Accidents involving any type of vehicle are dangerous. However, trucks cause fatal accidents because of their excessive weight and size. The trucking industry is a significant contributor to California's economy, and this has led to high numbers of trucks on the road. The industry is also a deadline-driven business, which puts pressure on truck drivers to cover long distances in shorter periods. This extreme pressure leaves even professional drivers stressed, tired, and prone to causing fatal accidents. After a truck accident, injuries are often catastrophic. If you sustain damages in a truck accident, you can file a personal injury lawsuit to get compensation. If you are involved in a truck accident in Los Angeles, The LA Personal Injury Law Firm can help you get the best settlement.
Common Truck Accidents in California
Accidents involving commercial trucks in California are common and occur under different circumstances. They include:
Rear-end collisions involving trucks are a common form of accidents. Semi-trucks cause rear-end collisions because they are longer, larger, and heavier than other vehicles. The length of semi-trucks compares to the size of a football field. This makes them crash easily into unsuspecting vehicles while reversing.
Underride accidents are fatal and occur when another vehicle crashes into the belly of a truck, either from the side or at the back. Statistics show that all collisions between semi-trucks and small cars are mostly underrides. If you are a car driver, giving trucks space on the road, and avoiding blind spots can save you from underride accidents. A trucking company has the role of equipping trucks with durable side guards. It could reduce the risk of fatal underride accidents.
Rollovers can be either un-tripped crashes or tripped crashes. Un-tripped crashes occur due to loss of truck traction and over speeding, causing the truck to roll. Tripped crashes occur because of truck flips when a truck hits another vehicle or an obstacle. The number of commercial trucks involved in rollover accidents is massive. Tractor-trailers have high centers of gravity. Thus the constant shifting of the center of gravity created by the cargo can cause a rollover.
A jackknife accident occurs when a truck turns and makes the cargo trailer inclined away from the main truck cab. A driver's loss of control of the truck, poor weather conditions, or over speeding may cause a jackknife accident. The back trailer axle may also get locked, giving the trucker less control over the back cargo and forcing it to break off.
Semi-trucks have large blind spots. A truck driver must be careful when changing the lanes. Loss of concentration and inexperienced drivers may cause blind spot crashes.
The Runaway Truck Accident
A truck driver must watch the speed and carefully control the vehicle. Loss of control by trucks on steep slopes is common, and truck drivers must be prepared. Truck drivers have to maintain and control the truck, especially if runaway truck ramps are not available on the road.
Tire Blowout Truck Accidents
When a truck tire bursts, the truck could swerve to another lane, or roll down. Truck tires often burst because of lack of routine maintenance, tear and wear on tires, or defective manufacturing. This could be dangerous to other vehicles because the truck could collide with the oncoming vehicle if it swerves to another lane. Debris from a truck tire could hit another vehicle.
To avoid tire blowout accidents, the truck driver should provide enough space between other vehicles. When the truck driver needs to overtake another vehicle, he/she should ensure there is enough space ahead of the other vehicle. The truck driver should break off and accelerate rather than riding along with another vehicle.
Hazmat Truck Accidents
A hazmat truck transports dangerous materials. The type of cargo on transit determines the seriousness of a hazmat truck accident. Hazardous materials could be radioactive materials, pesticides, lithium batteries, activated charcoal, dry ice, explosives, or motor oil. If the materials are highly flammable or have a risk of explosion, then they are deemed hazardous.
On the other hand, a truck could carry a material that affects the breathing system, leading to people’s respiratory diseases. In circumstances where hazardous materials cause fire or become airborne, injuries could arise without collision. A person could get injuries from hazardous materials, even if he/she is not on the road. If a hazmat truck accident releases poisonous gases in the air, the nearby residents could get infections.
Tips for Winning a Truck Accident Case
Under California law, if you are involved in a truck accident or any other accident, you are required to stop at the scene. You should not leave the accident scene until the police arrive. Your actions after the accident will determine your likelihood of getting the compensation you deserve. What should you do to win a truck accident case?
Call the Police
The typical number used to call the police whenever an accident happens in California is 911. After a truck accident, you should make a call, and the police or the emergency responders will receive and give you the required assistance. Let the emergency responders or the police know the parties who are involved in the accident so that they take the necessary action. Calling the police is the best way of getting the police to document the accident. The police will maintain proper records of the details of the truck accident.
Gather Information About the Truck Accident
If you are involved in a truck accident, you should identify and locate all parties involved. This means recording down the other truck driver's insurance policy number, his/her name, his/her address, the truck's license number plate. Be keen to note down any relevant information about the trucking company.
Make sure you document enough evidence about the accident. Taking photos at the scene of the accident is valuable. If you can, take the pictures of the road conditions, weather conditions, damaged vehicles, and other causes that could have caused the accident.
It is imperative to get a medical report of your mental and physical condition immediately after the accident. The medical report will come in handy in the legal process. Even if you seem okay after the accident, seek prompt medical attention because some symptoms do not show up immediately. If you develop complications after that, it could be hard to prove that it resulted from the accident.
Acquire Witness Contact Information
Anyone who observed the accident happen in any way is a witness. It could be a person in a nearby vehicle, a bystander, or someone in the vehicles involved in the accident. You do not need to record the witnesses’ statements because it is the duty of the police. If you are able, you can approach one of the persons who witnessed, and take his or her contact information if he/she is willing to give it. Take his or her phone number, email address, and his or her name to keep in touch. After the police carry out their investigations on the cause of the accident, you can give the witness information to your attorney. Your attorney will have an easy time building a strong claim because he/she will get ample evidence from the witnesses.
Do Not Share Accident Information on Social Media
Truck accidents are often more fatal than other small vehicle accidents. If the accident involved closing the road, fatalities, or big cleanup, the news could spread widely. You should avoid commenting if you come across articles or photos from your local news stations. Avoid sharing anything on social media, information like how the accident happened, your emotional, or physical condition. Only your close family and friends should know about the accident. Social media could be detrimental to your legal issues after that because anything shared online could count in court as evidence. Even if you delete the information shared on social media, someone might testify against you about what he/she saw on social media.
Watch Your Words
After an accident, you might get angry with the truck driver for having caused the accident, but being emotional to other parties can’t bring a solution. When agitated, most people go overboard, speaking regrettable words to others. It is good to keep calm after the accident, weigh your words, and this way, you will avoid uttering things that could cost you in the corridors of justice.
Even if the accident happened because of the truck driver’s fault, do not point accusing fingers. Ensure that you avoid sharing the accident’s details to any other person, except the police officers or your lawyer. During interrogation by police, do not admit fault. However, avoid telling lies because you might damage your credibility. You should keep quiet instead of giving misleading information that could have adverse legal consequences.
Get Your Vehicle Appraised
When your vehicle gets involved in a truck accident, avoid taking it to any mechanic for repair, because the repair costs should be included in your insurance claim. Insurance companies differ in requirements that you need to submit before you get compensation. Some insurance companies require the whole wreckage of the vehicle, while others may require the pictures of the damaged vehicle. It is advisable to get your vehicle appraised after a truck accident before you conduct any forms of repair. If you have to repair the vehicle before filing a claim, ensure that you get an expert to appraise the vehicle.
Hire an Attorney
Truck accidents cause severe injuries to the victims, and the process of filing the insurance claims is cumbersome. As a victim, you need time to heal. It might be stressful if you try to negotiate with the insurance or the truck company for compensation. If you hire a competent attorney, he/she will handle the paperwork, and he/she will face the insurance or trucking company on your behalf. Victims who involve the attorneys in their claims get higher compensation than those victims who individually face the insurance companies. Victims with equipped legal representation are better placed in the event the insurance companies scheme dirty tricks of offering less compensation than they deserve. A competent attorney can help you with the following tips:
- Identifying the Damages
If you do not understand insurance policies, it could be hard for you to know the damages that are covered. A competent attorney in accident cases will help you assess the damages you sustained. This may include following up on your initial treatment, medical costs, and property damage.
- Expert Negotiations
Without a competent attorney, the insurance or trucking company may deny you your claim. Insurance companies always present quick offers hoping that the victims will accept without involving the lawyers. Working with a competent attorney will ensure that the insurance company compensates you for the proper amount.
Do Not Give Written Statements to Insurance Agents
After an accident, the insurance company will carry out its findings on the cause of the accident, and the validity of the victim's claims. An insurance adjuster might reach out to you to give a written or recorded statement. Giving out a written or recorded statement is not a good step. The insurance adjuster might use your statement to water down your efforts to get better compensation. How can a recorded or written statement harm your claim?
An insurance adjuster may use your statement to reduce or deny you the amount you deserve. He/she may use your statement to harm your claim through the following ways:
- Asking confusing questions to get inconsistencies from you and recording the inconsistencies
- Asking you to give the details of your injuries before a medical examination
- Asking leading questions so that you do not give the right details of the injuries
- Using the information from pre-existing injuries to invalidate the injuries you got from the accident.
- To suggest your partial or full fault for the accident, the agent may twist your words.
Never Admit Fault in the Accident
In some instances, you could also be partly to blame for the truck accident. For instance, you could have been following the truck too closely or engaging in distracted driving. However, even if you feel that you are partly to blame for an accident, you should never admit fault. When a truck accident occurs, you should not apologize to the other parties. Offering an apology will act as a confirmation that you contributed to the occurrence of the accident. California is a comparative negligence state. Therefore, even if you are partially at fault, you can seek compensation less your degree of fault. Admitting fault will reduce your chance of winning the case.
File the Case on Time
After involvement in a truck accident, you should not wait too long to file a claim and seek compensation. It is imperative to ensure that you file the case within the statute of limitations. If you wait too long, the insurance company may use delay tactics and offer you low compensation. You will have no choice but to accept the low compensation to avoid missing the deadline for statute of limitations. You should contact your attorney immediately after an accident to initiate the legal process.
Proving Fault in a Truck Accident
To be able to win a truck accident case, you have to prove the defendant’s fault. In most cases, the truck driver or the trucking company is usually at fault. To prove that the truck driver was negligent, it must be apparent that the truck driver owed you a duty of care. A driver owes a duty of care to all road users. You should prove that the truck driver did not honor his or her duty of care. You also have to prove that you suffered loss or damages due to the defendant’s breach of duty of care.
When a Truck Driver or Trucking Company is at Fault
In a truck accident, the truck driver or the trucking company could be to blame under certain circumstances:
Poor Training and Maintenance
When a person goes for a driving course, there are requirements and regulations for the time he/she must take to become a qualified truck driver. Most truck drivers begin driving on the road without attaining the set requirements. California being a large state, has many types of climate and can experience bad weather. It could be rain, snow, or wind. It takes a truck driver with proper training and enough experience to drive in bad weather, especially when he/she is driving a large truck. The truck driver must slow down in bad weather to avoid hydroplaning or skidding of the truck. A truck driver without experience and poor training on how to drive in bad weather could put other drivers at risk.
Trucks need inspection before getting on the road, but most trucking companies rarely do it. Because of maintenance costs, and the time is taken, many trucking companies resort to making deliveries. They overlook routine maintenance and put the truck on the road without a safety guarantee for the trip.
The job of driving a commercial truck is stressful and has high pressure. Most trucking companies put pressure on their truck drivers to deliver goods on time. This means that a truck driver might have to drive for a long distance without rest. Truck drivers sleep for a few hours because the miles they have to cover require many days on the road. Many trucking companies do not follow the regulations and the laws on the number of hours a truck driver should drive, when to take a break, and how much sleep a driver should get. As a result, most truck drivers lose coordination and concentration by falling asleep while driving. This may lead to a truck accident.
There is a problem of distracted driving everywhere, and it is a more prevalent issue on the local roads, and on the highways in California. Distracted driving diverts the attention of the truck driver away from the normal driving responsibility. It could be boring for a truck driver to drive long distances, especially in rural areas where there is not much entertainment. Because of the boredom, the truck driver may be tempted to start eating while driving, texting on the phone, or doing anything to stay occupied. If a driver looks at the phone or eats while driving, it might take the truck driver's concentration and lead to a truck accident.
Overtaking and Speeding
At times, a truck driver can't deliver goods or cargo in the time given by his or her employer. Because of the employers’ pressure on truck drives to meet the delivery deadlines, truck drivers may drive faster without considering the road conditions, or the size of the truck. A truck driver could speed a truck if he/she thinks his or her employer could sack him/her for having delayed delivering the goods in time. Over speeding will make a truck driver overtake other vehicles, this means swerving the truck into other lanes, which may lead to a truck accident.
Other Contributors to Truck Accidents
Additional factors could lead to truck accidents. The factors include:
- Taking over-the-counter medications making truck drivers drowsy
- Wrong medication prescription
- Driving on unfamiliar roads
- Poor roads
- Traffic interruption
- Implementing inadequate traffic and road surveillance
Responsible Parties in a Truck Accident
Truck accidents are always complicated and traumatic. They often involve many people and vehicles. It is important to note that when an accident happens, several parties could be liable. The truck driver might not be the only party to blame in an accident. All the parties involved should take the blame for their actions. Some of the people who could be accountable when a truck accident occurs include:
- Truck owners
- Repair facilities
- Truck retailers
- Government bodies responsible for road maintenance
- Defective vehicle parts manufacturers
Find a Truck Accident Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Through a personal injury attorney, you are more likely to get the compensation you deserve. If you have suffered injuries in a truck accident, The LA Personal Injury Law Firm can help to examine your case. Our attorneys will also help you to file a compensation claim. Reach us at 310-935-0089 and talk to one of our attorneys.