Special Issues in 18-Wheeler Wrecks
Fully-loaded large trucks, like the ones which regularly run through the Treasure Coast, weigh about 80,000 pounds. Additionally, regulators routinely allow even larger vehicles, such as double trailers, to prowl area highways and byways.
When these massive vehicles cause crashes, victims often sustain catastrophic injuries. Serious burns are a good example. Most trucks carry hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel, a chemical which burns at a different temperature from ordinary gasoline. Additionally, many victims are pinned under these large trucks as the fire spreads.
Because of these serious injuries, a Port St. Lucie personal injury attorney can often obtain substantial compensation in these cases. This compensation normally includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Establishing First Party Liability
Driver error causes about 90 percent of the large truck crashes in Florida. Frequently, that error involved driver impairment, as follows:
- Alcohol/Drugs: These substances typically remain in a driver’s system for many hours. Even trace amounts of alcohol or drugs affect judgement and reflexes. Because of the massive size of these vehicles, if these areas are even slightly off, serious injury could occur.
- Fatigue: Drowsiness is a major problem among long-haul truck drivers. Most companies pay their drivers by the load, so they must stay on the road as long as possible to make money. Furthermore, many truck drivers are behind the wheel late at night or early in the morning. Most people are naturally drowsy at these times.
- Distraction: Truck drivers have the same temptations that noncommercial drivers deal with in these areas. Hand-held cell phones are highly distracting, and hands-free phones are not much better.
Operational error causes other crashes. Legally, these errors are usually negligence. Speeding is a good example. The posted speed limit is a presumptively reasonable speed for a noncommercial vehicle in ideal conditions. So, even if a truck driver tortfeasor (negligent driver) was not technically exceeding the speed limit, excessive speed could still be a factor in a crash.
Procedurally, attorneys often settle these claims with demand letters. The victim receives a sum of money in exchange for a liability waiver. Other claims settle after the case goes to court, often during mediation. Only a handful of cases go all the way to trial.
Third Party Liability
Vicarious liability is also an important procedural point. Frequently, truck crash injuries are so severe that individual tortfeasors do not have sufficient insurance coverage to provide fair compensation. Third party liability gives victims an additional source of recovery.
Respondeat superior (let the master answer) is probably the most common third-party liability theory. Florida law defines both elements of this doctrine in broad, victim-friendly terms:
- Employee: Anyone the employer controls is an employee for negligence purposes. That includes people like owner-operators, independent contractors, and unpaid volunteers.
- Scope of Employment: Similarly, any act which benefits the employer is within the scope of employment. Driving an empty truck back to the warehouse is a good example.
Other employer liability theories, which often come into play in assault and other intentional tort cases, include negligent supervision and negligent hiring.
Contact an Aggressive Lawyer
Large truck crashes are usually complex. For a free consultation with an experienced Port St. Lucie personal injury attorney, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury cases.