West Palm Beach Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorneys
Did you suffer injuries in an accident with a tractor-trailer? Was it due to the negligent or careless actions of the truck driver? If so, you might be entitled to compensation through an insurance claim or lawsuit. At Schuler, Weisser, Zoeller, Overbeck & Baxter P.A., our legal team has the experience and resources to hold truck drivers liable for the devastating harm they cause. We can investigate how the crash occurred and obtain all available evidence proving another person was at fault for your injuries.
Tractor-trailers are one of the most common types of commercial trucks in the country. They are made up of a front cab where the driver sits (the tractor) with a trailer attached to the back for transporting cargo. These giant vehicles are necessary for delivering consumer goods and other items, but if not driven with care, they can wreak havoc in an accident with smaller cars. During a collision, the occupants of the smaller car are more likely to suffer severe injuries and fatalities than the truck driver.
When someone else is responsible for causing your injuries, you deserve to seek justice and hold them accountable for what they’ve done. The West Palm Beach truck accident attorneys of Schuler, Weisser, Zoeller, Overbeck & Baxter P.A. will remain by your side until the very end of your case and work to reach a favorable outcome for you. Find out more about how we can help by calling 561.689.8180 for your initial free consultation.
Reasons Accidents Involving Tractor-Trailers Occur
Various factors can lead to a crash between a passenger vehicle and a tractor-trailer. Operating a commercial truck requires training, experience, and skill. The driver must safely maneuver the 80,000-pound vehicle through traffic, around turns, and past hazards. Their actions aren’t the only reason for tractor-trailer accidents, though. Sometimes, the vehicle design can prevent the driver from noticing cars traveling next to them or cause them to lose control, or one of the truck’s systems may malfunction.
The two main reasons tractor-trailer accidents happen are:
- High center of gravity – Vehicles with a high center of gravity can be challenging to control. If the driver brakes suddenly or makes a quick maneuver, it can throw the entire truck off balance, causing it to roll. If there’s a nearby car, it can become crushed underneath the tractor-trailer’s massive weight, injuring any occupants inside.
- Poor visibility – Tractor-trailers can be up to 53 feet in length and 14 feet high. This reduces visibility of the surrounding traffic lanes for the truck driver. Blind spots are much longer for a semi than the blind spots for non-commercial vehicles. It’s often difficult to notice a small car traveling behind, in front, or on either side of the truck.
Other common causes of tractor-trailer accidents are:
- Distracted driving
- Driver fatigue
- Failure to yield the right of way
- Improperly loaded or overloaded cargo
- Inadequate repairs and maintenance on the truck
- Turning too quickly
- Unsafe lane changes
- Driving under the influence
You could hold the truck driver liable if any of their actions led to the crash and your injuries. If they caused you harm, they should suffer the consequences of their poor decisions.
Federal Regulations for Tractor-Trailer Drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets standards all trucking company employees must follow. These standards are meant to keep truck drivers and all other users of the roads safe and prevent accidents from occurring. Common regulations include:
- All drivers must hold a valid commercial driver’s license.
- Trucking companies should perform background checks on new employees.
- Truck drivers should follow the hours of service regulations.
- Cargo loads should not exceed specific weight and size limits.
- Trucking companies must ensure the inspection, maintenance, and repair of all vehicles in their fleet.
- Drivers should keep a log of their driving hours.
- Companies should perform random drug and alcohol testing.
- Ongoing training programs should be available to all employees.
Accidents involving tractor-trailers can cause significant property damage, severe injuries, and even death. In 2019, 118,000 commercial trucks were involved in accidents causing injuries. Fatalities occurred in collisions involving 5,005 large trucks that same year. Most fatalities were the occupants of non-commercial vehicles. They accounted for 71% of the deaths compared to only 18% of large truck occupants.
Trucking Companies Can Also Face Liability After a Tractor-Trailer Accident
It’s common to assume that the truck driver is the only person to blame after a truck accident. However, more than one party could be at fault, including the trucking company. Employers should always complete background checks on new drivers, including taking a careful look at their employment history, criminal records, previous accidents on the job, and prior experience operating a tractor-trailer.
Sometimes, understaffing or cost-cutting measures cause these companies to hire unqualified or inexperienced drivers. This places other people at risk of harm because the truckers likely won’t know how to maneuver safely around other vehicles or what they should do in an emergency.
It’s also up to trucking companies to routinely inspect the vehicles and promptly repair damage or defects they discover. If they knowingly send a tractor-trailer onto the road without fixing these problems, one of the parts or systems could malfunction, causing the driver to lose control and collide with a passenger car.
If you discover that the trucking company failed to complete a background check, take care of appropriate maintenance, or violated another federal regulation, you could hold them liable for your injuries. The bills from medical treatment and other necessary costs that you incur from an injury that wasn’t your fault should become the company’s responsibility since they were the cause of the crash. Schuler, Weisser, Zoeller, Overbeck & Baxter P.A. can help you find proof that their negligent practices were the reason you suffered physical harm.
Compensation Available in a Tractor-Trailer Accident Case in West Palm Beach
Florida follows a no-fault car insurance system. That means accident victims must file a claim with their own auto insurance company before seeking compensation from the at-fault driver. All motorists must purchase personal injury protection (PIP) with minimum limits of $10,000 for injury and a property damage liability policy (PDL) with a $10,000 limit. When you file a claim, the insurance company should cover all reasonable and necessary medical treatment and the value of your lost wages and other expenses up to the maximum coverage on your policy.
Once you use your $10,000 limits, you can file a claim with the trucking company’s liability insurance company as long as your injury meets at least one of the serious injury threshold criteria:
- Permanent and significant loss of bodily function
- Permanent injury, except disfigurement or scarring
- Significant and permanent disfigurement or scarring
Trucking companies must adhere to federal law when purchasing liability insurance for their drivers. The minimum coverage amounts depend on the weight of the tractor-trailer and the nature of the cargo being transported:
- $300,000 – Non-hazardous cargo on trucks under 10,001 pounds
- $750,000 – Non-hazardous materials on vehicles over 10,000 pounds
- $1 million to $5 million – Oil and hazardous freight
When you file a liability claim, you can pursue the maximum available compensation to cover your past and future losses, such as:
- Medical bills
- Loss of consortium
- Property damage
- Emotional distress
- Lost wages and earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
How Lawsuits Work After a Tractor-Trailer Accident
If you want to sue the truck driver or trucking company, you have to abide by the four-year statute of limitations in Florida. The courts strictly enforce this deadline. If the timeframe passes and you haven’t filed your lawsuit, you will likely lose your right to hold the at-fault party liable.
Besides seeking a monetary award for the various losses you suffered, you could also pursue punitive damages. This doesn’t compensate you for things like medical bills or emotional distress but is a form of punishment against the defendant. A jury will only award punitive damages to an accident victim if they can provide clear and convincing evidence of the at-fault party’s gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
Pure Comparative Negligence Statute
Florida uses a pure comparative fault rule to determine whether an accident victim can seek the full available compensation for their losses in a lawsuit. Under this statute, the injured party’s losses will diminish proportionately to the percentage of fault they share. For example, if you incurred $100,000 in losses from the accident, but a jury determines your actions were 20% to blame, you would only be entitled to a maximum of $80,000 in compensation.
Contact Schuler, Weisser, Zoeller, Overbeck & Baxter P.A.
The West Palm Beach tractor-trailer accident attorneys of Schuler, Weisser, Zoeller, Overbeck & Baxter P.A. have been representing accident victims for over 40 years. We have won multiple awards and accolades for our case results and dedication to the members of our community. The National Trial Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and the Medical Malpractice Trial Lawyers are just a few of the prestigious organizations that have recognized us for our hard work. We also hold an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell, their highest possible rating, and one that is given only to a select group of attorneys around the country.
Our team of legal professionals is available 24/7 to take your call and discuss your case. We will provide the guidance and support you need during this overwhelming time in your life.
If you were involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer, do not hesitate to call Schuler, Weisser, Zoeller, Overbeck & Baxter P.A. at 561.689.8180 for a free consultation. One of our West Palm Beach tractor-trailer accident attorneys will advise you of your legal options and help you get on the road to recovery.