Experts In This Article
- Michael T. Gibson, Esq., Lead Attorney & President at Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney, Catastrophic Injuries Expert and Licensed for 17 years
- Todd Curtin Esq., Partner & Lead Trial Attorney at Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney and Licensed for 8 years
- Amit Jhalli, Esq. Attorney at Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney, Personal Injury Pre-suit Investigation & Brain Injury Expert and Licensed for 9 years
UPS Truck Accident Claims
The United Parcel Service, more commonly known as UPS, is the world’s largest package delivery service, with more than 495,000 employees, serving more than 200 nations and territories. As consumers, we rely on the people in brown to deliver such items as books, household supplies, and even chicken feed. This accounts for over 125,000 UPS vehicles on the road.
Unfortunately, while the company employs several tactics to make sure it puts safe drivers on the road, accidents still happen. If an accident with a UPS injured you or a loved one, contact an experienced truck accident attorney for more information about your rights.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
When we think about UPS, we typically think about the large box trucks that make at-home and business deliveries. But the UPS fleet also includes thousands of tractor-trailers that deliver freight across the country. Both types of trucks can cause serious harm in the event of an accident. While it can be easy to think of these vehicles as inherently safer, the truth is that the most common reasons for UPS truck accidents are no different than any other accident. Common causes include:
Distracted driving is dangerous for a driver of any vehicle, but it is especially reckless when it comes to large truck operators. Unfortunately, despite federal, state, and employer regulations, distracted driving remains a serious problem. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration keeps detailed records of inspections and violations for large motor carriers.
In regards to distracted driving, recent data shows:
- Ten violations for inattentive driving.
- 117 violations for using a hand-held mobile telephone while driving.
- Seven violations for texting and driving.
This data includes FMCSA inspections for the past 24 months and does not include law enforcement citations or non-cited violations. Distracted driving is dangerous and can cause a driver to lose control of their vehicle. If evidence shows the driver was on their phone or otherwise distracted at the time of an accident, you may pursue punitive damages.
Large trucks and high speeds do not go together. Even smaller box trucks can tip or roll over if they take a curve too fast. Yet, shockingly, speeding is one of the most common violations noted by the FMCSA. Of the 6,230 violations in the most recent report, over 13 percent involved high speeds. What’s even scarier is the number of violations for speeds well above the speed limit.
Recent data shows:
- 477 violations for speeds 6-10 mph over the speed limit.
- 285 instances of speeding 11-14 mph over the limit.
- 141 violations for drivers driving at least 15 mph over the speed limit.
- 60 violations for speeding in a work or school zone.
In addition to an increased risk of rollovers, speeding increases stopping distance and decreases reaction time. Further, for each mile per hour the driver goes above the speed limit, the greater the risk of serious injury or death.
Failure to Yield the Right of Way
You may not realize it, but most UPS routes don’t include left turns. According to CNN, this proactive effort helps save time, money, and lives. But right-of-way accidents still happen. UPS drivers are like any other driver on the road. They can make poor decisions, fail to see a stop sign, or get caught in a blind spot. While accidents happen, drivers of large trucks need to be extra vigilant to ensure these accidents don’t happen.
According to FMCSA data, there were:
- 313 lane restriction violations
- 43 improper lane changes
- 304 failure to obey traffic control device violations
It’s scary to think about mechanical failures in large trucks, but they happen. In fact, probably more often than you think. Federal guidelines mandate that all truck drivers complete a full inspection at least once daily before their first trip. The problem is that these inspections don’t always happen. If they do, it is not uncommon for something to be missed. And even with a perfect inspection, a part defect may be undetectable to the driver.
Common mechanical issues include:
- Tire blowouts
- Brake failure
- Steering issues
- Missing mud flaps
- Missing or damaged rear guards
- Broken or out or repair lights or wipers
Mechanical failure can cause an accident by a sudden loss of control of the vehicle and erratic movement, leaving the driver with seconds to try to remedy the situation. If you see this behavior, get out of the way and call emergency services.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states that commercial drivers cannot operate, nor can a motor carrier require or permit the driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle when they are too tired or sick to drive safely. Drivers should discontinue truck operation at their discretion and stop driving as soon as they realize they present a risk to others.
Many UPS drivers work very long hours requiring them to be on the road for hours at a time, so it is only natural for drivers to begin to show signs of fatigue at some point in their work days. When a commercial driver becomes sleepy, it can put all other drivers on the road at risk of crashes because a tired driver may doze off or fall asleep while behind the wheel.
The result can be a UPS truck drifting into another lane or crossing over into oncoming traffic, causing a devastating crash. Truck drivers employ all kinds of tricks to try and fight fatigue, including relying on caffeine, turning up their radios, and opening their windows. Still, few fatigued drivers can overcome their sense of sleepiness.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of Drugs or Alcohol
Florida Statute § 316.193 is the state law making DUI a criminal offense in Florida. Still, Florida Statute § 322.61 further states that commercial drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles. At the same time, an alcohol concentration in their blood, breath, or urine of 0.04 percent or higher will disqualify a driver from operating commercial motor vehicles for one year. In other words, commercial drivers have a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) limit that is only half the limit of drivers of traditional passenger vehicles.
While most commercial truck drivers are well aware of these risks and avoid taking any chances, some drivers still may drink or use certain drugs before hitting the road and become at a greater risk of causing motor vehicle accidents. Drunk or drugged driving offenses by commercial drivers usually result in criminal charges. Still, criminal courts generally do not have much power to order significant restitution to the victims of crashes.
Victims in these cases instead have to rely on civil actions against the negligent drivers, but civil law affords people advantages compared to criminal cases.
Perhaps the biggest difference will be that the burden of proof is extremely different. A prosecutor in a criminal case must prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, one of the highest possible standards. A civil claim only needs proof by a preponderance of the evidence, which roughly translates to an event being more likely than not.
Poor Cargo Loading
Possible cargo issues can include shifting cargo within the vehicle. The FMCSA Large Truck Crash Causation Study found that vehicle loss of control because of cargo shifts, traveling too fast for conditions, vehicle systems failure, poor road conditions, or other reasons accounted for 29 percent of crashes.
Cargo shifts accounted for 6,000 large truck accidents in the study. Pre-crash cargo shifts had the highest relative risk ratio of 56.3.
UPS drivers need to know about:
- Uneven weight distribution in a trailer
- Weight distributed with a high center of gravity
- Underloaded or overloaded trailers
- Improper bracing of cargo
- Cargo secured with inadequate tie-downs or tie-downs not properly rated for the weight of cargo
- A lack of edge protection if the cargo can cut tie-downs
- Cargo being improperly covered
- Cargo without header boards to prevent spilling during stops or accidents.
Improperly loaded cargo accidents can also impact liability for a UPS truck accident because one or several freight handlers may share liability for a crash.
Dangerous Road Conditions
One of the most obvious dangerous road conditions simply involves bad weather. UPS drivers must exercise additional caution when operating in particular downpours of heavy rain or other inclement weather. It should go without saying that bad weather dramatically impacts the visibility that a UPS driver is going to have.
Other hazardous road conditions can include roads with multiple potholes, uneven roads, or missing or incorrect signage. UPS drivers again must understand when they are operating on risky highways and adjust their driving accordingly.
On some dangerous roads, a state or other governmental agency may bear some liability. This might happen when a dangerous road condition results from that agency’s failure to correct the dangers or warn users about them.
Inadequate Driver Training
All trucking companies are responsible for vetting the drivers they hire and verifying that the employees are qualified by having commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), current medical certificates, and clean driving records. Such employers must keep unqualified or suspended drivers from operating their commercial vehicles.
When a commercial truck accident results from an inexperienced driver, a victim may not only have a claim against the driver’s employer, but a driver training school can also be responsible for damages. FMCSA again notes in the Large Truck Crash Causation Study that driver training is a common issue in many truck accidents.
Inadequate driver training can lead to improper braking, speeding, or overweight or overloaded truck issues with UPS drivers. Commercial driver training also includes safe evasive tactics and maneuvers for avoiding collisions with dangerous materials.
To obtain a CDL, applicants must meet many state and federal regulations. FMCSA has established rules regarding minimum training standards that require not only theory instruction but hands-on driving instruction. A driver must demonstrate proficiency in various elements to obtain their CDL.
Common Injuries After an Accident With a UPS Truck
Truck accidents can easily cause catastrophic injuries. Even low-speed collisions can be dangerous for a passenger vehicle occupant. After an accident, your safety is the number one priority. In the event of a serious or life-threatening injury, call 911 right away.
Common injuries after an accident include:
- Traumatic brain injuries: Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) result from a hard hit to the head or a penetrating wound. After an accident, this type of injury is usually the result of a direct impact on the steering column, seat, or window. It’s impossible to tell whether a brain injury is serious without a thorough examination from a healthcare professional. After any truck accident, go to the doctor, especially if you hit your head. Common symptoms of a TBI include headaches, dizziness, mood changes, sleep changes, and loss of consciousness.
- Spinal cord injuries: Spinal cord injuries, like traumatic brain injuries, result from a powerful force. This can be as simple as a heavy blow to the back as your vehicle comes to a stop. In most cases, spinal cord injuries result in permanent paralysis from the point of the injury down. If you suspect a spinal cord injury, call for help right away. Symptoms include numbness, loss of sensation, difficulty walking, extreme back pain, or loss of bowel or bladder control.
- Neck and back injuries: The back and neck are particularly vulnerable to injury after an accident. The sudden jolt of a collision can cause the body to whip violently forward, then back. This can strain the tendons, joints, and discs. Whiplash is one of the most common injuries after a motor vehicle accident and is easily treatable. However, if you experience pain for several weeks after the accident, check with your doctor or chiropractor to see if there may be additional damage.
- Broken bones: The human body can only sustain so much force. During a collision, the impact between your bones and a part of the vehicle can break the bone. This can cause extreme pain and difficulty moving. For severe breaks, even treatment may not return full function. If you suspect a break, do not attempt to put weight on your limb. Instead, call for help and go to the hospital.
- Internal injuries: Internal bleeding or injury can be a life-threatening emergency. These injuries typically happen when there is severe trauma. In most cases, these injuries require immediate emergency surgery and may require substantial monitoring and follow-up care.
- PTSD or other psychological issues: While most people commonly associate PTSD with military service, post-traumatic stress disorder can happen after any major trauma. One study found that over 39 percent of participants reported some form of PTSD following a motor vehicle accident. Symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, and mood changes. Counseling and medication can help alleviate some of the symptoms of PTSD. In addition to PTSD, severe motor vehicle crash victims are at high risk of other psychological issues such as anxiety and depression.
Who Pays When a UPS Truck Hits You?
After an accident, the insurance company will do an investigation to determine who is at fault. If the UPS driver contributed to the accident, they will likely be financially liable. This is true even if you are partially at fault. But one thing differentiates UPS accidents from many other motor vehicle accidents. When a UPS driver is in the truck, they are on the job. This means there may be more than one party who holds liability, including the UPS corporation. This may include:
The UPS driver will hold the first line of responsibility if the accident resulted from the driver’s actions or inaction. The law requires all truck drivers to hold an insurance policy large enough to cover damages in an accident. This policy is generally much larger than non-commercial policies. The insurance company will evaluate the degree of your injuries, lost wages, and pain and suffering before making a final settlement determination.
You likely have cause to pursue damages directly from the company. Your attorney may suggest that you include the company as a defendant in your suit at the beginning of the case. Additionally, if you can prove the company showed gross negligence and had a direct impact on the events leading up to the accident, you may file a claim against it even if you don’t exhaust the driver’s policy. You want an experienced attorney by your side because UPS is a huge company that aggressively defends against lawsuits.
A Truck or Parts Manufacturer
Unfortunately, product defects happen all the time. Bad parts make it to the market and onto trucks. When this happens, the driver may not notice an issue until it is too late. In this case, the manufacturer will likely hold all financial responsibility. To recover damages, you will likely have to file a separate suit. A truck accident attorney can help you determine liability and take appropriate legal action.
What to Do After an Accident?
The actions you take after an accident can affect your rights and recovery.
While every accident is different, our experienced truck accident lawyers have compiled a five-step list to serve as a guide for your next auto accident.
- Survey the scene: The number one priority is to make sure all occupants are safe and away from further danger. If you are in the path of traffic, try to move to the side of the road if you can safely do so. Keep an eye out for traffic, blind curves, and any other potential dangers.
- Talk to the other driver: To file a truck accident suit, you will need the other driver’s information. This includes their name, phone number, and insurance information. Be sure to get the policy number and contact information for the insurance provider.
- Gather evidence: One of the best things you can do is take pictures of the scene. Later in the case, this can help you prove what happened. Get pictures of both vehicles, the truck’s license plate, and any property damage.
- Go to the doctor: Do not underestimate the degree of your injuries. After a truck accident, go to the doctor, even if you feel fine. When you’re at the doctor, discuss any new or unusual symptoms.
- Contact an attorney: Accident victims have a limited time to file a truck accident suit. This may seem like a long time, but commercial truck accidents are complex. Your attorney needs enough time to build a solid case. The sooner you contact an attorney, the better.
Protect Your Rights
Truck accidents are scary. But it can help to know you have someone by your side to fight for your rights. An experienced truck accident attorney can help you gather evidence and communicate with relevant parties. In the event of a hearing, your attorney will go to court to argue your case.
Don’t wait to get the help you deserve. To learn more about your rights, contact an experienced truck accident lawyer today.