Legal Ramification of Car Accidents Involving Commercial Vehicles

Millions of vehicles travel on America’s highways annually, and most are commercial vehicles. Thousands of commercial vehicles like delivery trucks and buses make their way through Boca Raton, Florida’s roadways and surrounding suburbs to reach their destinations. This increases the chance of accidents involving such vehicles.

If you or a loved one sustained injuries in an accident featuring a commercial vehicle, contact a car accident lawyer serving Boca Raton immediately to discuss your legal options. Read on to explore the legal implications of commercial vehicle accidents in Florida. 

What Is a Commercial Vehicle?

Any vehicle whose primary function is transporting goods or passengers who pay a fare is considered a commercial vehicle. Commercial vehicles range from semis and tractor-trailers to delivery trucks and passenger vans. They also include school buses, taxis, and ride-sharing service vehicles.

A vehicle registered or titled to a business is automatically classified as a commercial vehicle. Commercial vehicles can also include cars meeting the following criteria:

  • They are used for business
  • They are leased and in the name of the financial party that owns them
  • They are built to carry 16 passengers or more
  • They are used to ferry hazardous materials
  • They exceed a specific weight limit

You might be eligible for compensation if you were hurt in an accident with a commercial vehicle due to the negligence of the driver or the business. You may be entitled to financial compensation for various accident-related expenses, including lost wages, medical bills, pain, and suffering.

Why Are Commercial Vehicles Vulnerable to Accidents?

Because commercial drivers spend a significant portion of their life on the road, accidents involving a distracted driver may be more common in commercial vehicles. Drivers can encounter boredom, isolation, and fatigue due to the long hours required to complete a single delivery. Distracted driving is the top cause of rollover accidents involving tractor-trailers in the United States.

Fatigued or drowsy driving, which a lack of sleep can cause, is responsible for about a third of all commercial vehicle accidents. Commercial drivers are also at risk of distraction from eating, drinking, smoking, or using handheld electronic devices like GPS or cell phones.

The University of Utah conducted a study that concluded that using a cell phone while behind the wheel is just as harmful as driving when impaired by drugs or alcohol. A driver’s attention is diverted from the road when they engage in these activities. This reduces the person’s capacity for recognizing and processing information in time to prevent the implementation of defensive actions that drivers are trained to employ.

Texting while driving increases the risk of a major crash by a significant percentage and the risk of a fatal crash for truck drivers. Some commercial drivers involved in fatal accidents were determined to have been texting or talking on their phones at the time of the collision.

Therefore, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Agency (FMCSA) has prohibited using any handheld communication device by commercial drivers while operating a commercial vehicle.

Buses and tractor-trailers, among other large commercial vehicles, are particularly vulnerable to blind spot accidents due to their size and weight. Commercial vehicle drivers should be aware of their surroundings and take precautions when changing lanes, but large vehicles have blind spots that make it harder to notice oncoming traffic.

Rollovers, t-bone collisions, and sideswipes are common outcomes of blind area incidents. When motorists cannot notice oncoming traffic in their blind zones, they increase their risk of colliding with other vehicles or being forced off the road. Large commercial trucks often hit smaller cars in the truck’s blind zone.

In case of an accident, a larger vehicle is more likely to cause extensive damage because of its more prominent blind spot. This is especially true when a truck or bus collides with a passenger vehicle. Blind spot collisions account for most accidents involving large commercial vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most of these accidents are fatal. 

Common Causes of Commercial Vehicle Accidents

When employees on the clock feel forced to multitask or do business while on the road, even drivers of smaller commercial vehicles are put at risk. When drivers rush to meet deadlines or earn more money from fares, commercial vehicle accidents can occur.

Other common causes of accidents involving commercial vehicles include:

  • Impaired driving because of drugs or alcohol
  • Failing to employ safety measures or failing to adjust mirrors
  • A failure to indicate a turn by using a signal
  • Vehicle mechanical issues

Commercial Vehicle Accident Outcomes Are Severe

It takes longer to stop or prevent an accident in a large commercial vehicle like a semi-trailer or bus, making them more susceptible to driver errors. The size and weight of large commercial vehicles dramatically increase the risk of severe injury or death in case of an accident.

More severe consequences may result from an accident involving one of these vehicles because of the potentially unstable or dangerous materials they may transport, such as cattle or gasoline. Injuries such as lacerations, burns, fractures, organ damage, traumatic brain injury, and paralysis are typical outcomes of such incidents.

Who Is Liable When a Commercial Vehicle Causes an Accident?

It can be tricky to determine who is legally responsible for an accident involving a commercial vehicle, even when it’s evident that the driver was at fault. The fact that the individual driving them does often not own commercial vehicles complicates the question of liability in accidents involving commercial vehicles.

In most cases, the manufacturer or shipper of products is part of the chain of responsibility, including the vehicle’s driver and the transportation company. If an accident happens while a driver is on the clock, the company they work for could be held responsible. 

The company may also be liable when an accident occurs because of a driver hired without sufficient screening. Negligent hiring procedures could involve not verifying a driver’s eligibility to operate a commercial vehicle or not conducting a background check.

Accidents caused by untrained drivers or poorly maintained machinery are also the employer’s responsibility. Management of any fleet of motor vehicles has a duty to ensure that drivers are adequately trained to prevent accidents and that vehicles are well-maintained to reduce the likelihood of malfunctions.

If the manufacturer or shipper fails to warn the driver or transportation firm adequately, they may be held accountable for any resulting damages. In the case of gasoline that ignites at the scene of an accident, the cargo’s presence alone could have significantly worsened the situation. The manufacturer must communicate any potential hazards associated with the materials being transported to the driver or transportation firm.

Commercial Vehicle Accident Personal Injury Lawsuits

Personal injury cases are based on factors like:

  • Truck drivers owe a duty of care to other motorists
  • When a motorist is judged to be at fault for an accident due to carelessness, this is a breach of care
  • Commercial vehicle drivers and their employers may be held financially liable for injuries and property damage caused by their employee’s negligence.
  • Monetary damages were incurred because of the breach of duty

Financial challenges, time away from work, and diminished earning potential are expected results of commercial vehicle accidents. Car insurance coverage might pay for repairs or a new automobile, but it might not cover unexpected car rental fees.

A truck accident victim may suffer from physical and mental injuries, making it difficult for them to go about their daily lives or hold down a job. Although a personal injury lawsuit cannot fix your injuries or make you feel safe again, it can give you and your family the financial support you need to begin recovering.

Personal injury cases can drag on for a long time, so hiring a lawyer who understands the process and won’t try to push you into a settlement is essential. Instead, your lawyer will look over documents like police records, notes from the accident reconstructionist, and statements from witnesses to determine fault and negligence. Both are needed to get compensated for losses.

If you’ve been injured in a commercial vehicle accident, contact Frankl Kominsky Injury Lawyers at (561) 800-8000 or fill in the online contact form on our website to schedule a free consultation. 

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