Over the past few years, fatal traffic accidents from large commercial trucks have been increasing on California roads. Most victims who survive face life-changing injuries, such as permanent disabilities. It is a sad situation even as our experienced truck accident lawyers from San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm continually work with the families who have been victims of the fatal crashes. Some of these truck accidents, like substance abuse and fatigue, are preventable.
Crashes from commercial trucks are terrifying and fatal. Trucking industries often work with tight deadlines. The drivers work under tight schedules and extreme pressure to cover more miles in a short time. These time constraints leave them stressed, exhausted, and prone to dangerous accidents. Trucking is regarded as a hazardous profession. Often, the occupants of the car involved in the truck accident are more exposed to serious injury.
Major Causes of Truck Accidents in California
Truck accidents are classified into three categories. The accident can be caused by the truck driver, the vehicle, or the environmental condition. The conduct of truck drivers on the road contributes to more excellent safety. They can make incorrect choices that cause death or injury to innocent people. The massive weight and height of the trailer as compared to passenger cars, cause panic. The major causes of truck accidents are:
Truck drivers spend several hours behind the wheel. No matter how professional the driver is, they are tempted to check their cell phones, surfing the internet, email, text, and talking on the phone. Checking other devices once in a while, such as navigation systems, radio stations, and volume, is enough to distract the truck driver, causing a fatal accident.
It's a requirement for commercial drivers to be professionally trained in California and are subjected to licensing regulations. A company is liable for negligence in supervision and hiring employees or for not providing proper safety training. Big rig trucks are difficult to maneuver and require special training for safe operations.
Mechanical Failure and Improper Maintenance
Before hitting the road, the trucks should strictly meet maintenance requirements. Unfortunately, some trucks and truck drivers fail to observe this regulation leading to fatal accidents. Transit companies and drivers are required to exercise reasonable care to inspect sensitive equipment like tires and brakes. The companies want their products to be delivered on time, and the truck drivers want to make as much money as is possible. Taking the truck to sit in the garage for long hours for repairs is considered as time-wasting.
There is a regulation on "hours of service," limiting the hours a truck driver should be behind the wheel. A fatigued driver is equally dangerous as a drunk driver. They should take rest breaks as stipulated by the law. However, it may not always be the case as a truck driver might be under tight deadlines delivering the load to its destination. Long-haul truck drivers get back to the road when still tired and work for more hours.
Speed limits for commercial vehicles are always set. The big size and weight of the truck make it difficult to stop. A truck driver in a hurry to get to the destination on time may be tempted to drive beyond legal speed requirements or drive very fast beyond the road's condition. Unsafe driving habits like following other vehicles very close may result in an accident.
Driving Under the Influence
Alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription drugs impair thinking, and it is more difficult for the truck driver to make a quick judgment. On the roadways, commercial truck drivers have a duty of care. Some drivers do not uphold this safety regulation and drive while drunk. At times, legally prescribed drugs can impair the truck driver's reaction to distance perception, judgment, and time.
Poor Braking Technique
As found in many large trucks, proper operation of the air brake system requires experience and knowledge. Stopping a large vehicle is more difficult, especially if loaded with sloshing or uneven cargo. Improper emergency braking may cause a fatal accident.
Poor Road and Weather Conditions
Braking and maneuvering a truck takes longer, and a dangerous collision can occur. During conditions that result in poor visibility like snow and rain, truck drivers are required to slow down. The driver should be keen when the roadway has dangerous conditions like potholes and ice.
Improper Cargo Loading and Overloading
California regulations require cargo-hauling must be secure and immobile. Restraints of the truck should adequately bear the type of cargo and the weight to be transported. Unsafely loaded cargo can cause tire bursts to fly off hitting other vehicles, or make the driver lose truck control. It can further cause cargo spills.
Some obstructions on the road cause the truck driver to sway without warning. Improperly loaded cargo may spill. Anything spilled on the way whether liquid like milk or debris is dangerous and can cause accidents. There are cargo weight set limits that need to be obeyed. Excess cargo leads to too much weight, which can blow tires, burn out brakes, make the truck take longer to stop and cause the vehicle to jackknife.
Types of Truck Accidents
Blind Spot Crashes
A blind spot is the area around the truck and is not visible by the driver, even when using rearview mirrors or side mirrors. Due to their huge size, heavy commercial trucks have multiple big blind spots. The major blind spots of big rig trucks are the front, the rear, the right, and the truck's left side. The truck driver is very likely not to see a vehicle that is right behind the truck. The truck drivers get special training to frequently keep checking behind using rearview and side mirrors while driving to keep track of other vehicles on the road.
Inexperienced or careless truck drivers who fail to give attention to large blind spots cause lane change and sideswipe accidents. Improper judgment and failure to keep track of the small vehicles is likely to result in a fatal accident. When changing lanes, the truck driver should account for blind spots. The turning radius of a truck is extensive. A miscalculation, not paying attention or maneuver by an inexperienced truck driver, can result in an accident.
A jackknife accident happens when a big rig trailer folds at their joint with the cab. An incident causes the trailer to speed faster than the cab or swing forward, forming a sharp angle at the fold, forcing the truck to face two directions. The truck driver loses control of the rear cargo load due to the locking of the rear axle. It causes the rear cargo of the truck or the front cab or both of them to tip.
Jackknife accidents are easily caused by Bad weather conditions, loose cargo, brake failure, debris, speeding, improper maneuvering, locked wheels, and equipment malfunction. Heavy loads prevent efficient braking by the truck driver. The trailer may swing about facing the opposite direction of the cab.
The center of gravity for large commercial trucks is high. Due to sloshing, liquid cargo loads like tankers constantly shifts the center of gravity. The truck driver must be aware of this to prevent rollover. Other common causes of rollover are Truck driver’s error, speeding, improper maintenance, slippery or dangerous roads, sudden maneuvers, improper cargo loading, hitting an obstacle or a hazard, inadequate slowing down for turns, exits, and curves. A loose cargo may shift when the truck is turning. The truck’s equilibrium is altered, causing the truck to overturn.
The Runaway Truck
A runaway truck accident is caused by a truck that has lost brakes while on a downhill slope. Heavy commercial vehicles are more likely to have brake malfunction, especially if put under stress by steep declines on a downhill slope. The truck driver is always under the legal duty to control and maintain the truck at all times. The driver should be prepared that a downhill stretch is a hazard. Losing control over such a part of the road can result in a fatal injury.
Tire blowout truck accidents are commonly caused by routine maintenance deficiencies, defective manufacturing, or wear and tear. A tire blowout can cause the vehicle to rollover, swerve into other lanes, or get a jackknife. Such instances are dangerous as the flying tire debris could hit your vehicle or collide with the swerving truck getting out of its lane.
Hazmat Truck Accidents
A truck carrying hazardous material is a hazmat truck. Such materials include explosives, infectious biological substances, pesticides, lithium batteries, activated charcoal, radioactive materials, gasoline, dry ice, explosives, and motor oil. Hazmat truck accident danger depends on the kind of cargo. Some materials are flammable and pose the risk of fire or explosion. Other hazardous materials are harmful substances that are dangerous to breathe when noxious vapors are released to the air. Such explosives and fires highly cause accidents.
Underride Truck Accidents
Truck's height difference, as compared to passenger cars, is very significant. A passenger car will easily slide underneath the truck along the side or from the rear. The front and top of a car crash, leaving the passengers injured. Trucks are equipped with metal barriers designed as underride guards to prevent cars from slipping underneath a truck. Many times the barriers do not withstand the impact resulting in a car sliding beneath the truck.
Sources of Truck Accident Evidence
Enough evidence must be gathered to prove liability and negligence. Such sources include lack box data, surveillance footage, dashcam footage, eyewitness testimony, expert witness testimony, videos and photos of the crash scene, food and gas receipts, tollbooth receipts, weigh station receipts, the accident report, bills of lading, and cell phone records of the truck driver.
Testimony from expert witnesses has a significant role in accidents from truck cases. Our lawyers organize for testimony from medical experts, engineers, financial experts, and accident reconstruction experts. Witness information is critical in proving your version of the accident events.
A police report is the best method of preserving truck accident evidence. You are not limited to do your reporting as well if you are safe to do so. Take photos of the truck accident scene, including pictures of road or weather conditions, damage to vehicles, and any other factors responsible for the crash. Ask for other drivers who could have stopped at the truck accident scene due to traffic or to offer assistance to provide their contact information and their names.
Who is at fault?
A very complicated question. A truck accident is not straight forward. If the truck accident involves a car, the two drivers usually are the only people involved. In other situations, it can be a multiple car 'accident and passengers injured.
Truck accidents are very complex. Our truck attorneys at San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm will perform a thorough investigation to make your claim get the best opportunity for success. A negligent truck driver involved in collisions with passenger vehicles is liable for damages. From the circumstances of the crash, there are several parties likely to be liable. Our attorneys can help you get reasonable grounds to claim against any of these parties:
- The truck driver involved in the trucking accident might not be liable. If an accident results from improper cargo loading or inadequate maintenance, the trucking company is responsible.
- The manufacturing company that manufactured the parts or the truck itself. The truck may have several parts from different manufacturers. There is one manufacturer responsible for the proper functioning of the truck and security in the market.
- Weighing station officials
- The company that loads the truck
- The company employing the truck driver
- A mechanic who works on the truck
Accident Attorneys from San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm will help you file a product liability lawsuit as a claim from a defective manufacturer. The lawyer conducts discovery by collecting documents from the parties and evidence to establish the truck accident's liability. Maintenance reports and relevant contracts, among other documents, plays a major role in gathering evidence. In a truck accident, liability is checked within the maintenance companies, the trucking companies, contracts between employers and truck drivers, and product manufacturers where their load is hauled.
How to Deal with Insurance Companies after a Truck Accident
Several parties with liability could be involved in a truck accident. It means dealing with several insurance companies. Big trucking companies have a team of lawyers and large insurance companies at their disposal. It’s common for such big trucking companies to be processing a claim at any given time.
The insurance companies aim at two things:
- Settle fast
- Settling a claim for the most little possible money
It is the responsibility of your lawyer to protect your interest. Your own insurance company might not have the match to handle a truck accident claim. The trucking company's insurer might even turn the liability to you, claiming that you were responsible for the truck accident.
Handling a California Truck Accident
Call for emergency medical assistance immediately after the accident for anyone who has suffered fatal injuries. It’s a requirement by the California law that anyone within the accident scene provides generous support to the injured person. If the injured person can't go to the doctor or hospital independently or by an ambulance, they should be assisted in getting there.
What is your Legal Duty after an Accident?
If you are involved in a truck accident, California law requires that you stop at the accident scene and take the necessary information. If you leave without taking the required information, the accident is considered hit and run. Make sure to identify and locate all parties involved in the accident.
Write down the truck driver's address, name, insurance policy number, truck license plate number, contact information, and other relevant identification information for the trucking company. You should provide your information to the other drivers involved, which include your car registration number, the car owner’s name (if it’s not yours), and your driver’s license number (if asked).
Within 24 hours after the truck accident, you must notify the local police or California Highway Patrol. You should also file a report with the Department of Motor Vehicles in California if there were fatalities, injuries, and property damage worth over $1,000. At the scene of the accident, it is advisable not to admit fault before finding out the other driver's mistakes. Accepting responsibility makes you not able to recover damages owed by the other party. Always consult our Attorneys before making any legal move.
After the truck accident, you might feel okay, but you should go to a doctor immediately. Some injuries might not show symptoms immediately after the truck accident. You may have pain after some time, and it becomes impossible to relate your pain with the accident. Get medical documentation of your mental and physical condition immediately after the truck accident from your physician, hospital, or an urgent care provider.
Injuries Sustained in Truck Accidents
Back and neck injuries - They range from temporary to permanent and from mild to severe. Whiplash is a painful temporary condition on the neck. A neck injury can also result in permanent paralysis.
Brain and head injuries - It's a very devastating injury. Brain injury interferes with your capability to work or to enjoy time with your family and friends. Though not tangible, the loss is real.
Internal Injuries - Internal organs may sustain minor or severe injuries calling for immediate surgery to secure your life.
Broken Bones - They are very painful and may cause long term problems.
Wrongful deaths - Truck accidents may result in severe injuries that result in death. The legal heirs retain the right to claim from the liable parties for compensation on wrongful death. The legal heirs include children, spouse, domestic partner, grandchildren (if the children are deceased), or anyone entitled to the deceased's property under California intestate succession law.
Lacerations - Extreme lacerations may cause permanent scarring and the need for surgery.
If the trucking company or the truck driver were negligent and caused the accident, our Truck Accident Lawyers at San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm will help you file a lawsuit against the liable parties. You will recover medical bills, pain, and suffering, physical disfigurement or disability, emotional distress, lost wages, lost future earnings, punitive damages, loss of consortium, future medical treatment, court cases, and vehicle repair.
Under California comparative fault law, the injured driver, even if partly liable for causing the accident, can file a lawsuit and recover damages. The law of negligence in California has elements that require the driver to observe the duty to care.
- Duty of care - The truck driver owed you a duty of care. The driver is required to exercise reasonable care while driving the truck, take caution and watch out on other vehicles, obstacles, and pedestrians, and have proper control of movement and speed of the truck.
- There was a breach of the duty of care by the truck driver.
- The breach of the duty of care caused injuries.
When filing a trucking injury lawsuit, you might not know what caused the accident. Several defendants depend on the type of accident. These include the trucking company, the truck driver, Insurance Company, truck manufacturer, vehicle parts manufacturer, County or city government, other drivers and anyone else involved in the truck accident. The truck driver might be responsible for the accident, but the trucking company is held liable for neglecting their employee.
Find a Truck Accident Attorney Near Me
Do you know why you need a truck accident expert attorney from San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm? An accident may be caused by the truck driver, the trucking company, or faulty parts from the manufacturer, and still not be held liable. Our expert lawyers help you to recover financial compensation after sustaining injuries from a truck accident. The funds compensate you for the injuries suffered, lost wages, and medical treatment payment. Are you in California and have been involved in a truck accident? Call us now at 619-478-4059.