According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), semi trucks require three times the stopping distance of an automobile, and are five times as likely to cause serious injury or death during an accident. As such, numerous regulations govern commercial trucks, making an accident case far more complex than one involving an automobile. Here are a few regulations an Orlando truck accident lawyer may review to determine if there has been negligence on the part of the trucking company.
Florida drivers must be properly licensed for the vehicle they are operating; otherwise, they may be deemed negligent. The different categories of commercial drivers’ licenses include:
- Class A, which allows a driver to operate any tractor-trailer weighing 26,001 pounds or more
- Class B, includes vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or more that are single units rather than tractor-trailer combinations
- Class C, which allows an operator to haul passengers or hazardous cargo
Florida requires commercial vehicles be registered with the Florida Department of Transportation. This agency issues a number, which must then be placed on either side of the vehicle and be readable by motorists up to 50 feet away. Failing to register a vehicle can also result in negligence charges, in addition to a $500 fine.
After being registered, commercial vehicles must also be inspected for safety. Inspections are performed at weigh stations, and include features such as fire extinguishers, brakes, tires and signals. Safety inspections are designed to prevent accidents such as the one that occurred in January 2012 when a woman was injured by tire remnants that flew off a tractor-trailer that was traveling southbound on Interstate 95 in Volusia County.
Federal law also restricts the number of hours a driver may operate without rest. These “hours of service” laws are found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), and are intended to prevent accidents from occurring due to driver fatigue. To prove compliance, drivers must keep either paper or electronic logs, which is something an attorney will likely review to determine if a violation existed at the time of an accident.
Even when operating within the hours of service limits, drivers could still be found negligent if they knowingly operated under unsafe conditions. For example, a combination of smoke and fog was determined a leading cause of a multi-vehicle pileup on Interstate 75 in February 2012, which resulted in at least ten deaths and dozens of injuries.
Weight limits are also imposed on commercial trucks, as carrying too much cargo creates dangerous conditions by increasing the odds of a rollover accident. Flatbed trailers that are overloaded could also result in debris spilling out onto the roadway, thereby causing an accident. Even when load capacity is not exceeded, the uneven distribution of freight can also make a load unstable, which is why attorneys sometimes have accident reconstruction performed to determine if unstable loading could have led to an accident.
Trucking accidents are far more complex to litigate due to the numerous regulations governing the industry. As such, you should not attempt to negotiate a settlement yourself, but instead contact an Orlando truck accident lawyer at David & Philpot, P.L. for a free analysis of your case. Give us a call today at 800.360.7015.