Drivers in and around Fort Lauderdale routinely find themselves in traffic with tractor-trailers. With one of the most vital and bustling ports in Florida—Port Everglades—as well as a nearby international airport, commercial motor vehicles transport goods in and out of the area every day. In the U.S., tractor-trailers deliver the vast majority of these goods to their destinations. While regular traffic from tractor-trailers is a positive sign from an economic standpoint, these massive trucks pose many hazards for other roadway users.
If a tractor-trailer injured you in Fort Lauderdale, you can seek compensation for the expenses and psychological impacts that you incurred. An experienced Fort Lauderdale car accident attorney from The Levin Firm Personal Injury Lawyers can answer your questions about the process and handle your claim. Our attorneys have one goal, and that is to ensure that you recover full compensation for the harm you suffered.
What Makes Tractor-Trailers Accidents So Dangerous?
Tractor-trailers, also known as semi-trucks or 18-wheelers, are enormous compared to other vehicles on the roadway. In the U.S., tractor-trailers are about 72 feet long, 13.5 feet tall, and 8.5 feet wide. A tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded—20-30 times heavier than the average passenger car.
Most of the hazards these vehicles create relate directly to their size, such as:
- Significant blind spots. All vehicles have a blind spot—generally to the rear sides in passenger cars—that the driver cannot see in their mirrors. This requires the driver to look over their shoulder to ensure nobody occupies the lane they’re entering. Trucks have significant blind spots on all four sides of the vehicle, including an area that extends the length of the truck across two travel lanes on the passenger side.
- An increased stopping distance. No vehicle can stop instantaneously. In ideal road conditions, a truck will travel 20 to 40 percent longer before coming to a complete stop than a passenger vehicle. On wet roads or when the truck drives too fast, this stopping distance increases exponentially.
- Wide turns. Because of their length, trucks make wide turns when turning into narrow travel lanes. These turns often involve the driver swinging the truck into an adjacent travel lane while completing the turn. This can endanger other vehicles, particularly those in adjacent turn lanes that can get trapped between the truck and the curb.
- A higher center of gravity. This can cause the truck to overturn when attempting sharp corners or emergency driving procedures.
- High ground clearance. This clearance provides ample space between the truck’s underbelly and the roadway. Unfortunately, smaller vehicles can slide underneath. This deadly phenomenon is known as an underride.
Causes of Tractor-Trailer Accidents in Fort Lauderdale
According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), Broward County sees more than 4,000 accidents involving tractor-trailers on its roadways each year, resulting in around a dozen fatalities and 1,000 injuries. Some of the most common locations for these accidents include I-95, near the intersections of West Sunrise Boulevard, West Broward Boulevard, I-595, Marina Mile, and David Boulevard.
Common Causes of Fort Lauderdale Tractor-Trailer Accidents
The vast majority of truck-involved accidents are the result of driver error.
Some common driving errors that can result in a truck accident include:
- Driving too fast: Speeding reduces a driver’s ability to maneuver and control the vehicle, which is a risky proposition when it involves an 80,000-pound vehicle that is already difficult to maneuver. Speeding also increases the distance needed for the truck to come to a complete stop while decreasing the time the driver has to see and react to a hazard on the roadway.
- Fatigued driving: According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 13 percent of commercial truck drivers who were in an accident reported fatigue. Fatigue is a major concern for truck drivers, who spend several hours at a time staring at a roadway, often during nighttime hours when the body naturally wants to sleep.
- Tailgating: Because of the truck’s blind spots, they cannot see if a vehicle pulls into an area directly in front of them. Unfortunately, they will be unable to see if the vehicle directly in front of them stops, as well, resulting in a high risk of rear-ending it. Likewise, the truck driver can't see smaller vehicles following it too closely, as well, leaving them unaware of the danger to the other driver if the truck needs to stop quickly.
- Distracted driving: Truck drivers face the same driving distractions such as texting, eating, drinking, or messing with GPS and vehicle controls as any other driver does. Driving distractions come in three types: manual distractions, which cause the driver to take their hands from the wheel; visual distractions, which avert the driver’s eyes from watching the roadway; and cognitive distractions, which draw the driver’s mind from watching the road. Texting is of particular concern to traffic authorities, as it presents all three types of distractions at once.
- Alcohol impairment: Truck drivers have an increased duty of care toward other drivers due to the size of their vehicles. One of the features of this increased duty is a lower impairment limit than other drivers. Truck drivers have a federal impairment limit of 0.04 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood, as compared to the BAC limit of 0.08 for other drivers over 21. Unfortunately, the lower impairment limit and even the random drug and alcohol screenings that truck drivers must undergo to retain their commercial driver’s license (CDL), some drivers attempt to bend the rules, to the detriment of others on the roadway.
- Failure to yield: All drivers are required to yield the right-of-way to other travelers at times, such as at intersections where there is a stop sign or a red light, and at crosswalks, railroad crossings, and in other areas. Failing to yield is a massive contributor to a common intersection-related accident known as a broadside, or T-bone, collision. Being T-boned by a tractor-trailer is often deadly for the occupants of a much smaller passenger car.
- Improper maintenance: Because of the many miles they travel, often carrying a heavy load, a commercial motor vehicle requires more frequent maintenance than other vehicles. The brake system and tires are prone to excessive wear. Tire blowouts are a frequent cause of vehicle accidents, as they typically result in a loss of control of the vehicle.
- Vehicle defects: In addition to poorly maintained parts, trucks can sometimes have defective parts, as well. Maintenance can only eliminate product defects if the individual or entity maintaining the vehicle notices them. Unfortunately, only deadly accidents reveal many defects.
The Types of Injuries Sustained in Truck-Involved Accidents
Accidents involving a commercial truck can produce the most serious injuries a person can incur, including catastrophic injuries such as those involving the organs of the central nervous system—the brain and the spinal cord. Catastrophic injuries cause permanent disabilities that will damage the individual’s ability to earn an income or accomplish daily living tasks independently. Despite their important job of controlling the body’s functions and responses, the brain and the spinal cord have a very limited ability to heal from injury.
Brain injuries cause many deficits, depending on the area of the brain that sustained the damage and the injury's severity. Some of the most common deficits created by a traumatic brain injury include memory loss, the inability to control one’s behavior or emotions, the inability to move in a balanced and coordinated manner, and difficulty speaking or understanding spoken communication. The main risk of spinal cord injuries is paralysis, which is the loss of sensation and function below the injury. Individuals who incur a spinal cord injury in the cervical (neck) area, often lose the use of much of the body.
Other injuries that a Fort Lauderdale tractor-trailer accident may cause include:
- Bone fractures
- Internal injuries
- Traumatic amputations
- Deep cuts and lacerations
- Soft tissue damage
Seeking Compensation After an Accident with a Tractor-Trailer in Fort Lauderdale
If a semi-truck accident injured you in Fort Lauderdale because of the careless and reckless actions of the truck driver or someone else, you can seek compensation for the financial and psychological costs of your injury.
This involves seeking compensation through a third-party claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance policy. If the insurer fails to pay the amount sought or make a fair settlement offer, you can file suit in civil court within the statutory four-year deadline.
Determining and Proving Liability
To prove that the truck driver or another party was responsible for causing the accident that resulted in your injury, you must prove:
- The at-fault party had the duty to avoid causing injury or harm to others by taking the actions that a reasonable and prudent individual would in similar circumstances, such as driving their vehicle safely and under traffic laws.
- The at-fault party violated the duty they owed through illegal or unsafe actions, such as speeding or driving while fatigued.
- These actions resulted in an accident that injured you and left you with expenses and impacts on your quality of life.
The Type of Compensation the Is Available
A truck-involved accident can cause injuries that can alter the course of your entire life and impact every facet of it.
You can obtain compensation related to the economic and psychological impacts your injury has had, including:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Property damage
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
Note: If you have lost a loved one due to a truck-involved accident, you can seek compensation through a wrongful death claim filed by a personal representative of the estate.
In the wrongful death claims process, you can obtain compensation for the loss of support and services, companionship, protection, instruction and guidance, as well as medical expenses related to the treatment of your loved one’s final injury and funeral or burial expenses. Our experienced Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney can provide more details about this process.
Tractor-Trailer Accident in Fort Lauderdale? Call a Truck Accident Lawyer Near You
Look for an attorney that knows the complexities of truck accidents, the federal regulations involved, the evidence required to prove a trucking accident claim, and the lengths that high-powered insurance companies will go to avoid paying claims. A good Fort Lauderdale truck accident lawyer will always offer a free consultation to discuss your case and will only charge you a contingency fee, so you will never need to pay the attorney out of your own pocket.