Experienced and Empathetic Truck Injury Lawyers in West Palm Beach, Florida
In recent years, our lawyers have seen a dramatic increase in clients seeking compensation as victims of crashes involving trucks/big rigs and other commercial vehicles. In West Palm Beach, these cases tend to be more complex than auto accidents because more factors are in play. It is common to think about big rig drivers being liable for road traffic accidents; however, they are actually the victims in many instances.
Representing victims of semi-truck accidents has become a specialized law practice. Insurance companies and trucking firms tend to feature fully staffed legal departments, and they do not hesitate in retaining top law firms to handle accident claims. To understand the magnitude of this particular legal industry, it helps to review big rig accident statistics in West Palm Beach, Jupiter and nationally.
By the Numbers: National Statistics
In the United States, it is estimated that an individual is either killed or seriously injured as a result of a truck accident every 15 minutes or so. In 2013, more than 342,000 accidents involved at least one commercial big rig, and nearly 95,000 people were severely injured. Also in 2013, nearly 3,950 people died in these accidents.
Actuarial research by auto insurance companies suggests that commercial semi-trucks are getting larger and heavier while passenger cars are becoming more compact and lighter. This structural trend may explain why 3,700 occupants of passenger vehicles are killed each year when they collide against commercial big rigs. It is interesting to note that these accidents are becoming more catastrophic as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported an increase of 13 percent of fatalities who were not occupants in trucks or vehicles.
NHTSA statistics for 2013 indicate that big rigs are more likely to be involved in multiple-vehicle crashes that result in fatalities than passenger cars; in fact, big rigs are present in 80 percent of multiple vehicle accidents. Nearly half of all accidents involving at least one truck involved vehicles traveling straight; only 10 percent of crashes involved turning vehicles.
Big Rig Wrecks in Florida
The Florida Department of Transportation determines big rigs as medium and heavy vehicles rated at more than 10,000 lbs., which is equivalent to five short tons. Light trucks are those rated at less than 10,000 lbs., which can still put them in the category of commercial use.
In 2014, there were 184 fatal crashes involving medium and heavy semi-trucks in Florida. More than 4,300 big rig crashes resulted in injuries, and 20,583 of these accidents caused substantial damage to vehicles and property. The rate of property damage was 5.62 percent, which is quite high when compared to passenger car accidents. Crashes involving light trucks in Florida during 2014 killed 29 individuals and seriously injured more than 2,200.
How Truck Accident Lawyers Handle Cases
Of all road traffic accidents, those involving big rigs tend to present a substantial number of variables. Driver fatigue is often mentioned by news media outlets, but this is only one dimension.
The first aspect to consider is that the Florida legal doctrine known as "no fault" does not mean that accident victims are limited to collect payments from insurance companies. "No fault" is a statutory clause that sets regulation for the Florida auto insurance industry; it does not preclude the filing of legal claims in court.
Brake systems form part of another factor that is often investigated by Florida injury lawyers. Trucking regulations in Florida and across the United States are very clear and strict with regard to maintenance of brake systems on semis, particularly big rigs. Once a tractor trailer travels down the highway and starts approaching the posted speed limit, an optimal brake system would fully stop the vehicle after it travels the length of a soccer field.
Trucking companies, their fleets and their drivers must comply with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations as well as state laws. Big rig accident attorneys in West Palm Beach routinely refer to these regulations as they evaluate cases. Depending on certain circumstances, reasonable settlements can be reached when a lawyer finds that a key regulation was violated.
Common Causes of Crashes Involving Semis
The trucking industry in Florida is very dynamic and tends to be impacted by business trends. Shrinking labor pools, for example, drive trucking firms to be less stringent when it comes to hiring. Higher taxes and fuel costs sometimes result in trucking firms adjusting driver compensation downward, which, in turn, may cause apathy and stress.
High insurance costs in West Palm Beach, coupled with the elevated rate of severe injury in relation to semi accidents often steer plaintiffs and respondents towards settlement negotiation, and this is when an experienced personal injury attorney is needed the most. The level of injuries and suffering caused by big rig accidents demand reasonable compensation, which may not always be in the best interest of trucking firms whose operating expenses and insurance premiums are already high enough.
When the lawyers at the law offices of David M. Piccolo, P.A. take on a new case, they examine factors such as driver's duty of care, commercial driving record, log books, drug screenings, cargo load, road conditions, weather, response by law enforcement and emergency service providers.
After evaluating the factors mentioned above, a pretrial discovery strategy can be arranged and communicated to the respondents. It is often at this point when big rig companies and insurance companies begin to realize the gravity of the situation and start thinking whether settlement negotiations would bring about a better outcome for them. Call our law firm now to schedule a free consultation. We represent the injured throughout Palm Beach County, from Boca Raton to West Palm Beach to Jupiter.