Articles Posted in large truck accidents

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Every day in South Florida there is an incident that I can write about. Today I saw news coverage on one of our local channels WSVN-7 news, about a car that collided with a semi trailer. Reports state that there were no fatalities, luckily, but that six people needed to be hospitalized for injuries. Up to news time reports were uncertain as to exactly what the cause of the collision was but there was also speculation in the report that the cars may have been racing. See report below.

SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. (WSVN) — Five people are recovering in the hospital after the car they were riding in collided with a semi-trailer truck.

The incident occurred at about 2:30 a.m. Friday along Coral Way and Southwest 84th Avenue. Police said five people were riding in a Honda Accord when it collided with the big rig.

According to police and a witness, the truck was driving in the far right lane and the Accord in the center lane when the truck driver began moving toward the inner lanes. A witness told police two other cars and the Accord may have been racing. Police said the skid marks stretching to more than 150 feet are a good indication that the driver of the Accord was speeding well above the speed limit. Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta said, “When you first make that initial eye contact in the rear view mirror that car is over a football field in length, and then when you finish your action that you are gonna do you have the impact occurring instantly.”

Crystal Hernandez was riding in another car and said she and her friends were heading home from a nightclub when the accident happened. “I basically saw an 18-wheeler make a sharp left turn and my friends hit and then they started spinning,” said Hernandez. “They were actually right next to us but he just turned so quickly,” she said. “We were lucky, we just hit the gas and we made it into a shopping center and everything, but they weren’t so lucky.”
Rescue crews had to extricate one passenger with the Jaws of Life. They transported four of the five passengers to a local trauma center and the fifth to Kendall Regional Hospital.

“I didn’t see pretty things,” said Hernandez. “I mean, I don’t want to get into detail but it was pretty bad. I will not forget this.”

Police said none of the passengers were wearing their seat belt. The driver and the passenger sitting in the center back seat are both in critical condition, officials said.

Manny Saavedra, said his cousin, Ana Posada, is recovering after the accident. “She has a broken bone to her face and she will need plastic surgery, he said. “Everyone else is doing OK so far. There’s a guy with a broken hip, a guy with a broken head. There’s a girl in critical condition and right now they’re operating on her.”

Hazmat responded to the scene after the semi-truck spilled about 100 gallons of diesel onto the road.

After seeking medical attention you should seek immediate legal counsel from an experienced automobile attorney to ensure you know your legal rights. Your legal counsel will request the following: records of all medical bills; photographs of the scene of the accident and the immediate area; photograph of your injuries should also be kept. You should also get a copy of the police report and you should also contact the owner of the tractor trailer or the company that he works for as an accident report will have to be completed for insurance purposes. All these documents are pertinent in preparing a strong case on your behalf should you decide to file claim for your damages.

Should you or a loved find yourself a victim of personal injury please contact an Attorney experienced in automobile accident law to ensure that you know your rights and you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us for your FREE consultation via telephone 954 431 8100 or 305 624 9186 or online.

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As a Weston auto accident attorney, I was sorry to read about a major tanker truck accident that killed the truck driver as well as the driver of a pickup. As Florida Today reported Jan. 29, the police have released the names of Alexandra Marie Dugas, 19, and John Larchen Lynch, 42, both of whom were killed in the Jan. 21 accident. Dugas, of Merritt Island, reportedly rear-ended Lynch’s 18-wheeler in her Ford F-150, tipping both vehicles over. The crash unfortunately caused the 8,700 gallons of gasoline in the tanker part of the truck to explode, killing both drivers. The explosion also destroyed the Florida 528/Bennett Causeway overpass above Courtenay Parkway on Merritt Island, disrupting traffic around the area until at least mid-February.

Lynch, of Lauderhill, was reportedly driving west on 528 in the tanker truck when he was rear-ended by Dugas, in the pickup truck. The pickup truck overturned and rolled into the area formed by the 528 overpass over Courtenay Parkway, where it stopped on a concrete embankment. The large truck’s cab smashed through a guardrail into the eastbound side of the highway, while the tanker containing the gasoline fell off the bridge and landed next to the pickup, triggering the explosion. The ensuing fire killed both drivers and burned nearly all of the gasoline; Lynch was identified through dental records. Dugas was not officially identified, but family and friends confirmed to the newspaper that she was the other driver involved.

A friend of the Dugas family, Sandy Torres of Orlando, said the family had already been struggling financially and was not prepared for the costs related to the death of their 19-year-old daughter. As a Pompano Beach car accident lawyer, I’m sorry to say that very few families of ordinary means are prepared for a terrible accident like this. Money is not the top concern when a family member dies, of course, but it quickly becomes an issue when bills for a funeral, medical treatment and other costs come in. It can be an issue even sooner when the victim was a wage-earner who supported or helped support the family. When someone else caused the death out of carelessness, however, our firm can help the family recover those costs and others from the at-fault driver.

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As a Hollywood car accident attorney, I was sorry to see that a man was seriously injured in a rear-end accident with a semi truck. As the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Jan. 21, 78-year-old Luis Barcelo was seriously injured in a chain-reaction crash near the Broward-Collier county line, in the area called Alligator Alley. Barcelo was driving east on Interstate 75 when trucker Rafael De La Fuente, 26, rear-ended Barcelo’s vehicle. The accident was attributed in part to thick fog on the road, and in fact Florida Highway Patrol officers were closing the highway just as the accident took place. Barcelo’s passenger Oderta Herrada Rosada, 74, suffered minor injuries.

The accident took place just after 7 a.m. on the Collier County side of the border. Traffic had slowed because of the thick fog, including Barcelo’s vehicle. De La Fuente reportedly told investigators that he hadn’t noticed the slowing in time. A witness told the newspaper that the truck was going 60 or 70 mph when it slammed into Barcelo’s car, causing it to spin out on the highway. That car hit a second vehicle, an SUV with five passengers. Neither those people nor De La Fuente were seriously injured, but the witness said the crash “just crushed” Barcelo’s car, sending both Barcelo and Rosada to the hospital. It wasn’t clear whether poor visibility contributed to the accident, but the FHP said charges were pending.

If I were the Weston auto accident lawyer involved in this case, I’d be extremely interested in the truck driver’s activities up until the moment of the crash. Unfortunately, distracted driving is an issue for everyone on the road, which is why the federal government is campaigning aggressively against it. However, it’s especially bad news with truck drivers, who are in charge of vehicles that can weigh as much as 20 times more than an ordinary passenger car. In a crash, all that extra weight is translated into force, causing a very bad accident. If fog is the explanation for De La Fuente’s statement that he didn’t see the slowing traffic, it would be interesting to know why he felt it was safe to drive at highway speeds when other drivers did not. Another explanation is distracted driving — driving while eating, using a phone or otherwise taking eyes off the road, which is almost always an act of negligence.

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As a Davie tractor-trailer accident lawyer, I’ve written here several times before about the dangers of driving while talking on the phone. That’s why I was interested to see an article from Tampa Bay Online about the dedication of a part of U.S. 27 in Polk County to a phoning and driving victim. Heather Hurd, 26, died three years ago when a trucker distracted by his cell phone smashed into a line of cars stopped at a traffic light. The crash also killed Stephanie A. Phillips, 37, of Haines City. Hurd’s parents have become anti-distracted-driving activists since their daughter’s death and have successfully lobbied for a “Heather’s Law” banning talking on the phone while driving in their home state of Maryland. They and her 21-year-old brother were present Jan. 3 at a dedication ceremony for the Heather Hurd Memorial Highway near the site of the crash.

Hurd loved Disney World so much that she moved to Florida to work there. She was also planning her wedding at the park, and was on her way to meet a wedding planner on the day of the crash. As she waited at the stoplight, truck driver David Lunger of Jacksonville approached in his big rig. He told investigators he was using his phone, and they believe he also had exceeded limits on his hours behind the wheel. He failed to stop and smashed into nine stopped cars, killing Hurd and Phillips. Lunger was later cited and fined for careless driving, and died in 2009. Russell Hurd, Heather Hurd’s father, has made it a goal to pass a “Heather’s Law” in Florida and any other state that doesn’t already ban phoning and driving. Such a law was introduced in Florida last year and passed the state Senate, but was never introduced in the state House.

I hope that changes. As a Boca Raton trucking accident attorney, I’ve seen far too many cases of accidents caused by drivers distracted by cell phones. Many states already have bans on texting and driving, which may be an easier target because texting requires drivers to take their eyes off the road, or because texters tend to be inexperienced younger drivers. But research indicates that driving suffers if the driver is talking to someone not in the car, even if his or her eyes are on the road all the time, simply because of the cognitive demands of speaking to someone while also performing all the tasks needed to drive safely. Without a law against this behavior, it’s difficult to discourage this behavior or penalize the people who do it. However, even if there’s no criminal case against a distracted driver, victims and their families can always pursue legal claims against drivers whose distraction caused serious injuries or deaths.

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I have written here before about the terrible case of a tractor-trailer that crashed into a school bus in Ocala, killing a one middle school girl and injuring another. Because the trucker happened to be using a cell phone immediately before the crash, the incident helped raise awareness of distracted driving — an issue important to me as a Lauderhill auto accident lawyer. Now, the Ocala Star-Banner reported Jan. 13, the mother of the girl who was killed is helping start a new, MADD-like group intended to fight distracted driving. Elissa Schee of Ocala is one of five board members of FocusDriven, all of whom lost loved ones to distracted drivers. The board met Jan. 12 with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Frances “Margay” Schee was 13 when her school bus was rear-ended by a commercial trucker. The bus was pushed forward 100 yards and burst into flames, but Margay Schee was the only one killed. The truck driver told police afterward that he was using a cell phone at the time. Elissa Schee told that story when she appeared on an episode of Oprah broadcast Jan. 18 to promote FocusDriven. The group’s first priority is to pass legislation in all 50 states outlawing phoning and driving. At the moment, the newspaper said, Florida does not place any restrictions at all on phoning and driving — although the state legislature is expected to take up a ban on texting and driving this year. In fact, no state has banned cell phone use behind the wheel entirely, although six states require headsets for all drivers and 19 ban texting and driving.

As a Coral Springs car wreck attorney, I am glad that Schee and the other FocusDriven members are raising awareness of this issue. Distracted driving has emerged as a major issue in the past six to nine months, in part because of research showing that texting and driving raises your risk of a crash significantly. In one study of truck drivers, researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that texting raised the crash risk by 23 times. Another recent study found that the crash risk for drivers of ordinary cars, using a simulator, was six times greater. And some research has found that texting impairs driving even more than driving under the influence of alcohol or marijuana. But until our society sees a concentrated campaign to raise awareness of the dangers, drivers will continue to take those risks for the sake of convenience.

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A report by the federal Government Accountability Office says hundreds of trucking and bus companies have remained in operation despite orders to shut down, the Associated Press reported Aug. 3. The report looked at companies ordered to shut down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for serious violations like using unsafe equipment, failing to test drivers for alcohol and drugs and operating without a license. Investigators believe that at least 20 commercial bus companies and 1,073 trucking companies evaded paying fines and meeting other legal obligations by simply starting a new company using the same contact information and employees. More than 500 were still on the road as of July, the report said.

The study was released about a year after one of the “reincarnated” bus companies was involved in a deadly accident, the AP said. A bus from Iguala BusMex Inc. blew a tire on Aug. 8, 2008, near Sherman, Texas, sending it off the highway and killing 17 people on board. Iguala BusMex was a “new” company still waiting for its federal license — but it was run by Angel de la Torre, owner of Angel Bus Tours Inc., which stopped operating two months earlier after an unsatisfactory federal inspection. The blown tire was a retreaded tire installed on a steering axle in violation of federal law. The number of “reincarnated” trucking and bus companies may be even bigger, the GAO said, because the study looked only at exact matches between addresses and other contact information.

As a Deerfield Beach trucking accident attorney, I am disturbed that it’s so easy for companies with a record of safety violations to remain on the road. Using unsafe equipment and failing to drug-test might not sound like serious problems, but as the Iguala BusMex crash shows, even small safety violations can have deadly consequences when they affect a vehicle weighing many tons more than a passenger car. Trucking companies that send out their drivers with bad brakes or no valid license are setting up the drivers — and everybody around them — for a catastrophic accident. By the time these violations translate into a crash, it’s too late for the innocent people around the trucks, who are left dead or with serious, often permanent, injuries.

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A Flagler County Sheriff’s Deputy suffered serious injuries when he was hit on his motorcycle by a semi truck, the Orlando Sentinel reported Aug. 5. Deputy Sgt. Michael Van Buren was on his way to respond to a traffic accident on Palm Coast Parkway in Flagler County when the accident occurred. His injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, but were described as serious, including possible broken bones. No injuries to the truck’s driver were reported. The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the incident.

According to the paper, Van Buren was traveling west on Palm Coast Parkway when the accident happened. The accident report said the tractor-trailer was traveling east, but preparing to turn north onto Interstate 95. The article said Van Buren’s motorcycle hit the big rig, but the accident report did not specify how exactly that happened. As a motorcyclist and a Davie motorcycle crash lawyer, however, I know that a left turn in front of an oncoming motorcycle, violating the motorcyclist’s right of way, is one of the most common motorcycle accident configurations. In many of these accidents, the left-turning driver simply doesn’t see the motorcyclist, or doesn’t see the motorcycle until it’s too late to prevent the accident. In others, the motorcyclist is going too fast for conditions.

As a Tamarac motorcycle crash attorney, I was also interested in this crash because it pitted a ten-ton truck against a motorcycle, which is tiny by comparison. The officer is fortunate that his injuries were not serious — possibly because one or both of the motorists involved were able to think quickly. As a rule, motorcycles are outweighed substantially in accidents with cars and trucks, which is one reason why motorcycle accidents are so much more likely than car crashes to result in wrongful deaths and catastrophic injuries. Motorcyclists are also relatively unprotected, with only gear and helmets — which are optional for most Florida riders — between them and the pavement. In a crash with a large truck, that usually spells death or very serious injuries, such as permanent brain damage.

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A study of long-haul truckers found that truckers were 23 times more likely to crash when they were text messaging, the New York Times reported July 27. The study placed video cameras in the cabs of more than 100 long-haul trucks over 18 months. Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute then reviewed the videos to see what drivers were doing in the moments before a crash or a near miss. They found that typically, truck drivers were looking at their wireless devices for an average of five seconds — time when they couldn’t have their eyes on the road. According to the article, that’s enough time for a large truck at highway speed to travel more than the length of a football field.

The study did not look at drivers of passenger cars. However, the researchers said truckers display behaviors similar to those of drivers in passenger cars and the results can be generalized to them. In fact, preliminary results from a VTTI study of teenaged drivers in smaller vehicles show similar levels of risk while texting, the article said. Other studies have also found a vastly increased risk for those who text and drive. To Tom Dingus, the director of the VTTI, all that research means no one should text and drive — it should be illegal. It is already illegal for at least some drivers in 14 states, but Florida has no law addressing the issue, aside from general prohibitions against reckless driving.

As a Coral Springs big rig accident lawyer, I would not be sorry to see laws addressing the issue of texting and driving a semi truck. Here in Florida, we’ve already seen the results firsthand in the case of the truck driver who rear-ended a school bus near Ocala, killing one girl and seriously injuring another. That driver is accused of using his phone directly before the crash. Tractor-trailers are much bigger and heavier than ordinary cars and trucks, which means they can cause serious damage in a crash, including wrongful death and permanent, lifelong disabilities. Given the seriousness of a truck crash, it’s very important that truck drivers avoid texting and any other distraction, especially when research shows such a clear risk.

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The federal government is considering two moves that would have a major effect on the safety of the large trucks that share our roads in Florida. On July 24, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it will require newly manufactured trucks to be able to come to a complete stop more quickly, reducing the distance traveled during braking by 30%. Specifically, a semi truck traveling at 60 mph would be required to stop within 250 feet starting with newly manufactured 2012 trucks. Currently, the same truck traveling at 60 mph is required to be able to stop within 355 feet. The NHTSA estimates that this will save 227 lives every year and prevent 300 more serious injuries.

That announcement comes on the heels of a quieter change being considered by Congress. According to the Allentown, PA Morning Call, the House of Representatives is considering relaxing big rig weight limits. Currently, they can be no more than 80,000 pounds; House Resolution 1799 would increase the weight limit to 97,000 pounds. To prevent problems caused by that additional weight, it would also require an extra axle to create more “stopping power” and an $800 annual fee from the heavier trucks to defray the cost of repairing extra wear and tear on the roads. Competing legislation brought by Congressmembers concerned about both crash safety and the extra stress on the roads would maintain the current 80,000-pound limit.

As a Deerfield Beach tractor-trailer accident attorney, I am glad that the NHTSA rule change is taking place — but I will be especially glad if the change to the weight limit also passes. Weight and braking are directly connected: The larger the weight, the longer it takes a vehicle to stop. If trucks are allowed to be 17,000 pounds heavier, their already long stopping distances will get even longer unless braking technology can keep up. And that has bad implications for the drivers around those large trucks. Some drivers don’t realize trucks need more stopping distance and mistakenly treat them like other cars; others are exposed to serious injury when the trucker makes a misjudgment and can’t brake in time to prevent an accident. In either case, the increased weight of the truck translates to increased force in the resulting collision, causing wrongful deaths and catastrophic injuries.

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The Florida Highway Patrol has announced criminal charges in a semi truck accident that killed six in Glades County last year, the Naples News reported July 16. Ewing Saunders, 67, was charged with six counts of DUI manslaughter and one count of DUI property damage in the Sept. 29 accident. The crash killed Jose Saavedra, Jose Maria Arellano, Lucas Reyes Flores, Rigoberto Reyes Perez, Oscar Humberto Reyes and Sergio Saul Salazar. All six men were in a van on the way to their jobs picking saw palmetto berries, according to the article.

The FHP report said Saunders, of Nokomis, was driving a 2005 Peterbuilt tractor-trailer on State Road 78 in Glades County. As he approached the intersection with State Road 29, he failed to stop for a stop sign and collided with the workers’ 1993 Chevrolet van. All six men were pronounced dead on the scene; no injuries to Saunders were reported. However, testing of Saunders showed that he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.11 — over the 0.08 legal limit in Florida. The FHP filed charges after a 10-month investigation. Saunders was held on $300,000 bail; if convicted on all counts, he faces decades in prison.

As a Pompano Beach big rig accident lawyer, I was struck by the fact that this is a DUI manslaughter case. Statistically, truckers drive drunk at much lower rates than other motorists — possibly because they can have their commercial licenses suspended for just one infraction. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, truck drivers were just 1% of drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2007 who were legally drunk; they also had the lowest rate of previous DUI convictions of all drivers involved in fatal crashes.

But when truck drivers do drive under the influence, the results can be deadly. Because trucks are so large and heavy, they are nearly guaranteed to cause serious damage to passenger vehicles in any collision — killing or very severely injuring the people inside. That’s why statistically, the vast majority of people killed in semi truck crashes are people in other vehicles. When they are not killed, victims often sustain catastrophic or disabling injuries requiring lifelong medical care, such as brain damage or paralysis. As a Hallandale tractor-trailer accident attorney, my job is to help these victims win a fair insurance settlement, so they can get needed medical care and put their lives back together — but I would much rather see fewer families devastated by a truck driver’s negligence.

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