When a truck is involved in an accident with a car or another smaller vehicle, the consequences can be severe. Commercial trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as a car, and can take 20 to 40 percent longer to stop at a given speed on a dry, properly maintained road. In wet conditions, or if the truck’s brakes have not been properly maintained, it can take much longer, but many drivers erroneously believe that a fully loaded tractor-trailer can stop as quickly as their car can, with often disastrous results.
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety reported in 2012 that passengers in a car that collides with a large truck are 24 times more likely to die in the accident than those who are riding in the truck. Even if you are in a situation where a large truck should be aware of your presence and yield to you, the truck should be given a wide zone to turn and you should stay out of the truck driver’s blind spots. Move to another lane if possible, and be alert to any signs that the driver may be fatigued or distracted.
How is a legal dispute over an auto accident different when it involves a commercial truck?
Unfortunately, even safe and alert drivers have accidents with the commercial trucks that share our highways. An accident with a commercial truck, usually beings by filing a lawsuit against the truck driver, but there are other people or entities that can potentially be sued as well:
- The trucking company that employed or contracted with the driver.
- The owner of the truck.
- The owner and/or shipper of any goods that were in the truck at the time of the accident
- The person or company who loaded the truck (an improperly loaded truck is more likely to lose control when the load shifts).
- A broker or brokerage company that set up the transaction between the owner/shipper of the goods and the trucking company (since the exact details of the contract between these two entities are often important).
- Any person or company that has ever maintained or repaired the truck (because the results of faulty maintenance or the lack of required maintenance often are not apparent until much later).
- The manufacturer of the truck.
- The manufacturer of any original or replacement components used in the truck.
Different laws may also apply to truck accidents
A traffic accident that occurs on Florida’s roads will likely be governed by Florida law – except if one of the vehicles was “engaged in interstate commerce.” If it was, an entirely different set of federal laws, known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules, may also apply to your case. Even if the goods in the truck were not in transit from one state to another at the moment of the crash, federal law can still apply. The definition of “interstate commerce” is very broad, and state agencies often look to the relevant provisions of the federal Rules in deciding on the rules that govern trucks on Florida’s roads. Your lawsuit may end up in federal court, where the rules and procedures are very different from those used in the state courts.
A complicated case needs an experienced legal team
Most Florida attorneys who litigate accident cases have never handled a commercial trucking case that may be as complex as yours. You need to work with a law firm that employs experienced investigators who know how to find the information and documents that your attorney needs to win in court. We also work with an extensive network of experts who understand the issues that come up in these complicated cases and how to explain them to juries in terms that they can understand. Unlike many other “trial lawyers” who have rarely seen the inside of a courtroom, we do not hesitate to take any of our cases to trial if we believe that this is the best way to get full compensation for our clients.
If you have any questions on this blog or need information on other personal injury queries, please call the Law offices of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath located in West Palm Beach at 1-800 4-RIGHTS (1-800- 474-4487) We welcome your call and look forward to helping you.