanding of Florida state and federal statutes to win. That includes truck driving safety regulations, such as sleep requirements, and how truckers must navigate the road to reasonably protect the other drivers.
Not your standard car crash
While auto accident cases generally follow a relatively clear-cut process involving discovery, written questions, and straightforward requests to the at-fault party (typically the other vehicle’s driver), truck accident cases are very different. We can’t assume the driver is the only at-fault party. We must consider the web of potential liable players by asking ourselves:
- Who owns the truck?
- Who owns the shipping company?
- What company hired the shipping company?
- Who determined how the product was stacked in the trailer, and did that contribute to the crash or the injuries?
- Who had control over the route, and how did that affect the scenario?
Answering these questions is critical to determining every possible negligent plaintiff in a case. For example, let’s say we discovered that Rooms To Go hired a third-party trucking company whose driver crashed along one of their delivery routes. In this case, we must consider that Rooms to Go might be partially at fault. To make that determination, we ask and answer even more questions:
- Could Rooms To Go be liable based on how they packed the truck?
- Did the company create a schedule and routes that over-extended the driver, causing him to fall asleep at the wheel?
- Did Rooms To Go look into the truck driver or trucking company’s reputation and credentials before hiring them?
These are challenging questions to explore, so inexperienced attorneys might never think to ask. But at KL, we never leave a stone unturned. We explore all liability avenues to ensure our clients get the compensation they deserve. So, to get it right, we start by conducting thorough investigations. And we don’t waste time.
The critical investigation factor
We act fast because we’ve seen the consequences of waiting to request evidence. Sadly, some trucking companies have been known to tamper with evidence. These occasional bad actors will get rid of anything they think might establish guilt, including logbooks of driving hours, onboard camera recordings, and data stored in their truck’s EDR (Event Data Recorder also known as a black box). EDRs show details like vehicle speed, airbag deployment, and the use of a safety belt. Every piece of information we can gather is essential, and a knowledgeable injury attorney will fight for access.
Years ago, we came across an unfortunate evidence tampering situation after a horrific crash on A1A in Palm Beach County. Four people were driving along this iconic, oceanside highway when they unexpectedly crashed right into a parked delivery truck. The driver could not avoid the impact and suddenly hit the parked truck. At that spot on A1A, there were no shoulders to pull off on and all street lights were off due to turtle nesting season. The truck driver was parked right on the street with no lights, flares, or cones–nothing to reasonably warn other drivers.
Both sides suffered injuries, yet as soon as the crash happened, members of the trucking crew immediately threw on reflective vests and started turning on lights to cover their tracks. Within minutes, the accident scene was compromised. Fortunately, the four witnesses in the car could testify about what happened, but not every dishonest act is so blatant. That’s why our team began investigating right away and used every available resource to prove negligence, including the EDR data from our client’s own car.
Whenever we take a case involving a liability dispute, we routinely retain a licensed third-party company to help download the victim’s crash data. Once the data is retrieved, we analyze it and utilize it to build the case and prove fault.
The essential experience factor
In addition to rapid-fire investigations, the KL team excels at truck accident cases because our attorneys have years of experience litigating on both sides. At KL, we’ve been fighting for victims for many years, and in our previous firms, we litigated on behalf of insurance companies. That gives us intimate knowledge of how insurance companies try to deflect liability, a deeper understanding of the intricacies of truck incidents, the truck driving federal and state laws, and all the possible insurance coverage options available for our clients. With that, we know how to prove negligence and get our clients the maximum compensation, no matter how complex the scenario.
Years ago, we heard about a truck driver on A1A that plowed in a motorcyclist while attempting to turn onto a narrow one-way street. Before making turns like this, truck drivers are supposed to swing out into the adjoining lane to make room. Due to the risky nature of such a move, truckers have a legal obligation to ensure they’re not impeding traffic first. Fortunately, the personal injury attorneys on this case were well-aware of this legal precedent and the drivers’ failure to take the proper precautions. To prove liability, they hired a professional to produce a car crash re-enactment showing the driver’s negligence.
These re-enactments can be extraordinarily effective at convincing the at-fault party to recognize their role in accidents and offer high settlements as a result. That’s why we utilize such resources whenever needed to support our clients.
Why attorneys must understand state and federal law
Successful personal injury attorneys must comprehend Florida state and federal laws to conduct thorough investigations that build strong cases. These laws set clear safety standards for the trucking industry, which companies and drivers are obligated to follow. However, they don’t apply to all drivers equally. Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations contains most federal trucking rules, such as Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, which places caps on operating hours and limits the number of daily and weekly hours a commercial trucker can drive. However, the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles organization sets its own hours of service rules for commercial companies that operate solely in the Sunshine state. Florida law requires their drivers to keep a logbook of hours most of the time. But drivers who don’t exceed a 150 air-mile radius are exempt from this rule.
Other Florida truck driver requirements include:
- The driver must be 18 years for intrastate travel. 21 years old for interstate travel.
- The driver must possess a commercial driver’s license (CDL)
- The driver must have at least 20/40 vision.
- The driver must have a clean driving record.
Attorneys must understand all these legal requirements to build their cases. But they also need a broader comprehension of the law so they know how to obtain and use critical evidence. Ideally, we would love to be able to force trucking companies to share their EDR data. However, the federal Driver Privacy Act of 2015 states that the owner or lessee of the vehicle owns this information, and we can only collect it through a court order. Additionally, we must file a subpoena with the Florida government to obtain critical video footage. We’ve gone through this process countless times, and we understand how to expedite the requests to gather the information we need to win.
The Bottom Line: KL Knows How to Win
Commercial trucks are significantly larger than standard vehicles, so when accidents occur, your injuries can be life-altering. If you or a family member has been hurt due to a commercial driver’s negligence, you need to work with experienced attorneys like KL. We understand how to apply state and federal regulations to your case. Our team acts fast to investigate. And we utilize our knowledge of safe driving standards to eliminate any doubt about where the liability falls.