A question that is not related to truck accident injuries, but comes up often regarding truck accident issues is: why are big trucks called "semis"?
Semi- means half, but how can an 80,000-pound vehicle be considered "half" of a truck, right? The answer is simple: semi- is short for a semi-trailer truck.
Semi-truck is a misnomer, as semi- describes the trailer, not the truck. A semi-trailer is one that has only one axel. To explain the way a semi-truck works, we have to say that a trailer box towed by a truck has front wheels and rear wheels.
Contrarily, a big rig's semi-trailer has no front axle, and the front of the semi-trailer sits on a coupling plate on the tractor unit, a so-called fifth wheel. This is how we get the term "semi-trailer".
As an expert in semi-truck accidents, when working on a case, our attorney has to know the law and the mechanics. Unfortunately, the number of accidents involving semis and other large trucks is spiking in Miami. Our thoughts and hearts go out to all affected by these accidents.
Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents in Miami, Florida
Whether it's due to speeding, distracted driving, or driver fatigue, truck accidents happen. If you have questions about filing an injury claim after a truck crash, call us. We've been helping Florida injury victims for over 20 years.
The #1 cause of semi-truck wrecks? Driver error.
- Speeding. Semi-trucks need more time and distance to decrease their speed than a regular car. Most truck drivers are paid by the mile and may also have an unrealistic deadline. So some truck drivers try to earn more by driving faster. This is illegal and increases the risk of an accident.
Information about the truck's speed and direction of travel at the time of the accident could be captured on the truck's onboard electronic control module (ECM) or electronic data record (EDR)-sometimes called the "black box." If you've been injured in a trucking accident, it's essential to call an attorney as soon as possible, before the trucking company has a chance to erase this data.
- Distracted driving. Every day truck driver distractions include glancing at the screen of onboard computers, texting, talking on a cell phone, changing the radio station, eating, and reading or filling out paperwork.
We conduct a full investigation of each trucking accident. This can include looking at witness statements, police reports, and cell phone records.
- Driver fatigue due to long working hours and few rest breaks are a significant factor in driver error-caused tractor-trailer collisions. Drowsy drivers have slower reaction times and impaired judgment. They are more likely to make mistakes, such as misjudging their speed, going through a red light, failing to check blind spots, or falling asleep while driving.
- Substance abuse. A driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or above is considered legally drunk and is not allowed to drive. Because driving trucks can be dangerous, the legal limit for commercial truck drivers is even lower. A BAC of .04 is considered legally drunk. Drugs also affect decisions and response times, thus, drug consumption can create a dangerous situation. Some truck drivers take drugs that allow them to stay awake longer and put in more miles.
Our investigators review witness reports, driver's logbook, schedules, police reports and examine the physical evidence for any data that could provide evidence of drowsy driving and for any signs the driver was under the influence.
- Inadequate or improper training. An improperly trained driver lacking skills in safety elements like handling the vehicle or defensive driving is a high risk to the motorists on the road.
- Unfamiliarity with roads or inexperience. Truck drivers who aren't prepared for curvy, narrow, or rough roads or familiar with problematic routes can quickly lose control of the truck. It's the commercial truck driver's responsibility to recognize road restraints and act accordingly. Failure to do so and taking needless risks can put people's lives in danger.
Common causes for these wrecks that can be attributed to the negligence of the owner or some other party include:
- Overloading, under-filling tanks carrying liquids, or failing to secure the load or the trailer properly. A load that is too large can lead to tire blowouts, causing the tractor-trailer to jackknife and tip over or produce flying debris that can cause cars to swerve and collide. If the load is not adequately secured, it may slide around and become imbalanced over time, or even fall off the truck into the roadways and traffic.
The driver of a tractor-trailer is rarely the same person who loaded the items before leaving the original facility. If the truck wasn't correctly loaded, the driver may not know to be cautious until it's too late.
- Mechanical or equipment failure or poor maintenance. Worn tires or braking systems can lead to horrific accidents. Because all the maintenance checks must be documented, a truck company can be held responsible for a crash if the faulty equipment is to blame.
Most of these causes circle back to one fact, the increasing pressure to cut costs and edge around regulations to make harsher deadlines and lower budget allowances. Necessary vehicular maintenance is more and more often postponed or avoided entirely, and companies or drivers purchase equipment that is more prone to failure to save on cost short-term.
Types of Semi-Truck Accidents in Miami
Several different factors can cause truck accidents. Below are some of the most common ones:
- Head-ons. As a result of a head-on collision, victims often endure devastating, and even fatal, injuries.
- Rear-ends. Rear-end collisions can cause serious property damage and injury due to the weight of a truck.
- Side collisions (T-bone). When a truck driver runs a red light, there is a chance the semi will hit another vehicle's side.
- Rollovers. These can occur when a driver runs the wheels up against a curb or off the pavement, causing the big rig to flip onto its side. Also, jackknifed trucks are more prone to rollovers.
- Tire blowout. The common cause of tire blowouts is lack of or incorrect tire maintenance and inspection. A blowout can cause the driver to lose control of the truck and, if debris is left on the pavement, it may cause an additional accident.
- Jackknife accidents. Usually, these accidents are caused by a truck driver applying the axle brake abruptly. As a result, the trailer continues going forward, causing the truck to buckle with the cab at a dangerous sharp angle.
- Oil spills. These types of accidents are dangerous for the environment and a fire hazard besides making the pavement slippery and dangerous for other vehicles.
- Hazmat releases. When spilled, hazardous material, such as toxic gases or chemicals, may cause illness or respiratory problems or may catch on fire causing burn injuries.
- Underride accidents. These accidents can be caused by sudden braking while a car is behind the truck but can be prevented by equipping the truck with an underride guard. Underrides cause the car to go under the truck, which often takes the entire top off of the car. They are often fatal to the car's driver and passengers.
Accidents Involving Trucks are More Complicated Than Those Involving Cars
Truck accident claims here in Miami and Florida State are more complex than car accident claims due to several issues specific to trucks, the most prominent being:
- The large amount of liability insurance trucking companies must carry. Trucking companies carry higher levels of insurance because of the potential for catastrophic injuries and property damage. The coverage can run in the millions, so insurance companies put their most experienced, skilled adjusters on truck accident cases to protect their bottom line. You can be sure they'll make low-ball offers in response to your claim for compensation.
- The dangers of improperly loaded and overloaded trucks. Overloaded cargo, or cargo that is not loaded properly, may cause the vehicle to lose control, leading to serious traffic accidents. Roughly 25% of accidents involving trucks are caused by inadequate cargo securing.
- The disparity in both size and mass between the truck and passenger cars. These features place occupants of passenger cars at risk of sustaining fatal and catastrophic injuries.
- The complicated relationships between parties involved with the truck and its load, such as owners, lessees, shippers, maintenance technicians, and drivers.
- The special knowledge and training truck drivers must have. Truck drivers have to know the safe speeds to travel given certain circumstances and how much room they would need to stop to avoid accidents. They must know how to perform the proper maintenance checks that are required after each trip. Commercial truck drivers have a limited time in which they can drive before requiring rest. They need to keep a logbook that accurately documents each trip. Driver fatigue is the most common cause of trucking accidents. Distracted drivers are 20 times more probable to be involved in a crash than non-distracted drivers.
- The extensive regulation of interstate trucking by both the state and the federal government. Trucks have weight restrictions, road restrictions, and maintenance requirements. Trucking companies have to follow federal regulations when it comes to hiring, training, scheduling, as well as maintenance. They must follow HAZMAT regulations when they transport hazardous cargo.
At The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary, attorney Sean M. Cleary has been tackling complex personal injury cases for more than two decades and focuses the law practice on helping the victims achieve maximum financial recovery.