Man walking towards 18-wheeler truck

Florida Truck Accidents and their Victims

Florida is consistently ranked as one of the worst states for truck accidents. When considering the total miles driven and the total population of registered drivers, Florida sees more truck accidents than the national average, even more than other highly populated states like California. According to 2020 data from the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV) department, medium and heavy trucks, which encompass the majority of commercial vehicles like semi-trucks, were involved in more than 30,000 accidents on Florida’s roadways that year.

FHSMV truck crash data from 2020 alone shows that large trucks were involved in:

  • 30,995 accidents that did not cause any injuries that required medical attention.
  • 957 accidents that might have caused injuries that were not reported, possibly for insurance reasons.
  • 463 accidents that caused injuries that required medical attention.
  • 185 accidents that caused serious injuries that required urgent medical attention.
  • 32 accidents that caused a traffic fatality.

In Florida, Miami-Dade County had the most commercial vehicle accidents recorded in the 2020 FHSMV crash data, reaching 6,291 total collisions. Broward County had the second-most recorded commercial motor vehicle accidents at 3,244. Both counties are highly populated and act as tourist areas, so it is not a surprise that heavier traffic in those counties correlates to an increased risk of a truck accident.

The populations in Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie Counties all continue to grow annually. Thus, in places like West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, and Port St. Lucie, we are seeing more and more victims of truck accidents. In fact, just last week, five people were seriously injured after a fuel tanker caught fire on Interstate 95 in Delray Beach.

What is Causing Truck Accidents in Florida?

Most of the accidents – an estimated 38% or so – are believed to have been caused by common place truck driver negligence. The second-most likely cause of truck accidents in Florida in 2020 was a failure to yield the right-of-way, which accounted for approximately 17% of all accidents. Other common causes of truck accidents include the following:

  • Exceeding the Speed Limit
  • Aggressive Driving
  • Distracted Driving
  • Driving while Fatigued
  • Failing to adjust to road and weather conditions
  • Driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol
  • Negligent hiring of drivers by the trucking company
  • Failing to properly train drivers
  • Poor Vehicle Maintenance
  • Poor Cargo Loading
     

Other Factors That Contribute to Truck Accidents

On any given day, the rate of auto accidents and truck accidents in Florida tends to increase noticeably between 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM. This information coincides with an expected increase in traffic during lunch and after-work rush hours. Commercial vehicles tend to complete their routes during late night and early hours to avoid traffic, though. The rush hour crash increase might clearly show that large trucks are inordinately dangerous compared to smaller vehicles, underscoring the importance of trucking companies scheduling routes off peak traffic hours.

As mentioned above, inclement weather can also play a major role in an increased risk of a truck accident. Although rain appears to be a significant factor in many accidents, cloudy weather without rain actually contributed to more traffic collisions overall. Interestingly, this data could show that drivers know to act more carefully, during the rain but do not exhibit extra care in overcast weather like they should.

There are special federal regulations promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that truck drivers are required to follow, especially in inclement weather. Specifically, under Section 392.14 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, Hazardous Conditions; extreme caution, commercial motor vehicle drivers shall exercise “extreme caution” when encountering hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust or smoke, which adversely affect visibility or traction. The applicable regulations mandate that drivers reduce their speed when these conditions exist. Moreover, if the conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle should be discontinued and not resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated. Unfortunately, many commercial drivers do not follow these required rules of the road.

Injuries Suffered in Florida Truck Accidents

Commercial motor vehicles include vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 pounds or more; are designed to transport more than 15 passengers including the driver or are transporting hazardous materials in quantities requiring the vehicle to be placarded.

Quite commonly, a semi-tractor without a trailer can weigh up to 25,000 pounds. A semi-truck with an empty trailer can weigh around 35,000 pounds, and an 18-wheeler with a loaded trailer can weigh as much as 40 tons or 80,000 pounds. Due to the sheer size and weights of these vehicles, when a truck accident happens, the victims often suffer catastrophic injuries or even death.

Some of the worst injuries caused by truck accidents include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Paralysis
  • Neck injuries and whiplash
  • Multiple broken bones
  • Permanent disfigurement

As mentioned, in 2020, at least 185 truck accidents in Florida caused serious, incapacitating injuries. It is not known the exact type of injuries suffered in those other cases, though. Those other less serious injuries often still result in medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering to the victims.

The worst consequence of a truck accident is wrongful death. At least 32 fatalities were suffered by drivers and passengers in smaller vehicles after being hit by a truck in Florida in 2020. The 2020 FHSMV data does not specify how many of those fatalities were suffered by truck drivers in those accidents. Assumedly, most crashes did not cause truck driver fatalities as truckers tend to be much more protected from the impact of a crash than people in smaller vehicles.

How You Can Help Prevent Truck Accidents

To bring truck accidents in Florida down as much as possible, everyone on the road has to focus on roadway safety, not just truck drivers. Whenever you are on the road and see a commercial truck, big rig, or tractor-trailer, you should think about what you can do to avoid getting into a crash.

Here are some easy tips to remember when driving near a commercial truck:

  1. Avoid blind spots: Semi-trucks have large blind spots on all four sides. Each one can hide at least one vehicle. Do your best not to linger in a truck’s blind spot by planning your lane changes well in advance.
  1. Give the Truck Extra Space: Because of their size and weight, it takes longer for a commercial truck to accelerate and stop. Also, they take wide turns, sometimes taking up multiple lanes.

They are also more susceptible to road and weather conditions. Conditions can cause them to jack knife or lose control. As such, the best rule of thumb is to always keep a distance.

  1. Pass on the left: If you have to pass a semi-truck, pass on the left when possible. The left-side blind spot is much smaller than the blind spot on the right, so you will be “invisible” to the truck driver for a much shorter period.
  1. Wait to turn right: Don’t try to turn right while next to a semi-truck that also wants to turn right at an intersection. The truck will turn sharply and occupy some of the right lane as it does. If your car is there, the truck driver won’t see you and could smash right into your vehicle. The safe bet is to just wait behind the truck and let it turn first.
  1. Always use your signals: Always use your signals so that truck drivers know what you intend to do. Do not change lanes without using your signal.

What Should you do if you or a loved one are a victim of a Truck Accident?

If you or a loved one get hit by a commercial truck in Florida, the state affords you the right to seek compensation for the damages to your vehicle and your personal injuries.

However, it is important, especially with these types of crashes, to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer right away. First, there is key evidence that will need to be preserved. Many trucks are equipped with cameras, including dash cams, which record the accident. If you wait too long, the trucking company could destroy or erase this key evidence.

Also, commercial vehicles are equipped with Event Data Recorders (EDR’s) or black boxes which contain key evidence for a period of time before, at the time of, and after a crash. This collision data can tell the speed of the truck and provide valuable information relating to what the truck driver did or did not do to cause and/or avoid the crash, including braking.

Also, there could be key evidence on the roadway itself where the crash occurred. Experienced truck accident attorneys like the team at Smith, Ball & Baez will hire the necessary expert witnesses, including accident reconstruction experts and engineers, to go to the scene of the crash to preserve critical evidence.

The team at Smith, Ball & Báez and our truck accident attorneys have been helping truck accident victims and their families throughout Florida for over two decades. If you or a loved one are the victim of a truck accident, please call right away. We can help determine if you have a case, work to preserve key evidence and protect your rights to maximize your recovery. Call (561) 500-4357 or contact us online now.

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