Trucks are generally larger than ordinary personal vehicles. So when an accident happens, the damages and injuries can be catastrophic. Get in touch with The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm whenever you get involved in a truck accident for help in seeking compensation. We understand that personal injury laws are complex, and you might not be able to navigate the different case elements on your own. That is why we are here to help you.
Overview of a Truck Accident Case
The fact that trucks weigh 25 times more than standard personal vehicles, the results of an accident is severe and fatal. According to the US Department of Transportation statistics, most of the track accident cases are not the fault of the truck driver since they are cautious on the road. Negligence of other drivers and unforeseen road hazards are the major causes of truck accidents.
Often truck drivers are accused of causing an accident, whereas it’s not their fault in most cases. You will need a reliable personal injury attorney to prove your innocence in such a situation to avoid paying damages and injuries you didn’t cause. You can file a compensation claim even if you are a cyclist or a pedestrian involved in the truck accident as long as you got enough evidence to prove the accident liability.
Further, truck accidents can even become much worse if the freight the truck is carrying is hazardous. For instance, if there are flammable materials such as gasoline on board, the resulting truck accident will be dangerous since it can cause secondary injuries on people far away from the scene in case of an explosion.
Elements Available in Determining a Truck Accident Liability
There are a few elements that victims of a truck accident need to put into consideration when establishing liability in truck accidents. If you think of filing a lawsuit for injuries and damages caused as a result of a truck accident you were involved in, you must pay attention to the elements of the case, which are the key basis for proving accident liability. They include:
Duty of Care
Duty of care is a legal obligation that requires people to use reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm like an accident. California has a law for a general duty of care under Civil Code Section 1714(a), which states that every party that fails to use reasonable care in managing their property hence causing injuries to another person, should be held responsible.
Duty of care obligation is set forth by the local statute, federal government, or the state. All drivers, including truck drivers, are supposed to exercise the duty of care to avoid causing accidents and injuries to other people, including pedestrians. Individuals who fail to use reasonable care in the event of a truck accident can be held liable for any injuries and damages caused.
Commercial truck drivers must be more vigilant on the road than other passenger vehicle drivers by exercising reasonable care while on the steering wheel to prevent accidents. Thus, it’s crucial to hire truck drivers who have undergone thorough training to earn a commercial driving license. Before filing a lawsuit on damages and injuries incurred in a truck accident, you need to check if there is an existence of the duty of care in your state.
Breach of Duty of Care
With the help of your injury attorney, you should be able to determine if parties involved in the truck accident breached the duty of care obligation. You have to show the jury how the negligent party breached this duty of care to cause the accident for you to get compensation for the damages caused. Below are common negligent acts known for causing truck accidents.
There are always speeding limits set in highways to prevent accidents. Any driver who causes an accident as a result of over speeding is liable for the damages and injuries accident victims incur. A personal injury attorney can help you gather enough evidence to prove the defendant was over speeding in the event of the truck accident that you were a victim.
Loading Cargo Inappropriately
Every cargo loader has to adhere to the set requirements of load size, length, height, and weight before the truck driver starts his/her journey. Carrying an oversized and overweight load exposes the truck drivers and others to the risk of an accident because the truck might easily tip over or fail its braking system as expected, thus leading to an accident.
Many truck drivers are known to use drugs and alcohol to keep them awake after driving for long distances. When a truck driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he/she might fail to coordinate appropriately as a sober person would, which exposes them to the risk of accidents due to poor judgment ability.
Lack of Sleep and Fatigue
Every truck driver should take breaks periodically after every transport to rejuvenate and get ready for the next trip. Lack of sleep and fatigue makes the truck drivers' reaction to any foreseeable situation on the road slow due to poor coordination and concentration. Lack of sleep and fatigue, therefore, increases the chances of getting involved in an accident.
Unsafe Driving Practices
Every professional truck driver has a responsibility to be cautious on the road when it comes to observing traffic rules. For instance, when changing lanes, truck drivers are expected to use appropriate signals to alert other incoming vehicles and be vigilant. Every truck driver must observe the set road signs in the way to prevent unnecessary accidents.
Truck Accident Causation
After establishing that your defendant breached a duty of care, you can go ahead and file a lawsuit against them for compensation of your damages and injuries sustained. This process requires a good understanding of the law. Therefore, it would be in your best interest if you hire a personal injury attorney for the case. In a track accident causation, you’ve to prove that a negligent party breached the duty of care, hence leading to direct or indirect cause of your injuries and damages.
Direct causation happens when you breach a duty of care, such as speeding limit hence leading to an accident. On the other hand, an indirect/proximate causation happens where a breach of duty of care is not directly linked to the damages and injuries sustained during an accident. For instance, when a truck driver breaches the duty of care and hits a pole, which was responsible for causing the victims injuries. The truck driver will be liable for any injuries and damages caused as a result of direct or indirect causation of an accident.
Damages in a Truck Accident
Victims of injuries in a truck accident can file a compensation claim against the defendants liable for the accident to receive compensatory damages. This whole process of filing a lawsuit for damages compensation can be overwhelming without a personal injury attorney. You’ll need an experienced personal injury attorney to help you claim all the damages you deserve in the truck accident.
The damages a plaintiff can receive can either be wrongful death damages, punitive damages, economic or non-economic damages depending on the extent of injuries sustained during the accident. Economic damages can be compensated in monetary terms, whereas non-economic damages cannot.
Wrongful death damages are the ones surviving family of the bereaved accident victim can file on behalf of the loved one. On the other hand, punitive damages are the ones the plaintiff receives if negligent actions of the other party caused the accident. Below are common types of damages a plaintiff can recover in a truck accident:
Whether you’re suffering minor or severe injuries as a result of the truck accident, you must seek medical attention as soon as possible. Medical expenses arising from all the services you will receive after the event of an accident should be compensated if the liable party is found guilty by the court. Below are examples of common medical expenses a plaintiff can recover after a truck accident.
- In-home medical care services
- Personal assistance equipment such as crutches and wheelchairs
- Cumulative ambulance fees
- Physical and cognitive treatment/therapy
- Any future medical expenses
- Any kind of consultation with medical professionals
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering are an excellent example of non-economic damages a plaintiff can receive after a truck accident. Pain and suffering include all physical distress and emotional damages that the plaintiff suffers as a result of the truck accident. These types of damages are hard to compensate in monetary terms.
Loss of Companionship
In case of the wrongful death of a loved one in a truck accident, the surviving family members of the deceased will receive compensation for the loss of their companionship under the California wrongful death laws since the deceased is not alive to file the compensation claim. Although filing a lawsuit while you’re grieving the loss of a loved one might seem a daunting task, under wrongful death lawsuit, that might be the only way the surviving members can get justice for the loss of their loved one in the accident. The family members entitled to receive wrongful death compensation include the spouse, children, domestic partner, grandchildren and grandparents
After a truck accident, the injuries can be severe, leading to loss of the victim’s earning capacity, especially if the victim has lost his/her body limbs. Also, wages lost when the victim is under treatment should be paid even if he/she has not lost earning capacity. It’s upon the plaintiff to prove to the jury that the accident caused the loss of his/her earning capacity.
Proving the Accident Fault
If you are a truck accident victim, you must prove the other driver was the one responsible for the accident to get your deserved remedy for injuries and damages sustained. However, before we discuss how you can prove the defendant was at fault, we need to know all potential parties that can be responsible for the truck accident. Depending on the situation of the incident, the truck accident could be as a result of the following parties’ negligence:
Truck Manufacturer Negligence
A fault in the truck or parts of the truck is a factor that can also cause a truck accident/collision. With the help of a personal injury attorney, you can be able to determine if a manufacturer's defect caused the truck accident by pulling out documents such as product recalls and maintenance logs. In the event of a truck faulty brake system, your injury lawyer can gather enough evidence to prove that the manufacturer of the truck or parts of the truck is liable for the accident.
The Trucking Company Negligence
When a truck accident occurs due to the negligence of the employer/trucking company, the company will be held negligent in that situation as long as the truck driver has an employment relationship with the trucking company. A trucking company can be negligent in its criteria for hiring and recruiting truck drivers and end up hiring drivers who are not well qualified for the job.
To increase the company profit margins, the trucking company sometimes allows its truck drivers to operate beyond the maximum number of hours required in 24 hours. This action by the trucking company, therefore, renders the truck drivers unfit for driving due to lack of sleep, which exposes them to the risk of accidents. It is also important to note that, when the truck driver is an independent contractor, the trucking company will not be held liable in the event of an accident.
Whenever you get involved in a truck accident, it is always wise to inquire if the truck driver is an independent contractor or is an employee of the trucking company because accident liability in such a situation is different. Independent contractors usually control how the work is done but never the results of the work. On the other hand, if the driver is an employee of the trucking company, the actions of the truck driver during transportation are controlled by the company. You need to prove that the trucking company exercised a certain level of control over the truck, and the truck driver was in his/her line of duty during the event of the accident to get your deserved remedies for any injuries and damages caused.
Cargo Company Negligence
Cargo companies are independent firms working together with the trucking companies to transport their goods from one place to another. However, sometimes some trucking companies might own the cargo. Therefore, it is vital to inquire about the owner of the cargo whenever you’re involved in a truck accident for an appropriate lawsuit.
The cargo company becomes negligent of the transportation rules and regulations when they fail to put appropriate safety measures for transportation of their cargo. Cargo companies/firms must make sure all the safety precautions are in place before the cargo leaves their vicinity. Such measures include making sure the cargo is loaded in the right manner as supposed without overloading. Overloading makes the cargo overweight hence making the truck unbalanced and more prone to an accident in case the truck trips over. California Vehicle Code 35551(a) VC prohibits carrying of overweight cargo/load by the trucking companies.
The Truck Driver Negligence
A truck driver can be negligent in the road on matters of observing the traffic regulations. A truck driver can be held liable for an accident in a situation where he/she changes lanes without using appropriate signal indication to warn other vehicles. Some ignorant truck drivers also drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs, which impairs their judgment while on the wheel hence leading to accidents. Texting while on the steering wheel is also a reckless driving behavior that can cause a truck accident.
Under California negligence laws, if you think the truck driver acted negligently when the accident occurred, you can file a claim for compensation on the damages and injuries caused by the reckless truck driver. With the help of a reliable attorney, you will be able to collect enough evidence to prove the truck driver is at fault in that accident. A personal injury attorney will help you file compensation against the negligent truck driver to receive the remedies you deserve for the accident.
The Other Passenger Vehicle Driver’s Negligence
During a truck accident, no one wants to take the liability of the accident, knowing that resulting punitive damages for truck accidents can be huge. To prove your innocence, you will need a personal injury attorney to intervene in your case. Passenger vehicle drivers often cause more truck accidents than truck drivers because truck drivers are known to be careful on the road as their line of duty demands of them.
Passenger vehicle drivers become liable for truck accidents if they violate a traffic regulation such as speeding. In such a case, the plaintiff needs to prove to the jury that the defendant did the following:
- The injury caused by the truck accident was a result of the defendant violating a law or statute
- The defendant violated an ordinance or regulation which should prevent such accidents
California has comparative fault laws that require all parties that share the responsibility of an accident to be liable for all the damages and injuries caused by the victims. Even in situations where you think that you might be the reason for the accident, the other drivers as well can be partially at fault for the truck accident. In any truck accident where more than one party is at fault for the accident, the degree of carelessness/recklessness of all parties involved in the accident determines comparative negligence concerning the number of damages that every party should pay.
Demonstrating the Party at Fault in a Truck Accident Damages Claim
The basis for a plaintiff to collect truck accident damages lies in his/her ability to prove a particular party was responsible for the accident, how the accident occurred, and damages caused. Below are examples of pieces of evidence you can use to prove that the truck driver or the other passenger driver was responsible for the accident:
- Traffic police reports that offer a description of the accident
- Eye witness reports
- Truck maintenance records will be essential to prove that the trucking company failed to service their truck accordingly to prevent such accidents
- Evidence of a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) can also be of importance in proving the accident liability
- Look for restaurants, lodging and toll receipts to demonstrate that the defendant was drowsy due to long-distance driving without resting
- Photos and videos that you captured of the injuries and accident scene will also be crucial
- You might also consider using the defendant's phone text messages records to prove that he/she was texting when the accident happened.
- Find out if the defendant has a criminal conviction record for reckless driving and speeding
You might also want to demonstrate to the jury that you incurred damages and injuries as a result of the defendants’ negligence which caused the truck accident by showing the following types of evidence:
- Medical experts’ testimonials
- Records of employment
- Economist testimonial which shows that you’ve lost your earning capacity
- Receipts proving that you bought some personal assistant accessories such as clutches and wheelchairs
- Receipts of medical bills paid in your physical therapy, medication, surgeries or counseling
- Photos or videos of the injuries sustained during the accident
- Medical records such as MRIs, CT-scans and X-rays
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
For any questions and formalities on a personal injury case such as a truck accident, do not hesitate to contact The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm for legal representation during your trying moment. Our attorneys have a credible reputation in California for the vast experience and knowledge in representing clients with personal injury cases. Feel free to call us at 619-625-8707, and our lawyers will be in touch with you as soon as possible.