Truck rollovers happen in the Fort Lauderdale area. In fact, anywhere that trucks travel regularly, the risk of a rollover is never far away. Rollover accidents can happen anywhere on the I-95 corridor, especially the on-ramps and off-ramps at the I-595 interchange. They can happen as trucks enter, leave, and navigate Port Everglades. They can even happen on the neighborhood streets of Coral Ridge or Melrose Park.
No matter where a truck rollover occurs, however, it will almost always cause significant damage. A rollover can destroy a truck. It can injure or kill the truck driver, drivers and passengers in nearby vehicles, and even pedestrians and cyclists. It can lead to dangerous cargo spilling from a truck. It will block traffic, damage neighboring property, and lead to extensive business losses.
Minimizing the prevalence of truck rollovers starts with learning about the prevalence of rollovers and what factors contribute to them. For this, we dive into a recent report prepared by a group of researchers associated with the Florida Department of Transportation entitled Large Truck Crash Analysis for Freight Mobility and Safety Enhancement in Florida (the FDOT Report). As its name suggests, the 400+ page FDOT Report offers a comprehensive review of when, where, how, and why truck crashes happen in Florida, and what the State can do to prevent them. This blog post draws on the FDOT Report’s findings, to help us understand the phenomenon of truck rollover accidents in Fort Lauderdale. This post also goes over where victims can turn to for compensation when injured in truck accidents.
Let’s start with the numbers.
The FDOT Report analyzed ten recent years’ worth of data about truck crashes. Over that decade, 273,017 truck accidents happened in Florida. Of those, 44,986 (18.5 percent) resulted in injuries deemed non-incapacitating, 7,912 (3 percent) caused incapacitating injuries, and 2,148 (0.9 percent) resulted in fatalities. The remainder caused property damage, but no injuries.
The FDOT Report identified 3,379 (1.4 percent) of the truck accidents during those ten years as rollover accidents. Rollovers also accounted for 41 percent of all non-collision, single truck crashes, making them the most common type of single truck accident observed.
In stark contrast to accidents as a whole, in which just 22.4 percent of truck crashes resulted in non-incapacitating, incapacitating, or fatal injuries, the FDOT Report also disclosed that more than half of all rollover truck accidents (52 percent) resulted in injuries or fatalities. What’s more, 10.7 percent of rollover accidents caused incapacitating or fatal injuries, compared to just 3.9 percent across all truck accidents.
In other words, although rollover truck accidents constitute a relatively small percentage of the total truck crashes in Fort Lauderdale and across Florida every year, they cause a disproportionate amount of harm. In fact, a truck rollover is nearly three times more likely than the average to result in an injury or fatality. Rollovers tend to be especially deadly when the truck driver is not wearing a seatbelt.
Causes of Fort Lauderdale Rollovers
We know that Fort Lauderdale truck rollover accidents, while rare, pose a heightened risk of serious and fatal injury. But, what causes these accidents? That’s the question we turn to next.
The FDOT Report offers both specific and general observations that can help us find an answer.
Numerous researchers have found, and the FDOT Report confirms, that rollovers have a higher likelihood of occurring on road curves than on straightways. This makes intuitive sense. Trucks have a relatively high center of gravity. As a result, they tend to tip when they are subjected to forces perpendicular to their direction of travel, which is exactly what happens when a vehicle rounds a curve.
In Fort Lauderdale, potential curve-related danger areas for truck rollovers include:
- The ramps at I-95 and N.E. 62nd Street.
- The ramps at I-95 and West Sunrise Boulevard.
- The East Sunrise Boulevard and U.S. Route 1 interchange.
- S.E. 17th Street west of U.S. Route 1.
- The ramps at I-95, I-595, and U.S. Route 1 surrounding Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Of course, not all trucks tip over on curves. Speed plays a critical role in determining which trucks will navigate a curve safely, and which will roll. The greater the speed, the greater the chances of a rollover accident.
We see this truism reflected in a variety of FDOT Report statistics. About 86 percent of all rollovers in Florida over those ten years the FDOT Report studied occurred outside city centers, where trucks can gather speed, compared to 14 percent that happened at in-town locations where trucks have little room to accelerate.
Excessive speed can lead to especially dangerous results on road curves. As speed increases, so does the sideways (perpendicular) force on the truck body that can cause it to tip and roll. However, even on straight roads, speed increases the likelihood of a truck rolling. For example, a truck that jackknifes on a straight stretch of highway stands a greater chance of rolling the faster it is traveling at the moment its trailer and cab swing toward each other.
Several studies cited in the FDOT Report found a link between alcohol use and the risk of rollover accidents. This is not especially surprising, considering the well-documented adverse effects drinking has on driving abilities. An alcohol-impaired truck driver in Fort Lauderdale will tend to take more risks, have diminished motor coordination and visual acuity, and suffer from impaired judgment. All of these impairments make an accident more likely, including rollovers.
However, alcohol use is, on the whole, a smaller cause of accidents among truck drivers, compared to the population of drivers as a whole. A far smaller percentage of truck accidents result from drunk driving by a trucker than the percentage of accidents involving intoxicated drivers of passenger vehicles.
Excessive fatigue negatively affects driving ability in similar ways to alcohol consumption. A tired driver makes poor decisions, lacks motor coordination, and struggles to perceive road hazards.
Fatigue is a well-recognized and widespread problem among truck drivers, who drive long shifts at irregular hours and on tight schedules, and who have relatively poor health as a group. By some estimates, truck driver fatigue may account for 10 percent to 20 percent of all fatal truck accidents, although data is difficult to come by because fatigue often goes underreported in crashes. Many crash incident reports cite driver errors as the cause of a crash, when in fact, fatigue caused a driver to make those errors.
Fatigue can lead to rollovers in Fort Lauderdale by increasing the likelihood of a truck running off the road and rolling down a shoulder, of a driver failing to react appropriately or quickly enough to prevent a rig from jackknifing at high speed, or of a driver nodding off at the wheel and failing to navigate a curve at a safe speed.
Equipment Imbalance or Malfunction
In light of the known risks of rollovers, owners and operators of commercial trucks must take care to maintain their equipment in working order, and to load cargo in a manner that minimizes the likelihood of the vehicle tipping. Unfortunately, they sometimes fail to exercise such care. An equipment malfunction can throw off the balance of a truck just enough to cause it to tip. Likewise, cargo loaded improperly can exacerbate the effects of a truck’s inherently high center of gravity, making a rollover more likely.
Seeking Compensation for a Truck Rollover Accident in Fort Lauderdale
For victims of rollover accidents in Fort Lauderdale, it might not seem important to know what caused the crash that injured them or tragically took the life of their loved one. However, identifying the cause of a rollover frequently plays a critical role in obtaining compensation to help victims pay for their injuries and losses.
Finding the Cause Points to Liability
Experienced Fort Lauderdale truck accident attorneys understand that the cause of the accident can give important clues about who owes compensation to accident victims. By identifying the cause, skilled lawyers and investigators can figure out who had responsibility for preventing that cause, or whose unreasonably dangerous decisions or actions led to it happening. For example:
- A rollover caused by speeding, alcohol use, or fatigue suggests liability for a crash lies with the driver and, perhaps, the driver’s employer for failing to train and supervise the driver’s actions.
- A rollover caused by a dangerous road curve could suggest liability for a local government agency tasked with designing, building, and maintaining Fort Lauderdale-area roads in a safe condition for trucks.
- A rollover caused by a truck equipment malfunction could mean financial responsibility for a crash rests with the truck’s manufacturer or of a truck fleet maintenance contractor.
Oftentimes, of course, a truck rollover accident has multiple potential causes. In those cases, lawyers for victims may discover that multiple parties should be held financially accountable to the victims.
Finding the Cause Facilitates Obtaining Damages
By helping lawyers to determine who has liability for a Fort Lauderdale rollover truck accident, finding an accident’s cause also makes it possible for victims to secure money damages. In fact, the more careful and thorough the lawyer’s investigation of the cause of an accident, the higher the chances of securing the maximum compensation available in any given situation.
More so than crashes involving only passenger vehicles, truck accidents frequently affect the legal and financial rights of multiple parties. For example, it is not uncommon for the truck owner, cargo owner, and driver’s employer to be different businesses. Each of those parties may carry their own liability insurance that may pay for damages to rollover crash victims, and each may have a strong motivation to point at each other, or at crash victims themselves, to avoid liability for the large-scale damages a rollover can cause.
Pinpointing the cause of a crash helps a rollover accident victim’s lawyer to cut through the noise and hold the proper parties accountable. This, in turn, enables the victims to seek compensation for:
- Medical expenses caused by a rollover;
- Out-of-pocket expenses, such as the costs inflicted by property damage, related to the rollover.
- Lost wages and income resulting from missing work while recovering from accident injuries or becoming disabled by accident injuries.
- Pain, suffering, and other life difficulties occasioned by the crash and the victims’ injuries.
Sometimes, by identifying the cause of a Fort Lauderdale rollover, a lawyer may uncover severe wrongdoing on the part of the at-fault party. In those cases, the victims may also have the right to ask a Fort Lauderdale court to award punitive damages designed to punish that wrongdoing, and to ensure that others in the trucking industry do not engage in similar conduct that harms the public.
How Experienced Truck Accident Lawyers Can Help After a Rollover
In the aftermath of a rollover truck accident in Fort Lauderdale, victims face severe physical, emotional, and financial impacts. The basic job of a truck accident lawyer is to help them secure the types of compensation noted above. A lawyer may do that by:
Investigating the accident’s cause;
- Evaluating the scope of the harm the victims suffered, to ensure they demand full compensation for their damages;
- Planning a legal strategy designed to recover compensation as quickly as possible;
- Answering victims’ questions and helping them to make practical decisions that may affect their rights;
- Preparing, filing, and litigating legal actions demanding compensation;
- Negotiating settlements with insurance companies, trucking companies, and others, to expedite financial recovery
- Representing the victims in trials seeking compensation from a Fort Lauderdale judge and jury;
- Protecting the victim’s rights if trucking companies try to avoid liability by seeking bankruptcy court protection;
- Collecting settlements, judgments, and jury awards owed to rollover crash victims.
Of course, a lawyer cannot take any of these steps on behalf of a victim until the victim reaches out and asks for the lawyer’s help. The sooner a Fort Lauderdale rollover crash victim takes that step, the better the chances of a favorable outcome to the victim’s claim.