Every motor vehicle is created differently. It also holds when comparing truck crashes to car accidents. There are numerous reasons for this, and if you are injured in a truck accident in Los Angeles, you should know the differences. This article discusses the variations and how they affect your personal injury claim.

Truck Accidents Often Cause More Serious Injuries

In an accident with a truck, vehicle occupants often suffer traumatic injuries that have permanent or lasting effects that can result in emotional trauma, long-term physical pain, and financial constraints. Common injuries sustained include:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Concussions
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Internal bleeding skull fractures
  • Lacerations
  • Broken bones
  • Whiplash
  • Amputations
  • Burn injuries
  • Orthopedic injuries

The difference in injury severity can be attributed to the following factors:

Absence of Visibility and Fast-Stopping Power in Trucks

It is more challenging for the truck driver to see other road users and the road than a car driver, making poor visibility a significant cause of truck collisions. For instance, an 18-wheeler has a huge blind spot, which prevents the motorist from seeing other vehicles. An entire car can fit in the truck’s blind spot, placing it at risk when the rig makes a turn or changes a lane.

Additionally, truck drivers take time to stop, even when they see an obstacle, especially when speeding. The truck motorist may try swerving their vehicle out of the way of the barriers or another car, causing the trailer to skid. The swerve will take the truck on another course while the trailer has a lot of momentum and continues on the same path. It can cause the trailer to pull the truck, trapping passenger cars between the trailer and truck or leading to a pile-up without a fraction of a minute.

Hazardous Cargo

Commercial trucks carry different types of cargo, and some materials are hazardous. Typically, the cargo is a heavy, flammable material, and trucks are often overloaded. When a truck is involved in an accident, the cargo spills out on the roadway and can injure or cause a fire that puts other road users at risk.

The Truck’s Size

The size of a truck is undoubtedly a significant factor that makes a truck accident more severe than other traffic-related collisions. While the length of a truck is between 70 feet and 80 feet, an average car is between ten feet and 14 feet. That is a significant difference that can lead to severe injuries, property damage, or even death during a truck crash than a collision where passenger cars are involved.

The difference between these types of motor vehicles is another factor that affects the accident's severity. The truck’s height intensifies the risk of overriding a passenger car that can slide beneath the truck causing catastrophic injuries.

 Truck’s Weight

The lawful weight of an 18-wheeler is 80,000 lbs. (40 tons), while a passenger car is approximately 5,000 lbs. Due to the difference in weight, a car will take in more impact during a truck collision. The more impact your car absorbs, the greater the risk of sustaining severe injuries.

Also, a truck’s cargo load and weight make it more prone to a roll-over collision than your passenger car.

Multiple Defendants May Be Involved in a Truck Accident

After your car accident, either you or the other driver is liable.

However, in trucking collisions, liability determination is not always straightforward. The truck motorist is not the only person that can be liable. Common defendants include:

  1. Truck Motorist

As with every accident claim, the driver involved faces scrutiny. It is particularly true regarding truck motorists, who are qualified to handle huge vehicles.  Typical causes of collisions where the driver is held liable include:

  • Speeding — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration defines speeding as traveling at least fifteen miles per hour over the posted speed limit.
  • Reckless driving — Acts that are reckless driving include running stop signs, running a red light, and driving too fast for the conditions.
  • Inappropriate lane changes— An 18-wheeler is a huge vehicle with a blind spot. When a truck driver fails to check a blind spot before changing a lane, surrounding vehicles are at risk.
  • Tailgating— A truck requires more space to come to a stop, and the distance increases when the trailer is loaded. The vehicle will not stop in time if the motorist follows other cars too closely.
  • Driving under the influence — It is illegal for drivers in California to drive a commercial truck with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04% or greater. Alcohol and drugs impair driving because they slow coordination, judgment, and reaction times.

Also, the truck driver can be held responsible for a collision for failing to inspect the rig and cargo before beginning a trip. Ignoring or missing items on the inspection checklist could result in malfunctions and mechanical failures. An unsecured load increases the risk of the trucker losing control, causing a jackknife accident.

  1. A Service Center or Mechanic

Accidents caused by mechanical failure can happen due to negligence in truck maintenance. Responsibility for maintaining the truck can fall on the trucking company, owner-operator, or both. However, liability for a collision caused by negligent repairs and service may also rest with a mechanic entrusted to work on the vehicle.

Regarding defects, inspection is essential to determine if the trucking company or driver maintained the truck before the crash. Your personal injury attorney can look at maintenance and repair records to determine if the scheduled service was neglected.

  1. Shipping or Loading Company

Unevenly distributed weight or excess loads can cause a truck accident. In this case, the shipping company should be held accountable for failing to ensure the cargo is secured and balanced.

  1. The Truck Manufacturer

Companies that sell, design, or manufacture trucks and their parts should ensure the vehicles are safe and function according to industry standards.

Before filing your lawsuit against the manufacturer, you should prove the truck or its component(s) was defective. It requires a thorough rig inspection.

  1. The Trucking Company

Most trucking companies hire motorists to transport cargo. Employment status has a significant effect on your personal injury lawsuit. If the trucker was driving within their job’s scope during the collision, their boss could also be accountable for your damages and injuries.

Companies are lawfully accountable when an employee injures another person. Trucking firms know this and notoriously misclassify their drivers as independent contractors. A seasoned and knowledgeable attorney has the resources to investigate employment records to determine whether the truck motorist is a worker. Investigations into the company records can also disclose other negligent acts that cause the truck collision, including:

  • Inappropriate hiring practices
  • Failing to test for disqualifying health conditions, drugs, and alcohol
  • Failing to train employees
  • Failing to maintain and repair vehicles owned by the firm
  • Forcing workers to break the federal hours of service rules

What Happens When At Least One Defendant is Involved

When multiple defendants are involved in your truck accident, the at-fault parties can be equally responsible for your damages. Alternatively, they could only be liable for the damages they inflicted.

Generally, a multiple-defendant case is complicated and involves intensive liability issues. Negotiating a settlement can also be more challenging. While a trial is more likely, that does not mean it is impossible to achieve a settlement.

The focus should be on reaching a consensus among all the involved parties as to the portion of the responsibility of each. Alternatively, the defendants can agree to share fault equally to avoid trial.

It is possible to settle with a party and sue the other defendant(s) for the remainder of the damages at trial. However, it can present legal hurdles; defendants can be hesitant to settle because they can face contribution claims from other defendants.

A contribution claim allows a defendant to pay more than their share to collect overpayment from other defendants who paid less than their fair share.

If you are involved in a truck collision with multiple defendants, consider hiring an experienced truck accident lawyer. Your attorney will guide you through the negotiation process and work aggressively to ensure you obtain your deserved compensation.    

Trucks Carry More Insurance Coverage Than Cars

Generally, trucks are more expensive than cars, and so is insurance. Truck coverage can be at least hundreds of dollars depending on the type of truck and its weight.

Trucks are required to have more coverage limits because:

  • They are likely to cause severe injuries — Trucks have a higher center of gravity. If involved in a collision, they can flip over and cause catastrophic injuries to persons both inside and outside the automobile.
  • The vehicle’s abilities — Most trucks are designed to go off-road and on rougher surfaces than cars. Insurance providers see this as a factor that increases damage on the rigs.
  • The truck’s weight and size — Most people do not recognize that insurance rates are based on the vehicle’s weight and size. Typically, the weight and size of the car correspond to safety and handling. Heavy vehicles are at a greater risk of being involved in a crash. That means the required coverage for these vehicles would be more expensive.

Trucks are Highly Regulated Than Cars

Trucks are more prone to causing life-altering accidents and injuries. Regrettably, the collisions are not accidental, as the name suggests. Most truck accidents directly result from negligent or reckless conduct that, had they been avoided, could have prevented the crash altogether. Consequently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) set measures for preventing accidents.

The FMCSR covers all imaginable scenarios that can arise and cause a collision if proper safety measures are not taken, including:

Cargo Weight Limits

A truck alone weighs tons and outweighs all other roadside counterparts. This is before they are loaded with the cargo they should transport from state to state, county to county. Since the massive weight significantly affects the degree of catastrophe inflicted upon the crash, federal laws control the gross vehicle weights and axle loads on the Interstate System. The limits are:

  • 80,000 lbs  vehicle weight
  • 34,000 pounds on a tandem axle group
  • 20,000 pounds on a single axle

Moreover, there are federal standards for length and width on the National Network (NN). The NN consists of the Interstate and specific roadways designed by different states.

Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance

All motor carriers should systematically inspect, maintain, and repair every truck subject to their control. Moreover, the truck’s accessories and parts should always be in good condition.

The firm should also inspect emergency doors, emergency door marking lights, and pushout windows every ninety days.

  1. Required Records

If the truck travels for more than thirty consecutive days, the motor carrier should maintain the following records:

  1. Vehicle identification, including company number, serial number, year of manufacturer, tire size, and make. If the motor carrier does not own the truck, the record should state the firm leasing or offering the vehicle
  2. Records of repairs, maintenance, and inspection with their type and date
  1. Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports

Motorists should complete a post-trip inspection report at the end of every driving day. The report should highlight all deficiencies and defects the driver reports or discovers that can:

  • Affect the vehicle’s operation, or
  • Cause a mechanical malfunction.
  1. Annual Inspection

All commercial trucks, including their segments, require inspection every twelve months.

  1. Inspector Qualifications

Brake inspectors are one type of inspector who should meet specific qualifications. They should be trained and experienced. A trucking company should have proof of the professional’s qualifications throughout their employment and another year after the worker leaves.

While an inspector tasked with truck maintenance could be responsible for your injuries due to poor maintenance, the trucking firm is ultimately liable. Therefore, whenever there is a concern that poor truck maintenance caused the crash, the motor carrier firm can be named in a personal injury claim.

Department of Transportation (DOT) Hours of Service Regulation

The rationale behind DOT hours of service rules is to reduce the number of truck accidents due to fatigue by:

  • Imposing breaks between driving times
  • Limiting the number of hours a driver can operate a truck in a week
  • Restraining the number of hours the driver drives in a day
  • Requiring motorists to log their hours on the road
  1. Logging the Number of Driving Hours

Log books were previously handwritten. Nonetheless, most truck motorists falsified their logs and drove longer hours.

Today, the DOT allows trucking firms to install electronic logging devices. The ELD (Electronic Logging Device) automatically records the following:

  • Time and date
  • The vehicle’s current location
  • Truck mile
  • Engine mile
  • Truck identification date
  • Trucking company identification data
  • Driver’s identification data
  1. Thirty-Minute Breaks

The trucker should take a thirty-minute break after operating a truck for eight consecutive hours. The break condition can be met with a non-driving ELD status.

  1. 60/70-Hour Regulation

The DOT prohibits trucking companies from requiring a motorist to operate the vehicle more than:

  1. Sixty hours in a seven-day duration, or
  2. Seventy hours in eight days

The driver can reset the thread of their consecutive days. They should do this with an off-duty period of more than thirty-four consecutive days.

  1. Daily Driving Limits

All property-carrying truck motorists should comply with the following regulations:

  1. Ten consecutive hours off duty before beginning a workday or shift
  2. Not operating a truck after a 14-consecutive-hour-period after starting a shift
  3. An eleven-hour driving restriction during the fourteen-hour shift

These rules generate a driving timeframe. The driver should wait for eight to ten hours before opening it. They can only be on duty for ten or eleven hours. The remaining duration cannot be on-duty hours.

You Will Receive More Compensation If Injured in a Truck Accident

As previously mentioned, truck accidents cause severe injuries. Sustaining a catastrophic injury means missing work longer, more extended medical treatment, and a greater need for compensation. The compensation amount you can pursue depends on your case circumstances.

You can seek recovery of economic damage, non-economic damages, or both.

Economic damages are measurable monetary losses incurred due to your accident. These are damages that you can quantify and document, including:

  • Medical bills (both current and future)
  • Lost income
  • Lost earning capacity

Non-economic damages are subjective in nature and involve emotional and physical harm instead of finances. Your attorney can help you assess the value. They include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Permanent disfigurement or scarring
  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional trauma

If you lost a loved one in an accident, you can file a wrongful death claim and recover damages like loss of consortium, funeral costs, and pain and suffering.  

Accident Investigations

Local police officers often investigate car accidents. The officer will note the traffic law violations. They will then draft a police report with their opinion of the defendant.

On the other hand, truck accident investigations are more comprehensive, and reports are more complex. Federal agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT, and the National Transportation Safety Board will be involved, meaning federal rules will come into play. Due to the complicated nature of the truck accident, it is wise to hire a lawyer with the required resources and experience to navigate the case effectively.

Personal Injury Claims Involving Trucks Involve Different Pieces of Evidence

Typically, in a car collision, the available evidence is limited to physical clues at the accident scene, photos, and witness testimonies. After a truck crash, there is additional evidence that can support your claim, including:

  • The vehicle’s black box data
  • Maintenance records
  • The trucker’s hours of service logs
  • ELD records
  • Trucking company hiring and screening records
  • Cargo loading manifest

Find a Compassionate Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

Being injured in a car accident in Los Angeles is scary, but a truck accident can be a nightmare. A truck collision claim can be complex, involve severe injuries, and require an attorney’s expertise. At The LA Personal Injury Law Firm, we understand how challenging the situation is. We can aid you in understanding your available compensation options. We are committed to ensuring you receive the aggressive and personalized representation you need to obtain fair compensation so you can focus on your recovery.

Please contact us at 310-935-0089 to book your consultation. During the initial consultation, we can take time to know you and your case facts, evaluate the matter, and advise you on the next steps.