Overloaded Truck Accident Lawyers in Tampa - Paul Knopf Bigger

Modern commercial trucks can haul tens of thousands of pounds of cargo, and specialized trucks can transport even more. However, there are limits to how much trucks can safely haul, so state and federal regulations set weight restrictions for commercial trucks. But some trucking companies negligently or recklessly overload trucks or trailers beyond the hauling capacity or legal limits. An overloaded truck poses a significant hazard to everyone on the road because overloading makes the vehicle harder to control.

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident in Tampa or anywhere in Florida involving an overloaded truck, you may have a legal claim against the truck driver or trucking company. At Paul Knopf Bigger, we are committed to fighting for justice and improving the lives of truck accident victims in Tampa.

Contact our office for a free initial case evaluation with a Tampa overloaded truck accident attorney. We can help you pursue compensation for your injuries and other crash-related losses.

What Makes an Overloaded Truck Dangerous?

A truck that exceeds state or federal weight restrictions, or the manufacturer’s recommended weight limits, poses a severe hazard on the road. Some of the reasons an overloaded truck can be dangerous include:

  • Increased Difficulty in Controlling the Truck – Extra weight reduces steering performance. Operating a commercial truck requires skill and care, and overloading a truck can make it difficult for a truck driver to maneuver the vehicle correctly.
  • Reduced Braking Performance – The increased mass of an overloaded truck means the vehicle needs a longer distance to come to a stop. Truck drivers must keep extra space between the overloaded truck and other vehicles to avoid collisions.
  • Increased Susceptibility to Adverse Weather Conditions – Overloaded trucks become even more dangerous in inclement weather, including heavy rain, fog, or high winds. Slick road surfaces and strong winds pushing against the side of the truck can make driving an overweight truck even more challenging for a truck driver.

Florida Laws on Commercial Vehicle Weight Limits

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles issues regulations limiting commercial vehicle weights and the weight that trucks may place on each axle. The regulations limit vehicles’ gross weight (the total weight of a truck and its load), external bridge weight (the distance between the center of the first and last axle of a vehicle or combination), and internal bridge weight (the distance between the centers of two or more axles but not the entire length of the vehicle).

Maximum vehicle weights permitted by Florida law range from 44,000 pounds to 80,000 pounds, depending on the distance between axles and the number of axles on a truck. Commercial vehicles can exceed weight restrictions if a trucking company obtains an overweight permit from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). In addition, FDOT imposes weight limits for commercial vehicles that travel over designated bridges in the state.

Types of Crashes Due to Overloaded Trucks in Florida and Tampa

An overloaded truck can be difficult for a truck driver to control. Various types of crashes occur due to overloaded trucks, including the following:

  • Rear-End Collisions – An overloaded truck needs more distance to slow down and stop, posing a higher risk of rear-ending another vehicle, especially if the truck driver fails to leave enough space between the truck and the vehicle ahead.
  • Rollover Accidents – Overloading cargo onto a truck can increase the risk of a rollover accident, especially if the truck driver and trucking company have not correctly balanced the cargo load or put heavier items toward the top of the load.
  • Runaway/Road Departure Accidents – A truck overload puts stress on the truck’s braking system, which can cause the brakes to fail, leading to an accident where the truck runs off the road because the driver cannot stop the vehicle.
  • Cargo Accidents – Excessive cargo loads can cause locks, latches, and other securing equipment to fail, potentially spilling a truck’s cargo onto nearby vehicles or onto the road, where it will pose a hazard for oncoming traffic.

Common Injuries Caused by an Overloaded Truck

Truck accidents frequently cause severe injuries, as the weight of a commercial truck creates more violent forces in a collision. The forces are even more potent when an overloaded truck is involved in an accident. As a result, an overloaded truck accident can lead to life-altering injuries for accident victims, such as:

  • Severe lacerations or degloving injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Dislocated joints
  • Ligament sprains/tears
  • Muscle and tendon strains/tears
  • Whiplash
  • Internal organ injuries/internal bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Neck and back injuries, including herniated spinal discs
  • Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Traumatic amputation or limb loss

In addition, if an overloaded truck accident in Tampa is fatal, the victim’s family could file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Who Is Responsible for Securing a Load on a Truck?

Under federal regulations, a truck driver and their trucking company bear responsibility for distributing load weight, securing cargo from shifting during travel, and securing the tailgate, doors, or other equipment used to fasten the cargo.

A truck driver must ensure they have secured their cargo load before they begin driving. Drivers must also stop within the first 50 miles of a trip to inspect the cargo and secure devices, adjust devices, or add more devices as necessary to prevent cargo from shifting during travel. After that, drivers must again inspect their cargo load whenever coming on or going off duty or after three hours of driving or 150 miles of travel, whichever occurs first.

However, drivers do not have to comply with these regulations when they drive a sealed vehicle and have received instructions not to open the vehicle to inspect the cargo or when the manner of loading makes inspection impractical.

Who Can Be Held Responsible for an Overloaded Truck Accident in Florida and Tampa?

Various parties may bear liability for an accident caused by a truck overload. Responsibility for an overloaded truck accident may depend on the circumstances leading up to the accident. Potentially liable parties in an overloaded truck accident case include:

  • The Truck Driver – Federal regulations require a truck driver to ensure they have a safe cargo load before they begin driving and to regularly inspect the cargo load to address any risks of shifting or spilling cargo. Because of this, a truck driver may bear responsibility for an overloaded truck accident if they fail to inspect their cargo loads or correct potential hazards. A truck driver can address potential hazards by adding straps or other securing equipment to the load. The driver may also have liability for an overloaded truck accident if they were careless behind the wheel because driving an overweight truck requires extra caution.
  • The Trucking Company – Trucking companies may only permit truck drivers to operate their vehicles once drivers fulfill their obligations under federal regulations to secure their cargo loads. Trucking firms that employ drivers may be liable for overloaded trucks that cause an accident due to the driver’s negligence.
  • The Shipping Company – Although shipping companies are not responsible under federal regulations for securing cargo, they could be liable for an overloaded truck accident if their negligence contributes to it. For example, a shipping company may improperly load cargo in a trailer or container by not distributing weight or loading heavier items toward the bottom. They may also provide the trucking company with an incorrect weight for the cargo load, causing the trucking company to operate an overloaded vehicle.
  • The Truck Manufacturer – The manufacturer of the truck may have liability for an overloaded truck accident if design or manufacturing defects in the truck cause a cargo accident, such as a defect in the latch for the truck’s tailgate or cargo doors.
  • Cargo Equipment Manufacturers – Manufacturers of equipment used to secure cargo in a truck may also have responsibility for an accident if their equipment fails due to design or manufacturing defects.

What Are Recoverable Damages or Compensation in an Overloaded Truck Accident in Florida?

If you’ve been injured in a collision with an overloaded truck in Florida, you may have the right to seek compensation from the at-fault truck driver or trucking company. You could be compensated for the following financial and personal losses:

  • Medical treatment and rehabilitation expenses
  • Costs of care or support you may need for long-term or permanent disabilities, including home health services, medical or mobility equipment, or housekeeping assistance
  • Ongoing and future losses of wages or income if you develop a temporary or permanent disability that prevents you from working
  • Physical pain and anguish
  • Emotional trauma or distress
  • Loss of enjoyment and quality of life caused by disabilities or visible disfigurement or scarring you suffer in an overloaded truck accident
  • Costs of repairs to your vehicle or reimbursement for your vehicle’s value if totaled in the crash

Contact a Florida and Tampa Overloaded Truck Accident Attorney

If you’ve suffered injuries in an accident caused by an overloaded truck, you deserve effective legal representation to pursue compensation for your losses. At Paul Knopf Bigger, our seasoned attorneys can fight for the justice and financial relief you deserve. Contact our office today for a free no-obligation consultation with a Florida and Tampa overloaded truck accident lawyer and learn more about your legal options.