When you are involved in a truck accident, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. However, to successfully claim your compensation, you must consider and prove all the elements associated with the truck accident case. The LA Personal Injury Law Firm has the experience needed to help you get the compensation you deserve after a truck accident. Get in touch with us if you are a truck accident victim in the Los Angeles area.
Establishing Liability in the Truck Accident
The basis of your truck accident case is proving liability. This includes establishing who was liable for the accident, what led the accident, and whether you sustained any injuries. Here is a detailed view of these elements.
Duty of Care
Duty of care explains the obligation that people have to prevent any foreseeable harm to others if there is a reasonable circumstance to do so. In California, this obligation is outlined in Civil Code Section 1714(a). This statute explains that everyone is responsible for an injury sustained by another person by the lack of ordinary care in managing his or her property.
This section makes it clear that an individual can be held responsible for injuries sustained by another person due to his or her negligence of ordinary care. In short, if someone fails to use care and someone is hurt, he or she is responsible for the injuries sustained by the victim. In this case, the truck driver would be liable for the damages that you or your loved one suffered if they were as a result of failing to use reasonable or ordinary care.
Commercial truck drivers are expected to exercise their duties with high standard care compared to other motorists. That's why they are required to have a commercial driver's license and undergo training to operate tractor-trailers. Typically, a truck driver must have at least two years of experience before being employed to drive a large commercial truck.
Besides that, truck companies and drivers have to follow all the regulations provided in their practice. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration supervises truck driver conformance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR).
One of the regulations that trucking companies should comply with include carrying a liability insurance coverage of at least $750,000. If the company deals with the transportation of hazardous materials, it should carry insurance coverage of at least $5,000,000.
Apart from that, truckers are required to operate their vehicles for a maximum of 11 hours. They might work for a 14-hours shift and take a 34-hour rest if they have driven for 60 hours within seven weeks or 70 hours over eight days. Truckers are also required to take heed of California laws applicable to all motorists. These laws include observing specific speed limits, stop sign laws, yield laws, and other basic laws.
Breach of Duty
Once you have established that the existence of a duty of care, you and your attorney should proceed into demonstrating how the truck driver breached this duty of care to win your case. The term "negligence" is often used when describing a breach of duty of care.
In a truck accident, the breach of duty of care is demonstrated when the driver failed to comply with the requirements needed for driving, leading to the accident. There are different ways that a truck driver can be negligent. These negligent actions are similar to possible causes of truck accidents. Here is a detailed explanation of some of the common negligent acts that lead to truck accidents.
One of the requirements in truck driving is taking breaks after driving for a specific period. However, if a driver spends more than the required timeline on the road, he or she will have a high chance of ending up with extreme fatigue. As a result, the driver usually loses concentration and coordination, which translates to a slow reaction to road situations. Therefore, the truck drivers end up causing accidents due to their fatigue.
Distracted driving is a common problem that does not only affect truck drivers but all drivers. Distracted driving can be explained as any activity that distracts a driver from the primary task of driving. This includes taking drinks, eating snacks, changing the audio player, texting, or doing anything that would distract him or her. Once a driver is distracted, he or she usually loses concentration off the road and might end up causing an accident. This can be explained as a breach of duty since truck drivers are expected to drive with due caution compared with other motorists.
You might think that truck drivers do not take alcohol or abuse drugs, but most of them are drug addicts. Truck drivers are known for taking drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines to stay awake after driving for too long, and these drugs have been a significant cause of truck accidents. Once a driver is intoxicated, you would not expect him or her to be cautious enough when driving, leading to an accident.
Poor Training and Maintenance
There are regulations provided on how long a truck driver must train to become a commercial trucker. If a truck driver has not acquired the required experience needed in practice, there will be chances of causing an accident. This is common when the driver experiences harsh weather conditions such as wind, rain, or snow, which requires an experienced driver to drive through such situations. If the trucker has not acquired enough experience, this might be considered as a breach of duty and might be a suitable basis for your claim.
Apart from the training that a truck driver should have, truck companies are required to maintain their trucks before they get on the road. Truck maintenance is expensive and time-consuming, and some companies might decide to overlook such requirements. In that case, the company will be breaching its duty of care and should be held responsible for your accident.
Improper Cargo Loading
Every truckload has to adhere to specific weight, length, height, and size. If a truck transports hazardous materials, there are particular regulations that such loads should follow. However, when a truck carries an oversized or overweight load, it might tip over or fail to brake as expected. Such situations might result in an accident, which might be catastrophic if hazardous materials were in transit. When a truck has an improper cargo load, this is considered as a breach of duty of care and can be a suitable ground for your compensation claim.
If a truck driver is exceeding the required speed limit, there are high chances of getting into an accident. Trucks require a longer space and much more time to stop compared to other vehicles. Therefore, if it is speeding, there are chances that it will cause an accident. Speeding is a breach of duty, and drivers should take responsibility for all the damages that result from the accident that they cause.
Unsafe Driving Practices
Truck drivers drive for long hours and usually follow a strict timeline. If such a driver is running late on delivery, he or she might be forced into unsafe driving practices. These practices include road rages, following too closely, frequent lane changes, and failure to adhere to traffic signals. All those practices signify a breach of duty of care and are suitable ground to seek compensation.
Once you have established that the truck driver breached his or her duty of care in one way or another, you have to prove that the breach of duty is the direct cause of your injuries or damages. This consideration is referred to as causation. Causation can either be cause-in-fact or proximate.
Cause-in-fact refers to a breach of duty that directly caused the injuries or damages sustained by the victim. For instance, if the truck driver failed to yield and ended up hitting your vehicle, there is a direct link with the action and your injuries.
On the other hand, proximate refers to a situation in which the breach of duty is not directly linked with your injuries or damages. For instance, if a drunk truck driver runs into a pole that falls on your car or you, the truck driver will be responsible for the injuries that you sustain, although they are not directly associated with his or her breach of duty.
The final step of establishing liability in a car accident is determining the damages sustained from the accident. Damages can be explained as the monetary compensation that a victim gets as a form of restitution for the injuries suffered in an accident. A truck accident victim can sustain different types of damages. The damages that a victim can recover can either be economical, non-economic, punitive damages, or wrongful death damages.
Economic damages include all types of calculable damage, while non-economic damages include those that are not easy to calculate. Punitive damages involve special compensation granted to a victim if the defendant's actions were out of gross negligence. Finally, wrongful death includes any type of damage that a person can recover if a loved one dies out of the accident. Let's have a closer look at some of the common types of damages that a victim can recover.
Once you are involved in a truck accident, you might suffer from minor or severe injuries. Regardless of the injuries that you suffer from, it is essential to seek medical services. Once you have sought these services, there are chances of incurring medical expenses. Medical expenses can arise from the following aspects:
- Ambulance fees
- Consultation with medical experts
- Physical and cognitive therapy
- In-home care services
- Personal assistance accessories such as heat pads and clutches
- Future medical expenses
Lost wages can be explained as all lost income during your treatment. Apart from the lost income that results from your injuries, you can also lose your earning capacity. This includes your inability to work due to physical therapy sessions, mobility problems, time spent in hospitals, and other factors that might prevent you from earning. It is your responsibility to prove that the injuries sustained from the accident diminished your earning capacity if you want to be compensated by the at-fault party.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering refer to the mental or physical distress suffered after an accident. These types of injuries are related to the seriousness of the pain that one suffers from the accident and future pain associated with the injury. It might also include emotional and mental damages that come from the accident, such as stress and anxiety.
Loss of Companionship
If you are married, an injury might deprive you of showing affection to your spouse. This also refers to your sexual activity. The legal term used to describe this kind of loss is the loss of consortium. Lack of companionship is different from other types of damage since the uninjured spouse is usually involved in the claiming process. Your spouse can as well not recover these damages if you do not recover other damages.
You have to prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident as a truck accident victim. Sometimes both the truck driver and the victim might be at-fault in an accident. Also, there might be other underlying parties related to the accident. Let's first look at the possible faulty parties involved in an accident before we determine how you should prove that the alleged party was faulty.
Acknowledging the at-fault Party
Several parties are involved in a truck accident. Every party takes responsibility based on its expectation in ensuring that the truck is safe and ready for road use. It is recommendable to acknowledge the at-fault party to ensure that you hold the right party responsible for the accident. Here is a list of the at-fault party involved in a truck accident.
Truck drivers are the leading cause of truck accidents. Most of them commit reckless or negligent actions while they are driving. There are three types of truck drivers that are involved in the trucking business. These include owner-operators, company drivers, and independent owner-operators. Owner-operators and independent drivers can be held responsible for an accident since they rely on their liability insurance while on the road. If your accident was caused by a company driver, the specific company that has employed the driver is responsible for your damages since they rely on the company's insurance coverage.
The Trucking Company
The company that has hired a trucker can also be held responsible for your damages. It is difficult to prove these factors unless you involve a professional personal injury lawyer. Issues such as failure to inspect the vehicle, failing to screen the driver, and unrealistic expectations to their driver are the main reasons behind their liability. Most investigations have demonstrated that truck drivers are not entirely responsible for their trucks' accident. Sometimes negligence from the truck part manufacturer or repair shop might play a part in causing the accident.
Parts Manufacturer or Repair Company
Mechanical failures and defective truck parts might also play a role in causing a truck accident. Suppose you can prove that the truck accident you were involved in was a result of a defective part. In that case, the part manufacturer or repair company becomes responsible for your damages. Some of the common faulty parts or mechanical failures associated with truck accidents include brake failure, defective lighting, transmission failure, and steering system failure.
The company responsible for loading a commercial truck with its cargo can also be held liable for an accident. It is the responsibility of such companies to ensure that the cargo meets all the safety and requirements needed for road travel. If your accident was cargo-related, the loading company would be held responsible for the accident. Some of the situations that might associate a loading company to a truck accident include unsecured cargo, exposing the load, and improper weight.
Sometimes the truck involved in your accident is not usually directly associated with the collision. For instance, if another vehicle caused a distraction that led the truck to hit your car from the back, the car that initiated the wreck should be held responsible for the accident. Such a situation requires thorough investigation to narrow down on the actual party that caused the accident.
Sometimes a truck accident victim might also play a part in causing the accident. Under California laws, if the plaintiff's negligence led to an accident, he or she should be held responsible for the accident. This law is referred to as the pure comparative negligence law.
Under this law, the victim or plaintiff is awarded compensation according to the defendant's contribution to causing the accident. For instance, if the victim contributed 10% to the accident, he or she will only be eligible for 90% of the total compensation, which is the defendant's contribution.
When a defendant is claiming that the plaintiff's negligence led to the accident, he or she must prove that the plaintiff was negligent, and the plaintiff's negligence played a substantial factor in causing his or her harm.
Demonstrating the Fault of the At-fault Party in Causing Your Damages
For a victim to prove that a truck driver or other at-fault party was responsible for the accident, you need to show how the accident happened and prove the damages that resulted from the accident. Some of the evidence that you should demonstrate to show that the other driver or truck was involved in the accident includes the following:
- Police reports that describe the wreck
- A criminal conviction for speeding or reckless driving
- A Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) that exceed the recommended 0.04%
- Photos of the scene of the accident
- Phone records that show that the driver was texting while driving
- Toll, lodging or restaurant receipts demonstrating how long the driver was driving to show that the driver was drowsy
- Eye witness report
- Maintenance records show that the truck company failed to maintain the truck. Such documents can also demonstrate whether the truck maintenance company was unable to detect the mechanical problem that led to the accident
- Reconstruction of the accident that is made by the mechanical or expert witness. These experts are involved in explaining the forensic evidence that demonstrates the accident
- Black box data from the truck
These are just some of the evidence that you can use to demonstrate that the at-fault party was responsible for the accident. Your attorney should help you gather all possible evidence to build a strong case against the at-fault party.
Proving the Extent of Your Damages
Apart from acknowledging that there were damages involved in your accident, you have to produce concrete evidence to be accepted by the court. This involves several pieces of evidence, depending on the kind of damage you suffered from the accident. Some of the common pieces of evidence needed for this procedure include:
- Your past and future medical bills
- Income lost when you missed work during treatment or due to declined ability to earn
- Experience from your pain and suffering
To recover these damages, you might need to compile evidence such as:
- Medical records such as X-rays, CT-scans, and MRIs
- Testimony from medical professionals
- Photographs of your injuries
- Medical bills involved in your physical therapy, surgeries, medication, and counseling
- Employment records
- An official letter from your employer showing your lost income and declined capacity to earn
- Receipts that demonstrates the purchase of personal assistant aids such as wheelchairs and clutches
- A Pain journal or diary
- Testimony from an economist that demonstrates your lost earning capacity
Once you demonstrate the above-stated evidence to the court, the jury might be convinced that you experienced significant emotional distress, physical damage, or financial loss from the truck accident.
Facing a severe accident or tragic loss of your loved one after a truck accident can be one of the most harrowing experiences that an individual can face. The LA Personal Injury Law Firm can meet your compensation needs while you focus on recovering your health. We will use our in-depth knowledge and experience in personal injury law to build a strong case that will make it easy to pursue your compensation in Los Angeles. Call us at 310-935-0089 for a transparent and honest review of your legal options.