Fort Lauderdale Truck Accident Attorneys
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Leading Causes Of Truck Accidents
Accidents involving commercial trucks are usually far more dangerous than a typical motor vehicle accident. This is because of a number of factors, though predominately due to the weight of the truck and its massive size. An average 18-wheeler weighs approximately 80,000 pounds, whereas an average passenger vehicle weighs approximately 4,000 pounds. These types of accidents are serious in nature and often result in death or serious personal injuries to the passenger vehicle occupants. Though, there are some measures you can take to help prevent trucking accidents when you are on the road. In order to do so, it is important to understand the circumstances that most often lead to truck accidents so you can be better prepared.
Passenger Vehicle Driver Error
Negligence on the road is common among all drivers and, while truck drivers are no exception to this rule, it may surprise you to learn that studies show approximately 81% of trucking accidents are actually caused by the passenger vehicles.
Other causes include:
• Driver failing to properly pass a truck
• Driver’s failure to compensate for a truck’s air resistance (this results in a vehicle becoming caught in the commercial truck’s crosswind)
• Driver failing to pay attention to movements of the truck (driving in a blind spot or failing to recognize a truck that is decelerating, changing lanes or making a turn)
• Making a left turn in front of the truck
• Changing lanes dangerously
• Failure to signal
• Driving in between two trucks
• Driving in the truck’s blind spot. It is important to be aware of the blind spots on large trucks.
One of the most common causes of trucking accidents is motor vehicles traveling in the a truck’s blind spot. This is avoidable if you educate yourself on the four most common blind spots. They include:
a. The front of the truck cab
b. Behind the driver side window
c. The right side of the truck
d. Behind the driver storage area
Truck Driver Error
Truck drivers have special circumstances surrounding their profession. Many truck drivers are on the road for hours at a time and there is a chance for mistakes to happen due to truck driver error. Some may drive recklessly, be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, drive while distracted, or become drowsy behind the wheel due to fatigue.
Overall, there has been a slight decrease in the number of truck accidents in the past few years. However, accidents related to fatigue have not declined in conformity with the overall decrease. Studies have shown that driving while fatigued is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated or under the influence. This is supported by the fact that many trucking accidents take place between midnight and 3 AM. An Hours of Service (HOS) regulation was passed by the Federal Government in an effort to address this problem. The concept was to limit commercial drivers’ time during which they could operate their vehicles. A driver that carries products is required to rest for at least 10 consecutive hours before being allowed to drive up to a maximum of 11 hours. Such drivers also must sleep for 8 hours and take another break for 2 hours. Trucks carrying passenger vehicles must be off-duty for 8 hours before they are allowed to drive for a maximum of 10 hours. They must also spend at least 8 consecutive hours in what is known as the sleeper berth (a sleeping compartment within the vehicle).
A speeding truck is especially dangerous for numerous reasons. Firstly, it is more difficult to stop a speeding truck since trucks take longer to slow down than regular vehicles. A truck that is speeding on a slick roadway is more prone to lose traction. This results in the truck hydroplaning and sliding on the road, almost always into other vehicles. Trucks that speed around curves are more likely to lose control compared to drivers who are abiding by the speed limit. Once the truck driver loses control, his load may shift, causing the truck to rollover or jackknife, both of which have devastating effects on the vehicles and the other drivers who are sharing the roadway.
Lack of attention or distracted driving
There are three major categories of motorist distractions:
a. Visual – these distractions take the driver’s eyes off the road
b. Manual – these distractions take the driver’s hands off the wheel
c. Cognitive – these distractions take the driver’s mind off the task at hand
Truck drivers have a schedule upon which they must deliver their items, but traffic can cause them to fall behind. In an effort to get back on track, drivers may engage in activities that are considered visual, manual and cognitive distractions to make up the time. This normally means multitasking and doing other activities while also driving. Because they spend long hours in the truck, many truck drivers eat their meals behind the wheel. Truck drivers also are known to make use of a CB radio, may attempt to navigate using a GPS system while driving, talk on their cell phone, text message, smoke cigarettes and some even shave while driving! Billboards, other vehicles, and nearby landmarks are the three main distractions outside the truck which contribute to the estimated 11,000 truck crashes that have taken place over a three-year span. All of these things mentioned are well-known causes of distracted driving accidents.
Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication
Truckers will sometimes drink too much on a break or before their shift starts and then operate their truck under the influence. This is considered negligent and criminal behavior. A trucker’s blood-alcohol level must be below .04 percent, pursuant to Commercial Drivers’ License requirements. This differs from the .08 percent requirement for passenger vehicles. The .04 percent threshold is easy to reach and this limit is set for good reason; governmental authorities do not want truckers driving even with the smallest amount of alcohol in their system. Alcohol is known to impair bodily functions that are critical to driving such as coordination, hearing, judgment and – most importantly – vision.
Poor Vehicle Maintenance
The number of miles that trucks cover every day is enormous. This leads to a high rate of wear and tear on these trucks that requires regular maintenance. Some of the main maintenance issues are:
Worn out brake pads
The failure to regularly have brake pads checked and replaced after a certain number of miles is a common cause for truck brake failure.
A cracked windshield weakens the roof of the truck and increases the likelihood of a roof collapse either before or during a crash. Trucks are more prone to having cracked windshields since they are larger than those in passenger vehicles and rocks, asphalt and debris kick up into the air, often striking a truck’s windshield at a high rate of speed. A cracked windshield impairs vision and alters depth perception, leading to an increase in trucking accidents.
Truck drivers are expected to regularly check their tires before beginning any trip. Trucking companies bear even more responsibility than the individual driver. They are obligated to replace tires that are worn out or defective. Unfortunately, this does not happen in many cases, leading to tire blowouts. Blown out tires are one of the leading causes of truck accidents. Since a tractor-trailer that is fully loaded can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, having properly inflated tires is critical. Having good treads and minimal wear is equally important.
The trucking industry has very specific rules by which truckers must abide when it comes to a commercial truck’s bed. There are height, length, width, and weight restrictions and limitations on the size of the load placed on the bed and there are also special methods to secure the cargo for purposes of transportation. Any mistakes during the loading process can cause a load to pull into another traffic lane, causing an accident. The entire balance of the truck can be thrown off if the cargo is overloaded, not properly loaded or if it is not balanced. This can easily cause a truck to jackknife and topple over.
Drivers are expected to check their truck at the start of their shift and to fill out and file a maintenance report. Unfortunately, this is also not always completed and the results of skipping this can sometimes be catastrophic.
It is not always the truck driver who is to blame when an accident takes place. In some instances, truck accidents result from mechanical problems with the truck itself.
Because trucks have a much more sophisticated braking system compared to that of a regular motor vehicle, even the slightest deficiency can cause the entire system to fail. This is different than faulty brake pads in that this is more of a design defect or product liability matter than a maintenance issue with the truck itself.
Many companies fail to properly maintain their fleet which results in equipment failure when that equipment is needed most. Manufacturers may also be held responsible for negligent product defects which result in accidents. The manufacturers of the parts, the truck manufacturers, the trucking company itself that sold the truck, and the mechanic/installer who completed the truck repairs can all be held accountable. As you can see, there are many different individuals and entities involved and if there is a breakdown in any part of that chain, accidents are more than likely to occur. Even though safety inspections are routine in the trucking industry, some trucks pass inspection even though they should not. This allows unsafe trucks to be on the road, resulting in traffic accidents that could have been avoided.
Trucks travel through the night and in all kinds of inclement weather. Training and preparation to drive in such conditions should not be lightly regarded. Snow, ice, rain, fog, sleet, wind, and hail are all conditions that can cause the driver to lose control of the truck, resulting in major accidents.
Lack Of Skill
A lack of experience and expertise in operating a large commercial truck is often the cause of many trucking accidents. A commercial driver’s license is not difficult to obtain and a new truck driver will almost certainly require an adjustment period when developing the skills to maneuver such a large truck in challenging weather conditions and along difficult and steep terrain. To make things worse, commercial trucking companies often fail to properly qualify their drivers, leading to an increase in accidents.
Undiagnosed Medical Conditions
Truck drivers spend most of their time on the road and inside their truck. They have little time for exercise or flexibility to allow for healthy eating choices. This has led to approximately 86% of them being obese or overweight. Other medical conditions or issues can come along with this. Such examples can include things like sleep apnea, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Truck drivers who suffer any of these conditions and experience symptoms while operating the truck can be in danger of losing control and experience devastating and fatal accidents without even knowing it.
If you have been involved in an accident with a commercial truck, it is important that you consult with and retain an experienced truck accident attorney immediately. Motor vehicle accidents that involve trucks are subject to different laws than passenger vehicles. Experienced truck accident lawyers will make contact with the insurance carrier on your behalf as well as the attorneys representing the offending vehicle. A lawyer will work on your behalf while you recover from the personal injuries you may have sustained in the accident. Attending doctor’s appointments and recovering from injuries to your neck, back, upper and lower extremities will require all of your effort and focus. Experienced truck accident attorneys will make contact with the insurance carriers, deal with your medical billing and aggressively pursue maximum recovery for your injuries.
In the event your case is unable to settle, truck accident lawyers will file a lawsuit against the offending owner and operator of the commercial truck. Your attorney will fight for your rights from the beginning of the lawsuit until the time of trial. This will require complicated legal maneuvers that only an experienced truck accident attorney is qualified to handle.
If you have been involved in an accident involving a truck, your first order of business should be to consult with a truck accident lawyer in your area today.