Commercial Vehicle and Trucking Accidents FAQs
People who are seriously injured in trucking accidents and the families of people who are killed might think that they don't need to get help from personal injury attorneys because of the obviously serious nature of their accidents. However, failing to get help from a personal injury lawyer who is experienced in handling trucking accident cases can make it much less likely that you will prevail in your claim. Trucking accidents have unique features that make getting experienced legal help crucial. Here are some reasons why it is best to get help from a truck accident lawyer if you have suffered an injury or have lost a loved one in a collision with a large truck.
As we have previously explained, trucking accidents may involve multiple parties that are potentially liable. In addition to the truck driver, the company for which the driver was working at the time of the collision may be liable under a legal theory called respondeat superior. This is a Latin term that translates as "let the master answer for the servant" and is used in California to assign liability for accidents to employers when their employees negligently cause injuries to others while they are acting in the course and scope of their employment.
The drivers and their trucking carriers are not the only potentially liable parties in truck collisions, however. Other parties that might be liable to pay damages in a truck accident case include the following:
- Third parties who negligently repaired the trucks
- Owner of trucks that are leased to the trucking company
- Manufacturers of trucks or components that are defective when the defects caused the accidents
- Third parties that loaded the cargo improperly or that improperly secured the loads
- Trailer manufacturers or owners
- Government entities
An experienced personal injury attorney will review what happened and investigate a trucking collision case thoroughly so that he or she can determine all of the parties that should be named as defendants. It is important to name all of the potentially liable parties in a lawsuit. If you fail to name one defendant and a jury determines that the party that wasn't listed in your lawsuit was 30 percent at fault, you will not be able to recover 30 percent of your losses.Truck Accident Injuries May be Severe
Because of the differences in size and weight of large commercial trucks and passenger vehicles, the injuries that people might suffer are often more severe than the injuries that people might suffer from other types of collisions. As we have noted previously, some of the common types of injuries that people suffer in truck accidents include the following:
- Traumatic brain and head injuries
- Crush injuries
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Multiple fractures
- Internal bleeding
- Serious lacerations
In many cases, truck accident victims may suffer multiple types of injuries and are likelier to die than the victims of other motor vehicle collisions.Trucking Companies Litigate Claims Aggressively
Trucking companies and insurance companies litigate injury and wrongful death claims aggressively. Because of the catastrophic nature of these types of collisions, the injuries and damages may be extensive. The policy limits on trucking carrier liability policies are substantial and may exceed $1 million. Because of the potential to have to pay hundreds of thousands out in injury or death claims, the trucking carriers and their insurance companies often mount aggressive defense cases to the claims that are filed. It is important to have a legal representative who understands the types of defenses that these companies might raise so that he or she can anticipate them and build a strong case that proves the liability of the driver, carrier, and other defendants clearly.Laws and Regulations That Govern the Trucking Industry are Complex
The trucking industry is heavily regulated under both federal and state laws. Understanding these laws is important for you when you are trying to prove liability in a trucking accident claim. For example, truck drivers are only allowed to drive and work a certain number of hours per day and a certain total number of hours each week. There are also regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration about inspections and maintenance requirements. A lawyer who regularly accepts trucking collision cases might be able to identify violations of the law by the defendants that can strengthen your case.The Negotiations Process Can be Complicated
As previously mentioned, there might be numerous defendants in a truck collision case, and the policy limits for the various liability insurance coverages may be high. Each defendant may have teams of defense attorneys who are paid to minimize or avoid the losses that their companies might incur in injury and wrongful death claims. Trying to negotiate with all of the different defense lawyers can be daunting. A personal injury attorney who handles trucking collision cases may be skilled in negotiations and knowledgeable about the various laws and regulations that apply. The attorney may be able to use his or her combination of litigation skills, legal knowledge, and experience to deftly handle all of the negotiations on your behalf so that you might secure the maximum amount of compensation.Experienced Attorneys Might Understand How to Preserve and Gather Evidence
After a collision that involves a large truck, there are many different types of important evidence that could be lost due to the passage of time or because of interference by the companies. For example, trucks now must have electronic logging devices that log the hours that the trucks are operating on the roads. Trucks also have black boxes that work in a similar way to the black boxes in airplanes. These devices record information about what happened in the moments leading up to the accident. In some collisions, this information is transmitted directly to the trucking carriers where it might be altered or destroyed. When you get help from an experienced personal injury lawyer, he or she can file a motion with the court asking that the evidence is preserved. The court may then issue an order directing that the evidence is preserved so that it can be reviewed by your attorney for your case.Understanding Comparative Fault Laws and How They Might Apply
In California personal injury cases, comparative negligence rules apply. Under these laws, each party is responsible for the percentage of fault that is allocated to them. For example, if you are determined to be 40 percent at fault and receive a gross verdict of $1 million, you will recover a net award of $600,000 for your losses. When there are multiple parties, each party will be responsible for paying the amount that is attributed to them. Determining the percentage of fault that each party has can be difficult. Insurance companies often try to argue that the injured victims have a greater percentage of fault in an effort to reduce the amounts that they might ultimately have to pay. Getting help from an attorney who understands the comparative negligence rules in California might make it likelier that you will recover the compensation amount to which you should be entitled.Schedule a Consultation Today
Being involved in a collision with a large truck can be life-changing. You might be left with a permanent disability, mounting expenses, and a reduced ability to earn an income or to enjoy your life. When you get help from an attorney in Los Angeles who is experienced in truck accident cases, you can concentrate on your recovery and rehabilitation while your lawyer fights for you. To learn more about your potential claim, schedule a free consultation with the Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat today.
Are commercial drivers being coerced into dangerous driving practices by their never ending schedules and push to “deliver on time”? Industries all over the U.S. rely on trucking carriers to transport and deliver goods. Drivers are under a lot of pressure to deliver the goods by deadlines that are set by the companies that are receiving them. Some carriers threaten negative job actions against truck drivers in order to coerce them into breaking federal laws so that they can deliver their loads on time. This coercion is illegal, and a regulation called the coercion rule was put into place in order to protect truck drivers from threats and to make it easier for them to report shippers, carriers, brokers and others who try to coerce them into breaking the law.
Truck drivers work long hours in order to get their cargos to their destinations on time. The government has hours of service rules in place for drivers that limit them to working no more than a set number of hours each day while also placing mandates for break periods and limits on workweeks.
There is tremendous pressure within the trucking industry to get loads to their destinations by set times, and if truck drivers don’t meet their deadlines, their employers receive less for the delivery than they otherwise would. Drivers are also paid by the mile instead of by the hour, meaning that they are already under pressure to continue driving for long periods in order to meet their deadlines and to make certain that they get paid. This places pressure on the drivers to ignore safety and hours-of-service rules so that they can reach their delivery destinations on time so that they can get paid.
The hours-of-service rules are in place to help reduce the risk of truck drivers driving while they are fatigued. Drivers are expected to drive around 500 miles per day, but some types of deliveries, such as live unloads and loads, may take hours while the drivers are not paid for their time spent waiting. This may lead the drivers to break the federal regulations and laws that are in place to increase safety on the roads, and the drivers may then drive while they are drowsy and place everyone on the roadways around them at risk of accident involvement.How Truck Drivers are Coerced
Trucking companies may engage in several job actions that might coerce truck drivers into breaking the law in order to get paid. These coercive acts are illegal and include the following:
- Requesting drivers to do things that would result in their violating laws and regulations
- Threatening negative job actions when drivers tell their employers that doing the requested activity would result in violations of safety regulations
- Threatening terminations
- Not giving future loads to drivers when they have refused to violate the rules in order to meet deadlines
- Giving drivers unfavorable routes if they do not violate the rules
- Making drivers drive unfavorable schedules, such as on holidays, in retaliation for their refusal to ignore hours-of-service rules
Passed in 2015 and made effective on Jan. 29, 2016, the Coercion Rule is a regulation that makes it easier for truck drivers to report employers who try to coerce them into breaking federal safety laws. Coercion was made illegal by Congress under a part of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, or STAA. That law directed the Department of Transportation to promulgate regulations to enforce it, and the DOT responded with the coercion rule. The rule does three main things in order to reduce coercion and to aid in identifying companies that engage in it, including:
- Establishes a system for drivers to help them with reporting attempts to coerce them into violating federal safety laws
- Outlines the actions that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should take when it receives a coercion report
- Establishes penalties against companies when driver coercion is found
The aim of the law is to reduce coercion against truck drivers so that they comply with federal laws and do not feel pressured to break the law in order to get paid.The Likely Effect of the Coercion Rule
When the proposed rule was first published, shippers, receivers, motor carriers and transportation intermediaries complained that the coercion rule could cause a disruption in the supply chain. They also complained that brokers could be held to be vicariously liable for truck drivers who violated the hours-of-service rules even though the brokers do not employ them. Some carriers complained that drivers may file unfounded coercion complaints. However, in order for the coercion rule to come into play, drivers must first explicitly say that doing what they are asked to do would result in them breaking the safety laws and regulations.
The likely result of the coercion rule is that drivers may be less likely to feel as if they have to ignore safety regulations in order to comply with tight deadlines. The stiff fines for bad actors that engage in coercion may also result in fewer companies engaging in coercive behaviors against drivers. This may help drivers to adhere to the laws so that they are less likely to engage in drowsy or fatigued driving, resulting in fewer accidents, injuries and fatalities.
Safety regulations and laws are in place for the trucking industry because of the risks of catastrophic injuries or deaths to people who are involved in truck accidents. Truck drivers are under a significant amount of pressure to deliver their loads on time so that they can get paid. When a driver violates the hours-of-service rules, he or she risk causing an accident because of drowsiness and fatigue. People who are injured in accidents that are caused by drowsy truck drivers might want to consult with a personal injury lawyer.Importance of Retaining a Truck Accident Attorney Following a big rig Collision Causing Injury or Death
Violation of basic safety regulations which require regular rest can be a cause of big rig truck drivers falling asleep at the wheel and crashing into other motorists causing serious injury or even death. Hiring a truck accident attorney that is knowledgeable on the regulations governing commercial trucking enterprises can make all the difference when presenting a claim for personal injuries. Contact our office toll free at 866-966-5240 for legal assistance seeking monetary compensation for any trucking collision claim in California. Our team of lawyers and investigators has prosecuted many of these claims and successfully recovered millions of dollars for victims.Sources
What are the top 5 causes of trucking accidents? Trucks are an important part of the economy. On any given day, California motorists share the road with tractor-trailers, delivery trucks, vans and other commercial vehicles. A truck accident is a life-changing event that can happen to anyone. Catastrophic collisions occur on primary and secondary roads and crowded interstates. Poor maintenance, reckless driving, fatigue and driver error are just a few things that can cause a deadly truck collision.
To improve safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration compiled the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS), which examines five years of crash data and 1,000 variables. According to this report, safety violations are the leading cause of truck collisions. Equipment problems are responsible for two-thirds of truck collisions. One-third of all accidents are caused by service violations, such as operators failing to accurately maintain logbooks or driving for too many hours.
- Brake failure is the most common cause of accidents involving large trucks. Nearly half of all pre-accident violations are related to the truck’s braking system. Analysts found that brake problems were 50 percent more likely when the truck’s braking capacity was critical. Even when brakes are properly maintained, it takes a tractor-trailer 300 feet to come to a complete stop.
- Problems with lights were a contributing factor in one-fifth of big truck collisions. Although truck drivers are instructed to check all lights daily, many other commercial operators don’t take the same care. It’s always the driver’s responsibility to ensure that each light is working.
- A significant number of accidents are attributed to driver violations. Log violations are the most common. Drivers often make risky decisions, execute improper turns and break hours-of-service rules. Intoxication and fatigue also play a role.
- Tire violations and wheel detachment are dangerous problems. Mismatched, worn and deflated tires contribute to 15 percent of big truck crashes. Tire condition affects traction, stability and braking, particularly on wet or slick roads.
- Mechanical defects and inadequate maintenance are especially evident in a truck’s axles and steering systems. Faulty steering components are a contributing factor in 14 percent of accidents.
Maintenance is important. However, truck drivers aren’t the only ones who cause accidents. Only one of every five truck collisions is caused by the truck driver. In those cases, the driver generally made an improper turn or was driving at an unsafe speed. Regardless of the cause, a collision with a semi has devastating consequences. Small trucks weigh 10,000 pounds, but a loaded 18-wheeler can weigh 30 tons. Even a small box truck weighs about four times as much as a mid-sized sedan. Victims who are hit by large trucks often total their cars, sustain debilitating injuries and lose months of income.Truck Crashes in California
In California alone, these accidents cost billions. Experts say that 3 percent of injury crashes and 8.5 percent of fatal accidents are caused by trucks. According to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, trucks are involved in 5,000 injury crashes and 240 fatal crashes each year. Fortunately, accident attorneys can check records to determine if a driver should have been out of service and to pinpoint the cause of the collision.The Need To Consult a California Truck Accident Attorney
Accidents happen in seconds, but the effects can linger for the rest of your life. If you were injured in an accident with a truck or commercial vehicle, contact an attorney, and get the compensation that you need for medical bills, rehabilitation, lost wages and property damage. An experienced truck accident attorney can also recover punitive damages for pain and suffering. Request a contact us today to get started. California statewide toll free trucking accident and injury attorney helpline: 866-966-5240
Who is at fault when a commercial truck hits a car in California? Commercial truck versus passenger vehicle collisions are among the most devastating types of accidents. These accidents are also highly complex, making the determination of fault difficult. In these crashes, there are multiple parties who can share fault. An experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney may analyze the evidence to determine all of the parties that potentially are to blame for the accident so that the correct parties can be named as defendants.
An examination of the most common types of commercial truck versus passenger vehicle accidents can illustrate the different parties who might hold liability. Some of these causes include:
- Brake issues
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Unfamiliarity with the roads
- Defects in the roads
- Use of over-the-counter drugs
- Driver inattention
- Driver fatigue
- Pressure from trucking carrier
- Illegal maneuvers
- External distraction
- Tire problems
- External distraction
- Following too close
- Cargo shifts
As you can see, these causes can be divided into vehicular causes, environmental causes and driver causes, meaning that multiple parties may have some fault.Vehicle Brake, Tire or Other Maintenance Issues
Parties that are responsible for the maintenance and repair of brakes, tires and other truck parts may be liable for an accident. Under California law, trucking companies owe a duty of care to maintain safe trucks and buses. They must also have regular inspections and compliance checks. Companies that fail to maintain the trucks and buses in a safe manner or to submit to inspections and compliance checks may be liable to pay damages when accidents result.Speeding
Under Cal. Veh. Code § 22350, drivers in the state are not supposed to drive faster than the conditions allow, including the weather, traffic, visibility and other factors. This is very important for large trucks because of the long stopping distances that they require. Large trucks are simply unable to come to abrupt stops. One common type of truck accident that can happen when truck drivers are driving too fast for conditions is a jackknifing accident. This happens when a large truck tries to brake suddenly when the truck is approaching a spot that is slick, causing the wheels to lock. The trailer continues to move forward, and the driver loses control with the trailer swinging out to the side.Driver Fatigue
Truck drivers drive for long hours each day. The federal government has hours-of-service rules in place to limit the number of hours that the drivers can drive each day and each week as well as the number of hours that they must have off from work. Driver fatigue factors into many collisions involving large trucks. As we have previously noted, the National Transportation Safety Board estimates that between 30 and 40 percent of commercial truck crashes involve drivers who are fatigued. Drivers may drive for more than their allowed hours because of feeling pressured by their trucking carriers. They might also be expected to reach a delivery destination in a shorter amount of time than what is possible given the hours that they are allowed to drive along with the speed limits. This might lead the drivers to drive when they are tired and fail to pull off of the road in order to rest.Drivers Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
Some drivers cause accidents while they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Truck drivers must submit to regular alcohol and drug tests, but driving under the influence happens more often than people might believe. In addition to illegal drugs and alcohol, some drivers have accidents when they are under the influence of prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications. As we have noted before, plaintiffs may recover treble damages from the drivers’ employers if the drivers were under the influence of alcohol or drugs and the employers failed to test them as required by the law.Illegal Maneuvers
This broad category of driver-related factors includes many things. Some of the most common types include trying to enter freeways or other roads without having enough room to do so. Miscalculations of speed and the distance of oncoming traffic are also common. Cal. Veh. Code § 21804 mandates that drivers that are about to enter or cross a roadway yield to oncoming traffic that is close enough to create a hazard. Unsafe lane changes are also a common illegal maneuver that can result in truck collisions. These are prohibited under Cal. Veh. Code § 22107, which requires all drivers to only change lanes when it is safe to do so and to use signals to let other drivers know.Distracted Driving
Truck drivers may be distracted by things outside of the truck as well as by things inside of their cabs. As we have previously explained, drivers are prohibited from using handheld mobile phones or texting while driving. In addition to cell phones, drivers may be distracted by billboards, other drivers, buildings and other objects outside. They may also be distracted by their dispatch equipment and other electronics inside of their cabs. When truck drivers are distracted, they may fail to see that traffic has slowed ahead of them and crash into the rears of other vehicles. They may also drift into other lanes, colliding with passenger vehicles that are present.Following too Close
Many catastrophic commercial truck accidents happen because the truck drivers are driving too close to other vehicles. As we have discussed, trucks require much greater stopping distances than do other vehicles. When they drive too closely behind other cars that suddenly slow down, the truck drivers may be unable to stop and collide with the vehicles in rear-end collisions.Cargo Shifts
Parties that load the trucks such as shippers and distributors must load the cargo safely and make certain that it is properly secured. When the trucks are not loaded properly, or the loads are improperly secured, they may shift. Sudden shifts of the cargo may cause the truck drivers to lose control of the trucks or cause them to overturn. Improperly secured loads may fall off of the trucks into the paths of other cars.What to do if you are hit by a Large Truck
If you are struck by a large truck, there are several things that you should do. Get the driver’s license and insurance information as well as the information about the company for whom the driver was driving at the time of the accident. This should include the company’s name, address and phone number. Do not accept blame for the accident or deny that you have been injured at the scene of the accident. Many people do not realize that they have been injured in the immediate aftermath of a crash because of the surge of adrenaline that they experience. You should seek prompt medical attention or ask for medical transport from the scene by an ambulance.Contact an Attorney Familiar With Trucking Accident Claims Causing Personal Injury or Death
It is important that you get legal help as soon as possible after you have been struck by a commercial truck. Contact an experienced Los Angeles truck accident lawyer and schedule your contact us.
If you are involved in a Los Angeles, California truck collision, the experience can be frightening and overwhelming. In the immediate aftermath, it may be difficult for you to know exactly what you should do. There are several important steps that you should take after you have been struck by a large truck. To help you to remember what to do if a collision occurs, you might want to print this out and keep it in your glove box for your reference in case a big rig collision happens. Here are the steps that you should take immediately following a collision.
Under Cal. Veh. Code § 20001, all motorists who are involved in collisions that cause bodily injury or death must stop and remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives. If you fail to stay at the scene, you may be charged with a felony offense if someone was killed or injured. You may be able to move your vehicle for safety if you need to do so. However, it is best if you can leave your car exactly where it ended up following the collision because doing so can help to determine what happened leading up to the trucking collision.2. Call 911
Big rig accidents are often very serious, resulting in serious bodily injury or deaths. You should immediately call 911 to summon help following a trucking accident. The dispatcher will likely dispatch law enforcement along with emergency responders to the scene. The police can investigate what occurred by gathering statements from witnesses and creating accident reports while the emergency responders can tend to the injured.3. Check for Injuries
After you have called 911, you should check yourself and others for injuries. If there are multiple vehicles that were involved, check the occupants of all of them and provide first aid to people who are injured. Avoid moving the victims in case they have suffered spinal cord injuries unless you must because of leaking fuel or other hazardous conditions.4. Document the Scene With Photographs and Video
If you can, try to document the scene as thoroughly as possible by taking pictures and recording video. You can either keep a camera in your vehicle for this purpose or use your smartphone's camera. Photographic and video evidence can be important for proving your claim. You should try to take photographs of all of the vehicles that were involved in the collision, their positions to each other, the damage to each one, and their license plates. You should also take photographs of the scene in general, including landmarks, street signs, traffic control devices, speed limit signs, skid marks, and the road conditions. Taking a video of the scene and the vehicles involved may also be helpful. If the collision occurs at night, it might be harder to see what happened. You can take an audio recording of your account of what happened while the details are fresh in your mind.5. Exchange Your Information
California Veh. Code § 20003 requires that all people who are involved in collisions to exchange information with each other. You should exchange the following information with all of the other drivers, including the semi-truck driver:
- Contact information
- Driver's license information
- Registration information
- Insurance information
If you do not have a pen and paper to write the information down, take photographs of the insurance cards, driver's licenses and registration paperwork for each motorist with your smartphone. If there were witnesses to the collision, try to collect their names and contact information as well.6. Minimize the Statements That You Make
You should avoid going into detail about what happened in the collision, and you should never state that you were at fault. There may be factors that led to the accident of which you are unaware. For example, it is possible that the big rig driver was texting on the phone or had engaged in another type of negligence that contributed to the collision. If an insurance adjuster from the trucking company's insurance carrier comes to the scene, do not give any statements. You are not required to talk to the other party's insurance company. Insurance adjusters try to collect statements from the victims of collisions that their employers can use against them after the victims have filed claims. When you talk to the police, you should keep to the facts and avoid elaborating beyond them.7. Get Medical Help
You should seek medical attention as soon as possible after a collision with a semi-truck. If you wait to get medical care, your injuries may worsen. Waiting to get medical help may also harm your potential claim because it will be harder to demonstrate a link between the collision and your injuries. Insurance companies may try to claim that your injuries were caused by some other intervening event if you wait to get help.
Some types of injuries may not show immediately noticeable symptoms. Even if you think that you emerged unscathed from the collision, you should go to the doctor to get a medical examination to make certain.8. Consult With an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in Los Angeles
It is important for you to consult with an experienced truck collision lawyer as soon as possible. After you get medical help for your injuries, your next step should be to talk to an attorney before you sign any documents or give any statements. Your lawyer can deal with the insurance companies that are involved on your behalf so that you can concentrate on getting better. Getting legal help early can help to prevent you from saying or doing something that could harm your claim.9. Keep all of Your Doctors' Appointments
It is important for you to keep all of your scheduled doctors' appointments when you have been injured in a collision with a big rig. You should also follow all of the recommended treatments from your doctors. This can help you to recover more quickly while also helping to document the severity of your injuries.10. Be Mindful of the Deadline for Filing Claims
Every state has a statute of limitations for filing tort claims. In California, negligence claims must be filed no later than two years from the date of your collision. If you wait to file your claim beyond this deadline, you will not be able to recover damages for any losses that you suffered. In practice, it is best for you to seek help much earlier rather than waiting until the limitations period is almost over. Getting help early can help you to preserve important evidence that might otherwise be lost as time passes.11. Call the Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat
If you are seriously injured in a semi-truck crash in Los Angeles, it is important for you to speak to a local attorney who is experienced with handling complex cases. Attorneys who regularly practice in the city may be more familiar with the defense bar, the different civil judges, and the local procedures and rules. A lawyer at the Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat can analyze what happened in your case and provide you with a free and confidential case analysis. Contact our office today to schedule your appointment.