The Sunshine State has the longest coastline and some of the busiest ports of any state on the Eastern Seaboard. As a result, manufactured goods from overseas flow into Florida. Many times, the large storage crates on these ships are loaded directly onto tractor-trailers, which then immediately hit the road. Drivers then push both themselves and their rigs to the absolute limit in order to deliver their loads on time and collect financial bonuses.
The diligent 18-wheeler accident attorneys at Payer Law are on top of the changing legal environment these drivers operate in. Too often, regulators look the other way as economic forces compel drivers to take unnecessary risks. While individuals are legally responsible for wrecks, these larger economic forces, and specifically the companies that cause these waves, are often financially responsible for damages. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Evidence in Truck Crash Claims
The tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) driving record is often a critical bit of evidence in a vehicle collision claim. Generally, a noncommercial motorist’s driving record which is relatively easy to obtain. Commercial drivers’ license records are often different. Typically, strict privacy laws protect these records, since they are often technically the property of a transportation or shipping company. Furthermore, most truckers are licensed in several states. So, one state’s records are usually incomplete.
Several years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration introduced the Safety Maintenance System database. The SMS report is essentially a multi state drivers’ license record. This report contains information about:
- Substance abuse,
- Citation history,
- Crash background,
- HOS (Hours of Service) compliance, and
- Vehicle maintenance history.
As a bonus, the SMS report usually draws on law enforcement sources. If a driver gets a fix-it ticket because of a vehicle’s mechanical issue, the ticket probably won’t appear in judicial records, if the owner takes care of it on time. But this citation will most likely pop up in a law enforcement records search.
Other evidence in truck crash claims includes witness statements, including the victim’s own statement, medical records, and the police accident report. Physical evidence, such as photographs and skid marks, could be important as well.
To obtain compensation for their injuries, victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. So, an Orlando 18-wheeler accident lawyer usually plugs the aforementioned evidence into the ordinary negligence doctrine or the negligence per se rule.
Ordinary negligence is a lack of care. Truck drivers normally have a duty of utmost care. They must take affirmative steps to avoid wrecks. Driving in bad weather is a good example. Noncommercial motorists usually have a duty to slow down when it rains. But because of the higher duty of care, truck drivers arguably must not drive until the rain at least slacks off.
Negligence per se involves safety laws, like speeding or making an illegal turn. Tortfeasors who violate safety laws and cause crashes are presumptively liable for damages in Florida. Therefore, less evidence is necessary in these cases.
Individuals are legally responsible for damages. Frequently, the transportation, shipping, or other company which owned the truck or cargo is financially responsible for damages. The respondeat superior rule applies if:
- Employee: Employers are responsible for their employees’ negligence. Most truck drivers are owner-operators or independent contractors for tax purposes. But these individuals are generally employees for negligence purposes.
- Scope of Employment: Any act which benefits the employer in any way is generally within the scope of employment. That could include something like driving an empty truck back to a warehouse.
Other employer liability theories, which often apply in assault and other intentional tort claims, include negligent supervision and negligent hiring.
Reach Out to a Diligent Orange County Lawyer
Injury victims are usually entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced 18-wheeler accident attorney in Orlando, contact Payer Law. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.