Tampa Truck Accident Lawyers - Paul Knopf Bigger
Were you injured in a crash with an 18-wheeler? If you’ve been involved in a truck accident caused by a truck driver or trucking company, you may have the right to pursue compensation for your injuries and crash-related losses. However, trucking companies and their insurers will fight hard to reduce or deny liability for your injuries. A seasoned truck accident attorney from Paul Knopf Bigger will advocate for your rights and seek accountability from big trucking companies and insurers.
Our legal team is committed to fighting injustice and making a difference in the lives of Tampa injury victims. Our attorneys have a proven record of success in some of the most complex truck accident lawsuits, so you can trust that we have the experience, knowledge, and resources to build a solid case in your favor. Contact us today for a free consultation with a Tampa truck accident lawyer from our law firm.
How Florida Classifies Trucks
Florida law classifies trucks by weight and configuration. The statute defines a “truck” as any motor vehicle with a net vehicle weight of 5,000 pounds or less designed to carry goods other than the passengers’ personal effects. A “heavy truck” includes any motor vehicle with a net vehicle weight of over 5,000 pounds designed to carry goods or designed with a connecting device to draw a trailer. The law also classifies trucks as “commercial motor vehicles,” which include any vehicle not owned and operated by a governmental entity with a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more or with three or more axles.
The statute also defines specific types of trucks as follows:
- Truck Tractor – A motor vehicle with four or more wheels designed to draw a fifth wheel to carry cargo
- Wrecker – A motor vehicle used to tow or transport motor vehicles by boom, winch, car carrier, or other equipment
- Truck Trailer – A truck that tows a vehicle without motive power designed to connect to a motor vehicle such that no part of the trailer’s weight or load rests on the towing vehicle
- Semi-Trailer Truck – A truck that tows a vehicle without motive power designed to connect a motor vehicle, with some part of the weight of the semi-trailer or its cargo resting on the towing vehicle
Why Trucking Accidents Are More Complicated Than Other Motor Vehicle Crashes
Truck accident victims often find that pursuing compensation for injuries is complicated. Trucking accidents tend to be more complex for the following reasons:
- Truck Accidents Involve More Complex Evidence – State and federal regulations require truck drivers and trucking companies to keep detailed records, including hours-of-service logs, event data recorder logs, pre-trip inspection reports, and maintenance records. Truck accident investigations must examine these records for evidence proving the cause of the crash, which may require the assistance of computer experts when companies store records electronically.
- Truck Crashes Can Injure Numerous People – Truck accident claims can become more complicated when the crash injures multiple people because liable trucking companies may want to pursue a global settlement with all accident victims. On the other hand, liable parties may quickly deplete insurance coverage through separate injury claims.
- Truck Accident Claims May Involve Multiple Liable Parties – A truck accident may occur due to the negligence of a truck driver or other companies. At the same time, trucking companies may also bear employer liability for a truck driver who causes a big rig crash. Multiple defendants in a truck accident case may fight to allocate liability for crash victims’ injuries and losses.
- Trucking Companies May Have Complex Corporate Structures and Insurance Coverage – Accident victims may find it difficult to determine the correct liable company or the amount of available insurance coverage because trucking companies may use parent-subsidiary corporate arrangements or layered insurance policies.
State and Federal Laws on Trucking
Florida requires any truck driver operating a truck with a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more or carrying hazardous cargo to possess a valid commercial driver’s license with applicable endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles or carry hazardous cargo. In addition, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations also limit the hours a truck driver may spend on duty and behind the wheel. These rules include:
- Truck drivers may drive up to 11 hours after 10 hours off-duty.
- Truck drivers may not drive after the 14th hour after coming on duty from a 10-hour off-duty period.
- Drivers must take a break of at least 30 minutes after driving for eight hours since the last break or off-duty period.
- Drivers may not drive after spending 60 hours on duty in seven days or 70 hours in eight days.
- Drivers may extend the 11- and 14-hour limits by up to two hours when encountering adverse driving conditions.
The regulations exempt truck drivers who operate within a 150-air-mile radius of their work reporting location, return to the location at the end of their shift, and work no longer than 14 hours.
Common Types and Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents in Tampa
The most common types of commercial truck accidents include the following:
- Rear-end collisions
- Head-on collisions
- Side-impact/T-bone collisions
- Sideswipe collisions
- Underride accidents (vehicles getting wedged underneath a trailer)
Many truck accidents occur due to a truck driver’s or trucking company’s negligence. Common causes of 18-wheeler accidents include:
- Tailgating/following too closely
- Reckless driving, including excessive speeding or swerving through traffic
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Failing to check mirrors and blind spots or use turn signals when turning, changing lanes, or backing up
- Drowsy/fatigued driving
- Distracted driving
- Drunk/drugged driving
- Inadequate truck/trailer maintenance
- Unsafe cargo loads, including overloading a truck, not balancing the cargo load, or failing to secure cargo from shifting during travel
- Truck driver inexperience
Typical Injuries Resulting from a Truck Collision
Because commercial trucks weigh tens of thousands of pounds, they impart violent forces in collisions with other vehicles. As a result, these crashes can cause severe injuries, such as:
- Severe lacerations or abrasions
- Degloving injuries
- Burns from post-crash fires
- Crush injuries
- Puncture wounds
- Dislocated joints
- Ligament sprains or tears
- Muscle/tendon strains or tears
- Broken bones
- Nerve damage
- Internal organ damage or internal bleeding
- Neck and back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Traumatic amputation, dismemberment, or limb loss
In addition, if injuries from a Tampa truck accident end up being fatal, the victim’s family could file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Parties Who Could Be Held Liable for a Truck Wreck in Tampa
The trucking industry comprises multiple individuals and entities that may be liable for a truck crash. Parties who may have liability for a big rig crash include:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The cargo/freight company
- The truck’s owner
- The truck’s mechanic
- The truck’s manufacturer or a truck part manufacturer
Compensation You Could Recover in a Tampa Truck Accident Claim
If you’ve suffered injuries or property damage in a commercial truck crash, you could be entitled to seek compensation for your losses. The compensation available in a truck accident claim includes:
- Costs of medical treatment and rehabilitation of accident injuries
- Costs of long-term care and support services you may need for disabilities caused by your injuries
- Loss of wages/income if you need to take time off work to recover from injuries or if you earn less in a part-time/light-duty role during your recovery
- Loss of future earning capacity and employment benefits if you develop a permanent disability
- Pain and suffering, including loss of quality of life due to permanent scarring/disfigurement or disabilities
- Vehicle repair expenses and related costs, such as temporary car rental fees
- Reimbursement for the value of your totaled vehicle
Could You Recover Compensation if You’re Partly to Blame for a Trucking Accident?
Florida follows a modified comparative negligence rule for personal injury cases, including for a trucking accident. Under this rule, an accident victim may seek compensation if their share of fault is equal to or less than that of other liable parties. However, an accident victim who is more than 50 percent to blame for the crash is barred from pursuing compensation.
In addition, this rule affects the compensation an accident victim can receive. A judge or jury can reduce the compensation in proportion to the accident victim’s percentage of fault.
Benefits of Hiring a Tampa Attorney for Your Truck Accident Claim
Recovering from a devastating 18-wheeler, semi-truck, big rig, or other type of commercial truck accident can be stressful and overwhelming. A Tampa truck accident attorney can handle the legal details while you focus on healing. Hiring a lawyer for your truck accident claim is beneficial because your lawyer can:
- Prepare and file all necessary paperwork and communicate with insurance adjusters, trucking company representatives, and defense attorneys on your behalf
- Investigate the truck accident and gather crucial evidence to prove liability
- Document the extent and severity of your injuries and losses to calculate the value of your losses, accounting for past, current, and future expenses
- Negotiate a settlement or represent you in court if a truck accident lawsuit is the best way to pursue maximum compensation