Tampa has Florida’s largest and most diverse port, handling over 37 million tons of cargo each year, including exports of fertilizer, petroleum, imports and exports of food, beverages, automobiles, and other consumer goods.
While the local economy depends on the shipment of the products, the port increases the amount of commercial truck traffic in the Tampa Bay/Orlando I-4 corridor and around the city. The trucks used to haul goods to and from the port are massive in size, weighing about 20 times more than the average passenger car and featuring a host of maneuverability issues that can result in accidents.
If you were injured or have lost a loved one due to an accident caused by a reckless or careless truck driver, you can seek compensation for your injuries through a personal injury lawsuit. An experienced Tampa truck accident lawyer from Perenich Law Injury Attorneys can assist you with your claim.
The Dangers of Commercial Trucks in Tampa
Florida sees more than 27,000 accidents involving commercial trucks each year, with nearly 30 of those accidents resulting in fatalities and hundreds involving injuries. Crashes involving trucks are more common in the Tampa region due to traffic conditions in and around the port and congestion in other parts of the city.
Many of the dangers posed by commercial trucks in Tampa to other roadway users are related to the size of the vehicle. Semi-trucks measure about 72 feet long, 13.5 feet tall, and 8.5 feet wide, and they can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded.
An increased stopping distance. No vehicle can instantly come to a complete stop. Stopping is a process that involves the driver seeing a hazard on the roadway and responding to that hazard by depressing the brakes. The vehicle’s brakes then work to stop it. Trucks can require up to 40 percent more distance to stop than passenger cars (even more on slippery roads or if the truck’s brakes or tires were improperly maintained). This means many accidents occur simply because truckers failed to keep enough distance to a stop before colliding with another vehicle or a vulnerable road user such as a bicyclist or pedestrian.
Wide turns. To navigate the vehicle around a sharp turn such as those on narrower streets around Tampa, the truck’s driver must often make a wide turn by swinging the front tires into an adjacent travel lane. This creates a risk for drivers in those travel lanes whom trucks can strike as they turn. Truckers can also trap cars between trucks and curbs when turning.
A higher ground clearance. The higher ground clearance of the truck provides just enough space that a smaller vehicle can fit between the truck and the roadway during an accident. This often-deadly occurrence is known as an underride.
A higher center of gravity. This increases the risk of the truck overturning, particularly when the driver is attempting emergency driving maneuvers, is taking a sharp corner or curve at speed, or has experienced a shift of cargo that has created a weight imbalance.
Blind spots. All vehicles have blind spots, which are areas in proximity to the vehicle that the driver cannot see through their rear or side-view mirrors and are instead required to look over their shoulder to ensure the travel lane is clear before turning or merging. In semi-trucks, the blind spots are significant and are on all four sides of the vehicle, making it difficult for the driver to see if a person or vehicle is closely in front or behind them or driving alongside the truck in an adjacent lane.
Other Hazards Related to Tractor-Trailers
In addition to the hazards created by the size of the vehicle, commercial trucks present these risks:
Driver fatigue. Many commercial truck drivers travel hundreds of miles each day. Despite federal requirements that drivers take regular off-duty breaks, the rigors of the job often result in driver fatigue, which is a factor in about 13 percent of all accidents involving tractor-trailers. Fatigue is of particular concern in Port Cities, as they represent the end of the journey for many drivers who have spent many hours or days transporting goods for export.
Speeding. Every size-related issue listed above becomes an even bigger risk if the truck driver is exceeding the speed limit of the roadway or driving too fast for weather and traffic conditions. Truck drivers who are placed in emergency driving situations while speeding can’t avoid collisions. In addition, the severity of the crash is increased due to the force created by the additional speed.
Impairment. Commercial truck drivers must take random drug and alcohol tests to obtain and maintain their commercial driver’s license (CDL). Despite that, truck drivers are sometimes tempted to indulge in drugs or alcohol while on the job or are unaware that many popular prescription and over-the-counter medicines also have impairing effects.
Maintenance problems. The weight of the vehicle and the miles on it contribute to premature wearing of certain vehicle parts, including the tires and brakes. Truck drivers are federally required to perform a visual inspection of the vehicle before each trip to look for obvious issues that could create a hazard. Additionally, truck owners and trucking companies also must provide regular maintenance on the vehicle.
Driver distraction. Driving distractions are a leading cause of all types of motor vehicle accidents, and truck drivers face the same common driving distractions as others, such as texting, setting the vehicle’s GPS and other systems, eating, drinking, and smoking. Texting truck drivers are of particular concern, as this activity creates all three types of driver distractions: manual, visual, and cognitive.
Seeking Compensation After a Tampa Truck Accident
Like other types of motor vehicle accidents occurring on Florida roadways, Tampa truck accidents are often impacted by the state’s no-fault insurance system, which requires all registered drivers in Florida to purchase a personal injury protection (PIP) policy.
This policy is intended to provide coverage of medical expenses and wage loss after an accident, regardless of fault. The claimant must meet the state’s serious injury threshold to seek compensation from the at-fault party through the personal injury claims process.
Florida’s serious injury threshold involves injuries that result in the permanent and significant loss of a body part or function, significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, or death. If the injury involves any of those issues, may file a claim to seek compensation.
#1. The Personal Injury Claims Process
The process of resolving your Tampa truck accident claim generally begins when your attorney has established who the liable parties are and their insurance resources. They will file a claim on your behalf with the at-fault party’s insurer, including details of the accident, documentation of the expenses and impacts you have incurred, and a demand for the payment of the full value of your claim. This is known as a demand package.
The at-fault party’s insurer can respond to a demand package in one of three ways:
The insurance adjuster can evaluate the claim, admit the insured’s liability, and pay the claim. If this happens, the claim resolves.
The insurance adjuster can also evaluate the claim and deny payment on it. However, they must not only notify the claimant of the denial but also provide a reason for it. If the insurance provider denies the claim, you and your attorney will likely discuss filing the claim as a personal injury lawsuit.
After evaluating the claim, the insurance adjuster can admit to at least some liability on the part of the insured, but offer to settle the claim for less than what the plaintiff demanded. Often, this will begin settlement negotiations, in which your attorney will attempt to get the insurance adjuster to make a settlement offer that represents fair compensation for the injuries incurred.
If the insurer fails to make an offer that the claimant will agree to, the claimant—with the guidance of their attorney—can determine if it is time to file the claim in court. In Tampa, the standard time limit for filing a truck accident claim is four years after the date on which the accident occurred.
Settlement negotiations can continue after filing a truck accident lawsuit. Parties often reach settlements during litigation.
#2. The Type of Compensation Available in a Truck Accident Claim
Individuals who were injured in accidents involving semi-trucks can seek compensation for both the expenses and impacts of their injury, such as:
Medical expenses and the estimated cost of future medical expenses the claimant will likely incur in the future.
Wage loss due to missing work while injured, as well as loss of future earning capacity if the injury results in permanent disabilities that impact the sufferer’s ability to earn an income.
Property damage, such as the cost of repairing or replacing the vehicle you were driving when you became involved in an accident with a commercial truck.
Physical and emotional pain and suffering resulting from the injuries you incurred.
#3. Wrongful Death Truck Accident Claims
When an individual dies from a truck driver’s negligence, the family members and the estate can benefit from a wrongful death claim. They may file a wrongful death lawsuit if the at-fault party’s insurance provider fails to make a fair settlement offer.
Family members of the deceased or the deceased’s estate may recover:
Payment of medical expenses relating to the treatment of the deceased’s final injuries and the reasonable cost of burial or cremation and a funeral.
Loss of guidance, care, companionship, and instruction that the deceased provided to their family.
Loss of services and support that was provided by the deceased to family members.
Loss of net accumulations to the estate as a result of the untimely death.
Loss of inheritance that family members would have received if the deceased had lived.
Loss of earnings and other benefits the deceased could have reasonably been expected to receive if they had survived to retirement age.
#4. Proving Liability for a Tampa Truck Accident
To have a successful Tampa truck accident claim, you must be able to show that someone else was at fault for the accident that caused your injuries. In truck accidents, the truck driver can be liable, as well as the trucking company, the shipper, or even the manufacturers of defective parts used on the vehicle.
To prove liability, you must show:
The truck driver owed you the duty to avoid causing harm to you or your vehicle by driving safely while following federal and state trucking laws.
The driver breached the duty to care through illegal or unsafe actions.
The breach resulted in a Tampa truck accident that injured you.
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