Truck Accidents in California – An Overview
Commercial truck accidents can be catastrophic. Obtain the compensation you deserve with the support of a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.
Big rigs are fundamental to the economy in the United States. Each year, they are responsible for transporting trillions of pounds of merchandise and goods across the nation. As a result of the colossal size of commercial trucks, truck drivers are obligated to adhere to a higher standard of care when driving alongside the general public. Truck drivers must abide by all traffic laws, as well as maintain situational awareness and remain vigilant of those around them.
Any motor vehicle accident can result in a harrowing experience, seriously injuring all those who are involved. When a car accident collides with a larger commercial vehicle, however, the injuries can be particularly devastating. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, thousands of people suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries from large truck accidents.
This is worrisome for drivers in California, as there is an increasing surge of commercial trucks throughout the state. It is therefore critically important for drivers to understand the laws governing tractor-trailers so that if an accident occurs, they will be aware of their legal options.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has recently stated that large truck accidents continue to remain a major problem across the nation. In 2019, the agency reports that there were a total of 163,478 accidents involving large trucks in the United States. In the State of California, FMCSA reports a total of 12,676 accidents involving large trucks in 2019, where 457 people lost their lives and 5,467 people were injured. When a large commercial truck collides with a smaller passenger vehicle, the driver and passengers of the smaller vehicle are more likely to suffer fatal and non-fatal injuries.
Traffic accidents caused by large commercial vehicles can be overwhelming and incredibly stressful. At their worst, these cases can result in life-long physical incapacitation but they can also result in an untimely death. What is difficult to comprehend is that a majority of these tragedies could have been prevented as most truck accidents are caused as a result of negligence. When a careless party causes the truck accident, the truck accident survivor can seek financial compensation for his or her injuries from the at-fault party.
Large truck accidents can occur over a variety of reasons, but when the accident is caused as a result of another’s careless or negligent actions, the ability to obtain monetary compensation may be possible. If you were injured in a truck accident, speak to a well-versed personal injury attorney who will help you identify the responsible party and champion for your right to obtain compensation.
Large truck accident cases are some of the most difficult traffic accident cases to pursue. Nonetheless, when an injury transpires following a collision, the need for monetary compensation is inevitable. If you or a loved one was injured in a trucking accident, speak to a well-versed personal injury attorney who understands how to handle these types of cases.
Commercial Truck Restrictions in California’s Traffic Lanes
As a result of the substantial number of trucks traveling across California highways, the state has imposed a variety of restrictions for truck drivers on which lanes they are to operate in. One of these restrictions is apparent through highway “Trucks Only” signs. When a sign is posted, this means it is mandatory for certain large commercial vehicles to use the assigned lanes.
Another important lane restriction occurs on highways that have at least four lanes in each direction. Here, large commercial trucks are only allowed to use the two far-right lanes. When a highway has three lanes or fewer, large trucks will only be permitted to travel on the far right-hand lane. By keeping big rigs separate from other passenger vehicles, the risk of collisions is significantly reduced.
Finally, truck drivers are strictly obligated to travel at slower speeds. Generally, large commercial vehicles can only travel at speeds of 55 mph on highways. As a result of the sheer size and weight of these vehicles, stopping on time when driving at excessive speeds can be very difficult. When a truck driver is operating the truck at excessive speeds, he or she can cause a catastrophic rear-end collision, potentially killing those who are hit.
A Truck Driver’s Inability to Operate the Vehicle Can Lead to an Accident
Traffic accidents can occur for many different reasons, but when an accident involves a large commercial truck, there are unique issues that can contribute to an accident. Most of the reasons behind large truck accidents stem from the driver’s inability to operate the vehicle. Examples of this can include the following:
- Rear-End Collisions
Large commercial trucks are usually heavy, and thus require a greater distance to come to a complete stop. When there is a sudden stop in traffic or when the truck driver is speeding, a rear-end collision can occur. Rear-end collisions can lead to fatal injuries when the victim is crushed between the large truck and another vehicle. In most cases, however, the injuries will include whiplash and spinal cord injuries.
- Accidents Caused By the Trucker’s Blind Spots
Large commercial vehicles have significantly larger blind spots than smaller vehicles. Unfortunately, large trucks regularly make wide turns that lead to sideswiping accidents where smaller vehicles will be hit because truck drivers fail to notice them.
- Jackknife Accidents
Jackknife accidents occur when the truck driver loses control of the trailer portion of the big rig. These accidents can occur as a result of speeding, slick or slippery roads, and an overweight truck.
- Rollover Accidents
When a driver loses control of the commercial truck, the force can cause the truck’s trailer to rollover. Large commercial trucks are prone to this type of accident not only because of their height, but also because there can be a sudden shift in the weight they carry.
Other Common Causes of Large Truck Accidents in California
Aside from the inability to operate a large commercial truck, accidents can be caused by the same factors that regularly cause all other traffic accidents. This can include:
As previously mentioned, a vast majority of truck accidents are preventable. Sadly, many occur as a result of another’s careless actions. Contributing factors of truck accidents are: Poor vehicle control, Distracted driving, Interruption of traffic flow, Poor weather conditions, Lack of commercial vehicle training, Improperly loaded cargo, Equipment failure, Driver fatigue, Driver’s sudden physical impairment, Traffic law violations, Maintenance issues, and Road unfamiliarity.
Since there are a wide variety of ways to prevent truck accidents, there is usually a cause that can establish responsibility. Depending on the specifics of the case, the following parties may be held accountable for the accident: The truck’s driver, The truck company, The shipping company, The company responsible for repairing the truck, The manufacturer of the truck or the truck’s parts, The company that owns or leases the trailer, or The party responsible for road maintenance. Truck accidents usually involve heavy amounts of cargo the truck is transporting. Consequently, these accidents tend to cause catastrophic injuries, including fatal injuries.
The Type of Injuries Caused in Truck Accidents
Not all truck accidents are fatal but every year, thousands of people across the state suffer serious injuries as a result of a truck accident. Depending on the severity of these injuries, an injured person can endure long term chronic pain, psychological trauma, and serious economic hardship.
As a result of the sheer size and weight of large commercial vehicles, truck accident injuries can be devastating. When an accident does not take the life of the victim, the accident will likely leave the victim with horrifying injuries that can take many years to recover from. In some unfortunate cases, the victim will never fully recover from his or her injuries.
Common injuries caused in truck accidents include:
Neck and Back Injuries – Most auto accidents will result in minor neck injuries, such as whiplash, but when it comes to truck accidents, it is not uncommon to suffer more serious injuries. Many truck accident victims suffer dislocated discs in the spine, which can lead to chronic pain. The human neck and spinal cord is integral in the ability to move. When these areas of the body are affected, permanent disability can occur.
Broken or Fractured Bones – Truck vs. auto accidents are very powerful, and bones can be easily broken or fractured. The most common affected bones are: Neck bones, The pelvis, Vertebrae in the spine, The collarbone, The femur, Ribs, The skull, Bones in the neck, and Bones in the sternum.
Head Injury – Head trauma in the aftermath of a truck accident can be life changing. A brain injury can occur even when there is an absence of a direct trauma to the head as a result of a rapid acceleration or deceleration of the vehicles. It is very important to note that these injuries are not always immediately apparent. When a person suffers a traumatic brain injury, he or she may not be rendered unconscious.
Symptoms for a traumatic brain injury can include: Nausea, Confusion, Cognitive difficulties, Speech impairment, and Vision problems.
Internal Injuries – Upon a powerful blunt trauma, internal injuries are highly probable. The organs most susceptible to injury include: The bladder, The kidney, The liver, The spleen, and The pancreas.
Available Damages Following an Accident
Truck accident injuries can cause significant pain, emotional distress, and serious financial hardship. If you or someone you love was injured in a truck accident, obtaining the legal support of a skilled personal injury attorney is your best bet at receiving a maximum compensation. Discuss your legal options with a qualified attorney and allow an experienced legal representative advocate on your behalf.
In the State of California, a truck accident survivor may be able to recover compensation by filing a personal injury claim. The following damages may be recovered:
- Medical Bills – This can include ambulance costs, ongoing treatment, physical therapy, surgery, and hospital bills.
- Loss of Earnings – Most truck accident victims can sustain injuries that are physically debilitating, which can prevent them from returning to work while in recovery. Fortunately, a personal injury allows the ability to recover the loss of wages and benefits that result from the accident. Additionally, a victim may be able to recover the loss of earning potential.
- Pain and Suffering – Although intangible, pain is a real consequence many truck accident victims suffer.
- Punitive Damages – Most truck accidents will not warrant a punitive award, but it is an award that may be available. In California, an injured person can seek punitive damages when the responsible party acted with a willful disregard for the safety of others, or had an understanding that the actions committed were likely to result in an injury.
- Wrongful Death – The S. Department of Transportation reports that truck accident related deaths have steadily increased in the past few years. When the truck accident caused the death of a person, the decedent’s survivors have the legal right to seek compensation from the at-fault party.
Establishing Fault in a Trucking Accident
Like all other traffic accidents in California, establishing liability in a large truck accident will be based on the theory of negligence. For the most part, a person, business, or other entity can be found negligent when found to have failed to use reasonable care in preventing the injury of another.
Establishing liability in the wake of a truck accident can be difficult because of the amount of parties involved and the tactics these parties have historically used to undermine their degree of responsibility. For instance, in the past, trucking companies attempted to evade responsibility by hiring drivers classified as independent contractors, rather than directly hiring drivers as employees. Additionally, these companies leased their fleet of trucks instead of owning them.
Today, it is difficult for trucking companies to avoid accountability, as several laws have been passed to make these companies responsible in the event of an accident. Trucking companies can be held accountable if they had contributed to the accident through some form of negligence. For example, ignoring fleet maintenance, failing to train drivers, pressuring truck drivers to meet deadlines, and inadequately loading the truck’s cargo are all examples of truck company negligence.
Moreover, trucking companies can also be held accountable if the driver is found to be negligent in an accident. Distracted, drowsy, or intoxicated drivers that caused an accident will almost always result in the trucking company’s responsibility. When it comes to truck accidents, multiple parties can be found negligent, including:
- The truck company,
- The truck driver,
- The company responsible for loading the truck,
- The company responsible for maintaining the truck,
- The manufacturing company that assembled or designed the defective truck part, and
- The city or county responsible for designing or maintaining the road where the accident occurred.
To establish liability, the following elements must be demonstrated in a truck accident case:
- The party accused of causing the accident owed the injured victim a duty of care;
- The accused violated said duty of care;
- The breach led to the accident, which caused the victim’s injuries; and
- The injured victim suffered serious injuries as a result.
The duty of care will depend on the party being accused and the relationship that party had with the victim.
In the past, the truck industry utilized a variety of tactics to avoid accountability in the wake of an accident. Although they still attempt to employ similar tactics, today, these companies are vicariously accountable for accidents involving drivers and vehicles, without regard to ownership or employment status.
Compensation Is Attainable With the Legal Support of a Knowledgeable Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has suffered a traffic accident with a large commercial vehicle, there may be an opportunity to recover damages. Commercial truck drivers are known to be some of the most adept drivers on the road; still, they are not free from accidents. When an accident takes place, the ability to recover financial compensation could be made possible with the support of a qualified personal injury attorney.
Truck accident cases are some of the most challenging personal injury cases to pursue. Often, these cases will involve complex state and federal rules and regulations. As difficult as these cases may be, it is important to seek compensation when an injury has been sustained. If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident, discuss your case with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.
For over a decade, Attorney Justin H. King has successfully represented injured truck accident victims. After a truck accident, it is critical to commence a thorough investigation of your case to ensure a maximum compensation is secured. Attorney King is prepared to handle the investigation on your behalf, help you establish the at-fault party’s responsibility, and secure full compensation. Consider scheduling a no-risk consultation with Attorney King by calling (909) 297-5001 today.