Florida is one of the largest state exporters of goods in the nation, providing other regions and countries with goods such as agricultural and manufactured products. The state is also an active importer, bringing in products from other areas for use by Florida residents and visitors. Most products brought into or out of the state have in common that they were transported along public roadways by a commercial truck.
While Florida’s economy relies on the traffic of commercial trucks (also known as semi-trucks or tractor-trailers), the drivers of these trucks are often greeted by Tampa’s well-publicized traffic congestion when they travel into, out of, or through the area. Congestion increases the risk of truck-involved accidents as these massive vehicles lack the maneuverability of smaller vehicles. One of the most significant risks to other motorists in traffic congestion involves the truck’s blind spots.
If a blind spot truck accident injured you, Florida laws allow you to seek compensation through the personal injury claims process. An experienced Tampa truck accident attorney can provide services to help you with your claim.
What Is the No-Zone?
The blind spots in commercial trucks are so large that they have their name: The no zone. While cars usually only have blind spots on the driver’s and passenger’s side, a truck’s no-zones occur on all sides. This means that if you’re driving in the close vicinity of a semi on I-275, particularly alongside the right side of the truck, chances are, the driver cannot see you.
The Front No-Zone
Most commercial trucks in the U.S. are about 13.5 feet tall, with the hood and cab located much higher than those found in passenger cars. Because of this, the driver cannot see vehicles and other obstacles within 20 feet of the front of the truck.
No Zones on the Sides of the Truck
The blind spots along the sides of a commercial truck are significant, extending out from the truck along the entire length of the vehicle for two adjacent lanes on the right (passenger) side and from the front of the truck’s cab to the front of its trailer on the left (driver) side.
The Rear No-Zone
Commercial trucks do not have a rearview mirror, as the trailer is taller than the cab’s back window, blocking the driver’s view of what is behind the vehicle. The rear blind spot on a commercial truck extends about 200 feet from the back of the truck.
Why No-Zone Misleads Blind Spot Truck Accident Victims
If you research blind spot truck accidents, you can find plenty of guidance from governmental agencies, trucking industry websites, and other sources regarding no zones. Interestingly, this guidance generally refers to how other motorists can avoid causing a no-zone accident by driving too close to the truck. While the advice is sound, these statements imply that the driver’s responsibility is to prevent these collisions.
According to Florida’s traffic laws, drivers in Tampa-including those driving commercial trucks-must operate their vehicles in a single lane as much as reasonably practicable. When drivers must move to another lane, they can only do so if they ascertain that they can do it safely.
In other words: Truck accidents occurring due to a side blind spot are typically the fault of the truck driver, as they are required to ensure that a lane is clear before moving into it. They must ensure a clear path before backing up. They must maintain a safe following distance behind other vehicles, making the truck driver at fault for most front or rear blind spot truck accidents.
Who Is Liable for a No-Zone Accident?
Liability is a term that refers to the legal responsibility a party has to compensate those who they injure. Usually, the negligent individual—the at-fault party, the truck driver who did not ensure that it was safe to move the vehicle by checking their blind spot—is liable for your injuries. However, the trucking company can also be responsible.
Many truck drivers work for themselves as owners/operators. Others, however, work as employees for trucking companies. No Zone accidents involving drivers employed by companies generally spell liability for the company. This is because vicarious liability rules hold companies liable for their employees’ actions.
Additionally, trucking companies have several responsibilities that pertain to this type of accident, including:
- Owning and insuring the truck that the driver is operating and taking measures to ensure that the truck is as safe as possible for both the employee and other roadway users by installing backup cameras.
- Properly training their drivers on the procedures necessary to protect others from harm, such as dealing with blind spots.
The Types of Injuries Associated With Blind Spot Truck Accidents
Blind spot truck accidents are among the most deadly types of accidents. Because the truck driver does not see the car, motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian, they do not attempt to avoid the accident. Accidents occurring in the side blind spot often involve a vehicle underride, which occurs when a smaller vehicle slips into the space between the truck’s underside and the roadway during an accident.
Some types of injuries commonly incurred as a result of a blind spot truck accident include:
- Traumatic brain injuries are often considered catastrophic injuries due to the high likelihood of permanent disabilities occurring from the injury that will prevent the sufferer from earning an income.
- Traumatic amputations resulting from sheering or crash injuries.
- Spinal cord injuries caused by the force of the collision. This is also commonly referred to as a catastrophic injury due to its impact on the sufferer’s earning capacity.
- Internal injuries can result in dangerous blood loss or even the loss of that organ’s function.
- Broken bones can result in bone deformities, chronic pain, or even limited use.
Establishing a Value to a Tampa Blind Spot Truck Accident Claim
The average cost of spending one day in the hospital in Florida ranges from more than $1,600 for a for-profit hospital to over $2,000 for a state or local government-run hospital. And this is just the cost of the bed.
Additional costs of medical treatment include:
- Emergency room services.
- Prescription medication.
- The services of your physician, surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurses.
- Even the provision of prosthetics, a wheelchair, or crutches.
Commercial truck owners and trucking companies must have more liability insurance due to the likelihood of more extensive injuries resulting from the massive size discrepancy between vehicles involved in the accident. This insurance varies but ranges between $750,000 to over $1 million, depending on the type of cargo the truck is carrying.
The compensation needed from this policy to pay for your expenses and impacts has to cover those you have already experienced and the costs you will incur in the future, such as the need for medical treatment to address your disabilities or the loss of future earning capacity.
Your attorney will generally wait until you have reached maximum medical improvement before valuing your claim. This is when you are no longer recovering from your injury but learning to live with it.
Proving Liability in a Blind Spot Accident
While it’s one thing to know who is liable for a blind spot accident, it’s another thing to prove it.
Often, the evidence used to verify this type of accident includes:
- The police report indicating the cause of the crash
- Testimony from eyewitnesses
- Surveillance video from businesses in the area where the accident occurred or from dash cams in either vehicle or the vehicle of another motorist
- Pictures of the damage that occurred to both vehicles
Your attorney must be able to show the following elements of negligence, to have a successful outcome to your claim:
- The at-fault truck driver had a responsibility to take reasonable actions to avoid causing harm to others or their property.
- A breach in this responsibility took place when the at-fault truck driver failed to clear the path before moving.
- This breach resulted in a blind spot accident that injured you. Your injury caused expenses.
Common Defenses in a Blind Spot Truck Accident Claim
The insurance providers who provide commercial liability insurance are not necessarily in the business of helping those their insured injured. They’re in the industry to make money, and one of the ways they make money is by avoiding payouts on truck accident claims.
A standard method is to shift liability to the victim rather than the truck driver.
Common defenses to blind spot accidents include:
- The claimant was distracted and lingered in the blind spot for too long. This defense capitalizes on the common belief that it’s the responsibility of other motorists to avoid the blind spot when there is nothing in the law that states that you cannot drive alongside a commercial truck.
- The driver is not at fault because they didn’t cause the truck to have a blind spot. The problem with this argument is that even though they didn’t cause the blind spot, they knew it existed and had the responsibility to check it before moving the vehicle.
- The driver’s backup or blind spot camera malfunctioned. This suggests that the liability is on the manufacturer. However, in most cases, even if the camera malfunctioned, the driver still had a responsibility to ensure a travel lane was clear before changing lanes or that the area behind the vehicle was clear before backing up.
An experienced truck accident attorney knows how to refute these common defenses to convince a judge or jury that the liability remains with the truck driver.
Do You Need an Attorney to Seek Compensation for Blind Spot Truck Accident Injuries?
Any truck accident is a complex claim simply due to the regulations placed on the trucking industry, the documentation, and the truck driver or trucking company possesses many of these documents. An experienced Tampa truck accident attorney can provide several services to help you with your claim, including discovering and organizing the evidence needed to prove liability for the accident.