Truck accidents are still a serious concern in the United States, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The majority of individuals killed in truck accidents in California are occupants of other automobiles and passenger vehicles.

Of course, not all truck accidents result in death. Thousands of Californians are seriously injured in trucking accidents every year. Broken bones, traumatic brain injury (TBI), internal traumas, and even paralysis are all common injuries that result from truck accidents.

Any sort of truck accident may be life-altering, resulting in both physical and psychological trauma. An accident victim may be eligible to bring a lawsuit against a negligent truck driver and their company in certain instances.

Who is to Blame in a Truck Accident?

The legal concept of "negligence" is an important factor in establishing liability. Insurance companies and courts will apportion blame based on carelessness, or a driver's failure to practice duty of care. In essence, whichever party was more reckless will be held more accountable.

Eyewitness reports and citations issued at the accident scene are used to demonstrate negligence. The police will question each driver, as well as any passengers or witnesses, and will complete a police report that contains their professional judgment. They will also look into any traffic infractions that happened before or during the accident.

It is critical to keep in mind that a police report is not a conclusive record that decides who is at fault. Much of a police report may be considered “hearsay” by some courts, which means it is not permissible as evidence.

Citations, on the other hand, aid in determining which of the drivers was more reckless. For example, if a police record reveals that one motorist was texting, a texting citation may result in that driver being deemed to be more negligent.

Another critical component of assessing negligence is evidence that a motorist violated the vehicle code, even if that was not quoted at that moment.

What is the Law Regarding Truck Accidents?

Truck accident laws cover personal injuries incurred by passengers of a passenger vehicle as a result of a collision with a large freight truck, often known as an 18-wheeler or big rig. The theory of negligence is used to establish liability in certain instances.

Multiple legislations will apply if the irresponsible party is a professional truck driver. These laws comprise traffic laws and civil liability laws, as well as the Department of Transportation and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations.

Proving Negligence is Critical for Your Recovery

A negligence claim simply says that a person or organization failed to act as it should have, and as a result, you incurred injury for which compensation is available. However, establishing a negligence claim to an insurer or a court requires you to show four particular elements:

  • The truck driver had a duty of care to the victims to drive the truck safely
  • The truck driver breached his duty of care
  • Causation: An accident was caused by the driver's breach or violation
  • Damages: The victim was injured as a result of the accident

Identifying the Liable Party in a Truck Accident

In automobile accidents, parties involved usually know who is at fault, and it is quite simple to hold them to account because they own their vehicle and have it insured independently.

Truck accident cases, on the other hand, are often complicated. Identifying the responsible party is more difficult. This is attributed to the number of potentially liable parties. Semi-trailer trucks, unlike passenger cars, are generally not owned by the driver.

Truck safety, management, and operation are frequently the responsibility of many parties, making these sorts of lawsuits more complex to litigate.

In many situations, individuals, many of whom were not even present at the moment of the incident, are partially to blame for a trucking disaster. Those responsible for your accident may include:

  • The truck driver
  • The Truck Driver's Employer or the trucking company
  • Loading companies
  • Shipping companies
  • Manufacturers of Truck Parts
  • Maintenance provider
  • A third party

The Truck Driver

Large semi-trailer trucks, like other motor vehicles, are driven by regular people and are thus susceptible to human error. Despite rigorous training and the requirement of a specific Commercial Driver's License (CDL), truck drivers are not impervious to making mistakes or being negligent.

Truck driver errors are, in actuality, one of the leading causes of truck accidents. Truck driver error is frequently caused by several different variables, one or more of which could lead to a secondary responsible party.

If any of the following factors contributed to the accident, a truck driver may be held liable:

  • Driver exhaustion
  • Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Distracted driving, such as eating or using a phone when driving
  • Driving recklessly, speeding, or other similar actions
  • Failure to stop at stop signs and/or red lights
  • Failure to foresee changes in road conditions or dangers on the road
  • Excessive speeds in construction zones
  • A physical impairment or medical condition that renders the driver unfit to drive a truck
  • Failure to take mandatory breaks/ violation of the FMCSA's "hours of service" regulation
  • Dangerous driving maneuvers, such as lane changes or turns

As previously stated, several variables might cause a truck driver to make an error and cause an accident, but most of these mistakes are caused by external forces.

Trucking firms, for instance, pay their drivers by the mile and give bonuses for reaching high mileage targets, pushing them to work extra hours. If a trucking firm puts pressure on its drivers to reach unreasonable targets, they may avoid taking mandatory breaks and keep driving even if they are tired.

Both the truck driver and the trucking firm may be partially to blame for the subsequent accident in such a case. In many truck accidents, several parties should be made accountable for the injuries and losses sustained, including the truck driver's carelessness.

Trucking Companies

While the trucking firms that operate these large rigs cannot be present in every truck at all times, they are still responsible for the trucks, their drivers, and any damages that may occur.

If your trucking accident was caused by the business's policies, expectations, or carelessness, the firm might be held liable. Unfortunately, convicting trucking firms in commercial vehicle accidents is tough, since it requires a substantial amount of evidence and an in-depth understanding of transportation rules.

Companies that hire truck drivers must ensure that the drivers they recruit are certified and experienced. Conducting background checks, providing truck driver training, and routinely scheduling random drug and alcohol testing for drivers are all examples of this.

If a truck driver is found to be in breach of business policy or state/federal law, they must be thoroughly reprimanded and closely monitored.

Unfortunately, some trucking firms do not comply with these regulations. In reality, many of these firms put profits ahead of public safety, allowing or even encouraging truck drivers to drive lengthy distances without resting.

Other trucking firms may fail to perform adequate background checks, resulting in the hiring of inexperienced drivers. Failure to offer enough supervised training might result in further problems with the trucking company's drivers.

When it comes to truck driver exhaustion, this type of situation is very significant. As previously stated, truck driver fatigue plays a key role in many truck accidents, and the trucker's manager may be held responsible. When truckers are required to work unrealistic schedules, the corporation is at fault for not thinking about the safety of its staff and other motorists on the road.

Trucking firms must follow state and federal guidelines, and they cannot force truck drivers to disobey the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) hours of service rule, which dictates how long a truck driver may drive before taking a break.

If a trucking firm disobeys federal laws and pushes staff to work for excessive periods, they are putting the lives of drivers, including those on the road in jeopardy and should be held liable for the resulting damages.

Loading Companies

Truck accident attorneys must evaluate all parties that influenced the truck, its driver, or route, including loading firms who put the goods onto the truck, when establishing liability in truck accidents.

Everything from weight limitations to appropriate cargo loading and fastening is governed by industry requirements, and failure to follow them can result in catastrophic tragedies. Load crews should be able to stack freight in a trailer without exceeding the weight limit or causing the trailer to lose balance.

Again, a parent firm might be held responsible if it fails to enforce safety procedures or provide training.

Cargo may be inappropriately packed onto trucks in some scenarios, resulting in an imbalance that increases the likelihood of the truck overturning. Overloaded trucks are more prone to cause truck accidents, either by toppling over while in motion or by taxing and damaging the brake systems.

The firm in charge of putting the goods onto the truck might be held accountable if:

  • Cargo was exposed or unprotected.
  • The truck was overloaded, and it flipped over or "fishtailed" as a result
  • During travel, cargo fell from the vehicle into the road.
  • Unqualified people were permitted to load and unload goods.
  • The loading firm failed to maintain proper records.

This list is not exhaustive; if cargo is not safely loaded or unloaded, anybody from the cargo owner to the cargo loader to the carrier should be held responsible for any accidents, damages, or injuries that ensue.

Truck Parts Manufacturers

When assessing who is accountable in a truck accident, no personal injury lawsuit should rule out the possibility that a truck part manufacturer is partially to blame.

Each year, faulty parts contribute to countless truck accidents, just as they do in other forms of motor vehicle accidents. In a commercial vehicle, even a little design flaw might result in a devastating or even fatal accident.

If you were hurt in a truck accident caused by a faulty part, the firm in charge of vehicle maintenance might be held liable. The manufacturer, on the other hand, might be held responsible if the part that malfunctioned was known to be faulty or had been recalled.

Big-rigs are huge, complicated vehicles with a lot of moving elements, both big and small, that might cause accidents. The following are some of the most common faulty truck parts:

  • Common blowouts triggered by tire flaws.
  • Flawed brakes, resulting in front-end accidents
  • Frail load straps that cause cargo to roll onto the road
  • Coupling systems in the cab and trailer that trigger jackknifing or even a separation

Faulty parts that have never been recalled might be the only cause of an accident. Both the manufacturing firm and the trucking companies are responsible for handling these defaults and issuing recalls, as well as paying attention to and removing malfunctioning parts.

 If one of these parties fails to identify the defective truck parts, they may be held liable for any accidents caused by the same parts.

Although taking on manufacturing firms might be a challenging legal challenge, the chances of getting a maximum recovery amount rise since insurance policies available to pay compensation are generally bigger.

Shipping Companies Liable For Contractors

In most cases, a company is not responsible for the carelessness of independent contractors who execute work for it. However, in cases when a shipping firm hires an unsuitable independent contractor to transport its products, the shipper may be held liable on the premise of negligent hiring.

According to Section 411 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts, an employer is legally responsible for physical harm to third persons caused by his failure to exercise logical care to employ a capable and careful contractor to do work that will involve a threat of physical harm unless it is competently and cautiously done.

Do You Have a Case If You Were Partly at Fault?

Even if you were partially at fault, you may still be entitled to compensation following a truck accident. The injured driver may be entitled to damages based on each party's amount of responsibility under California's "comparative fault" statute.

Even if the motorist believes they were partially or entirely to blame for the accident, it is critical not to acknowledge guilt at the scene. The drivers do not have access to all of the information. Before learning that the other driver was driving under the influence or had a suspended license, a driver may accept blame. If you confess blame at the site of an accident, you may lose your right to claim damages after the accident.

What a Truck Accident Attorney Will Do for You

When investigating a trucking accident, you may face many hurdles, which a proficient truck accident attorney may assist you to overcome. Employees at the trucking business may be reluctant to comply or offer paperwork on the truck's data records, maintenance records, and particular parts and manufacturers.

 If a trucking firm gets rid of or fixes the damaged vehicle before you can have it checked by your mechanic, it may make it hard to obtain essential evidence. Some responsible parties may even delete papers or data. It will be difficult for you to correctly identify responsibility or prove carelessness as a result of these activities.

Your lawyer can assist you in overcoming these obstacles, ensuring that important evidence is not destroyed either deliberately or inadvertently. If other parties refuse to cooperate, your lawyer may advise you to file a personal injury lawsuit.

The discovery phase of a case can then be used by your lawyer to get paperwork, data, and depositions from other parties. In addition, your lawyer will contact the appropriate parties right once to discuss the preservation and maintenance of potentially crucial evidence, such as the truck.

You may also be overwhelmed by the pain from your injuries, as well as rising financial stress from lost earnings and escalating medical expenses, following a truck accident. In these instances, you may be inclined to accept the truck company's first settlement offer.

Your lawyer will begin by investigating the accident. They will then figure out who could be to blame for the trucking accident. They will then compute a compensation claim, which will include losses such as:

  • Expenses for medical treatment in the past and the future
  • Damage to property
  • Lost income
  • Reduced earning potential
  • Suffering and pain
  • Scarring or deformity 
  • Loss of interest in life

In many situations, your lawyer will be able to reach an agreement that covers the full extent of your losses. If the trucking business or its insurance refuses to provide a reasonable settlement, your attorney can take the case to trial to get you the most compensation feasible.

After a trucking accident, injury victims typically have two years to initiate a civil lawsuit for damages. The statute of limitations may be longer or shorter depending on the circumstances. Personal injury lawsuits against the state of California, for example, may have a six-month statute of limitations.  This is why it is critical to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that you have enough time to launch a case.

Contact a San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer

Do not hesitate to contact The LA Personal Injury Law Firm if you have been injured in a truck accident in Los Angeles, California. We have spent years assisting people who have been in accidents with commercial trucks.

We are familiar with the complexities of liability, which allows us to efficiently acquire the proper evidence and achieve favorable outcomes for our clients. Call 310-935-0089 for a personalized consultation with a professionally experienced truck accident lawyer today.

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