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When passenger vehicles collide with large commercial trucks, the probability of occupants in the passenger car, truck or SUV suffer significant injury is much higher than in collisions involving two passenger vehicles.  Our Miami truck accident lawyers find that a key reason for the increased risk of catastrophic injury or death is the massive weight disparity between the vehicles.  While a typical passenger car might weigh 3,000 pounds, large big-rigs transporting a full load can weigh 80,000 pounds, which amounts to a weight disparity of 26 times.

Although semis constitute a relatively small percentage of the total vehicles traveling Florida roadways, they account for a disproportionate number of traffic-related injuries and fatalities.  A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report indicates that 102,000 people experienced injuries in trucking accidents during 2012.  Further, this total represents an 18 percent increase over the number of injuries suffered in trucking accidents the prior year, which does not bode well for safety improvements in the trucking industry.  Trucking accident fatalities also increased during the same period from 3,781 to 3,921, which amounts to a 4 percent increase.

When dangerous big-rig collisions occur, the occupants of passenger vehicles are much more likely to suffer life-altering injuries and death according to the NHTSA.  Passenger vehicle occupants, pedestrians, bystanders, and cyclists accounted for 76 percent of those injured, and they accounted for 83 percent of trucking accident fatalities.  Put another way, the occupants of the other vehicle or non-vehicle occupants are three times as likely to suffer injury and four times more likely to die in a truck collision than the operator of a semi.

These sobering statistics make it important for individuals injured in trucking collisions to understand the challenges associated with proving liability in trucking litigation.  While many types of evidence are essential when pursuing a trucking accident lawsuit, the truck’s Electronic Control Module (ECM) (also called the “Black Box”) often constitutes a smoking gun by providing critical evidence of regulatory violations, improper maintenance, or other unsafe driving practices.

Understanding the Electronic Control Module (“Black Box”)

Most large trucks manufactured in the United States since the 1990’s are equipped with an ECM.  These electronic data storage devices are similar to black boxes on commercial airlines.  The devices are able to record a wide range of data over a period of time.  The types of information that can be preserved by the black box include maximum speed, air bag performance, revolutions per minute (RPMs), average speed, duration of time over 65 mph, idling time, and seat belt usage to note a few examples.

These electronic data recorders were originally created to facilitate the ability of semi manufacturers to identify purchaser abuse to defend against warranty claims.  However, our experienced Florida Semi Accident Lawyers often use factual data stored in ECMs to expose factors that contribute to a commercial truck collision.  We might use the device to investigate big-rig speed immediately prior to the crash, hard stops, and RPMs immediately prior to the crash.  Since the black box also stores usage data, this information can be used to verify the driver log book and expose manipulated and false entries that reveal hours of service violations.

Time Is of the Essence in Avoiding the Loss of ECM Data

Black boxes come equipped with limited storage that often amounts to thirty days though it can shorter depending on the year the vehicle was manufactured.  The storage capacity might be exceeded quickly if the vehicle is promptly placed back in service.  Once the storage capacity has been exceeded, the device will begin recording over previously stored data.

Our Florida Trucking Accident Attorneys will either negotiate an agreement to ensure the data is preserved or send a spoliation letter indicating that the information on the black box is the subject of litigation and must be preserved.  The spoliation letter will advise the commercial carrier that erasing, altering or otherwise destroying the black box data will subject the commercial carrier to sanctions.  There are multiple types of sanctions that can be imposed for spoliation of evidence, such as attorney fee sanctions or evidentiary sanctions.  Attorney fee sanctions involves the judge requiring the trucking company to pay a portion of the plaintiff’s attorney fees while evidentiary sanctions can result in the jury being instructed to assume altered or destroyed evidence was favorable to the plaintiff on a particular issue.  In some situations, we might file for an immediate protective order from the judge.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence 

If you or your family member has been injured in a Miami semi crash, our Florida Trucking Attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

Sources:

http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811868.pdf

 

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Trucking companies can mitigate the risk of fines, litigation costs, and personal injury or wrongful death damages by conducting a proper background investigation of potential new hires. Despite these financial benefits, many commercial carriers elect to offer jobs without conducting an adequate background check.  Since trucking companies are aware that bad drivers will work for less than truckers with good safety records, carriers often elect to take a chance on immediate savings while dismissing potential expenses related to employing unqualified truck drivers.

Our experienced Miami truck accident lawyers carefully investigate the pre-employment screening conducted by employers of negligent truck drivers who cause crashes.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) impose strict safety rules on trucking companies regarding maintaining safety records, conducting pre-hiring background checks, and administering pre-employment drug and alcohol screening.  Evidence of negligent hiring of a commercial driver based on a failure to conduct pre-employment screening under 49 CFR § 391.23 often justifies imposing liability or punitive damages.

This regulatory provision imposes an affirmative duty on trucking companies that engage in interstate trucking (i.e. across state lines) to conduct an investigation into the background of potential hires, which includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Motor Vehicle Licensing Records: The commercial carrier must direct the inquiry toward every state that the potential hire holds or has held a driver’s license or permit during the previous three years.  A printed copy of the driving records must be obtained and kept on file by the prospective employer.
  • Prior Employment: Records also must be maintained regarding contacts with prior employers.  The commercial carrier must maintain a written record evidencing contact with prior employers or good faith efforts to establish such communication.  The information on file must at least include the date of contact or attempted contact, name and address of prior employer, and information provided about the hire.
  • Safety Performance Records: Pursuant to 49 CFR § 391.53, the hiring trucking carrier must retain safety records obtained from prior employers in the employee’s personnel file during the employee’s tenure and for three years after termination of the employment relationship.
  • Mandatory Drug and Alcohol Testing: Inquiry must be made regarding prior alcohol and controlled substance violations by a prospective commercial driver.  The scope of this inquiry must include refusals to submit to drug and alcohol tests, positive drug tests, or alcohol tests with a result over .04 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC).  Further, the employer also must compel applicants to submit to a pre-employment drug test.  The applicant may not be employed as a commercial driver without a verified negative controlled substances test.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Victims of Unsafe Truckers and Trucking Companies

If you or a family member has been injured in a semi-truck accident, our Florida Big-Rig Injury Lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. tenaciously pursue the fullest compensation for our clients.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

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A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh more than 25 passenger cars, which makes it essential that trucking companies keep large trucks properly maintained.  An improperly maintained commercial truck can cause devastating trucking accidents that result in catastrophic injuries like spinal cord injuries, traumatic head injuries, loss of limbs and wrongful death.  Because of the risk of life-changing injuries and death, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance in collaboration with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration performed random safety checks of large trucks and buses between June 3rd and June 5th.  The goal was to perform approximately 17 inspections per minute, which amounts to a total of 75,000 inspections.

2014 Random Large Truck and Bus Inspections Produced Disturbing Results

The annual three day period of roadside inspections has been an ongoing event for more than a quarter of a century.  The need for such random inspections is evidenced by the results of the 2014 random inspection period.  Nearly one in five vehicles subjected to inspection last year were removed from service for safety violations or non-compliance with federal regulations.  As disturbing as these results might seem, the situation is likely far worse than the random inspections reveal.  Because commercial carriers know when the inspections will be conducted in advance, many carriers elect to keep their non-compliant vehicles and drivers shutdown during this period.  The most common mechanical violations included the following:

  • Improper Loads: Almost 12 percent
  • Lights: Almost 14 percent
  • Tires/Wheels: Almost 14 percent
  • Brake Adjustment: Almost 17 percent
  • Brake Systems: Almost 30 percent

Driver and Maintenance Issues That 2015 Trucking Inspections Will Investigate

The June 2015 inspection period covered a broad range of potential safety issues and regulatory violations, such as:

Driver Violations

Substance impairment (drugs/alcohol)

Current commercial license

Valid medical authorization

Review of hours of service logs

 

Vehicle Maintenance Violations

Coupling devices (fastening cab to trailer)

Exhaust system

Wheels/tires

Suspension

Brakes/braking system

Proper loading

Lights

Fuel system

Steering mechanism

Windshield wipers

Evidence of Close Link between Trucking Accidents and Safety Violations

Studies have indicated a close relationship between defective equipment and tractor-trailer crashes.  For example, a prominent Large Truck Crash Causation Study found that 55 percent of the large trucks had at last one mechanical violation.  Moreover, nearly one in three of the tractor-trailer accidents included in the study involved mechanical violations serious enough to have the big-rig taken immediately out of service.  Overall, the most common violations by large trucks involved in the crashes studied involved brake issues.  Brake violations were found in 36 percent of the large trucks. Commercial trucks with out of adjustment brakes are 1.8 times more likely to be a vehicle that causes a crash.  Brake violations significantly raise the probability that a commercial truck will cause a collision in both crossing-path and rear-end collisions.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence 

If you are injured in a collision caused by a negligent truck driver or an indifferent trucking company, our Miami Trucking Accident Lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

 

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The toll in permanent debilitating injuries and fatalities claimed by crashes involving large commercial trucks continues to rise as the economy expands.  A fatal trucking accident occurs eleven times every day according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) data.  These devastating collisions cause the death of 4,000 people and injury to a 100,000 more who share our roadways each year.  Trucking collisions do not attract media attention comparable to commercial plane crashes even though these numbers are the equivalent of a commuter jet crash every week of the year with a 100 percent fatality rate.

Although thousands of deaths per year would prompt calls for increased regulation and improved safety standards in most industries, the response to the epidemic of trucking accidents has been relatively muted.  Presumably, this muted response is attributable to the distribution of deaths at disparate times in small numbers across the U.S.  The media’s focus on the recent fatal crash involving a Walmart truck and Tracy Morgan was an exception.  A key reason that the number of trucking accidents has continued to rise in recent years involves the growing phenomena of “chameleon” trucking companies.

A “chameleon carrier” is a trucking company that re-registers with the U.S. Department of Transportation to avoid liability issues or problems with their safety rating.  When trucking companies cannot get a satisfactory rating, which indicates that they are in compliance with FMCSA regulations, they often close the company and evade paying fines by starting up a new company.  This strategy has allowed commercial carriers and drivers with abysmal safety records to remain on the roadways of Florida.

The practice of using this shell game approach to evade federal regulations, fines, and mandatory out-of-service orders is fairly widespread.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that 1,136 recent applicants were suspected to be chameleon carriers.  These renegade trucking companies disproportionately cause semi-truck accident injuries and fatalities.  The GAO has reported that chameleon carriers are three times more likely to be involved in crashes resulting in severe injuries and fatalities.

Many commercial carriers with poor safety records stemming from regulatory infractions, traffic citations, and collisions continue to operate.  Federal safety authorities have been ineffective at targeting wayward carriers that change their ownership and/or name to avoid out-of-service orders and fines.  The GAO indicated during 2012 that it was only screening two percent of applications for prior poor safety records.  Federal authorities are now using a process called “vetting” to search for patterns in a commercial carrier’s operation that indicate the company shares an address with a business that has been shut down.  However, many trucking companies using this shell game tactic of closing under one name and re-opening under another continue to put others on Florida roadways at risk.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Injuries and Wrongful Death Caused by Negligent Commercial Carriers and Truck Drivers

If you or a family member has been injured in a semi-truck collision, our Florida Commercial Truck Accident Lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. tenaciously defend our clients’ rights and pursue a maximum recovery.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

 

 

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The trucking industry represents a complex dilemma for Americans.  While our economy is dependent on the critical role served by large trucks in the transport of goods throughout Florida and the rest of the country, these vehicles are prone to causing permanent debilitating injuries and fatalities when truck drivers fail to operate a big-rig safely.  Although there are many factors that contribute to crashes involving large trucks, driver fatigue is one of the most common causes of trucking accidents.

Because trucks that are parked while a driver rests are not producing income for the driver or profits for the trucking company, truck drivers and commercial carriers have a strong incentive to cover as many miles as quickly as possible.  Since speeding truck drivers are easily identified by law enforcement officers, some truckers rely on fudging their driver logbooks and exceeding hours of service rules to increase their income.  Given the slow path toward economic recovery, the pressure to remain on the road longer hours motivates truck drivers to disregard driver fatigue with the tacit approval of trucking companies that look the other way.

Long Established Relationship between Fatigue and Fatal Trucking Accidents

A fatal trucking accident that occurred in Oklahoma almost exactly six years ago continues to serve as a tragic warning of the magnitude of risk of ignoring the danger of truck driver fatigue.  The truck driver had been on the road for eleven hours before he was overcome by physical and mental exhaustion.  The big-rig plowed into a line of passenger car that were stopped on the highway.  Ten people were killed in a chain reaction crash that was initiated by the truck driver who never even applied the brakes.

It might be tempting to assume that serious tractor-trailer accidents only happen to other people or that the incident above has been rectified by updated trucking regulations.  However, the fatal trucking accident involving a Wal-Mart truck that caused a death and severe injuries to comedian Tracy Morgan serves as a more recent example.  In that crash, the truck driver had been working for 13 hours and 32 minutes prior to the crash, pushing the 14 hour federal limits for truck drivers engaged in interstate commerce.  Federal investigators also expressed concerns because the Walmart driver had allegedly not slept during the 24 hours prior to the fatal trucking accident.

Truck Drivers and Commercial Carriers Continue to Oppose Modified Hours of Service Rules

Despite the danger of boredom, fatigue and lack of sleep associated with driving long shifts or driving during “graveyard shift” hours, the trucking industry continues to fight changes that could make others on Florida and U.S. roadways safer.  The trucking industry, in essence, argues that federal regulators have no right to regulate sleep.  However, federal traffic safety experts and regulators indicate that drowsy driving is a leading cause of accidents and traffic fatalities.

Federal trucking regulations governing hours of service (HOS) rules were modified in 2013 to mitigate the risk of fatigue-based trucking accidents.  The maximum workweek was reduced from 82 hours to 70 hours.  While the workweek period can be restarted, the driver must observe a mandatory 34-hour resting period prior to any restart.  The “restart” must be comprised of two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods to facilitate a minimum of two nights of rest per week for drivers.  The new HOS rules also mandate a maximum 11 hour driving day with a thirty minute break at some point during the driving shift.

However, the trucking industry continues fighting to get these anti-fatigue rules repealed.  The trucking industry argues that new rules do not necessarily prevent accidents, though they impose a significant financial hardships on truck drivers and commercial carriers.  The trucking industry also has contended that the rules increase the number of tractor-trailers that will be on highways in peak daytime traffic hours.

Despite these contentions, truck driver fatigue has been determined to be a factor in many trucking accidents.  The Department of Transportation (DOT) based the new HOS rules on the belief that fatigue constitutes a factor in 13 percent of all trucking accidents based on the Large-Truck Crash Causation Study.  Federal regulators also note that driver fatigue might be significantly under-reported because commercial drivers do not want to acknowledge drowsy driving, exposing the driver and trucking company to liability.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence 

If you have been injured in a Florida trucking accident, Stone & Urbano, P.A. will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

 

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Large truck “underride accidents” and “override accidents” are among the most dangerous types of tractor-trailer accidents in Miami because a passenger vehicle literally travels underneath the big-rig.  The risk of catastrophic injury or fatality in such a crash is high since the upper portion from the vehicle is typically ripped from the vehicle or smashed down into the interior of the passenger compartment.  When the roof of the car collapses into the passenger compartment, the vehicle occupants get crushed because the structures designed to absorb the energy generated by the collision are bypassed.  Further, the seat belts and air bags cannot do their jobs, so occupants tend to experience potentially fatal head and neck injuries.

While most commercial trucks have been required by federal regulations to include underride guards to prevent these types of dangerous crashes since 2007, regulators and the trucking industry have been slow to respond to evidence that current underride guard standards are not sufficient to protect other motorists.

Understanding Underride Accident Guards

An underride guard is a very simple type of safety equipment that prevents accidents where passenger cars travel underneath the chassis of a large truck that suddenly stops without warning.  Similarly, the guards can be affixed to the front of the big-rig to prevent the truck from riding up over the top of a passenger car when a trucker rear-ends another vehicle.  Underride guards are steel bars that hang down from the back of the trailer or front of the cab that prevent passenger cars from sliding under the semi-truck in a crash.

Large truck underride accidents still occur because the guards are inadequate, according to some experts and studies.  Truck manufacturers have begun equipping trucks with stronger guards in response to studies showing that the guards can fail under the force of an accident.  Experts also speculate that a number of truck manufacturers are exceeding federal standards because Canada imposes more rigorous requirements.

Underride Guards Receive Mixed Reviews in Crashworthiness Testing

However, research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) suggests that underride guards are still prone to fail when only a portion of the passenger car collides with the tractor-trailer.  During crashworthiness tests, a passenger car was crashed into a parked tractor-trailer at 35 mph.  When the entire front end of the passenger car struck the center of the semi-truck, all of the most widely used underride guards effectively prevented vehicle underride.  When the angle of the accident was changed so only fifty percent of the passenger vehicle overlapped with the rear of the large truck, one of the guardrails failed to stand up to the force of impact.

When the overlap was reduced to thirty percent, the guardrails performed much more poorly.  Only one of the trailers passed the test when the overlap between the vehicles was only thirty percent so that most of force was exacted on just one side of the guard.  While the crash dummies did not experience serious injuries in the straight on and fifty percent impact crashes, they suffered fatal head and neck injuries in collisions when the guards failed.

If someone close to you suffers debilitating injuries or dies in a large truck override accident, compliance with federal safety standards regarding override/underride guards will not insulate the manufacturer or commercial carrier from liability if the guard fails.  Federal regulations establish “minimum safety standards,” and the trucking industry is well aware of the poor performance of underride guards in rear-end collisions that do not involve straight on impacts across the full width of both vehicles.  When vehicle occupants are injured in a carriage underride or override crash, the legally responsible parties might include the truck driver, trucking company, other drivers, and vehicle or guard manufacturers among others.  Our experienced trucking accident lawyers carefully investigate truck underride crashes and semi-truck override accidents, so we can identify all viable defendants and sources of insurance coverage.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence 

If you have suffered serious injury or you have lost a family member in a big-rig collision, our Miami Semi-Truck Accident Lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

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Tractor-trailers serve a vital logistical role in our economy, but they also pose a serious risk to others using roadways in Florida and throughout the nation.  While many trucking collisions are the result of driver fatigue, drug impairment, and illness or unsafe driving by a commercial driver, defective vehicle components and poor vehicle maintenance also contribute to a significant number of trucking accidents.  Although the braking system of any vehicle constitutes an indispensable safety feature, faulty brakes constitute an even more serious issue when the vehicle is a forty ton fully loaded tractor-trailer combination.  If you are injured or you lose someone you love in a trucking accident caused by shoddy vehicle maintenance or defective brakes, you might have a right to financial compensation.  This blog post discusses issues that may be relevant to Florida personal injury lawsuits arising out of crashes involving big-rigs caused by unsafe components or shoddy maintenance.

Duty to Conduct Safety Inspections & Maintenance

Federal law imposes a duty on commercial carriers and truck drivers to conduct regular inspections and vehicle maintenance.  This duty includes inspecting the brake system and component parts prior to embarking on a run.  This inspection can involve checking for loose hoses, cracks in air disc brake rotors, hoses with leaks, damaged brake lining, and other potential brake problems.  When inspections and necessary maintenance are not performed as required, the result can be an 80,000 pound tractor-trailer running out of control down an unsafe grade.  While federal regulations specify that commercial carriers which are engaged in interstate commerce must satisfy inspection and maintenance regulations related to multiple vehicle systems and features, brake inspection and repair regulations are especially important.

Impact of Vehicle Loads

The proper loading of large commercial trucks can play a significant role in causing a dangerous crash.  Weight limits are imposed on big-rigs to mitigate the risk of brake failure.  Excessive loads can cause brakes to overheat or result in excessive brake wear, so brake performance is compromised.  The brakes also must be serviced within a shorter period of time to avoid crashes related to deterioration of brake system components.  Improperly secured or distributed loads can also compromise brake performance and result in uneven wear because the load is unbalanced.  Compliance with federal regulations regarding weight limits for cargo and loaded tractor-trailers is critical to preventing collisions caused by brake failure.

Disregarding Warning Signs

Large commercial trucks are equipped with anti-lock brake systems (ABS) which include warning lights on the dashboard of the big-rig.  The warning light is designed to put a driver on notice that there is a potential maintenance or safety issue regarding the brake system.  The truck driver or commercial carrier can check the “fault code” to identify the precise mechanical issue, so the vehicle can be properly maintenance by the commercial carrier or an independent repair facility.  When a truck driver or trucking company ignores ABS warning lights or other signs that the brakes are not operating properly, this failure to inspect the potential brake problem can cause a fatal trucking accident.

Brake and Truck Manufacturers

Manufacturers of large trucks and brake components have a legal duty to avoid manufacturing, equipping, or selling defective brake components or vehicles.  This obligation includes the use of safe designs and proper monitoring during the manufacturing process to ensure that the final components are safe and function as reasonably anticipated.  Brake component manufacturers are expected to undertake proper quality control measures and perform adequate safety testing.  If a manufacturer later discovers that a component, brake system, or large truck is defective, the manufacturer has a duty to issue a recall and implement the recall in a timely fashion.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence 

If you have suffered serious injury or you have lost someone you love in a Florida tractor-trailer accident, our Miami Trucking Accident Lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

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Our trucking accident attorneys in Miami recognize the importance of ensuring that commercial truck drivers are medically fit to operate tractor-trailers, which can weigh as much as 25 times more than a passenger car.  While federal law has long required medical certificates confirming that a truck driver is medically fit as a condition of keeping a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), this safety requirement offered limited comfort until recently because no significant standards were imposed for who could sign off on the driver’s fitness.  This month marks the one year anniversary of action by federal regulators to impose standards on who can certify a commercial driver as medically fit.

The benefits of this change in trucking safety regulations is worth revisiting because of the potential impact on roadway safety.  Until the recent change, drivers could seek medical certification from virtually any individual within the medical field including a nurse practitioner or chiropractor.  Further, there were no standards in terms of how the examination should be conducted nor what types of impairments or conditions should be found to disqualify a truck driver.

A 2008 congressional investigation revealed the even more troubling finding that a third of all medical certificates reviewed by law enforcement during vehicle stops could not be confirmed as authentic or accurate.  The person who signed off on the inspection either did not exist or would not confirm ever conducting an examination.  The process was so informal that there was nothing to prevent truck drivers from copying the name, contact information, and medical license number of a doctor off the web to falsify the form.  Since the forms were rarely verified, truck drivers could engage in this form of fraud with little risk of being detected.

The danger posed by having a truck driver on the road who suffered from a serious medical condition can hardly be understated.  Because of the average age of truck drivers and the amount of time they spend engaged in the sedentary activity of driving, there is a high prevalence of obesity-related health conditions in the trucking industry, such as sleep apnea and diabetes, which can render a truck driver unconscious.  A University of Pennsylvania study found that 28 percent of truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea. The seriousness of the problem was revealed by the fact that the congressional investigation referenced above found that 560,000 truck drivers were receiving full medical disability benefits.

Prior to May of last year, there was no electronic data base where the certificates could be reviewed, so law enforcement officers were required to rely on paper forms produced by the truck driver.  The lack of a computerized system left law enforcement officers without a way to verify that the medical certification was valid.  Even if an officer attempted to contact the doctor who signed the certificate, medical privacy laws prevented the medical professional from disclosing information about the driver’s medical condition without a signed waiver.

Fortunately, recently implemented changes have targeted medically unfit truck drivers.  In December 2008, a federal law was passed requiring all states to merge medical certificates and commercial driver’s licenses into a single electronic record for each driver, but states were given three years to comply with this requirement.

Arguably, the most significant change was implemented in May of 2014 when drivers were compelled to have their medical examination performed by a qualified health professional listed with the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.  The law imposed standards for training and testing on medical professionals seeking to qualify for the registry.  The US DOT medical examination was also defined to include health conditions that affect driver safety related to respiratory and muscular functions, vision, hearing and cardiovascular disease.  Because the prospect of an 80,000 pound tractor-trailer combination being driven by a physically impaired driver is a terrifying prospect, these changes were a welcome change in roadway safety.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence 

If you have been injured in a trucking collision, the Miami Trucking Accident Attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

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Semi-truck accidents typically are more complicated than “typical collisions,” with only passenger cars.  The special factual and legal issues that affect trucking litigation make it important that injury victims seek legal advice and representation from an experienced Miami trucking accident lawyer.  While the most obvious factual difference between trucking collisions and “typical car crashes” is that they involve a forty ton vehicle, trucking collisions are not just “car crashes with a very large vehicle.”  Trucking accident injury claims often involve special state and federal regulations, preservation of evidence issues, and multiple defendants.

The Trucking Industry Is Subject to Extensive State and Federal Regulation

Commercial carriers and their truck drivers are subject to extensive regulations designed to mitigate the risk of accidents that cause catastrophic injuries and deaths.  When large trucks operate across state lines, which is referred to as “interstate trucking,” the vehicle, driver, and commercial carrier are governed by federal law.  While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the federal agency with primary responsibility for regulating interstate trucking, other applicable federal laws and regulations also establish rules and standards to make our roadways safer.  Vehicles engaged exclusively in operations within the state, which is referred to as “intrastate trucking,” generally are governed by state law.

Tractor-trailer operators, semi-truck owners and big-rig manufacturers must comply with a vast array of regulations.  Many of these regulations are designed to safeguard the public from the inherent risks posed by an 80,000 pound tractor-trailer sharing the road with much smaller vehicles.  Examples of commercial driver, semi-truck manufacturer, and trucking company conduct that is regulated include:

  • Mandatory drug and alcohol testing (random testing for intoxicating substances)
  • Anti-fatigue measures [referred to as “hours or service” (HOS) rules]
  • Maximum weight and length of a large truck
  • Quality control in manufacturing (such as standards for brake system performance)
  • Requiring routine maintenance and inspection (includes pre-trip and post-trip inspections)
  • Certification of medical fitness of truck drivers
  • Record keeping including driver logbooks, maintenance records, etc.
  • Mandatory pre-hiring background investigations
  • Commercial licensing requirements
  • Proper loading and securing of loads on semi-trucks
  • Special Insurance Requirements

While these are only a handful of the regulations that trucking companies, vehicle manufacturers and commercial carriers must satisfy, failure to comply with any of these rules contributes to a fair number of trucking collisions.  When a trucking accident occurs, the trucking company, commercial driver, and/or the semi-truck manufacturer will typically have violated one or more trucking regulations.  These violations typically constitute a critical factor in proving liability in a personal injury lawsuit arising out of trucking accident injuries or fatalities.

Another important area of insurance industry regulation involves minimum insurance requirements.  The minimum insurance coverage that must be carried by owners and operators of tractor-trailers is substantially higher than for drivers of passenger vehicles.  This means that there usually will be more available funds to pay a jury verdict in a trucking case.  Since settlement discussions in a motor vehicle litigation usually are circumscribed by available insurance limits, trucking lawsuits will tend to settle for more than a “typical car accident.”

Avoiding the Loss of Critical Evidence in Trucking Litigation

The trucking industry is notorious for “spoliation of evidence” issues.  This term refers to a party destroying or altering evidence that is the subject of pending litigation.  A common example includes repairing physical damage to a semi-truck, which often results in loss of pre-accident data stored on the truck’s “black box,” which might be critical to proving how an accident occurred.  When this happens, an accident reconstruction expert loses the ability to evaluate body damage on the big-rig and information about sudden braking, speed, and other factors relevant to a collision.

Our experienced Miami trucking accident lawyers understand the importance of acting promptly to ensure that vital evidence is not distorted or destroyed.  This may include sending a “spoliation letter” to the trucking company that indicates the truck is the subject of pending litigation, so it must be maintained in its post-crash condition.  If the trucking company ignores our notice regarding spoliation, the judge can impose monetary sanctions or sanctions that impair the trucking company’s position in a lawsuit.  In certain cases, our lawyers might even file for an injunction that prohibits repair of the truck, destruction of data in the “black box” data recorder, or other evidence.

Because evidence relevant to a trucking accident might be fabricated or manipulated, our trucking litigation attorneys seek evidence to expose such gamesmanship by trucking companies.  The use of the discovery process to obtain lodging receipts, fuel charges, tire maintenance records, email correspondence, dining checks, “black box” data, and other documents, for example, can be used to expose false or misleading driver logbook records regarding hours of service.

Multiple Defendants in Trucking Litigation – A Good News, Bad News Proposition

Trucking accident personal injury lawsuits often involve multiple defendants, which might include the trucking company, truck driver, company that loaded the truck, vehicle manufacturer, independent maintenance company, and others.  If a truck driver is taking prescription pain pills and a trucking company allows him to drive with knowledge he is taking the pills in a truck fitted with defective tires, this scenario may mean multiple parties have some financial liability.  The involvement of multiple defendants, who might all attempt to shift blame to another party, increases the complexity of litigation in a trucking accident case.  However, the presence of multiple parties also means that there might be more available sources to satisfy a judgment.

When multiple defendants are involved in a trucking lawsuit, this can make the process of reaching a settlement more difficult.  The defendants might elect to proceed to trial, so the court can determine the proportion of fault that should be allocated to each defendant.  However, an injury victim can settle with one of the defendants prior to trial, and then proceed to trial against the other defendants who can be found responsible for the balance of the damages awarded at trial.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence 

If you or a close family member suffers a serious injury or you lose someone you love in a tractor-trailer collision, our Miami Semi-Truck Accident Attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

 

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When vehicles weighing thousands of pounds and traveling at freeway speeds collide, the result can by significant injuries and fatalities.  The danger increases when one of the vehicles is an 80,000 pound fully loaded tractor-trailer.  When the driver of the forty ton big-rig is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, our Miami truck accident lawyers know how the risk of a traffic fatality rises to alarming levels. Despite this frightening prospect, commercial drivers do opt to use drugs to cope with pressures at home, boredom of the road, and fatigue behind the wheel.  Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) continues to regulate the trucking industry by imposing screening procedures that target intoxicating substances, the threat of impaired truck drivers has not disappeared.

The magnitude of the problem is reflected by the continued priority that the federal government places on drug testing operators or tractor-trailers.  While federal safety regulators impose random drug testing on many in people in the transportation industry, the level of testing by the FMCSA exceeds similar testing by the Federal Aviation Commission, Federal Railroad Administration, and other agencies under the auspices of the Department of Transportation.

The FMCSA has indicated that random drug sampling in 2015 will continue at the same 50 percent rate as last year.  This level of testing requires trucking companies to perform one random drug test for every two drivers.  If the trucking company employs 250 drivers, for example, the company will be required to administer 125 random drug tests during 2015.  This fifty percent standard is double that set by the federal government for most other transportation agencies for 2015, which include the following: Federal Aviation Commission, Federal Transit Authority, United States Coast Guard, Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

A worldwide study of the use of intoxicating substances by truck drivers that was published in the Occupation and Environmental Journal was noted by the FMCSA in comments to Reuters, “Safety is our number one priority and FMCSA has strict requirement on pre-employment screening and random and post-accident drug and alcohol testing….”

The study also found that certain truck drivers were more likely to be prone to test positive for drugs or alcohol.  Offending drivers were more typically young and inexperienced.  They were also prone to working nighttime shifts and longer routes.  The companies that employed these drivers also tended to be small to medium firms as opposed to large trucking companies.  The authors of the study speculated that perhaps larger trucking companies can provide higher salaries and better working conditions.  They also speculated that larger trucking companies might be less prone to demand longer driving times and short rest periods which provide a motivation to use amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana and other controlled substances that fight stress, fatigue and boredom.

Despite federal regulations that mandate screening for intoxicating substances and random drug testing, trucking companies that disobey these requirements continue to permit drug impaired truck drivers to navigate our roadways.  If you or your love one is injured by a drug impaired truck driver, you may have a legal claim for damages against the negligent truck driver and/or an indifferent trucking company which fails to conduct required screening, report infractions, and implement appropriate disciplinary actions.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence 

If you have been injured in a crash caused by a drugged truck driver, the Miami Personal Injury Attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.  Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

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