It is common to see commercial trucks in Tampa with several nearby cargo ports. They pick up products arriving in the region destined for other locations, deliver products to area residents, or load them on ships for export.
While the area’s economy depends on these trucks, their presence on local roadways can pose extreme risks to other motorists and vulnerable road users, such as motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
If someone else’s negligence injured you in a Tampa truck accident, you may seek compensation for your injury:
- By filing a claim against your personal injury protection (PIP) policy
- By filing a claim against the at-fault party’s auto liability insurance policy for payment of the claim or an offered settlement
- By filing the claim as a personal injury lawsuit in court within the state’s statute of limitations for such claims, which is usually four years from the date on which the accident occurred
An experienced Tampa truck accident attorney can explain this process to you in greater detail through a free case evaluation.
Speeding increases nearly all the maneuverability issues that make a truck harder to control—increased speed requires even more stopping distance. Additionally, it reduces the truck driver’s time to perceive a hazard and stop.
Taking a corner or a sharp curve at high speed in a tractor-trailer increases the risk of a rollover, and speeding makes it more difficult for other drivers to judge a safe gap in traffic in which to enter the roadway in front of the truck.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the federal agency tasked with regulating the trucking industry, 13 percent of truck drivers in traffic accidents were exhausted at the time of the crash. Driver fatigue is a common concern for truck drivers everywhere. Still, Tampa sees an increased number of tired drivers as the ports often represent the “end of the line” for a trip that involves multiple days and hundreds of miles.
To reduce the number of tired drivers operating 80,000-pound vehicles on the roadway, the FMCSA instituted hours of service regulations requiring drivers to take regular off-duty breaks after being behind the wheel for at least eight hours.
The regulations prohibit truckers from driving more than 11 hours a day and limit their weekly driving to 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours in eight days. Must log their hours with an electronic logging device.
One common cause of fatigued driving in the trucking industry is the time of day in which they drive. Many drivers prefer to drive during the nighttime hours when there is less congestion. However, the FMCSA notes that not all fatigue-related accidents result from working too many hours or driving at night.
Studies show that drivers who sleep in their sleeper berths are most likely to have an accident within the first hour of driving. This is often related to sleep inertia, which is the temporary impairment of performance tasks, including short-term memory, vigilance, and reaction time that occurs after the driver has woken up.
Additionally, the driver can experience fatigue due to impairment by alcohol or drugs, including over-the-counter or prescription drugs, or due to medical conditions such as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition in which the sufferer stops breathing temporarily during sleep.
This can happen many times throughout a seven-hour sleep and can leave the driver feeling excessively tired, even after a full rest. The FMCSA requires drivers who suffer from sleep apnea to control the condition through medication or lifestyle changes before they are permitted to drive.
Drivers of commercial trucks must obtain a special license to operate the vehicle, known as a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The driver must submit to periodic drug and alcohol screens to maintain the CDL. Many drivers take substances while working. Others don’t know that the over-the-counter medicine they use for allergies or a cold can impair their driving.
In addition to drug and alcohol screenings, CDL-holders are also subject to a lower impairment limit for alcohol. Most drivers over 21 are permitted to drive as long as their blood alcohol content (BAC) is lower than 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood. However, those with a CDL are subject to a legal impairment limit of 0.04 BAC.
Truck drivers who hold a CDL are also subject to regular health screenings to ensure that they are healthy enough to handle the rigors of the position. The Department of Transportation performs the physical they need under the FMCSA regulations.
These exams generally include:
- A vision test. Drivers must have 20/40 acuity in each eye, with or without correction, and must be able to distinguish between red, green, and yellow lights.
- Hearing. Drivers must hear a forced whisper from at least five feet away.
- Blood pressure and pulse, which can indicate high blood pressure or an individual with irregular heartbeats.
- A urinalysis to search for medical conditions such as diabetes. Like sleep apnea, a driver can only operate the vehicle if their doctor signs off that they have controlled the condition and it does not pose a risk.
- A physical examination to look for conditions that could pose a safety risk for the driver or others, such as neurological conditions, hernias, abnormal breathing, or limitations in strength or motion.
Despite these physical evaluations, unexpected medical conditions can arise between exams, or drivers can choose to operate their vehicles when they are too sick to drive.
Trucks can travel hundreds of miles in a day while carrying up to 80,000 pounds. This can cause certain parts to wear prematurely, including the engine, brakes, and tires. The FMCSA requires truck drivers to perform an extensive pre-trip inspection to look for potential safety hazards before every trip. If an issue is discovered, the driver should have it repaired before operating the vehicle.
Additionally, the truck owner or trucking company must have a regular maintenance schedule for the vehicle and record the service provided and the due date for when service is needed again.
Mechanical issues such as a tire blowout or the loss of brakes can result in the driver losing control of the vehicle. When an accident occurs because of poor maintenance, some evidence your attorney will want to see includes the pre-trip inspection reports performed by the driver, the service schedule for the truck, and recently performed maintenance services.
Not all defects result from lack of maintenance, and defective parts used on the truck or other vehicles involved can also result in accidents. When they do, those in the manufacturing chain—including the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer—can be liable due to the responsibility these parties have to ensure that the products they manufacture and sell to consumers are safe when used according to their labeled instructions.
Three defects with a vehicle part can give rise to a product liability claim:
- Design defects, which involve hazards that were present when engineering the part
- Manufacturing defects, which occur due to an error in the manufacturing process
- Packaging defects, which generally occur when the manufacturer has failed to disclose the known risks of the product or has offered incomplete instructions on how to use it safely
How an Attorney Can Determine (and Prove) the Cause of Your Truck Accident
The cornerstone of every successful truck accident claim is the ability to prove who caused the accident. This is the individual or entity responsible for compensating your injury, generally through a liability insurance policy.
They will also gather evidence to support your claim.
Some common evidence considered in truck accident claims include:
- The police report
- Eyewitness testimony
- The results of post-crash drug and alcohol screenings on the truck driver, which are required after an accident has occurred.
- The truck’s event data recorder, also known as the black box, which can offer information about what was happening with the truck just before the accident, such as speed, acceleration, and braking.
- The driver’s hours of service logs, which can indicate whether the accident was a result of driver fatigue or even could have been caused by sleep inertia.
- Documentation of the driver’s qualifications, including their CDL, physical exams, and any additional training they had to learn how to operate the vehicle safely.
- Documentation of the driver’s pre-trip inspections and the vehicle’s maintenance record.
- Proof of recalls or previous complaints of defective parts used on the truck or other vehicles involved in the accident.
Your attorney will carefully investigate the details of your claim to determine all sources of liability and associated insurance resources to obtain the most compensation available to you.