A truck or big rig accident can cause catastrophic damage. Fortunately, these trucking companies are required by law to carry substantial insurance policies.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a truck accident, speak with a Los Angeles truck accident attorney at Citywide Law Group today. We offer a free consultation and collect nothing unless you win.
How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
The question of liability is nearly always much more complex in a trucking accident than in an accident which only involves passenger vehicles. Aside from the number of those who may be held responsible for the accident, it can be difficult for the person injured in the accident to obtain the necessary information which will prove liability. The list of potentially liable parties include:
- Truck Driver: The truck driver may have been solely responsible for a trucking accident, or possibly only partially responsible. The truck driver may have been fatigued, under the influence, driving recklessly, inexperienced, or distracted. If the driver was fatigued, however, the trucking company may have been well-aware the driver was exceeding the allowable hours, therefore some of the responsibility would fall to the trucking company.
- Trucking Company: In the same vein, if the trucking company was aware the driver was insufficiently trained, or if the trucking company failed to conduct a thorough background check on the driver, then the responsibility would be shared. Even if the employee was clearly exhibiting negligent behaviors which resulted in the truck accident, the trucking company could bear at least some of the liability.
- Manufacturer of the Truck: In some truck accidents neither the truck driver nor the trucking company was responsible for the accident. There may have been a specific defect in the truck itself. If this is the case, then the manufacturer of the truck, or the truck part, could be held liable for truck accident. The brakes of the truck could have failed, or a defective tire could have blown, resulting in an accident.
- Truck Maintenance Company: If the manufacturer was not to blame, then perhaps the maintenance company responsible for maintaining the truck, failed to do its job in checking the brakes, tires and other areas of the truck.
- Truck Loading Company: Finally, the loading company could be at fault, if the accident was due to an improperly secured load. The loading company has a responsibility to ensure the load is properly secured, and the truck driver has a responsibility to double-check the cargo.
As you can see, liability for a trucking accident can be split between several people and entities, or could be directly related to one entity or person. Only a highly experienced truck accident attorney can ensure liability is attributed correctly, and the victim of a truck accident receives an equitable settlement.
Statute of Limitations in Truck Accident Cases
Like most accidents, California Civil Code 335.1 applies to trucking accidents. As such, you only have two-years from the date of the collision to bring a suit against the negligent part. Given the potential complexity of these types of accidents, you should ideally speak with an attorney as soon as possible so that they can fully investigate your case.
Compensation You May Be Entitled to Following a Truck Accident
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your truck accident, you may be entitled to medical expenses, pain and suffering, other damages and possibly even punitive damages.
At the very least, your medical expenses should be fully covered, not only the immediate expenses, but your future medical expenses related to your injuries as well. Depending on the level of your injuries, you may be entitled to pain and suffering for the physical and emotional stress you have suffered as a result of your injuries. You are also entitled to lost wages and loss of future earnings.
Pain and suffering can include pain, limitations on your activities, depression, physical scarring, or even the potential shortening of your life. Other damages can include the repairs to your vehicle. Punitive damages are awarded in cases where willful negligence was present. Punitive damages are meant as a punishment and a deterrent for future negligence.
What to Do After a Trucking Accident
There is little doubt that being involved in a trucking accident is a traumatic experience, often leading to serious injuries and death.
- Seek Medical Care: The very first thing you must do following a trucking accident is to get immediate medical care and ensure all the passengers in your vehicle are properly treated.
- Call the Police: There will likely be police and EMT’s at the scene of the accident, but if, for some reason, there are not, it is important to call the police and report the accident. If the police, or anyone else asks you, about the details of the accident, give only the most basic details, including your own contact information.
- Remain Silent: Refrain from saying anything, which could be interpreted as an admission of guilt. This includes even saying, “I’m sorry,” to anyone else involved in the accident.
- Take Photographs: If you are medically able, take photographs of the scene of the accident, and secure names and addresses of any witnesses.
- Speak to an Attorney:When you are able, speak to your own insurance company about the accident, again, providing only the basic facts, and avoiding any statements which could be misinterpreted. Don’t provide a written or recorded statement to anyone until you have had the chance to speak to an experienced truck accident attorney.
Fatigued Truck Drivers Major Factor in Truck Accidents
There are many factors involved in deadly semi-truck accidents, but perhaps the most pervasive is fatigued truck drivers. At the end of 2015, an amendment which would have repealed elements of 2011 DOT rules, requiring more rest for fatigued truck drivers, was under heated debate among Congress. In 2011, the rules changed, mandating truck drivers to take one thirty-minute rest break during the first eight hours of their shift and reducing the maximum work hours during any given week from 82 hours to 70 hours.
This translated into a limit of 11 cumulative driving hours during any 14-hour period, followed by a rest period of not less than 10 hours. The proposed amendment is puzzling, given that anywhere from 35-40 percent of the current truck accidents are attributed to truck driver fatigue. If you have ever driven for eleven hours at one time, you may have gotten a glimpse of the level of fatigue truck drivers experience on a daily basis.
Why do Truck Drivers Drive Fatigued?
Truck drivers are under constant pressure to deliver loads quickly, then turn around and pick up another for delivery. Because the driver is not paid for any time he or she is not actually behind the wheel driving, they may keep going in order to receive a better paycheck. Because the driver is making money for the trucking company, there is little interest on the company’s part to ensure their drivers are well-rested.
Yet the latest research on sleep clearly demonstrates that chronic fatigue can result when we work long hours and have insufficient recovery time. Drivers who suffer from chronic fatigue demonstrate slower response times and have less ability to assess a situation quickly in the event of an unexpected situation. While it is true that truck drivers keep log books, which log the amount of time they spend driving, some in the industry refer to these log books as “comic books,” because they are so commonly falsified.
Many truck drivers, in an effort to exceed the allowable hours, simply keep two sets of log books. One they show to the DOT official if they are stopped, and the other dictates their paycheck. Some drivers resort to taking “uppers,” or variations of methamphetamine in order to remain alert behind the wheel. Unfortunately, chronic use of these types of drugs can result in delayed reactions as well as an inability to concentrate. It remains to be seen whether Congress will bow to the pressure of the trucking industry, allowing drivers to take even fewer rest breaks, but for the sake of the millions of other drivers on the road, it is hoped common sense will prevail.
Distracted Driving Can Cause Serious Truck Accidents
Aside from fatigue, truck drivers, like all other drivers, may succumb to distracted driving. Multi-tasking has become a national pastime, spilling over even into such areas as driving. We eat while we drive, talk on the phone, send and receive texts, change radio stations, watch the GPS device, talk to a passenger, look at what is happening on the side of the road, or simply daydream when they should be paying attention.
Other Factors Leading to Truck Accidents
Other factors which may lead to large truck accidents include the following:
- Blind Spots: In some instances, a trucking accident may result when a truck changes lanes and there is a passenger vehicle in one of the truck’s blind spots. A large commercial truck has blind spots on either side of the truck, approximately in the middle, as well as directly behind and directly in front of the truck. Most passenger vehicle drivers are not aware of these blind spots, therefore don’t take care to avoid them.
- Faulty tires and brakes: On a large truck, faulty or worn tires and brakes may also be responsible for trucking accidents. Federal investigators believe the tires on the majority of large commercial trucks simply are not meant to handle constant speeds of 75 mph and more. Between 2009 and 2013, approximately 223 fatal trucking accidents could be directly tied to inferior tires on the semi-truck or trailer. During an investigation of these tire blowouts, it was determined that lack of maintenance, coupled with constant high speeds, was most likely to blame. Most truck tires are rated at a maximum of 75 mph, yet many states legally allow trucks to drive faster than that.
- Improperly secured loads: An improperly secured load can cause serious truck accidents. In one situation, a large semi-truck was carrying a load of phone books which were not properly strapped down. The truck made a turn—in heavy traffic—and the entire load of phone books slid off the truck, hitting other vehicles and causing multiple accidents.
- Impaired drivers: An FMCSA concluded nearly 45 percent of truck drivers who were involved in an accident were taking prescription or over-the-counter medication. The Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety found that 15 percent of all drivers had marijuana in their system, 12 percent had non-prescription stimulants and 2 percent had cocaine. Less than 1 percent of truck drivers had alcohol in their system.
Truck Accident Statistics
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 244 fatal semi-truck accidents occurred in the state of California in 2012 alone. The vast majority of these large truck accidents occurred in southern California—specifically, San Diego, Imperial, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, and Los Angeles Counties.
Across the nation, the number of fatal accidents involving a semi-truck continues to rise. Overall, a deadly truck accident occurs almost eleven times each and every day. Between 4,000 and 5,000 people die from large truck accidents annually, and as many as 100,000 suffer serious injuries.
Get Help From a Los Angeles Truck Accident Attorney
In order to receive the compensation to which you are entitled following your truck accident, you must speak to an attorney, and take necessary actions, when possible. It is likely attorneys for the trucking company will quickly “circle the wagons,” seeking to show you were somehow at fault for the accident. Trucking companies are interested in their financial bottom line, therefore the insurers will often go to any lengths to limit their liability.
The truck’s black box or driver’s log books may mysteriously disappear, or the truck may be quickly removed so it cannot be examined. Having a knowledgeable truck accident attorney by your side from start to finish can truly make the difference in the outcome of your case, and can ensure you do not exceed the California statutes of limitations for filing your case.