In California, truck accidents account for 10% of fatal vehicle crashes and 3.5% of road accidents involving injuries per data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The roads are packed with pedestrians, commuters, and trucks ferrying produce and goods to homes, businesses, and stores. While truck and car crashes could appear similar on paper, truck accidents cause greater injuries to pedestrian and car passengers.
Because trucks, for example, 18-wheelers, could weigh four times more than passenger vehicles, it is easy to incur severe injuries should a truck hit you. Data collected from accident scenes in California showed that many factors contribute to truck accidents. These include excessive speed, distracted driving, driver tiredness, and many others detailed in this article.
You want to hire an injury attorney since California truck accident lawsuits are complicated. Often, several parties are held accountable for injuries caused to plaintiffs, such as the truck company, government bodies, or truck operators. The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm comprises a team of competent injury lawyers who could represent you in court if a truck hits you. We investigate the truck accident causes and fight for your settlement while you recuperate at home. Examples of these causes of truck accidents are as follows.
Excessive Speeding and Overtaking
While many factors could cause truck crashes, one primary reason comprises a significant percentage of both injury-causing and fatal accidents where the truck operator was at fault: driving at excessive speed. Many drivers exceed speed limits putting their lives and those of other road users in danger. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) reported that in 2014, overspeeding was attributed to 42% of truck crashes causing injuries and 32% of fatal truck accidents.
Even though truck drivers are required to maintain stipulated speed limits, driving at an unsafe speed doesn’t equate to exceeding the speed limit. For instance, a truck operator could also crash by traveling too fast for weather conditions like ice and snow on the highway, foggy weather, or rain-slick roads. Since a truck is much larger, it could take longer to bring them to a halt, especially when loaded and moved at a certain speed.
When the driver is overtaking on the highway, they need to accelerate to gain more speed than the other parallel vehicle. If another car suddenly pulls out in front of the truck, the truck operator could have difficulties stopping and force them to swerve out of the road. You could get hit and sustain injuries if the vehicle jackknifes or you are along the roadside, especially if the truck was speeding.
Truck Driver Fatigue and Tiredness
Reliable studies have shown that tiredness and fatigue could stop the proper functioning of the brain section that maintains concentration in humans. California Vehicle Code 21702 VC regulates the number of hours truck drivers should drive and must rest. In many truck companies, the drivers are paid according to the miles they cover and are offered short delivery deadlines.
To deliver the commodities on time, the drivers could drive for more than the allowed hours or reduce the recommended rest hours. The accumulated exhaustion makes the drivers lose coordination, concentration, and could end up sleeping while driving. If the driver drives a truck while exhausted and sleepy, odds are they could hit and cause injuries to you.
Distracted and Inattentive Truck Drivers
Yet another leading truck accident cause, distracted driving, is a primary safety issue. Texting while driving is a leading cause of truck accidents, and the law has banned the act nationwide. Even the most experienced drivers are susceptible to portable devices and smartphones temptations, making them get their eyes off the road.
Driving for long and repetitive hours could tempt drivers to peek at their mobile phones, which can prove disastrous for other road users. Multitasking, while behind the wheel, could make a driver lose focus. If a truck driver gets distracted, there is a risk of danger, even for a split second.
In 2015, the NHTSA stated that distracted driving caused 10 percent of fatal crashes and 15 percent of injury-causing ones. Activities that could make a driver lose concentration when driving include changing radio stations, watching videos on the vehicle screen, or checking the GPS frequently.
Even though traffic could be less on the road, the driver could have difficulties stopping the truck in the event of a mishap since it's huge and heavy. If the truck hits you because of someone else’s negligence, hire a knowledgeable lawyer to help you file charges against the at-fault party, and get compensated.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
While truck operators owe a duty to uphold other road users' safety, some infringe that duty of care by driving while intoxicated. It’s not unheard of for these operators to drive while impaired by illicit drugs. A recent study estimates that 30 percent of truckers confessed taking amphetamines shortly before traveling. Another 20 percent admitted to using marijuana, and 3 percent used cocaine.
While these stimulants help to keep the driver awake, the stimulation could wear off and cause drowsiness while driving. These drugs prevent truckers from sleeping unnaturally, but all force them to take more dangerous risks like making bad maneuvers, changing lanes unsafely, and over speeding.
Apart from engaging in substance abuse, drivers could take prescription medicine and have their distance perception, judgments, and reaction speed impaired. Whether a truck driver uses a medical or non-medical drug, the court could hold them liable if they cause an accident in which you are hit and injured.
Unsafe Driving Practices
A top half cause of truck crashes involves engaging in unsafe driving practices, namely driving on the wrong side of the road or making an illegal turn. Truck drivers who look to use shortcut methods to deliver cargo on time put other road users at risk of harm. They could also make unsafe lane changes, which is an issue for big rigs.
Truck drivers should understand that big rigs entail larger blind zones than smaller cars; hence, it is easier to harm other motorists, cyclists, or pedestrians. You need to work with an attorney who has considerable experience and knowledge if a truck driver hits you when driving recklessly. The lawyer should have a vast network of crème de la crème investigators and accident reconstruction experts to work together with on your case.
Improper surveillance occurs when a trucker is in a circumstance that would need them to be attentive when making a maneuver, but they are not. Many truck drivers don't notice obstructions, people, or other vehicles in their way. Turning at intersections and changing lanes are not uncommon situations in which proper surveillance could happen.
Making an Illegal Driving Maneuver
While Californian traffic safety regulations control truck drivers conduct, trucks make illegal maneuvers repeatedly posing great danger to everyone around. Examples of these traffic rule violations include driving on the wrong side of the road, making an illegal U-turn, and turning from the wrong lane.
A swinging turn happens when a truck hits you or causes an accident while turning. Also called squeeze play, a swinging turn crash could occur in various ways, namely:
- Squeezing you beside the vehicle if the driver doesn’t turn wide enough
- When the trucker makes a wide turn, forcing them to use part of the pedestrians’ walkway or the opposite lane. Here, the truck could hit you and cause injuries
- When the truck hits you as the trucker swings right to make a left turn or left to make a right turn
Following Too Close
California traffic laws stipulate the distance between which one vehicle should follow behind another one. If the distance between two vehicles moving in the same direction is shorter than the one specified, it poses a threat not only to the drivers but also for pedestrians and passengers.
If a stoplight goes on and you decide to cross the road, the vehicle behind, especially if it’s a truck, could be unable to stop fast given its length and weight; hence, hitting you. The truck could also avoid rear-ending the vehicle on the front and swerve out of the road. You could get hit if you happen to be along the roadside and on the truck’s path.
Stop Required Before a Truck Crash
Another cause of a truck accident involves a driver’s negligence where they fail to stop as required. For instance, when the trucker fails to stop at a pedestrian crosswalk, they could hit you as you cross the highway. Also, a truck could hit you if the driver disobeys a red light that requires them to stop and allow you to cross the road.
Failure to Check for Blind Spots
A significant number of truck crashes happen when the operator fails to check their blind spots. A truck is four times larger than cars; therefore, it’s hard for the driver to see anyone close to the spots. That said, the truck driver needs to be keen to notice cars that get closer to the blind spots.
For instance, truckers should make sure all essential mirrors are correctly fitted to see passersby and cars in their blind spots. If a truck hits you, the court could hold the driver accountable even if you were in a no-zone spot near the rig. Talk to your truck accident lawyer if you or your relative gets involved in a blind spot accident.
Improper Training and Inexperienced Drivers
California law doesn’t allow just anyone to drive a truck. Before one can get approved to drive a truck, they must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). To receive a CDL, there are special requirements one must meet, like being at least 18 years old or 21 years old in particular circumstances. In California, commercial drivers must undergo a background screening process, pass an eye test, a medical assessment, and a written test.
Unfortunately, some drivers take trucks on the roads without following required licensing regulations. Unlike well-trained commercial drivers, unqualified ones cannot maneuver the truck should it develop mechanical problems while in motion. Credible statistics show that improperly trained and inexperienced drivers are a leading truck crash cause.
Even though some truck drivers are well-trained, they could start driving before they are conversant with safety regulations. High demand for truckers makes it easy for newcomers to join the profession without much experience. A rookie trucker operating a big rig and on an unknown road could panic easily under pressure and hit you.
Adverse Weather Conditions
Adverse weather conditions also lead to Californian truck accidents. Especially foggy conditions limit roads’ visibility causing trucks to rear-end other passenger vehicles or hit pedestrians if the trucks lose control. During a rain shower, the roads could become wet and slippery, which also increases the risk of accidents. The truck could skid out of the highway and hit you while you are on the roadside and cause great harm.
Unclear atmospheric conditions could also cause a driver to lose the truck’s control, especially if they underwent improper training to pull through poor weather conditions. Icy roads are hard to maneuver because of the trucks’ large size, heavyweight, and slower stopping speed.
Examples of weather conditions that could impede a trucker’s visibility include glare, fog, dust storms, rain, and strong wind. A truck could hit you during wet weather conditions if the trucker doesn’t understand proper braking techniques to prevent jackknifing or skidding.
Poor Road Conditions
Hazards and blocked roads also raise the risks of truck accidents. When road construction is going on, highway lanes could become narrower, making it hard for drivers to use one or fewer-than-normal lanes. Truck drivers could try maneuvering around roadblocks and potholes but cause the truck to fall over and hit passersby.
Road debris could damage truck tires, causing the truck to lose control, leaving insufficient distance and response time for the trucker to brake. Damaged roads like bumpy and uneven ones could cause vehicles to shift into the wrong lanes or lead to tire failure.
Overloaded or Improperly Loaded Cargo
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stipulates the cargo limit in volume and weight, which trucks should carry. Also, California Vehicle 35551 VC prohibits overloading vehicles. The probability of a truck in transit hitting and injuring you is higher when it is improperly loaded or carrying goods above the allowed freight. Improper loading of the cargo could mean unbalanced weight, commodities that are unevenly distributed, or insecurely fastened commodities.
Here, the principle is that, when the loader overloads or loads a truck improperly, there could be a sudden shift of weight when the truck slows down or takes a turn. Then, the weight shift could cause the truck to overturn and hit pedestrians or passenger vehicles. If you are close to the truck during the accident, you could also get hit and injured. If the truck hits you because of the careless loading of goods on the truck, you need to hire an experienced attorney to help you chase compensation for your harm.
Improper or Poor Truck Maintenance
Whether the truck a driver operates belongs to them or a trucking company, they should ensure that all truck instruments and functions are working well before taking it on the roads. The law requires truck companies and owners to ensure that their trucks are in a perfect state before hitting the road. Government statistics show that many trucking companies cut corners and obstruct mandatory inspections to lower expenses and keep the vehicles in operation.
Trucks that run without regular professional checks aren’t immune to malfunctions like engine or brake failure; therefore, causing accidents. Other parties you could hold liable for if a truck hits you due to poor maintenance are the truck manufacturer, maker of specific truck spare parts, and the mechanic who services and repairs the truck.
Equipment and Mechanical Malfunction
Another factor that plagues truck drivers is mechanical malfunctions. Many malfunctions occur because of design or manufacturing errors, but they are often due to improper equipment fixing and maintenance. If the truck hits you because of equipment failure, you could file a product liability case. Examples of equipment failures are:
Brake Problems and Failure
A study the FMCSA conducted in 2014 revealed that a major truck accidents cause, brake failure, accounted for 30% of the crashes. Out of the crashes, over 60% involved fatal injuries to pedestrians and other motorists. A significant percentage of the trucks on the road use air brakes. Air brakes are designed to stop a truck carrying heavy freight in approximately 100 feet when moving at 50 mph.
However, if the braking system develops problems, a 70,000 pounds rig could wreak havoc on the road. Even if the trucker pumps brakes as trained to during an emergency, a malfunction could still happen, resulting in a life-threatening scenario. If a loaded truck moves at high speed and develops braking problems and hits you, causing severe harm, you need to talk to your layer as soon as possible. The lawyer should jump into action and begin thorough investigations and leave no stones unturned.
Bald Tires/Tire Blowout
You cannot miss seeing stripped truck tires and treads on the roadsides when driving or walking down the highway. The weight of the trucks, the freight they carry, and the long distances they travel, cause wear and tear on tires. In the event of a tire puncture or burst, the truck could slide out of control, especially when moving at high speed and causing severe injuries.
Rollovers are among the most common types of truck accidents in California. When a trucker loses control of a big rig and begins sliding sideways, any obstacle could trip up the truck and make it overturn. Barriers could include another vehicle, an even ground, a guardrail, or an edge. Also, a vehicle that takes a turn aggressively is at risk of rolling over, particularly if it is carrying an unbalanced load.
Other common causes of truck rollovers include overcorrecting a drifting trailer and taking a corner at high speed. If a truck overturned and hit you, the odds are that you sustain serious injuries. You want to find a proactive lawyer who you can count on to investigate the accident and represent you in court while you are recuperating at home.
Driver Unfamiliarity or Inexperience With Roadways
If a driver uses a particular route frequently, they get familiar with it. However, if the trucker is new, several roads they travel on could be unfamiliar. When driving on an unknown route, a driver could get distracted easily because of the need to check road signs, an atlas, or their GPS often.
If a driver travels on a road that has many sharp bends and they have little to no experience with it, they are likely to cause a crash. If a truck driver driving on an unfamiliar road hits you, your injury attorney could help you file claims against the driver or their employer for allowing the driver to use the route.
Undiagnosed Medical Issues
A driver's health condition is the most crucial part of their job. Being in a healthy state plays a significant role in safe driving. According to research by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, approximately 86% of truck drivers are overweight or obese. Obesity among truckers could be because of their long driving hours; hence, leaving little time to rest, exercise, and take a balanced diet. But more alarming is the fact that being overweight often triggers underlying health problems, which could affect how drivers handle the trucks.
An excellent example of a health condition that obesity causes is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea could make a truck driver cease breathing during sleep temporarily. Because of this, a trucker suffering from sleep apnea could feel sluggish or fatigued after sleeping for eight hours, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends. As a result, the driver cannot maintain focus when on the road. Worse, they could doze off while behind the wheel.
Other health issues truck drivers could suffer from and pose a danger to other road users are diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart diseases. Studies have shown that truckers are prone to these diseases because of their lifestyle, and they could cause fatal accidents if the medical conditions caused a stroke or heart attack.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If a truck hits you and causes harm to you or someone you know, it is in your best interest to hire a competent injury attorney in California who can help gather and preserve evidence for your lawsuit. Your injury lawyer could investigate the accident cause thoroughly, identify at-fault parties, and help hold them liable for their negligence and mistakes. The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm practices in all California jurisdictions. Our experienced team has helped several truck accident victims litigate crashes and obtained generous amounts in compensation. Call us today at 619-625-8707 for a no-obligation and cost-free legal consultation.