Drivers, bikers, pedestrians, and other road users in California face constant danger on the roads every day. One kind of hazards you should be aware of while using California highways is dangerously-driven trucks. Getting into an accident with a commercial vehicle can be one of the riskiest things that could happen to you. Many people sustain severe injuries, and others lose their lives in California truck accidents.
If the accident was another person’s fault, personal injury laws in California allow you to file a suit against that person for compensation. We at The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm will help you determine the at-fault party, take you through the legal process, and fight beside you as you seek compensation.
Truck Accidents in California
Truck accidents in the state of California occur mainly along truck routes. Getting compensation from such accidents is not always an easy matter because several factors come into play, the main one being the actual cause of the crash. Also, truck accidents bring along a different set of likely liabilities. The good thing is that personal injury laws in California cover those that get involved in truck accidents as well. You need to prove that your injuries were a result of another person’s negligence for you to get compensated for your damages.
The reason why most truck accidents occur is that profit margins for trucking companies often win over safety in this industry. It is more so with the increasing cost of insurance and fuel. This leads most companies to lower their standards regarding hiring truck drivers, speeding, inadequate maintenance of trucks, breaks for tired drivers, and vehicles carrying more than the required capacity. All these and many others are the leading causes of truck accidents in the state. Each of those is an act of negligence on the part of the trucking companies. There are other instances when a driver’s negligence can be the cause of an accident, for instance, distracted driving.
When a truck accident occurs, the result could be very severe because of the overall weight of the truck and the major force it generates. Fortunately, damages can be recovered through a personal injury lawsuit. Through such a suit, the injured party will be able to recover all the medical costs they have incurred in seeking treatment, the loss of their earning capacity, suffering, and pain, among other damages.
As mentioned above, truck accidents come with a unique set of liability theories, which can complicate matters to the person seeking compensation for their injuries. The at-fault party will have his/her lawyers, capital, and the insurance company to fight against your quest when you try to ask for compensation. That is why you need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney by your side. You need an attorney with skills and one who understands the complex nature of the legal theories surrounding truck accidents in California. His/her experience in dealing with aggressive insurance companies and experienced lawyers will be an added advantage for you.
Who Is Liable in a California Truck Accident?
In any auto accident in California, a fault is always grounded on negligence/carelessness. A careless truck driver will, for instance, be held responsible for anything that will happen to other motorists on the road, pedestrians, and passengers who could suffer damages if he/she caused an accident. As mentioned above, a truck driver can be negligent in more ways than one, starting from simple violation of traffic rules to careless driving. However, there are instances when a trucking company could be held responsible for causing the accident. In case of a fatigued driver, for example, the driver will not be at fault, but his/her employer. Poorly maintained trucks are a sign of negligence on the part of the trucking company.
Under the state’s negligence law, anyone whose negligence has caused an accident is responsible for all damages and injuries caused to other people. The law, however, requires the plaintiff to demonstrate how the liable party was careless in causing that accident. These are the essential basics for California negligence:
- That the driver, just like every driver in the state, owed a duty of care to the victim
- That the driver through careless acts breached that duty
- That the driver’s violation of his duty of care was the primary cause of the victim’s injuries
Duty of care demands that every driver should use reasonable care as well as a lookout for other people on the road while operating a truck. This law relates to truck operators too. The California duty of care required the motorist to do the following:
- To operate a vehicle with reasonable care
- To be on the lookout for other vehicles, pedestrians, and obstacles while driving
- To take control of the vehicle’s movement and speed
If any of these has not been adhered to, the driver is likely to cause an accident.
When the Driver is At Fault
There are truck accidents that occur as a result of a driver’s violation of traffic rules or careless driving. Negligence on the part of the driver means that the driver will be solely responsible for all the injuries and damages that result from the accident. A truck driver can be negligent in any of the following ways:
- Through distracted driving
- By driving while under the effect of drugs or alcohol
- Improper change of lanes
- Failing to give other drivers, pedestrians or bikers right of way
- Failing to obey traffic signs
- Texting on the phone while driving
If the driver’s negligence was a substantial cause of the crash, the court would find the driver responsible for all the resulting damages.
However, note that truck drivers can act with negligence because they are under pressure by their employers to meet deadlines. It could also contribute to careless driving. There are both federal and state laws in place which limit the length of time a truck driver can be out there on the highway. When a driver is fatigued, there is always a high chance of causing an accident when it is established that the cause of the driver’s negligence was the doing of the trucking company, the company that will be held responsible for the resulting damages.
When the Trucking Company is At Fault
In most cases of California truck accidents, the responsibility falls on the trucking companies. There are times when a trucking company recklessly or intentionally violates safety requirements or transport regulations so that they can increase their profits. When such violations result in misfortune, the company will be held liable for all resulting damages. Some of the examples of negligence in trucking companies include:
- Overloaded trailers
- Allowing overweight vehicles on the road, in violation of Section 35551 of California Vehicle Code
- Allowing vehicles to carry an unbalanced cargo
- Failing to keep trailers and trucks well-maintained
- Allowing truck drivers to operate even when they violate safety rules
- Carelessness in employing and training employees
- Carelessly retaining problematic employees
- Encouraging truck drivers to break their working hours and sleep limitations
Both federal and state laws govern the weight, route destination, and truck size for semi-trucks.
Contrary to these laws, there are trucking companies that intentionally go beyond the set limits. Some go to the extent of falsifying documents to conceal their violation. These are the types of reckless and intentional acts that could expose the at-fault truck companies to damages such as punitive damages if their trucks get into an accident.
Other Grounds for California Truck Accidents
A myriad of other reasons could be the cause of trucking accidents in California. A truck accident could, for instance, be instigated by the negligence of another driver on the way. In many auto accidents, several people could be partially liable for causing an accident. In that case, the injured party will have to file a negligence suit against each of the at-fault parties to recover his/her full compensation for the damages incurred in the accident. Other possible causes of California truck accidents include:
- Defective trucks or faulty tractor-trailer parts
- Defective semi-trucks
- Hazardous highway conditions
- Unsuitable road signage
Common Types of Injuries in a California Truck Accident
Damages resulting from truck accidents are more severe than those from other motor accidents. A loaded truck in a collision will gain more momentum when compared to a smaller or lighter vehicle. It is what makes injuries more severe to those that were in the small car that has gotten into an accident with the truck. Truck accidents do not only involve other vehicles on the road, and they are not always the same. There are different kinds of truck accidents, especially in California. The similarity in all these accidents is the danger they present to those that get involved in them.
Types of truck accidents in California mainly depend on the kind of truck that is involved. The typical examples of trucks include:
- The tractor-trailers or 18-wheelers — They are typically the big rigs that are common in the region. They are mainly cargo trucks and are designed to carry bulky goods. That is what makes them the most unsafe vehicles on our roads.
- The delivery trucks — They are mainly used for delivery services. With the increasing demand for home deliveries by many online buyers, there are many delivery vehicles in the state today.
- Waste disposal trucks — There are many types of these trucks in California, too, ranging from residential dump trucks to commercial vehicles that are hired to clear off home renovations and construction sites. Their loads are usually uneven, and so, it could cause the truck to tip, resulting in an accident.
- Tanker trucks — they are mainly used to ferry liquid cargo. An example of a tanker truck is an oil tanker, which delivers large amounts of gasoline to gas stations. Much of what these tankers carry is highly flammable, which makes them even more dangerous to be around in case of an accident.
- Emergency trucks such as fire trucks — These may not be as heavy as cargo trucks, but emergency trucks can get very dangerous, mainly because of the way they are driven. When an emergency case is reported, these trucks will be driven at high speed, through the red lights, and sometimes on the wrong part of the road. The dangerous moves they make when the traffic is substantial can be the cause of a severe accident.
These and many other types of trucks in California can cause different types of accidents on the roads. Injuries sustained in a truck accident can vary greatly, too, depending on the type of accident and the type of truck in the crash. Some of the most common injuries in a California truck accident are:
Injuries to the head and brain — These types of damages can be very devastating as they could affect a person’s ability to enjoy life, work, and spend time with their friends and family. These are significant losses as they can last for a lifetime, and even though they are not tangible, they could adversely affect the life of a person more than the physical problems.
Neck and back injuries — These could be severe or mild, depending on the type of accident a person has been involved in. Some neck and back injuries are temporary, while others are permanent and life-changing. Minor damage to the neck could, for instance, lead to whiplash, which is a brief but painful condition. Severe back injuries could make it impossible for a person to engage in gainful employment.
Broken bones — Breaking your bones in an accident can be very painful. In addition to that, fixing broken bones can be expensive, and in some cases, it could result in serious long-term issues.
Internal injuries — They, too, will vary in severity, with some internal injuries being mild and others severe. Some mild issues like a slight bruising of the kidneys can resolve on its own. However, there are severe internal injuries that will require immediate significant surgeries to save the life of the victim. These will cost more and take a long time to heal.
Wrongful death — Losing a person to a truck accident is not a new thing in California. If another person was negligence, then the family of the bereaved can file a lawsuit against the defendant to receive compensation for the death of their family member.
The extent of injuries in a California truck accident depends on several factors, such as:
- The type of truck in the crash
- The truck’s weight and that of the trailer
- The location of the accident, whether it is in the urban or rural area
- The speed at which the vehicle was moving
- The safety features of the truck and the car involved in the accident
Who Could Be Liable in a California Truck Accident?
Anyone could be liable in a California truck accident, be it the truck operator, the trucking company, local authorities, the other driver, a pedestrian, or even a biker. Whether you were the driver or a passenger in another car and you got injured in a truck accident as a result of another person’s fault, you should be able to file a claim against the responsible party for compensation. For this to work, you need a competent personal injury attorney by your side. With proper legal help, you will be able to understand how the accident happened, which will help you identify the guilty party/parties. There are many possible at-fault parties in a California truck accident, some of whom are:
Government agencies — These could be state, federal, or local agencies. They could be held responsible for a truck accident if other factors other than the driver’s or trucking company’s negligence was the cause of the crash. If, for instance, it was established that there was a problem with traffic lights, missing signs, or poorly maintained roads, government agencies will be the ones to blame in the event a truck accident occurred. Some accidents are caused by overhead branches that have been poorly maintained. Others occur as a result of blown-out streetlights. All these and many more will be the fault of the government agency in charge.
Cargo suppliers — Some of these accidents are caused by the type of gods the truck was ferrying. If, for instance, the materials in the truck were not safe for transport, the supplier will be held responsible for any accident the truck would cause. An accident could also happen if the cargo were not appropriately packed from the start. If this were the case, it could lose balance in the middle of a highway, causing an accident and causing significant damage to many other road users.
Trailer companies — If the trailer section is separated from the central part of the vehicle and the trailer has a problem, the at-fault party in such an accident could be the owner of the container. Poorly-maintained trailers can be very dangerous and could cause a severe truck accident. When that happens, the owner of the trailer will be liable.
Technicians/mechanics — These will be held responsible if an operational problem was the cause of the truck accident. Most trucking companies have in-house mechanics/technicians who handle all repairs and maintenance of their trucks. Other companies contract garages for the job. If, indeed, the truck had a mechanical failure, and it is established that the problem was the leading cause of the accident, a lawsuit could be filed against the person responsible for its repair and maintenance if negligence is found to be a factor.
How To File a Legal Claim After a California Truck Accident
Generally, in California, people who have sustained injuries in truck accidents have two years to present a claim in court against the negligent party/parties for compensation. The statutes of limitations can be shorter or longer than that, depending on the actual situation. If, for instance, you are filing a lawsuit against California, you will have only six months to do so, after which the court will not accept your petition. For this reason, it is advisable to speak to a personal injury attorney immediately you get into an accident. It will give him/her enough time to investigate the accident, prepare the necessary documents, and plan a strong statement in your favor.
Therefore, the first thing you should do in filing a lawsuit against an at-fault party in a truck accident is to get an experienced personal injury attorney. Such an attorney will understand all the rules and codes of practice for those in the truck industry as well as how one can uncover any driver or truck company that has violated the set rules. Experienced personal injury attorneys have also worked with insurance companies in the past. They will, therefore, know how to negotiate for a settlement and what to do if the insurance company’s offer is way below your expectations.
With an attorney by your side, you can begin gathering evidence and necessary information that will help you discover the at-fault party. Witness statements could be taken alongside the police statements and any other recorded proof that will help you negotiate for a reasonable settlement in court.
Note that if you were partially to blame for the accident, you would only be able to recover part of the compensation, through California comparative negligence law. Some of the compensable damages you could be entitled to include:
- Present and future medical costs
- Lost wages for the period you could not work while recovering
- Lost earning capacity in case the accident made it impossible for you to resume employment
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium/association with partner and family members
- Punitive damages
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm Near Me
If you have sustained injuries in a truck accident as a result of another person’s negligence, you may consider filing a suit against them for compensation. California personal injury laws will allow you to recover all the damages you have incurred in such an accident. The process is, however, not easy if you are working on your own. That is why we at The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm are here to help. With our excellent skills and experience, we will ensure a smooth process for you. Get in touch with us today at 619-625-8707.