A Big Rig Hits You in Florida: Who's Liable?
June 27, 2017
If you’re driving in Florida and have the scary and unfortunate experience of being struck by a big rig, you may be surprised to learn at who’s actually at fault for the accident.
Over 500,000 accidents involving tractor trailers occur each year in the United States. Sound like a lot? Actually, it isn’t. Tractor trailers are involved in just three percent of all injury-causing automobile accidents each year. However, these types of accidents tend to result in more extensive damage due to the massive size and weight of the large trucks.
Two recent accidents on Florida highways involving big rigs illustrates this. One accident involved two semi-trucks and two passenger vehicles. Three patients were transported to the hospital, and Interstate 95 was shut down for almost three hours before being fully restored. In another accident, a tractor-trailer driver received burns on 40 percent of his body after his rig collided with a guard rail and the fuel tank burst into flames. This accident caused a shutdown of Interstate 75 for over 12 hours.
Luckily, if the negligence of another causes you to be injured in a truck accident, you can file a personal injury claim to receive compensation for your damages. However, the situation tends to be more complicated than it usually is in motor vehicle accidents. Up to six different parties may potentially be held liable in a big rig lawsuit, so you need to make sure your lawyer does their research and chooses the appropriate one to go after.
Who May Be Responsible for Your Injury in a Florida Truck Accident
Here’s a breakdown of the players.
The owner of the tractor-trailer. Current federal law states that any company that owns a trucking permit is responsible for all accidents that involve a truck with the company’s name displayed on the truck. This holds true whether the driver is an actual company employee or merely a subcontractor.
The driver of the tractor-trailer. Florida is one of the most dangerous states for drivers, with distracted driving causing 214 deaths and over 39,000 injuries in 2015. Driver error is the most common reason for tractor-trailer accidents.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that drivers were the main reason for 88 percent of crashes, over other factors such as vehicle issues, weather, and road conditions. The top reason for a big rig driver error is sleep deprivation. Other factors include speeding, inattention, unfamiliarity with the route, and use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
The manufacturer of the tractor-trailer. Faulty equipment may be to blame in an accident. Brake failures and tire blowouts are the most common problems. Additional issues like defective lighting, transmission failure, and other faulty equipment may contribute to a crash. The main reason for equipment problems is maintenance failure, and this may or may not be the fault of the manufacturer.
The entity that paid to have the cargo transported. The issue of cargo liability arises when the cargo itself comes out of the trailer in a crash and may cause damage. In the case, that cargo causes harm, the entity who paid to have the cargo transported may be at fault for improper loading.
The entity that contracted the tractor-trailer to transport the cargo. Again, when cargo is involved in the damages sustained in the accident, this entity may be found partially liable.
The entity that coordinated the tractor trailer’s route and load. Depending on the impact the driver’s route and load had on the accident, this entity may be at fault as well.
When it comes to deciding which insurance company will pay compensation, these combined entities may argue among themselves over which one is responsible. An example of this is the trucking company saying defective brakes caused the crash, while the manufacturer says the leasing company should have maintained the brakes better. This delays the resolution.
You need to be well-informed by legal counsel experienced in these cases to have a successful outcome. Investigations may need to take place, such as looking at the technology in the tractor-trailer itself.
Today’s big rigs have devices similar to black boxes on airplanes, which record many types of information about vehicle performance and driving patterns. This kind of investigation takes time to process, so expect a longer wait than in a typical motor vehicle accident.
If you or your loved one is injured in a collision with a tractor-trailer, don’t try to stand on your own. These cases are usually complicated and drawn out, requiring professional counsel. Help is available to you through our legal offices. We will use our experience and knowledge to determine which entity or entities are at fault in your case, and we will help you file your claim and get the compensation you need and deserve.
About the Author:
A partner at Ben Murphey tries complex disputes that include civil appeals, maritime and admiralty claims, wrongful death, and labor disputes. Mr. Murphey has been recognized for his excellence in the area of personal injury litigation by being rewarded with a 10/10 Avvo Rating and named a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” for the last four consecutive years (2011-2014). Mr. Murphey regularly tries cases in state and federal courts around the country, being admitted to practice before all Florida courts and the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.