Wrongful Death Caused by Truck Accidents
We’ve all had close calls or even just moments of extreme anxiety when sharing the road with a large truck. It’s probably because we know our light passenger cars stand little chance of holding up if there is an impact with an 80,000-pound 18-wheeler.
Trucking accidents are far more likely to result in deaths than other types of traffic collisions. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 1 in 7 highway deaths involves a large truck. An estimated 4,000 people are killed yearly in U.S. crashes involving large trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds, according to the National Highway Safety Administration.
The wrongful death attorneys at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, know that many fatal truck accidents are the result of trucker fatigue, inattention, intoxication, overloading and poor vehicle maintenance. It would seem outcome in such lawsuits would typically be in plaintiff’s favor. The reality is trucking accidents are some of the most vigorously-defended by carriers and insurance firms, precisely because damage awards are often high.
Many large carriers have gotten smart about exploiting legal loopholes to avoid liability. For example, carriers will label drivers “independent contractors” rather than “employees” in order to sidestep the vicarious liability easily established in an employer-employee relationship. Truck leasing companies seek to block lawsuits by citing the Graves Amendment – a federal law that was intended to shield car rental firms like Enterprise and Hertz from liability for a customer’s careless driving. There are increasing degrees of separation between carriers and drivers and tractor-trailer owners and brokers who arrange shipping assignments. All of it is part of a greater strategy to reduce liability in truck accident litigation.
Our wrongful death attorneys are familiar with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requirements, Florida employment law and other relevant legal aspects necessary to overcome these challenges.
Among the various entities that could be liable to pay damages in truck crash cases:
- The truck driver personally
- The truck driver’s employer
- Truck leasing company
- Owner of the trailer (if attached)
- Company that leased the trailer
- Manufacturer of the truck, trailer or its components
While we know there are many good trucking companies and truck drivers committed to safety, there are just as many that value profits over people. They will overload poorly-maintained trucks. They will push truckers to drive exhausted. They write off crashes a cost of doing business, and lives lost as collateral to line their own pockets.
We fight for just compensation for the families forever affected by this negligence. In wrongful death cases, plaintiffs may seek damages for:
- Post-crash medical bills
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost wages (projected income of decedent)
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
Truck accidents result in a disproportionate number of crashes on Florida roads. According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, of the 343,400 crashes that occurred in Florida in 2010, there were 3,330 attributed to “heavy trucks,” another 3,500 attributed to medium trucks (with four rear tires) and nearly 3,000 involving tractor-trailers. That’s a total of more than 9,800 crashes, resulting in 186 fatalities.
The NHTSA reports a 4 percent increase in large truck crashes from 2011 to 2012, with nearly three-fourths of all decedents being occupants of other vehicles.
Large trucks more likely to be involved in fatal multiple-vehicle crashes, as opposed to fatal single-vehicle crashes. In fact, 81 percent of deadly wrecks involved more than one vehicle.Trucker Fatigue
Federal regulators say drowsy driving is a top cause of crashes and highway fatalities, particularly those involving truck drivers. Study results vary, but in general fatigue is believed to play a role in between 15 and 31 percent of all large truck crashes – an even greater factor than alcohol or drugs.
Truckers toil under enormous pressure, usually paid by the mile, and have major incentive to drive as many hours as possible.
In general, all commercial vehicle drivers – truckers included – have to follow hours of service regulations limiting the amount of time they spend behind the wheel. For those driving property-carrying vehicles over 10,000 pounds, the FMCSA caps daily driving at 11 hours, and that’s only after having 10 consecutive hours off. Drivers must also take a 30-minute rest break at least once every eight hours, and they can’t drive more than 70 hours in eight consecutive days on.
Truckers are required to keep logs of their hours to ensure they are complying with federal rules. While some have been known to fudge the numbers, our attorneys will scour these records for any evidence of a discrepancy that could point to the fact that a trucker was fatigued at the time of a fatal wreck.
In addition to analysis of trucking logs, our attorneys will also look for evidence of liability by investigating:
- Weigh-in data indicating overloading
- The degree of control a company had over the driver (if claiming trucker was “independent contractor” as opposed to “employee”)
- Driver history – both driving record and criminal background
- Driving record of trucking company
- Potential manufacturing defects in the truck or its parts.
Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation