Trucking accidents can be catastrophic, and the laws surrounding them can be complex. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were over 12,000 trucking accidents in the state in 2020. These accidents resulted in over 4,800 injuries and over 500 deaths. In addition, Florida has several high-crash corridors, including Interstates 75, 95, 4, and 10. These corridors are heavily traveled by commercial and personal vehicles, and the high number of trucking accidents in these areas highlights the importance of understanding the laws and regulations that apply to commercial vehicles.
Below we have provided an overview of Florida’s trucking accident laws, including information on the statute of limitations, no-fault insurance, size and weight restrictions, safety regulations, and criminal laws. We will also provide information about legal resources for truck accident victims, including lawyer associations and legal aid organizations.
Florida Hours of Service Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets regulations for the number of hours that truck drivers can operate their vehicles without rest, known as “hours of service” (HOS) regulations. These regulations are in place to prevent fatigue-related accidents.
The principal HOS regulations that Florida truck drivers must follow are:
Truck drivers may drive up to 11 hours after ten consecutive hours off-duty.
Truck drivers may not drive after having been on duty for 14 hours, regardless of the number of hours spent driving.
Truck drivers may not drive after 60 hours of on-duty in seven consecutive days.
In addition, the HOS includes a Sleeper Berth provision. This provision allows a driver to split their required ten hours off-duty into two periods: one period of at least eight consecutive hours in a sleeper berth plus two consecutive hours either off-duty or in the sleeper berth.
Truck drivers must keep track and record their service hours using an Electronic Logging Device (ELD). Violations of these regulations can result in fines, penalties, and suspension of a driver's commercial driver's license (CDL). It can also be used as evidence of negligence in a truck accident lawsuit. Call the DOT Complaint Hotline at (888) 368-7328 to report a violation.
Florida Negligence Law
Negligent operation of a semi-truck refers to actions taken by the truck driver that falls below the standard of care that a reasonable and prudent truck driver would have taken under the same or similar circumstances. It can include actions such as:
Speeding: This can include driving at a speed not appropriate for the weather, traffic, or road conditions.
Distracted driving: This can include using a cell phone, eating, or engaging in any other activity that takes the driver’s attention away from the road.
Fatigue: Driving while fatigued can impair a driver’s reaction time and judgment, making them more likely to cause an accident.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol: Operating a truck while impaired by drug or alcohol use is illegal and constitutes a negligent operation.
Failing to follow traffic laws: Negligent operations can include failing to obey traffic signals, stop signs, observe right-of-way, or other traffic laws.
Improper maintenance of the vehicle: Neglecting to properly maintain the semi-truck, such as failing to fix brakes or other safety-related issues, can be considered negligent.
To prove negligence in a truck accident case, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the truck driver failed to act with reasonable care and that this failure was the cause of the accident and injuries.
Florida Cargo Securement Regulations
Florida follows the federal cargo securement regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for commercial motor vehicles, such as semi-trucks. These regulations are in place to ensure that the cargo is loaded, secured, and transported safely. Freight must be secured to prevent it from shifting during transport and causing an accident. This includes using appropriate tie-downs, straps, chains, or other securement devices to keep the cargo in place.
In addition, cargo must be within the limit specified by the FMCSA and the vehicle’s manufacturer. Overloaded or unbalanced cargo can cause the semi-truck to be unstable and increase the risk of an accident.
Hazardous materials must be appropriately marked, labeled, and placarded, and the driver must have the proper training and certification.
If you suspect a cargo securement violation, call the DOT Complaint Hotline at (888) 368-7238 to file a report.
Florida Semi-Truck Size and Weight Restrictions
The size and weight restrictions for semi-trucks in Florida are determined by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and are enforced by the Florida Department of Transportation.
The maximum weight for a semi-truck, including the vehicle and its cargo, is 80,000 pounds, the federal limit. However, some Florida localities have additional weight restrictions, so it's essential to check with the FDOT for any further restrictions that may apply to specific routes.
The maximum size for a semi-truck is determined by the vehicle’s length, width, and height. Generally, the maximum length for a semi-truck is 53 feet for the trailer and 40 feet for the tractor-trailer combination. The maximum width for a semi-truck is 8.5 feet. The maximum height for a semi-truck is 14 feet.
These regulations are subject to change. Additionally, some localities may have further restrictions, so it is crucial to check with the local authorities for the specific rules that apply to certain routes.
To report a semi-truck size and weight violation, contact FDOT through its customer service portal.
Commercial Driver’s License Requirements in Florida
To obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in Florida, the individual must be at least 21 years old and have a good driving record. Additionally, CDL applicants must pass physical and medical exams, knowledge and skills tests, and be able to read and speak English.
Driving a commercial vehicle without a valid CDL is a severe criminal offense punishable by fines or imprisonment. Exact penalties will vary depending on the circumstances of the case, but they can include points on the driver's license and jail time. Additionally, it will be difficult for them to obtain a CDL in the future.
The driver and employer will also face civil penalties if the vehicle is involved in an accident. In addition, the driver will be held liable for any damages or injuries caused by the accident, which can be financially devastating. Employers can also face penalties for allowing an unlicensed driver to operate a commercial vehicle. These penalties can include fines, suspension or revocation of the company's operating authority, and criminal charges.
Call the DOT Complaint Hotline at (888) 368-7238 to report a CDL violation.
Florida Commercial Trucking Insurance Requirements
In Florida, commercial trucks are required to have liability insurance, which covers damages and injuries that the truck driver may cause to others while operating the vehicle. The minimal liability coverage requirements for commercial trucks in Florida are $750,000 for bodily injury and property damage per accident. Although these are the minimum coverage requirements, it's always recommended to have more than the minimum coverage to protect the driver and the business.
Additionally, if the truck is used for hire, it is also required to have cargo insurance, which covers damages or losses to the cargo being transported. The state government does not set the minimum cargo insurance requirement for commercial trucks in Florida. Instead, it varies based on the type of goods, the value of the goods, the distance of the haul, and the trucking company's policies.
How Much Can Someone Sue For a Truck Accident in Florida?
There is no specific limit on the amount of damages that victims can recover in a truck accident lawsuit in Florida. Still, there are some caps on non-economic damages, like pain and suffering. For truck accidents, the damages would be subject to the liability coverage limits of the trucking company or individual.
It's important to note that the amount of damages that victims can recover in a truck accident lawsuit will also depend on factors such as the degree of fault of the parties involved, the severity of the injuries, and the insurance coverage available. An attorney specializing in truck accident law can help you determine the potential value of your case.
The Statute of Limitations in Florida
The statute of limitations in Florida is four years. Therefore, an individual has four years after the accident to file a lawsuit for any damages or injuries sustained. Some examples of damages or injuries are:
The four-year deadline is strict. If you fail to file a lawsuit within four years, you will likely be barred from seeking any compensation for your injuries or losses.
Additionally, if the accident involves a government-owned truck, the victim must give notice of the claim within three years of the accident and file the lawsuit within two years of providing notice. In these cases, it is crucial that the victim takes the appropriate steps to file a claim as soon as possible to avoid running out of time.
It is always best to consult with an attorney specializing in truck accident law to determine the specific statute of limitations that applies to your case and help you prove negligence.
Is Florida a no-fault state?
No, Florida is not a no-fault state for truck accidents. Unlike auto accidents, Florida's no-fault law does not apply to truck accidents, so the standard "fault" system determines liability and compensation. Therefore, in a truck accident, the person or party determined to be at fault compensates the victims for their injuries and losses.
Legal Resources for Florida Trucking Accident Victims
If you have been involved in a truck accident in Florida, you may be wondering what legal resources are available to help you navigate the process of seeking compensation for your injuries and losses. The following is a list of legal resources that can provide information, advice, and representation in your truck accident claim.
The Florida Bar Association
The Florida Bar Association provides a directory of licensed attorneys in the state, including those specializing in personal injury law. You can search for attorneys based on their area of practice, location, and other criteria.
In addition, you can also use the Florida Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service, which can connect you with an attorney with experience handling truck accident cases. The service is available to the public, and when you call, you will speak to a trained referral counselor who will ask you a few questions about your case and then provide you with the name of a qualified attorney who can help you.
Florida Rural Legal Services
Florida Rural Legal Services (FRLS) is a non-profit organization that provides free legal assistance to low-income individuals in Florida, including those who have been involved in a truck accident. FRLS helps clients with a wide range of legal issues, including giving legal advice, representing clients in court, and providing community education and outreach to help educate the public about their legal rights.
Services offered by FRLS are limited to low-income individuals, and this organization might only be able to take on some cases. They prioritize cases that are most likely to impact the community positively. If you are a truck accident victim in Florida and would like to seek legal assistance, you can contact FRLS to see if you qualify for their services. They will typically ask for information about your income and assets, and you will be asked to provide documentation such as pay stubs or tax returns to confirm your eligibility.
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) can assist truck accident victims by providing accident reports, inspection records, licensing and registration records, compliance assistance, and crash data. These records can be used as evidence in a personal injury claim to identify the trucking company and driver involved in the accident and determine if they complied with state and federal regulations. The DHSMV can also guide how to report violations or safety concerns.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a federal agency that regulates the trucking industry and is responsible for enforcing compliance with federal safety regulations. This organization can assist a truck accident victim by providing safety records, compliance assistance, safety investigations, and data. These records can help the victim determine if the trucking company involved in the accident had a history of safety violations that may have contributed to the accident. The FMCSA can also guide how to report violations or safety concerns. In addition, this data can be used for research, analysis, and legal claims.
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