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A 13-year-old boy died in a collision between the SUV where he was a front-seat passenger and a semi-truck in North County. The accident happened when both the SUV and the semi attempted to enter the intersection at the same time. The boy’s mother and a six-year-old girl who was also a passenger in the SUV were seriously injured in the crash. The accident sparked a small brush fire and prompted the closure of the intersection for investigation and clean up.
The economy of the United States is largely dependent on these commercial vehicles. According to a report from Popular Mechanics, 68 percent of all the goods sold in this country are delivered by semi-trucks—around 60,000 pounds of products per each American each year. There are currently about 2.8 million commercial trucks registered across the nation, according to 2016 data.
However, for all the good that these vehicles—also known as tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, or big rigs—bring, the downside is the danger they pose to the occupants of passenger vehicles who are sharing the road with them. If you’ve been injured or have lost a loved one in an accident with a tractor-trailer, you may be eligible for compensation. An experienced California truck accident lawyer can advise you about your legal options.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 4,889 fatal accidents involved large trucks and buses in the United States in a single year. The number of fatal truck accidents has increased by 42 percent since 2009. In California, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks has increased every year. In 2017, there were 361 fatal semi-truck crashes.
The survivors of these accidents are often left with catastrophic injuries. Why, though? There are several features of the semi-truck that make it dangerous to the drivers of other vehicles, including:
There are a lot of different reasons why a truck accident can occur. While not all of these reasons are the fault of the driver, many are. Some of the driver-caused reasons include:
If a trucker is engaging in the above activities, you can’t always avoid a truck accident—too many factors lie beyond your control. However, these tips can lessen your risk of an accident with a big rig truck:
Truck accidents can devastate the lives of injured individuals and their families. Below we answer some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about truck accidents in California.
A total of 4,186 large trucks and buses were involved in nationwide fatal accidents in the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). An additional 73,000 large trucks were involved in accidents that caused injuries, and another 265,000 were involved in accidents that caused property damage.
In California, 352 fatal accidents involved a large truck during a recent year, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That’s an average of nearly 7 deaths across the state per week.
The question of “who is responsible” is a crucial one in any accident, and accidents involving large commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), like 18-wheelers and tractor-trailers, are no exception. The size and weight of these trucks can seriously injure or kill occupants in all other types of vehicles as well as pedestrians.
Generally speaking, parties who cause or contribute to an accident are responsible for the damage that they cause. All drivers have a duty of care to the public to operate their vehicles safely and to obey all traffic laws. If a driver violates this duty of care, he or she may be negligent. If a truck driver drives too fast for conditions or turns into a curve too sharply, and the truck strikes other vehicles as a result, the driver thereby violated his or her duty of care and is negligent.
Negligent parties are liable for injuries that their negligent actions cause, meaning those parties bear financial responsibility for the damages sustained by the injured party. Truck accidents are often caused when truck drivers violate the duty of care. When a truck accident occurs, there can be various people and entities who may share responsibility and liability.
Truck companies, for example, have several duties of care. The FMCSA requires that truck companies regularly inspect, maintain, and repair their vehicles. Failing to perform these duties can cause an accident. Worn or faulty brakes, for example, may constitute the primary or a contributing factor in a truck’s failure to stop or dangerous speed.
Truck companies are also responsible for ensuring that their drivers are appropriately licensed and trained to operate large CMVs. Truck drivers must obtain a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL), and pass a medical exam and vision test. If they drive a special type of truck, such as one carrying flammable substances, they must receive special endorsements on their CDLs.
The FMCSA also mandates that companies test drivers periodically to make sure they are not operating under the influence of alcohol or other substances that can impair driving ability and judgment. Failure to license, train, and test appropriately can cause accidents. Drivers who fail to operate CMVs appropriately may also cause accidents, as can drivers who operate under the influence of alcohol or substances. Trucking companies may share in the liability for an accident if one of their drivers causes an accident.
Trucking companies often subcontract certain duties, including inspection, maintenance, and repair, checking on driver backgrounds and licensure, and loading and securing cargo in the vehicles. Improper loading and securing cargo can unbalance trucks, lead to moving cargo, or make the CMVs difficult to operate safely, which can cause truck accidents. Failing to perform these duties or perform them properly may constitute negligence.
Drivers of other vehicles can cause truck accidents, as well. Pulling out in front of a truck that doesn’t have enough time to stop is just one example of how another driver’s action can trigger a collision. Trucks are at risk of several types of accidents, including rollovers and jackknifes, that may spread the truck across several lanes of traffic and/or spill dangerous cargo onto the road. In these cases, not only is there an initial accident, but accidents may occur in other lanes, too, as vehicles try to avoid the accident. The cargo items effectively turn into obstacles, potentially resulting in accidents and injuries. Many truck accidents impact multiple vehicles and occupants.
Finally, manufacturers of trucks or truck components also have a duty of care, including following safe manufacturing standards. If any trucks or truck components are found unsafe and undergo recall, the manufacturers’ duty of care is to inform truck owners promptly and repair or replace the vehicles. Failure to exercise these duties of care may constitute negligence.
All of the aforementioned parties are potentially responsible for truck accidents and thus liable for injuries. In addition, of course, several parties may all contribute to causing an accident. A driver and a manufacturer, for example, may share responsibility.
Frankly, victims of truck accidents may not know at first who caused their accidents. Truck accidents frequently require a full investigation to figure out who or what caused an accident.
How do you find out the results of any investigations related to your accident? It’s a good idea to contact an experienced California truck accident attorney. At Gomez Trial Attorneys, we can obtain records of the crash, including the black box or engine control module data (used to determine driver action right before an accident), the company’s inspection reports and compliance with regulations, the driver’s logbooks, and the truck’s GPS data. Attorneys may also utilize forensic analysis that provides information about a crash’s cause, including skid marks, points of impact, and the size and curvature of the roadway.
Insurance companies often send representatives out to accident scenes to compile reports on potential causes. However, insurance companies have a vested interest in minimizing or even denying negligence on the part of their insured parties. By retaining an attorney you will gain access to investigators who are on your side and can conduct a fair review of your accident.
Accident victims may feel trauma, fear, and pain at the scene and immediately after. It’s prudent to know what to do in the immediate aftermath of an accident, so you can take the appropriate steps.
The first step, always, is to ensure your health and safety. If possible, move your vehicle to a safe place, out of traffic. After that, call 911 to alert emergency responders and police. Emergency responders may administer aid and will determine whether an ambulance should take you to the emergency room. If they do not put you in an ambulance, stay at the scene until law enforcement gives you permission to leave.
After that, see a physician or go to an emergency room as your first priority. Tell your providers that you were in a truck accident and need an examination to determine whether you suffered any injuries. A doctor will examine you and provide the proper diagnosis and treatment plan for your specific injuries.
Many injuries may not feel that serious to you at the time, or you may attribute them to jostling or impact and not view them as serious. These injuries may include traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), such as concussions, and other injuries, such as broken bones. We know now that even “mild” TBIs can have serious and long-lasting effects. Broken bones may feel more like a sprain or bruise, and you may assume the pain will pass. Don’t! You may need X-rays, a doctor to reset your bones, a cast, and proper rehab therapy to ensure a full recovery.
The second step is to make sure that, while you’re at the accident scene, you get all of the information that you will need later on. If you can stay at the scene, you should try your best to get the names, contact information, and insurance information for all other drivers. Talk to law enforcement officers. They will issue a crash report that will have preliminary information about the crash, such as where, when, and how it happened. Get a copy of the crash report.
If eyewitnesses are available and willing to talk, get their statements about the accident. If you can, and you have a smartphone with you, take multiple pictures of the accident scene. You want pictures of all vehicles involved, pictures of the scene, and any pictures that indicate how the accident occurred (such as broken barriers or skid marks). Take multiple pictures of your injuries, as well. The site, nature, and extent of a victim’s injuries can often reveal a great deal about an accident’s causes.
Finally, keep all records pertaining to the accident, such as accident reports and insurance claims. Keep all records pertaining to medical visits and your treatment, as well. After you’ve completed these tasks, call an attorney. You should reach out to an experienced California truck accident attorney to determine your eligibility to seek compensation for your injuries.
In California, injured individuals may pursue compensation from the at-fault parties. There are two primary options for pursuing compensation following a truck accident. We discuss both options below.
A claim against an insurance company. The first option for pursuing compensation following an accident is to file a third-party claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. While this is a popular route for accident victims, there are two common problems with it. You may not know who the at-fault party is unless you have access to your accident’s investigation reports. In addition, if more than one party contributed to the accident, they may have separate insurance policies or carriers, all with separate provisions and limits. This can make pursuing justice more complicated.
A larger problem with pursuing a third-party claim is that insurance companies are experienced and often aggressive in trying to minimize or deny claims. They use tactics that focus on delaying, denying, or deferring payment. Many accident victims, understandably, need compensation for their injuries to pay doctor’s bills and even rent. Insurance companies, sadly, use victims’ financial desperation as leverage during settlement negotiations.
Insurance carriers may, for instance, use a strategy called low balling, which means they offer a settlement quickly after an accident but for much less than the case is actually worth. Alternatively, they may prolong the process for months or years to encourage you to settle for less. Insurance companies may even try to shift blame for the accident onto the victim. Finally, they may argue that the accident occurred for different reasons than records show, or that your injuries require less compensation than you claim.
A California truck accident lawsuit. The second method is to file a California truck accident lawsuit in civil court. This may constitute your first move, or your California truck accident lawyer may file suit because an insurance company won’t pay a just and appropriate claim. A judge and jury will hear your California truck accident case. Generally, a jury reviews the evidence and determines whether a defendant should pay claims and, if so, how much.
Whether you choose to file a third-party claim or a California truck accident lawsuit, you will likely seek the same compensation. Most California truck accident plaintiffs seek damages in the following categories:
Medical expenses. You should seek compensation for all of your medical and related expenses, both already incurred and expected in the future, including:
Income lost from work. You can seek compensation for income lost from work, either due to the accident itself or time needed to recuperate, both already incurred and expected in the future.
Loss of future earnings. You can seek compensation for expected lifetime earnings lost if the injuries render you unable to work at all or unable to work at your former occupation.
Pain and suffering. You can seek compensation for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life if the accident has made pursuing activities you formerly enjoyed impossible.
Loss of consortium. You can seek damages on behalf of a spouse if the accident affected relationships or made it impossible to maintain intimate relationships.
Property damage. You can seek compensation for damage to property, such as your vehicle.
For economic losses, compensation amounts are determined by computing the amount of money owed or lost. You determine your medical expenses, for example, by adding together all relevant expenses incurred and estimating expenses for the future, often with aid of expert testimony. Income lost from work is determined by computing the amount of past wage loss sustained, the wage loss expected in the future, and any loss of earning capacity.
Calculating the appropriate amount for noneconomic damages can be difficult and complex. Generally, insurance companies will calculate pain and suffering expenses by assigning a multiplier to your economic injuries. However, The multiplier is determined by the extent of your pain and suffering and other noneconomic damage.
If you need further explanation or assistance, get in touch with the experienced California truck accident lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys today.
If you or a loved one suffered catastrophic injuries due to a truck accident in San Diego, or you lost a loved one in this type of accident, you need an experienced truck accident lawyer to help you navigate the legal process involved with obtaining compensation for your injuries. Trucking companies and those who insure them often employ powerful defense teams that make pursuing a claim on your own very difficult.
One out of eight fatalities in motor vehicle crashes is due to accidents between passenger cars and tractor-trailers. Gomez Trial Attorneys are well versed in the issues that surround trucking accidents, including federal and state traffic and truck laws, regulations that trucking companies and their drivers are required to uphold, issues surrounding vehicle registrations, and issues surrounding liability.
We know the considerations that must be made when filing a personal injury claim in a trucking accident case. Some of those considerations include obtaining electronic logbooks, GPS data, black box or engine control module, pre-trip inspection logs and compliance with regulations. Additionally, we attempt to identify all sources of liability for your accident and insurance policies that may be available to provide compensation.
For a free, no-cost consultation and case review, contact us online or by calling (619) 237-3490.
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