California Truck Accident Attorneys
Truck Accident Law in California
Commercial trucks are vital to California’s economy. Big-rigs, tractor-trailers, equipment haulers, semi-trucks, refrigerator trucks, tanker trucks, and other large commercial vehicles transport raw materials, food, gasoline, chemicals, machinery, and finished products in and out of the state. Without the trucking industry and the truck drivers, California would come to a standstill.
Unfortunately for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and drivers of passenger vehicles, accidents involving large trucks are extremely common and often cause serious or fatal injuries. In 2014 alone, close to 4,000 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in the United States. In 2015, there were nearly 300 fatal accidents in California involving a large truck. With commercial trucks weighing as much as 80,000 pounds (or 40 tons), these devastating consequences of truck accidents come as no surprise.
If you were seriously injured in a truck accident in California, you should understand why it is so important to work with an experienced truck accident lawyer. Because truck accidents can be highly complex and almost always involve one or more commercial insurance policies, you should never try to negotiate or settle a truck accident injury claim on your own. This post first explains the most common factors that contribute to truck accidents in California. It then gives a general overview of some of the laws that apply to truck drivers in the state. Finally, it discusses how a truck accident victim can secure compensation for his or her injuries and other losses with the assistance of an experienced truck accident lawyer.
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What Factors Contribute to Truck Accidents in California?
When a semi-truck or other large commercial truck is involved in an accident, there may be many contributing factors at play. These are just some of the most common causes of truck accidents in California.
- Driver Fatigue. Although state and federal laws require drivers to get rest for certain amounts of time during every long shift, unscrupulous trucking companies sometimes put pressure on their drivers to drive even though they are fatigued or exhausted. Driver fatigue leads to poor decision-making and slowed response times, and is a major cause of trucking accidents in California.
- Excessive Speed. Truck drivers are often required to drive at a lower speed than drivers of passenger vehicles. When truck drivers fail to abide by posted speed limits or drive too fast for road conditions, the consequences can be devastating.
- Equipment Failure. Modern commercial trucks are highly sophisticated machines with advanced equipment on board. Despite technological advances in the trucking industry, equipment failures are still a major contributing factor in truck crashes.
- Overloading. State and federal regulations require commercial trucking companies to adhere to specified load sizes. When a truck is carrying too much weight, braking time can be affected and this can lead to devastating accidents.
- Drug or Alcohol Use. Commercial truck drivers and their employers follow strict alcohol and drug testing rules that are required by federal law. Nevertheless, drug and alcohol abuse among truck drivers remains a major problem and is often a contributing factor in serious truck accidents.
- Aggressive Driving. Anyone who has driven on California’s highways has probably witnessed aggressive driving. When a commercial truck driver engages in aggressive or reckless driving, the results can be catastrophic.
Almost all of these common causes of trucking accidents are preventable or can be controlled with proper safety measures. If you believe that one of these contributing factors played a role in your truck accident, contact a truck accident lawyer right away to discuss your case.
Commercial Trucking Laws in California
Commercial trucking companies and truck drivers in California must follow both state and federal regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) establishes the federal regulations that apply to the trucking industry in the United States. These regulations address drug and alcohol testing, maximum hours of service, minimum rest times, proper vehicle marking, transportation of hazardous materials, and truck maintenance. At the state level, California regulates certain aspects of truck operations, legal truck size and weight, designated truck routes, maximum truck speeds on state highways, and weight station requirements.
A truck driver’s failure to abide by a safety law can be strong evidence of negligence in a truck accident lawsuit. California recognizes a legal theory called negligence per se, which means that certain types of conduct are automatically considered to be negligent and the plaintiff’s burden to prove his or her case is reduced. In a trucking accident lawsuit, this means that if a truck driver violates a law designed to protect driver safety and the violation was a substantial factor in causing the driver’s injuries, then the driver will win his or her negligence claim unless the truck driver’s violation was necessary or excused.
How Can an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer Help?
A truck accident is a life-altering event for which nobody prepares. In an instant, you can suffer devastating injuries that may require an extended hospital stay and long-term care. In addition to your physical injuries, you may be experiencing post-traumatic stress due to the severity of your accident. Combined with the unexpected financial burden of your medical treatment, you may be feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what steps to take next.
A truck accident lawyer can help you navigate the road to recovery. Immediately after a truck accident, a claims adjuster from the truck driver’s commercial insurance company may contact you. You should never speak to a claims adjuster without consulting with a lawyer. A claims adjuster might come across as friendly, but it’s important to remember that this person’s goal is to settle your claim for as little money as possible. He or she might try to get you to say things that ultimately hurt your claim.
An attorney can help you understand whether filing a personal injury lawsuit after a truck accident is the right course of action for you. Sometimes, it’s not possible to negotiate a fair insurance claim settlement and you need to pursue legal action against the truck driver and his or her trucking company. An experienced truck accident lawyer will be familiar with what it takes to win your case, including gathering the right types of evidence, working with expert witnesses from the commercial trucking industry, and establishing that the truck driver is legally at fault for the accident.
What Types of Damages Can a Truck Accident Victim Receive?
If you are successful in a truck accident lawsuit, you may be entitled to receive compensation for the following types of harms.
- Costs of Medical Treatment. If the truck driver was totally at fault, you should receive full compensation for the costs of your medical treatment. This includes costs for time spent in a hospital, copayments for visits to your doctor, prescription drug costs, and the cost of any ongoing physical therapy or other care you had to undergo as a result of the accident.
- Compensation for Pain and Suffering. If your injuries were severe and caused you to experience extreme pain and emotional suffering, you may be entitled to compensation.
- Lost Wages. If you had to take time away from your job to recover from the injuries you sustained in the accident, you may receive an amount equal to what you would have earned during that time. Some truck accident victims are permanently disabled or have a reduced capacity to work in the future. In this case, you may be entitled to money damages for lost future earnings.
- Damage to Property. If your vehicle or other property was damaged in the accident, you may receive compensation for the fair market value of your property at the time of the truck accident.
An experienced personal injury attorney who handles trucking accident cases can help you better understand how much your case may be worth and what types of damages you should expect to receive.