St. Lucie County Semi-Truck Crash Kills Senior Citizen
A 76-year-old man is dead after a jackknifed double semi-truck apparently forced his 2004 Hyundai Tiburon off the highway.
The wreck occurred on the Florida Turnpike south of Okeechobee Road. For unknown reasons, a double semi-truck jackknifed and wound up on the shoulder. That incident caused the 76-year-old man to lose control of his vehicle and crash into the tractor-trailer. The force of the impact ejected the driver from his Hyundai. He was declared dead at the scene.
The 46-year-old tractor-trailer driver only sustained minor injuries.
First Party Liability in Port St. Lucie Truck Crashes
Most commercial drivers have several different drivers’ licenses from several different states. So, in times past, it was very difficult to get a complete picture of their driving records. Therefore, it was difficult to prove negligence in any given situation.
But several years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rolled out the Safety Management System. The SMS grades drivers in several different areas, including:
- Alcohol and Controlled Substances: Alcohol impairment begins after the first drink. Alcohol impairs judgement and delays reaction times. Many drugs, including prescription painkillers and many over-the-counter remedies, have a similar effect.
- Unsafe Driving: Speeding, texting while driving, and unsafe lane changes are all forms of unsafe driving. Such reckless behavior is especially relevant with regard to commercial drivers. They have a higher duty of care than non-commercial operators.
- Crash History: The FMCSA keeps a two-year crash history database. For privacy reasons, the information in this database is not public. So, an attorney usually needs to get a court order to access it.
- HOS Compliance: Hours of Service compliance is often an issue in fatigued driving-related crashes. Most shipping companies pay drivers by the load instead of the mile, so these drivers usually stay on the road as long as possible.
- Driver Fitness: Some drivers have medical conditions, such as epilepsy or sleep apnea, which sometimes trigger sudden and unexpected loss of consciousness. Even if a driver only blacks out for an instant, the consequence could be devastating.
- Vehicle Maintenance: Bad brakes, non-working lights, and other vehicle maintenance problems contribute to a number of the truck accidents in Florida.
SMS data generally comes from law enforcement sources instead of court records. So, SMS data is highly accurate. Assume a commercial driver got a speeding ticket and took defensive driving to get it dismissed. The citation would not show up in judicial records, but it would show up in the SMS database.
Third Party Liability in Port St. Lucie Truck Crash Cases
These incidents have a much higher fatality rate than wrecks which just involve passenger cars. Many times, the individual tortfeasor (negligent driver) may not have enough insurance coverage to fully compensate the victim/plaintiff.
Fortunately, Florida has an extremely broad respondeat superior rule. According to this doctrine, shipping companies and other employers are responsible for the negligent acts of their truck drivers if:
- Employee: In this context, employees are not just regular workers. People like independent contractors and owner-operators are also “employees” for negligence purposes.
- Scope of Employment: Any driver doing any work that benefits the employer in any way is acting within the scope of employment. That could include something like taking an empty truck back to the garage.
Florida is a modified joint and several liability state. In most cases, if there are multiple responsible parties, the judge apportions damages among them based on their percentage of fault.
Damages in a Port St. Lucie truck crash case usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some cases.
Connect with Aggressive Lawyers
Large truck crashes often cause extremely serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.