Failure to Train Drivers Has Consequences
Medications, food, fuel, and other essentials that fill our homes are delivered by dedicated men and women who are truckers. Without them, our economy would come to a standstill, and we can’t meet the most basic needs of our families. The pressures of this job, the traditionally lower wages, and lousy working conditions have resulted in drivers fleeing the field for better pay, hours, and working conditions.
The United States suffers from a shortage of as many as 60,000 drivers. This number is expected to grow over time, meaning companies who depend on these drivers will likely lower their expectations which puts everyone on the road in jeopardy.
One of the most sobering lines on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) webpage says “In 2018, 4,862 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes. According to MCMIS, 59,933 large trucks were involved in injury crashes, and 111,291 were involved in towaway crashes.” This should serve as a wakeup call for everyone on the road.
Training Requirements Often Overlooked to Fill Gaps
Not anyone, or everyone, can be a trucker. There are skills requirements, special driver’s license requirements, and background checks are all pre-requisites when hiring a trucker. However, oftentimes, particularly when a company is pushed to the limit, they may ignore some or all of these requirements.
Some commonly overlooked problems associated with a truck driver may include:
- Background checks – Should a trucking company fail to conduct a thorough background check, or ignore minor issues, there is a potential someone who should not have been hired ultimately winds up behind the wheel. This could pose a potential problem for everyone on the road.
- Driving record check – When a company fails to review a driver’s record for speeding incidents, accidents, or operating under the influence, or they opt to ignore them due to a shortage of drivers, they are putting everyone on the road at risk.
- Operating requirements – Operating a truck is not the same as operating a car. Truckers must understand how to determine if a truck is properly loaded, whether the truck is thoroughly inspected, and be familiar with how the truck handles on the road with both an empty cargo area and a full cargo area. When a company hires a driver who does not understand these basics, they are putting other drivers at risk.
Company Policies Matter When Truckers are Involved
While the FMCSA has specific training guidelines governing how much and what type of training is necessary to secure a Commercial Drivers License (CDL), there are instances where a company may take shortcuts. While the company may face steep fines, this does not help any family who has had to suffer through the aftermath of an accident an unqualified or untrained truck driver caused.
In addition to hands-on and book learning, companies must also conduct thorough alcohol and drug screenings and education among drivers and supervisors. When these policies are ignored, the aftermath can be devastating.
Sleep Times: When a Company Puts Profit Over Safety
Another common problem that puts others on the road at risk is the number of hours a trucker is allowed to drive. While there are specific rules pertaining to work hours versus sleep hours, oftentimes, an employer often has deliveries to make during certain times and may encourage drivers to ignore these rules. This is risky as it can result in drowsy driving which can mean a driver is less likely to be paying attention to the road.
Driving alert is a must for everyone on the road and even more important when operating a truck. The size of a truck makes it harder to stop and if a driver is dozing off, they can miss what is occurring around them and cause an accident.
Driver Lack of Training—Potential Issues Once on the Road
A lack of training on the road can cause numerous problems.
Despite a lack of recent data, some older studies indicate driver failure causes nearly 90 percent of accidents involving a truck.
Some of the most common causes include:
- Drowsy driving – If a driver is not well-trained to understand they must follow the FMCSA guidelines for sleep times and avoids stopping because they “only have one more stop” they could fall asleep at the wheel. The above study shows more than 10 percent of accidents involving truck drivers involve non-performance which includes drowsy driving.
- Poor decision making – When a driver lacks training or has a prior history of making poor choices behind the wheel and gets hired to drive a truck anyway, they do not necessarily stop making the same decisions that led to prior speeding tickets or other infractions. Nearly 40 percent of truck accidents involve poor decisions including driving too fast for road conditions, failure to maintain a proper distance from other vehicles in the roadway, or failure to properly determine the speed at which other vehicles are traveling.
- Distracted driving – Distracted driving was listed as one of the causes of accidents considered part of “recognition accidents” which account for nearly 30 percent of all truck-related accidents. Drivers who are paying attention to their phones, GPS systems, and paying too much attention to something going on outside their truck could potentially cause a serious accident.
As you can see while any one of these situations is the overall fault of the driver, a lack of training by the employer could potentially be at the root of what has caused the problem. Training is essential for good drivers for the safety of the driver as well as the safety of those who are sharing the road with them.
Holding Trucking Companies Liable for Accidents Caused by Untrained Drivers
While a driver who causes an accident can be held liable for injuries they cause, this does not mean their employer is without culpability or liability. While some drivers are independent contractors, not all are. This means as an employer, a trucking company is responsible for the actions of their drivers. When the trucking company has provided inadequate training, or exercised poor judgment in hiring, they should be held responsible for any injuries caused to innocent people on the road.
To hold a trucking company who is an employer accountable, you will need to work closely with a truck accident attorney who has experience dealing with injuries resulting from accidents caused by a truck driver. Keep in mind, under Florida law, all drivers on the road are expected to maintain certain levels of insurance. Truckers are required to carry additional insurance and if they carry certain materials, they may need additional coverage.
However, the minimum amounts are based on the weight of the vehicle and regardless of the amount of insurance, the driver’s coverage may be insufficient to cover the financial losses of a truck driving accident victim.
Chances are that a trucking company will also have a separate umbrella liability policy in the event a truck driver is involved in an accident. Most trucking companies carry individual policies on the vehicles, which cover the victims of a truck accident but also carry a separate policy that covers the company if the individual truck coverage is insufficient.
Do not count on the driver, the trucking company, or the insurance company to share that information with you. Only by working closely with an experienced truck accident injury lawyer can you determine what coverage the driver and the company must cover your losses following an accident.
Recovery Time, Financial Losses and Non-Financial Losses
Florida statutes allow victims of accidents to file an insurance claim to help them recover financially following an accident. Victims of a truck accident often require weeks, and in some cases, months to recover. One of the most important reasons to contact a truck accident attorney as soon as possible after you are injured is to promptly establish your claim and address your questions and concerns.
While the statute of limitations in Florida allows you to file an injury claim for up to four years, contact a truck accident lawyer as soon following an accident as possible. This step will provide you with the guidance you need to make sure your rights are preserved following an accident.
Victims who suffer an injury following a truck accident can include these damages in their claims:
- Lost wages – A lost wage claim is not as straightforward as it may seem. Along with your hourly wage or salary, you may also be entitled to other compensation such as bonuses you lose, vacation or sick days you may be forced to use while you are recovering and perks your company may offer which you may lose as a result of being unable to work. Lost wages may also include anticipated future wages you can’t earn because of the injuries you suffered.
- Medical bills – From the minute you are injured, medical bills seem to begin appearing. Ambulances, nursing care at home, physical therapy, prescription drugs, crutches, walkers, and other medical equipment can all be included in a truck accident claim. Speak with your attorney because they will want to know what out-of-pocket medical costs you incur which are related to your injury.
- Other losses – You may incur other losses, including damage to your vehicle and other personal property you can no longer use due to a trucking accident. Some victims find it necessary to make permanent or temporary modifications to their home to accommodate their injuries and these modifications may also be included in a truck accident lawsuit.
Getting the Legal Help You Need Following a Truck Accident
Victims of a truck accident need legal counsel as quickly as possible. There is a good chance even before you are released from the hospital you will get a call from an insurance adjuster. Use caution—in fact, it is best to not answer any questions, or offer any information until you speak with an attorney.
Insurance adjusters are there for one purpose—to protect the insurance company from your claim. While it may seem reasonable to talk with an adjuster to offer them your side of the story, this decision can come back to haunt you later when you do elect to file a truck accident claim.
Legal experience matters—an insurance adjuster who contacts a truck accident victim who has not contacted a lawyer knows they stand a better chance of having the victim accept a settlement. Those victims who seek legal help will understand the offer made by the insurance company shortly after the accident is likely to be a fraction of what they may otherwise be entitled to collect. Insurance adjusters know if a victim is in contact with an experienced truck accident lawyer, they are more likely to understand their rights, have someone working with them who will advocate on their behalf, and is unlikely to accept an unreasonable settlement.
While truck accident victims are often concerned with paying for an attorney, many do not realize that in nearly all cases, a truck accident case is taken on a contingency basis. Following a free consultation, if you determine it is in your best interest to work with the law firm, a contract will state clearly that you will pay no legal fees unless the firm obtains a settlement on your behalf.
When you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a truck accident you probably have a lot of questions and you are uncertain where to turn. Do not forfeit your rights by attempting to negotiate with an insurer on your own. Instead, turn to an experienced truck accident lawyer for help. Contact a truck accident injury law firm that offers you a free consultation, clear communication, and someone will go to court if the insurer will not offer you a reasonable settlement—especially when inadequate training and negligence by the driver’s employer caused your injuries.