18-Wheeler Accident Lawyers in Miami Helping Victims Get the Compensation They Deserve
When it comes to their place on the highways of America, 18-wheelers, also known as tractor-trailers or semi-trucks, are the 800-pound gorillas of the roadways: it’s hard to argue with them about where they go. Drivers of 18-wheelers don’t even have to be in the wrong to be dangerous – the sheer size of the vehicle poses a hazard to a passenger car.
Regardless of who is at fault – the truck driver, you, or another driver – when a car collides with a tractor-trailer, bad things happen. Usually, they happen to the passenger car and its occupants. Cars and trucks share the roads of America for millions of miles driven every year, and most people will never be involved in a car accident with a commercial rig. For those who are, however, the results can be catastrophic, and frequently are. If you have been injured in an accident with an 18-wheeler, you should contact a Miami truck accident lawyer to discuss your case as soon as you can.
In Truck-Car Crashes, Trucks Always Win
In crashes between passenger vehicles and 18-wheelers, the odds dramatically favor the semis. Trucks are considerably larger than cars and can weigh 30 times as much. Furthermore, they can have much more ground clearance, meaning cars can drive under trucks and be crushed. Trucks take much longer to brake, taking as much as 40 percent more distance than cars to come to a stop, and that’s under good conditions. The difference in stopping distance is even greater on wet, snowy, or icy roads.
When cars get in the way of an 18 wheeler, they lose. According to federal statistics, there were nearly 4,500 large commercial trucks and buses involved in fatal crashes in 2016, up 2 percent from 2015. The number of fatal truck and bus crashes is up 28 percent from 2009. Of the nearly 4,000 fatalities in crashes involving large commercial trucks in 2014, 73 percent were occupants of other vehicles. Only 17 percent were occupants of the 18-wheelers. Another 10 percent were not in a vehicle, including bystanders, pedestrians, and the like.
Truck Drivers’ Negligence Often is a Significant Factor in Accidents
Truck drivers are highly trained and highly regulated. While the guy driving the car next to you at rush hour might have a drunk-driving conviction – even a recent one – he still can have a license. It might be restricted, but it’s a license. If the driver next to you is behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler, you can be pretty sure he doesn’t have a drunk-driving conviction. He would lose his commercial driver’s license and would have a hard time getting it back.
Nonetheless, despite the training and regulations, negligence by truck drivers often is the cause of car-truck crashes. In fact, the three major critical events blamed for accidents involving large trucks are:
- Leaving their travel lane, either drifting into another lane or leaving the road, blamed for 32 percent of truck crashes
- Losing control of the vehicle because of driving too fast for conditions, cargo shift, vehicle equipment failure, or bad driving conditions, blamed for 29 percent of truck crashes
- Driving into the rear end of another vehicle, cited for 22 percent of truck crashes.
A number of other factors have been identified as contributing causes in truck crashes even where they are not the primary cause, including:
- Defective brakes
- Traffic jams or other crashes on the roadway
- Prescription drug use
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Driving on an unfamiliar road
- Problems with the condition of the road
- Attempting to stop for a signal
- Over-the-counter drug use
Despite regulations limiting how much truckers can drive each day, those regulations allow truckers to spend far more time behind the wheel than most people spend at work each day – up to 11 hours. Some sources estimate driver fatigue is responsible for up to 40 percent of truck accidents. While regular folks driving to a distant locale for vacation might stay on the road that long, or even longer, few do it every work day, and even fewer would make that trip with only a single person driving. Over-the-road truckers do it every day they work. Federal statistics indicate that 13 percent of truckers and other commercial drivers, including bus drivers, were tired when they were involved in their accident.
Despite regulations, alcohol or drug use by truck drivers are frequent factors in truck crashes, as is speeding. Truck drivers are no different than drivers of passenger vehicles in this respect: speed kills. Further, truckers, again much like drivers of cars, often fall victim to their own failure to exercise proper caution. Making improper lane changes, failing to check mirrors, and failure to check blind spots are major contributors to truck accidents. Unlike the driver of a car, who can correct when getting a scare from a vehicle in a blind spot that they didn’t see, trucks cannot respond quickly, at least not without risking a rollover accident. Further, tractor-trailer rigs have much larger blind spots on both sides, and even to the rear and to the front, where cars have no blind spots. These blind spots can pose a danger even for a trucker who is diligent about checking blind spots.
What Happens When a Truck Driver is at Fault for an Accident?
In the past, liability for tractor-trailer accidents was thrown into doubt by trucking companies’ frequent use of independent contractors. Motor carriers would hire truckers who owned or leased their own rigs, bought their own insurance, paid for their own fuel, repairs, licensing fees, and other costs of operating their vehicles. They would decide what loads to haul, when to drive, and to where. Because they were independent contractors, motor carriers maintained – successfully – that they were not liable for damages incurred in accidents caused by the drivers they hired.
The federal government eventually changed how it regulated motor carrier liability for accidents caused by the negligence of “independent contractors.” The regulations eliminated the distinction between “independent contractors” and “employees” as far as motor carriers are concerned. Now, all drivers for a motor carrier company, even those who actually are independent contractors, are deemed statutory employees of the motor carrier, leaving the motor carrier liable for accidents where its drivers are at fault. This is a significant benefit for drivers who are injured by truckers’ negligence, as the motor carrier has the deeper pockets and higher insurance policy limits to cover the major damages that can result from such an accident.
If You Have Been Hurt in an Accident with an 18-Wheeler, Call Us Today
If you have been involved in a traffic accident with an 18-wheeler in the Miami area, you should meet with a Miami personal injury attorney to talk about your options for recovering damages. Contact Flagler Personal Injury Group at (305) 424-8445 or through our online contact form. Flagler Personal Injury Group serves the greater Miami area.