Truck accidents are common on California roads, and the aftermath can be catastrophic for the driver and other road users. Depending on the force of impact, you can suffer injuries of various degrees from minor cuts and lacerations to spinal cord and brain injuries. Minor injuries often heal quickly, and you regain the normal functioning of the body part while severe damage can be life-threatening. They require extensive treatments and long recovery time, which means you will be out of work for several weeks or months on end.
If you have been involved in a truck accident and suffered some form of bodily harm, you have a legal imperative to speak to a personal injury lawyer. The LA Personal Injury Law Firm has experience representing commercial truck drivers like you, so they get the compensation they deserve without being taken advantage of by insurance adjusters.
Statistics on Truck Accidents in California
Recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) derived that fatalities from truck accidents reached the highest peak in 29 years. While the overall rates of traffic deaths declined, the number of deaths from collisions involving big trucks skyrocketed.
In 2017, massive truck deaths rose by 9% to reach 4,761, which was a spike from 2016 where there were 392 reported fatalities of this nature. Out of these deaths, an estimated 1,300 of the deceased were truckers while the rest of 72% involved one or more occupants of the other vehicles in the crash. The automobile industry has come a long way in the last century, but despite these emerging technologies, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) found that road accidents claim almost 3,000 California residents per year.
What are the Leading Causes of Truck Accidents?
Road accidents involving semi-trucks, regular trucks, or big rigs can either be triggered by you or other motorists for the following reasons.
- Intoxicated Driving
The state of California is keen to combat drunk driving, so the roads are safe for everyone, and some of these measures include lowering the legal blood alcohol content to 0.05%. This move was proposed in Assembly Bill 1713 after lawmakers deemed the current BAC limit of 0.08% as too high. Hill's Senate Bill 545 is the other legal measure to counter drunk driving. If passed, this bill would require drivers who are convicted of driving under the influence to install an ignition interlock device (IID). This device stops the engine if the driver is above the legal BAC limit. Holders of commercial licenses have a blood alcohol limit of 0.04 %.
These laws will protect other road users who adhere to traffic regulations, so they don't suffer unwarranted injuries from crashes caused by other drivers. For instance, there was a harrowing incidence in May 2019, where an intoxicated driver going in the wrong direction slammed into a semi-truck head-on. Officers administered a sobriety test on the wrong-way driver and arrested him for suspected drunk driving. In a stroke of luck, the truck driver was understandably shaken but unharmed while the at-fault driver suffered minor injuries. This incidence was among the lucky ones were no severe damage is done, and no wrongful death as the case in extreme scenarios. As a commercial truck driver, you must be aware of such careless motorists, and if an accident occurs, contact your injury attorney immediately.
- Driving Above Speed Limits
Driving above the required speed limits is another primary reason why accidents occur, and according to Safer America, 37% of all speeding drivers in fatal collisions in 2016 were impaired alcohol. In that year alone, speeding was responsible for 10,111 fatalities (27% and above) of all traffic deaths reported nationwide, and half of these drivers were not wearing safety belts.
Efforts are afoot to curb road traffic fatalities in Los Angeles and the rest of California but over speeding remains a grave concern. There are cases of people being struck by speeding vehicles on residential streets, inside the city, and on highways. The sound of screeching tires as drivers avoid crashes is a commonality and authorities are hard at work reducing the speed limits where applicable. Since 2016, the city has renewed speed limits on more than 650 miles of road, and subsequently, traffic patrol officers can issue speeding tickets on over 95% of streets. This figure is a considerable increment from 2016, where they could only write speeding tickets on 20% of city roads.
Despite these efforts, the LA Times reported that by the summer of 2018, more than 200 miles of Los Angeles roads still had expired speed limits and speed enforcement was minimal. Further data analysis showed that San Fernando Valley leads the way when it comes to speeding tickets. Speeding means less time to control the vehicle in case of any eventuality like being cut off by another driver, and this causes crashes. As a truck commercial truck driver, you must adhere to the stipulated speed limits on highways and other roads as you traverse California and beyond.
- Poor Cargo Distribution
Overloading semi-trucks and big wheelers is a crucial factor that triggers road accidents even when the driver is maintaining relatively appropriate speeds. In October 2018, the NHTSA surmised that the most significant spike in truck deaths happened in trucks weighing 10,000 to 14,000 pounds. These vehicles are used to ferry tonnes of goods across the state and beyond, and there is a nagging temptation to overload them so companies can make savings here and there.
If the loads – including average loads – are not distributed properly, the truck can topple over as it navigates down a winding road. When this happens, the vehicle will roll down the hill wreaking havoc on this path and even reach other motorists in the streets below. Drivers must ensure they adhere to the necessary load regulations concerning the kind of truck or dual rear-wheel pickup trucks they are operating.
- Driver Fatigue
Truck drivers ferrying heavy roads across the country usually work well past the mandated business hours with little to no rest before resuming work the following day. Taking a rest stop at a motel and possibly not sleeping well takes a toll on the trucker.
Fatigued drivers can barely focus on the road, and their reaction time is much delayed as compared to a driver who has a clear head. Apart from sleep deprivation and extended driving hours, fatigue can arise from the following:
- Poor road conditions – hot and wet weather patterns across states, the monotony of cruising down the same highways, and noise can lead to fatigue as well.
- Random call times – being asked to report or start the day too early or too late messes up with the body's internal clock and the trucker may experience weariness over time.
- Inadequate recovery time – you are probably used to the hectic work schedules and demanding non-driving work such as loading and unloading the semi. Nonetheless, not allowing enough resting time can lead to exhaustion that is dangerous for driving.
- Nighttime driving – most people are ready to sleep at least before midnight or right, and their bodies are wired this way. If this resonates with you, driving at night can exert additional stress on your body and impedes your ability to drive.
A fatigued driver usually is drowsy, and they could fall asleep only to wake up in a panicked state panicked when something goes amiss, and they lose control and crash.
- Poorly- Maintained Trucks
Semi-trucks and big wheelers that are poorly maintained are more susceptible to accidents when brakes malfunction or something comes undone. Most companies do routine maintenance for their fleet of trucks, but some unscrupulous businesses may forgo checks to save money.
Apart from malfunctioning brakes, there are other tell-tale signs of insufficient maintenance such as broken mirrors or electrical failures. Ensure the truck is roadworthy before getting behind the wheel and should accidents occur due to employer negligence, contact the LA Personal Injury Law Firm to represent you.
- Inadequate Training
New truck drivers may find it challenging navigating new highways for the first several weeks or months. Balancing a semi-full of cargo and having to drive more extended hours than you were used to making the job more difficult, and the driver is prone to accidents. Response to unforeseen incidents is delayed not to mention bad weather and poor road conditions in some places. Also, a highly trained and experienced trucker understands how much time the rig needs to stop completely, to avoid being rear-ended when they stop.
- Distracted Driving
Even the most experienced and rested driver is prone to accidents if their attention is focused on other things. Safer America derives that 3,450 people died due to distracted driving in 2016 alone, and using phones is the leading cause of distractions. Research estimates that people take roughly 5 seconds to read or send a text message, which means they cannot adequately react to any eventuality during that time.
With 62% of distracted driving accidents arising from drivers letting their mind wander into other things, truckers are advised to refrain from any form of activity that takes their eyes off the road. Apart from technology and operating radio controls, they could be distracted when grooming or merely staring at the scenery on deserted landscapes as they cross state lines.
The above reasons are responsible for the majority of trucking accidents in California and the country in general, but crashes can also happen under these dangerous circumstances by other motorists:
- Switching lanes too fast
- Merging into traffic improperly
- Not adjusting speeds as a long vehicle joins traffic
- Tailgating an 18-wheeler or another long vehicle
- Overtaking at known or unknown blind spots
- Refusing to yield to a semi-truck
- Losing balance due to crosswinds from a car
Common Injuries from Accidents Involving Trucks
As mentioned previously, crashes involving trucks, 18-wheelers, and other long vehicles can have deadly consequences or at least inflict severe damage on the people involved. In this section, we discuss the minor to severe injuries that you can incur and how they impact your health.
- Cuts and Lacerations
These injuries typically happen on the hand, arm, and the face upon impact due to contact with broken shards of glass, shrubbery, and unrestrained things inside the truck. Cuts and lacerations heal efficiently, but you could have lasting scars on the hands and face, not to mention any damage to the eyes!
In extreme scenarios, your facial features may be severely injured, thus necessitating facial reconstructive surgery, which is expensive and requires more recovery time. Get medical treatment right away and adhere to doctor's orders, such as how to clean the wound and get enough rest.
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
These injuries happen when the head or brain incurs trauma from the impact, and this can be present as a mild concussion or brutal, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) that could take a while to recover. TBIs can alter the victim's personality rendering them prone to memory problems, aggression, volatile emotions, and less impulse control. Slurred speech, blurry vision, general confusion, and headaches that won't subside are other side effects of head and brain injuries.
A person with TBIs is likely to experience difficulty building and nurturing relationships at work and in their personal lives. They could lose their job and even family, for example, if they hurt the children. If left untreated or the survivor is misdiagnosed, TBIs can lead to death.
- Torso and Rib Injuries
Blunt force trauma to the torso (abdomen) area can damage your vital organs when an object – like a piece of metal – penetrates the skin, thus causing penetrating chest trauma. If no sharp object is involved, doctors term this as blunt force trauma, which is also dangerous. The situation is dire when these injuries go undetected for a while, so they launch more significant health problems for the victim.
Examples of torso and rib injuries are pneumothorax (one lung collapses and presses against the other lung or heart), flail chest (ribs break and hang outside the rib cavity), and sucking chest wound (a sharp object punctures the chest, and excess air enters when you breath).
Damage to the torso and ribs must be addressed swiftly, and this starts with a visit to the emergency room for a diagnosis. You are likely to miss work for a few days or weeks, and this translates to lost income and disruption of other responsibilities such as minding the kids. When you hire the LA Personal Injury Law Firm to represent you, our lawyers will ensure you get the much-deserved compensation from the negligent party.
- Spinal Cord Injuries
Rolling down the side of a hill when driving an 18-wheeler loaded with tons of cargo means the forces of impact are unthinkable. Victims can have damaged nerves in the spinal cord, not to mention more than a few shattered or dislocated bones. You may experience partial, momentary, or full-on paralysis in the back, legs, or other parts due to the intricate connection of nerves.
Treatment is likely to involve surgery and recovery will be marked by unbearable pain as doctors take you through extensive rehabilitation to restore the spine and related areas. In spite of the best interventions, not all cases end well, and you may end up paralyzed from the waist down, thus confined to a wheelchair. Millions of people live with such physical limitations and live a full life, but getting here does not come easy for many accident victims.
- Seatbelt and Airbag Injuries
As mentioned earlier, half of road traffic fatalities in 2016 featured these drivers who were not wearing safety belts. Truck drivers are mandated to wear seat belts when driving, but some people ignore this safety measure and cruise down the highway anyway. The NHTSA notes strapping these safety mechanisms on the shoulder and lap curb the risk of death or severe injuries to the driver and front-seat passenger by nearly 50%. Belts prevent you from being ejected during rollover accidents
However, safety belts and airbags can also be detrimental when crashes happen as belts don't reduce the amount of force sustained in an accident but rather ensure reasonably even distribution. On the downside, they confine the torso area and can potentially damage the lungs and ribs. Seat belt syndrome refers to damages linked to fastening seat belts such as a reddish mark left across the chest or other internal injuries to the thorax vertebrae and elsewhere. The lap belt can cause abdominal compression, neurological deficits, liver contusions, and associated damages.
Frontal and side-impact airbags are designed to deploy upon collisions, and they cushion your body from the forces of impact. There is less chance of hurting your upper body and the head, which is a sensitive part. Just like seatbelts can damage during crashes, airbags deploy at high speeds can lead to blunt force trauma to the skull and lacerations on the face.
- Burns of Varied Degree
Crashing with an oil tanker or another vehicle transporting flammable goods means there is a likelihood of a fire breaking out upon impact. Paramedics may take a while to arrive, and you might not free yourself if the seat belt jams or your leg is trapped underneath something. The driver will have burns of various degrees on the face, hands, legs, and other areas. If you are lucky to walk away alive, you may need reconstructive surgery and skin grafting to restore the shape of the affected areas.
Disfigurement is a typical result, and this could leave you with emotional scars for a lifetime. What if you experience trouble finding another job? Who pays for these medical bills? How about the potential blow to your self-esteem? LA Personal Injury Law Firm has represented many survivors of truck accidents who needed extensive treatments to manage burns after such awful events.
If the breadwinner or other family member died in a truck accident or when receiving treatment, we can help you file a wrongful death claim, so their employer pays restitution. This money can help to offset medical bills, so the family doesn't go bankrupt, go towards the kids' college fund, and other necessities. The goal here is to ensure the family is not left in financial ruin after the provider dies in this manner, especially if the employer or other party were at fault.
What Should I Do After a Truck Accident?
Road accidents involving commercial trucks are common in California, and the aftermath can range from minor injuries to extreme damage as outlined above. There are steps you can take soon after the crash provided you are capable of doing so without putting yourself in harm's way.
- Call Traffic Police
The first reaction should be dialing 911 so they can deploy medical assistance and have the authorities come to the scene for inspection. Officers will speak to eyewitnesses – if any – and the other drivers involved to determine what transpired and who is liable.
- Gather Driver's Contacts
Take the license number, insurance information, and other necessary details from the other motorist involved in the crash. These details will help in paying for repairs and of course, checking the driver's history to see if they have run into similar troubles before such as drunk driving. If they fled the scene for some reason, note the make and plates of the vehicle or whatever useful description you can gather.
- Photograph the Scene
Document the scene before witnesses and other road users tamper with things. These photos will prove useful in determining who is at fault and when you file a personal injury claim to get paid for damages. Images can help an insurance adjuster to understand how bad the crash was, so they are less tempted to downplay the awful incidence during negotiations.
- Hire Legal Counsel
We advise clients not to admit fault or divulge too many details to traffic police before speaking to an attorney. Even when you were at fault to some extent, don't let anyone intimidate you into agreeing to their version of events as this can hurt the personal injury claim or have it thrown out altogether. Your employer and the insurance adjuster will be looking for the least possible payout, so it helps to have an experienced personal injury lawyer at hand.
Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me
Truck accidents can have dire consequences on the survivor, and this can leave you with mounting medical fees, household debts, and struggling to find work. LA Personal Injury Law Firm specializes in litigating personal injury cases for truck drivers like you who want their well-deserved compensation. Don't leave things to chance; contact our Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney today at 310-935-0089 for a free consultation so we can determine the best course of action for your case.