Because large tractor-trailers transporting a maximum load under federal law can reach forty tons, any crash caused by a careless, distracted, or speeding tractor-trailer operator will typically have a devastating impact on occupants of the other vehicle. When trucking accidents involve pedestrians, the outcome typically will be fatal. Although pedestrians have the right-of-way in many situations, a commercial driver and trucking company will not automatically be liable when a pedestrian is struck down by a big-rig. Our trucking accident attorneys recognize the importance of careful investigation, analysis, and presentation of evidence, which typically includes expert witnesses.
Our trucking accident lawyers note a case from Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals that provides a graphic reminder of the importance of effective legal representation of a pedestrian who suffers fatal injuries in a trucking accident. In Ponzera v. O’Neal, the plaintiff was struck by a tractor-trailer on a roadway that was dimly lit at night. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, contending a lack of material facts in dispute that indicated that the truck driver’s conduct was negligent. When considering a motion for summary judgment, the judge will view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. If the judge finds that there is not a dispute of material facts, the court will determine that the party who filed the motion is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Summary judgment was granted by the trial judge against the pedestrian on the issue of whether the truck driver operated the vehicle negligently, and the plaintiff appealed.
The defendants introduced evidence designed to establish that the truck driver could not have avoided the pedestrian. The plaintiff scaled a fence to obtain access to the stretch of roadway, which was without lights at 3:00 a.m., shortly before the accident. According to the defendants, the plaintiff was wearing dark clothing that obscured his presence. The truck driver also contended that he attempted to brake and swerve to avoid running over the pedestrian. This claim was supported by a law enforcement officers who testified that skid marks confirmed the commercial driver engaged the brakes. The officers also concluded that the truck driver could not have done anything further to have avoided hitting the pedestrian. The big-rig also was equipped with a governer that limited the vehicle’s speed to five mph below the maximum speed limit on the roadway. The truck’s onboard data recorder (i.e. “black box”) indicated that the driver suddenly decelerated immediately before hitting the pedestrian.
In response to this evidence, the court noted that the estate of the pedestrian failed to offer any expert testimony or facts that would establish the truck driver’s operation of the vehicle was negligent. According to the court, the plaintiff offered nothing more than layperson speculation that the driver could have avoided running down the pedestrian. Based on this lack of evidence, the judge found there was no dispute of material facts regarding the issue of negligence by the truck driver.
As this case makes clear, trucking companies and the insurance carriers that defend them in civil lawsuits carefully investigate trucking accidents to mitigate liability. When a pedestrian is injured in a tractor-trailer accident, the injury victim needs access to trucking industry experts, crash investigators, and trucking litigation expertise that experienced South Florida trucking accident attorneys can provide. If you have been injured because of the careless or inattentive actions of a truck driver and commercial carrier, the South Florida trucking accident lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to obtain the results you desire. With over 130 collective years of experience representing policyholders across South Florida, our firm provides legal representation of unmatched excellence. Contact our firm as soon as possible to start on the road to protecting your legal rights. Our firm received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and was ranked as a top firm in South Florida by the Miami Herald. Put our attorneys to work on your case. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or you can visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.