Commercial trucks are strictly regulated because they are large vehicles transporting very heavy loads across the United States. Commercial drivers need to have special driver’s licenses and are held to a higher standard than most drivers of passenger vehicles.
As part of these higher standards, federal law limits the maximum blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of a commercial truck driver to only half the limit set by Florida state law. So a truck driver can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) with a BAC of 0.04 as opposed to the state limit of 0.08. A truck driver who operates under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance is far more likely to cause a motor vehicle accident.
If you suffered severe injuries or your loved one was killed in a commercial truck accident caused by a driver operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the criminal justice system is not your only recourse. You could be entitled to compensation for every single expense you have incurred or will incur because of your crash.
At Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano, P.A., our dedicated truck accident lawyers have more than a century of combined legal experience. Our attorneys can discuss your rights with you as soon as you call (352) 275-8974 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Who Can Be Held Liable After a Drunk Truck Driver Crash?
When a commercial driver causes an accident as the result of a DUI offense involving drugs or alcohol, the driver isn’t the only party that could be held responsible. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the crash, some of the different parties that could be held liable include:
- Trucking companies
- Truck owners
- Cargo loading companies
- Truck part manufacturers
- Maintenance companies
In many drunk or drugged truck driver cases, the driver is undoubtedly liable. However, it is always important to have a knowledgeable truck accident attorney thoroughly investigate the accident in order to identify all other potentially liable parties.
Evidence That May Be Used to Prove Drunk or Drugged Driving
When a commercial truck driver is suspected of a DUI crime involving drugs or alcohol, law enforcement will usually conduct its own investigation at the scene of the accident. Police will typically ask drivers to submit to tests of their breath, blood, or urine to determine drug or alcohol use. Drivers can face serious penalties if they refuse to provide these samples.
A breath test will often provide evidence of alcohol impairment, while a urine test may reveal drugs in a truck driver’s system. Florida has strict rules about how these tests must be conducted, and samples must be stored.
The evidence that law enforcement seizes in its criminal investigation can also be used in a civil action, but the two cases will be completely separate. This is an important distinction because even if a truck driver is not convicted of DUI, he or she can still be held civilly liable for damages to crash victims.
Compensation After a Truck Accident Caused by an Impaired Driver
Victims of truck accidents involving alcohol may be entitled to financial compensation for all losses related to the crash. This may include:
Economic damages, which are tangible losses such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage
Non-economic damages, which are much more subjective kinds of harm such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and disfigurement
With a drunk or drugged driving case in particular, a victim could also be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are awards that are usually rare and are intended more to punish defendants for particularly egregious conduct.
Florida law establishes that a defendant can only be held liable for punitive damages if the defendant is found guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence based on clear and convincing evidence.
Because of the potentially huge amount of compensation that could be awarded by a jury, many commercial truck accident cases are ultimately resolved through settlements. An insurance company will typically conclude it is in its best financial interest to settle a case involving a drunk truck driver rather than take it to trial. Some truck crash cases do go to trial though, so it is important to have a lawyer on your side who has significant courtroom experience.
How Long Do You Have to File a Truck Accident Claim?
Every state sets a time limit, or statute of limitations, on how long victims have to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim after an accident. Under Florida law, a personal injury lawsuit must be filed within four years of the cause of action, or the date of the truck accident. A wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of a person’s death, and this date may be different than the date of an accident.
Although this may seem like you have plenty of time to pursue a claim, it is crucial to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible after a truck accident. Evidence of what happened can quickly be destroyed, and your lawyer will want to preserve everything possible to support your claim for compensation.
Laws Against Drunk or Drugged Driving in Trucks
Although Florida law establishes that a person commits DUI when he or she drives with a BAC of 0.08 or more, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established 0.04 as the BAC level at or above which a commercial motor vehicle operator is deemed to be driving under the influence of alcohol.
A truck driver who commits a DUI violation is subject to the disqualification sanctions under federal regulations. The driver is typically disqualified for one year following a first-time DUI conviction.
Most trucking companies actively conduct their own drug tests of drivers before hiring them, but drugs can still become an issue long after the hire. While companies will conduct random drug tests, some drivers may still abuse drugs without failing a company test. Or companies may fail to conduct tests.
Federal regulations require that all employers test surviving drivers for alcohol and controlled substances as soon as practicable following a truck accident. However, attempts must be ceased when no alcohol test is administered within 8 hours of an accident or no controlled substance test is administered within 32 hours of the accident. Employers are required to prepare and maintain a record stating the reason(s) why the test(s) could not be administered.
Police officers will also conduct investigations into drunk truck driving accidents, and the symptoms of intoxication by alcohol are usually more visible than drugs. However, tests are often conducted into possible drug use even when a truck driver is not displaying symptoms of impairment by drugs.
Contact Our Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys Today
The aftermath of a serious tractor-trailer accident is a very frightening and confusing time for the people involved. It can be devastating for these victims to learn that their injuries or their loved one’s deaths were the result of a drunk or drugged truck driver.
Commercial drivers are expected to be professional stewards on the nation’s roads, and accidents involving commercial vehicles in which drivers were under the influence of alcohol or drugs are inexcusable. Drunk or drugged driving by any commercial driver is a tremendous threat to the safety of the general public, and those responsible should be held accountable.
Have you suffered catastrophic injuries or was your loved one killed in a commercial truck accident caused by a drunk or drugged driver in Florida? We are here to help. Our compassionate Gainesville truck accident attorneys understand the complex rules and regulations that govern the trucking industry, and will craft a strong case to demand the maximum compensation for your claim.
Why Choose Our Firm?
Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano, P.A., has been helping clients throughout the greater Gainesville Florida area since 1980. We have the skill, experience, and resources you need to hold trucking companies and their insurers accountable when a crash causes you harm.
You don’t have to face these powerful entities alone. Our respected truck accident attorneys will be right by your side every step of the way, and our legal team is always committed to making sure that justice is served.
So please call (352) 275-8974 or contact us online to speak to a member of our legal team today. An initial consultation is free, and there are no upfront charges for us to begin work on your truck accident injury claim. Instead, our fee is contingent upon us winning money for you. If our lawyers don’t recover compensation in your truck accident case, you don’t pay attorney fees.