Truck accidents pose a unique danger to the victims of the unfortunate disaster and the vehicles involved. Truck drivers and other standard vehicle drivers need to be aware of the common reasons these accidents occur because the majority are preventable. Here at The LA Personal Injury Law Firm, we help Los Angeles families that have been affected by truck crashes receive compensation, and we have highlighted truck accident causes in this article.
Reasons Why Truck Accidents Happen
Big trucks and semi-trucks pose unique dangers to other road users because when accidents occur, victims are left with severe injuries and significant financial damages. Due to the risk posed by trucks, authorities have put measures in place to curb the accidents, but the accidents still keep happening. Almost all road accidents share common causes, but when it comes to truck accidents, they have distinctive causes. Some of the everyday situations that cause or attribute to truck accidents include:
- Driver Fatigue
Drowsy driving is one of the leading causes of truck crashes in Los Angeles and the whole of California. For this reason, authorities have put in place the “hours of service” decree that restricts the number of hours commercial drivers spend on the road. Preferably, a truck driver should be on the road for a maximum of eleven hours. After the shift is over, regulations require that the driver rest for at least ten hours before embarking on the journey. The long hours of rest have been put in place to ensure the driver gets enough rest to be rejuvenated for the next eleven hours of driving.
Unfortunately, many truck drivers ignore the hours of service regulation to meet customer and company deadlines or make more profits. In the process, they extend the driving hours, which often results in them sleeping while on the wheel. Being fatigued or tired is the same as DUI. So, if such drivers fill a highway, they pose a risk to themselves as well as to other road users.
- Distracted Driving
Professional drivers are not immune to temptations, mainly because of the routine driving on the same road for long hours or driving on remote roads. When driving gets boring, a driver might be tempted to take out the phone and text or call someone while driving.
Usually, most truck drivers decide to use their phones when driving on remote roads because they are not always busy. Unfortunately, the conversation with a friend over the phone might be interesting to the extent the driver fails to stay focused on the road. Failing to stay focused can make the truck veer off-road or reduce reaction time in case of an emergency, resulting in the driver losing control of the truck, thus crashing.
Remember that losing control of the truck even for a second is very dangerous. Most of these automobiles are big rigs and heavy, making it almost impossible to control them when faced with an emergency. Therefore, truck drivers are encouraged to stay away from the temptation of texting or calling when operating a truck.
- Bad Weather
When there are unpleasant weather conditions, all drivers are at risk, which is why they are encouraged to practice defensive driving under such circumstances. Torrential downpour or foggy weather reduce visibility, particularly at night. Because of this, trucks may end up hitting other vehicles. A lot of rain or showers make the road slippery, which poses a grave danger in the event of an emergency because instead of stopping, the truck will skid.
Truck drivers require defensive training for times like these when the weather conditions are not pleasant. An icy or wet road can be challenging to navigate for a driver without defensive driving skills, mainly when the truck is heavily loaded.
To help curb these accidents, trucking companies must ensure they provide adequate training to their drivers so that during foul weather, they can safely navigate the road.
- Green Drivers
The trucking industry is filled with senior drivers because of the shortage of professional truck drivers. For this reason, whenever a new driver gets into the profession, they don’t take time to familiarize themselves with the road or receive training on safety regulations. If a driver doesn’t understand a particular route, he or she will be anxious and likely to panic after in the event of an emergency.
The shortage of commercial drivers also results in companies hiring truck drivers who are yet to receive CDL. Remember that for one to be issued with a CDL, he or she must receive proper training and pass a driving test. A truck driver who has not been through the training process will be green, and handling a truck when entrusted to operate it can be challenging. These kinds of green drivers are a common reason why truck accidents occur.
- Poor Truck Maintenance
When it comes to the issue of truck maintenance, the trucking company or truck owner must ensure the automobile is in a safe condition to be on the road. Big rigs require regular maintenance because of the massive distances they cover and the heavy cargo they transport. Maintenance ensures the driver, cargo, truck, and other road users are safe.
Unluckily, some trucking companies and truck owners take shortcuts when it comes to repair and maintenance to save money. They contract the cheapest auto repair companies or outlets to perform truck maintenance. Such repair shops end up doing a poor maintenance job. Other truck owners fail to take the trucks for regular maintenance because when the truck is off the road, it won’t be making any money.
When a truck receives poor maintenance or doesn’t receive any maintenance at all, the parts might malfunction, or the engine or the brakes might fail, causing the driver to lose control of the truck hitting another car or pedestrian.
Each truck is designed with a limit in volume and height of the cargo to be transported. When the truck exceeds this limit, drivers find it difficult to control it, which is why trucks crash because of overloading.
Other times, the loader might not load the cargo properly, and you might find one side of the truck is heavier than the other. A truck like that is likely to lose control when maneuvering a sharp corner or when overtaking, causing an accident.
- Hazardous Road Conditions
Dangerous or poor road conditions are a significant cause of accidents. When a driver is driving in an unfamiliar route filled by potholes, hitting the potholes could result in loss of control over the truck, veering off the road, or colliding with other cars. Although in such an accident, hazardous road conditions might be the cause of the crash, if the truck driver was more careful because he or she is unfamiliar with the route, the accident could be avoided.
Truck accidents can also occur where there is ongoing construction on a road, and the lanes are narrowed. The truck driver will be forced to drive through the narrow lane, challenging to maneuver, primarily due to the large trucks.
- Substance Abuse
California statutes prohibit all drivers, including commercial drivers, from engaging in the dangerous habit of drunk or drugged driving. The law holds truck drivers at a higher standard compared to the typical car drivers. Commercial drivers are prohibited from operating a truck with a BAC level of .04% or more.
Some drivers may feel in control even after taking substances like alcohol or drugs, which impairs their judgment. In such a situation, when an emergency occurs, an intoxicated driver might not react on time, thus ends up hitting other vehicles or pedestrians. Intoxicated drivers also find it difficult to maintain distance between them and the vehicle ahead, which results in rear-end accidents.
Truck drivers sometimes miscalculate the speed of the oncoming car or try to overtake at a corner. If the driver is unable to go back to his or her lane or the oncoming vehicle is too close when overtaking, a truck accident occurs. As a safety precaution, drivers are encouraged to avoid overtaking in blind corners or overtaking only when the road is safe.
- Mechanical Failures
Mechanical failures are mostly associated with poor maintenance, so it might not be the trucking firm’s fault or truck owner. Instead, the auto repair shop or company entrusted with the maintenance might be to blame if a faulty part they installed causes the truck to break down in the middle of the journey.
A truck accident might also occur when the electrical system of a truck catches fire. A driver who is new to this is going to panic when he or she notices fire or smoke coming out of the gas tank or engine. The panic could result in loss of control over the truck, which hits other vehicles or bystanders.
Injuries from Truck Accidents
Truck collisions, whether between themselves or involving standard vehicles, usually cause significant damages and injuries. The sheer size and weight of these trucks translate into high fatality truck collisions. Even the lucky casualties who survive these accidents are left with life-changing injuries such as permanent paralysis. Some of the common injuries in these crashes include:
Neck and Back Injuries
The impact that comes from truck collisions can cause strain on your back and neck, affecting the weak bones and tissues. These injuries, when severe, can have long term effects requiring future medical examination and rehabilitation.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Victims of truck accidents also sustain spinal cord injuries. These injuries result in full or partial paralysis, and their effects can be life-long because there is no standard way of repairing nerves on an injured spine. Long term rehabilitation and medical attention will be required. In the case of permanent paralysis, the victim will have to depend on family members or experts for everything, including regular routines like bathing.
Most trucks are fitted with two or large fuel tanks to enable drivers to drive for long hours without stopping to fuel. When you collide with such a truck, an explosion is possible, and the fire might spread to your car, causing severe burns. In case you are trapped inside when the car catches fire, you will be left with severe burns that cause serious disfigurement. Such disfigurement might require multiple surgeries to correct them, which translates to substantial medical bills.
When you drive a standard car and collide with a truck, you will be trapped below the vehicle. The impact is likely to crash your legs or hands, resulting in loss of limb. Sometimes, if the physical trauma doesn’t lead to loss of a body part, the damage might be so severe, forcing doctors to amputate the part. Amputation can also result in psychological trauma, particularly if you have to rely on prosthetics to get back into your regular life.
The cost of prosthetics and training may result in enormous expenses for both the victim and loved ones. If you find yourself in a situation like that, speak to a personal injury attorney who will assist you get reimbursement for all the money used in treatment.
Internal injuries in truck accidents are common but not apparent. As such, many victims of truck accidents assume they have not been injured and go home instead of going for medical checkups. This makes the injuries even more severe, which is why any time you are involved in an accident, getting medical attention should be your first step.
Apart from the injuries, truck accidents involving pedestrians and other vehicles leave many victims dead. The loss of a loved one can be devastating, but luckily, the law allows the descendants or estate to pursue wrongful death claims.
Parties Responsible for Various Truck Accident Causes
The injuries stated above can have devastating consequences in terms of financial damages, emotional and psychological pain. It is for this reason that you need to find the person responsible for the injuries or losses to help recover compensation. The repayment you get is aimed at helping you enjoy life under the new circumstances. Some of the people you could pursue compensation from include:
- Truck Driver
If the truck driver was violating a statute, regulation, or ordinance when he or she caused the accident, you could sue them for your losses. Drivers have a moral obligation to drive safely to ensure the safety of other drivers and pedestrians. Even when weather conditions are adverse, drivers are required to drive safely.
In the event the driver violates this moral obligation and causes an accident, you should sue them for compensation. Drivers could be sued if:
- The accident occurred due to drowsiness or fatigue
- They were operating the truck while drunk or drugged
- They were driving while distracted
- They were driving recklessly
- They were following too closely
- They were speeding in adverse weather conditions
Take note that if the driver is inexperienced or fails to inspect the cargo to ensure it is loaded correctly, you could still sue them in case of a crash.
- Trucking Company
In some incidents, the employer of the truck driver or the trucking company takes the blame for the crash. According to the worker’s comp law, the employer should take responsibility for the good and bad deeds of employees.
Several reasons could see a trucking company or truck owner take responsibility for an accident. The reasons include:
- If the trucking company directs the conduct of the truck driver
- When the employer is better positioned to compensate you than the truck driver
- An employer hires an untrained truck driver or fails to train a driver
- The employer was legally obligated to test the driver for drugs or alcohol before embarking on a long-distance drive.
An employer will also take the blame for the crash if:
- They fail to conduct regular inspection and maintenance on the truck
- Compromise safety to avoiding eating up profits, or
- Set unrealistic deadlines for drivers, which results in long driving hours without enough rest.
It’s worth noting that it isn’t easy to determine when the employer is responsible for your injuries after an accident. You will need a personal injury attorney to conduct thorough investigations and find out how the employer of the big rig driver might be responsible for your injuries. However, when the driver is an independent worker, you cannot pursue compensation from the trucking company.
- Manufacturer of Truck Components
It is possible to claim compensation from the truck or truck components manufacturer. However, this could only happen if you can establish that the accident and injuries occurred because of:
- Faulty brakes
- Tire defects
- Oil leaks
- Coupling systems
These and many other part defects can directly cause or contribute to an accident. Manufacturers and designers of trucks or parts must design safe and suitable products, and in case they learn of a defect, warn consumers about it. If at all design flaws are the cause of the accident or the manufacturer did cut corners that resulted in an accident, you should seek compensation from them.
- Cargo Company
Cargos loaded in trucks weigh thousands of pounds, which makes it challenging to operate trucks. Each truck is designed to carry a certain weight and size of cargo. But at times, cargo companies overload trucks or fail to load the cargo properly, causing the truck to lose stability and eventually topple, causing an accident. If you can prove that the cargo company failed to adhere to any of the FMCSA requirements, you should sue them for your injuries.
- Local or State Government Agency in Charge of Roads
If you are a pedestrian or standard vehicle driver hit by a truck that was avoiding a pothole, you could sue the agency in charge of maintaining the road for the injuries. These authorities have a duty to ensure the roads are safe for use. When they violate this moral obligation, then they are accountable for the accidents that stem from hazardous road conditions.
Filing a Lawsuit After a Truck Accident
After a truck accident, where you have been hit by a truck, proving the person responsible is not a piece of cake. It is possible for more than one of the parties described above to be liable for the accident. It is up to your injury attorney and the investigative team to file a personal injury claim against the liable parties and prove negligence.
You have two years after the date of the crash to file an injury lawsuit. Under exceptional circumstances, the duration can be extended. If you are not familiar with personal injury laws, it’s best to retain the services of an attorney proficient in truck accidents. Such an attorney knows how to negotiate with insurance firms and understands court processes, which puts them in a better position to win your claim.
Damages Available in Truck Accident Lawsuits
If you win your lawsuit, you are entitled to compensatory damages. These damages can be in the form of either special or general damages. Special or economic damages are awarded to compensate for out of pocket expenses or costs that dollar value can be attached to. Some of these damages include:
- Cost of medical treatment both current and future
- Lost salaries or income
- Vehicle repairs
- Loss of earning capability
- Prescription drugs
General or non-economic damages, on the other hand, seek to reimburse the person hit by a truck for the psychological and physical suffering stemming from the injuries. Some of the damages that you can recover when you win the lawsuit include:
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of life enjoyment
On top of these damages, if the liable party acted with malice, recklessness, or with intent, you could pursue punitive damages.
Find a Truck Accident Injury Attorney Near Me
If you have been hit by a truck and sustained injuries, The LA Personal Injury Law Firm is here to help you move forward with life by seeking compensation from liable parties. Our Los Angeles truck accident attorneys are experienced and have an extensive network with investigators who make it easy to determine truck accident causes to enable you to seek compensation from the right parties. You can request a zero obligation review of your case today by calling us at 310-935-0089.