California is a major site for international trade and shipping, which means a huge volume of goods are transported via commercial trucks on the state’s roadways. According to the American Trucking Association, trucks moved 11.49 billion tons of freight in one recent year, representing more than 71 percent of the nation’s total weight of freight.
Unfortunately, increased commercial trucks on Palm Springs’s roadways results in increased accidents. In the most recent year for which data is available, 4,986 fatal crashes involved large trucks in our state, and large trucks are a common sight throughout the Palm Springs area. While all motor vehicle collisions can cause dangerous injuries, the sheer size and weight of commercial trucks can cause catastrophic damage in an accident. After a truck accident injury, victims may experience devastating personal and financial consequences.
The experienced and compassionate Palm Springs truck accident lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they are entitled to. Call us now to find out how we can help you.
What Are Common Causes of Palm Springs Truck Accidents?
Large trucks often weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger vehicles, and the vehicle sits much higher above the ground than the average passenger vehicle. Damage and injuries resulting from accidents involving large commercial trucks tend to be extensive and severe. Drivers may cause a rollover accident if they lose control of a large truck. Federal regulations have recently been amended, requiring commercial trucks to be equipped with electronic stability controls, which are intended to reduce the risk of rollover.
The performance and capability of a truck’s braking system commonly contribute to truck accidents. Generally, commercial trucks are more difficult to maneuver, which may lead to an accident. For example, a loaded tractor-trailer requires more distance than a car to safely come to a complete stop. When brakes are poorly maintained or road conditions are hazardous, trucks may require even more distance to stop safely.
Additional causes of truck accidents may include:
Driver fatigue. The most common cause of truck accidents is driver fatigue, which is prevalent among overworked drivers. Truck drivers are often under pressure to deliver goods within a short period of time. If drivers cannot get adequate rest, they may tend to become distracted or fall asleep while driving. Federal regulations require drivers to take breaks after driving for set periods of time. However, some employer’s expectations prevent drivers from strictly following driver guidelines. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that truck drivers who have been behind the wheel for more than eight hours are twice as likely to cause an accident. Recently enacted federal regulations require commercial trucks to be equipped with electronic devices intended to ensure compliance with time limits.
Alcohol and drug use. Driver impairment is a common factor in all types of motor vehicle collisions. As a result of the employer’s expectations, drivers may use substances to stay awake or fail to wait long enough after drinking to drive. Illicit drug use is not the only culprit that causes driver impairment. In some circumstances, prescription drugs may also impair the driver’s coordination and judgment, leading to accidents.
Distracted driving. Driving around Palm Springs, how often have you seen another motorist talking on their cell phone, eating or drinking, or otherwise not paying attention to the vehicles around them? Unfortunately, large truck drivers are no exception. Truck drivers are on the road for many hours, traveling long distances, so it is not uncommon for drivers to become bored. Any activity that diverts attention from driving may lead to an accident. Commonly, drivers are distracted when using their cell phones to make or receive calls, read or reply to text messages, or visit social media sites. An accident can occur when a driver’s attention is diverted from the road for even a fraction of second.
Speeding. Speeding is a primary contributor to all motor vehicle crashes. Driving a vehicle at excessive speeds is dangerous for several reasons. Accidents are always unexpected, and a driver’s ability to react to upcoming danger is decreased when traveling at excessive speeds. When reaction time slows, the resulting crashes create a more forceful impact. In addition, speeding affects a driver’s ability to control their vehicle, particularly in bad weather.
Defective trucks or components. Defective truck parts and improper or inadequate repairs can lead to accidents. Even if the truck itself is not defective, truck owners are legally required to ensure that the trucks in their fleet are properly maintained before hitting the road. However, employers and truck owners frequently fail to adequately maintain their trucks due to limited time and resources for repair expenses.
Poorly trained drivers. Before truck drivers may operate commercial vehicles on public roads, they must complete extensive training and meet specific requirements for qualification. However, not all truck drivers or trucking companies adhere to these guidelines. As a result, poorly trained truck drivers, lacking the required experience may be operating commercial vehicles.
Improperly loaded cargo. When cargo is incorrectly loaded or inadequately secured, it can shift and fall onto the roadway or cause an imbalance in weight distribution that leads to an accident.
Blind spots. The design of commercial trucks makes them efficient for transporting cargo, but also creates large blind spots for drivers. Truck drivers must be aware of the risks posed by their large blind spots, located towards the front of the cab, behind the trailer, and on either side of the vehicle.
Truck Accident Injuries
When large commercial trucks collide with smaller vehicles, the accident frequently causes severe injuries, including:
Traumatic brain injuries. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that over 2.5 million catastrophic brain injuries happen in the United States every year. Brain injuries are difficult to diagnose and have lasting impacts that are different from many other injuries. A broken bone may limit your mobility, but a brain injury often affects your mental capacity, personality, and ability to perform the activities of daily living. Symptoms of head and brain injuries may be immediate or may not become apparent for days, weeks, or even months after an accident.
Back and neck injuries. Severe back and neck injuries can have a long-term effect on the victim’s life.
Internal injuries. A truck accident can cause dangerous internal bleeding of organs, including the bladder, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and spleen.
Rib and torso injuries. The ribs enclose the heart, lungs, and other vital organs. Injuries to an individual’s ribs or torso can endanger a victim’s life.
Cuts and burns. Individuals experiencing cuts and burns may be left with extensive scarring and/or permanent disfigurement.
Broken Bones. The powerful impact of a truck crash oftentimes leads to multiple broken bones and fractures.
Seat belt injuries. Seat belts do save lives, but in some cases, a seatbelt may cause internal injuries or neck injuries, like whiplash.
Wrongful death. A wrongful death lawsuit is a subset of a personal injury claim that may be brought by surviving family members if the injuries sustained in an accident are ultimately fatal.
California Truck Accident Laws
A truck accident case may involve multiple areas of the law—personal injury, workers’ compensation, employment law, or criminal law. California has adopted an “at fault” system for determining liability in a motor vehicle accident. An injured victim may be entitled to seek compensation by proving that another’s negligence caused an accident that resulted in the injuries. Negligence refers to “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.”
Therefore, to prevail in a personal injury lawsuit, the injured person must show that:
The defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff;
The defendant breached that duty;
The plaintiff was injured; and
The defendant’s breach caused the injury.
The trucking industry is heavily regulated by a complex network of state and federal regulations created to ensure the safety of truck drivers and others on the roadways. All commercial trucking companies must abide by the rules set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In California, truck drivers are held to a higher standard than other motorists due to the nature of the industry and skill required for safely operating large commercial vehicles.
Drivers must go through extensive training to obtain a commercial driver’s license and to conform to a variety of safety regulations. All drivers have a duty to use ordinary care while driving. The duty of care involves obeying all signs, signals, and rules of the road, as well as driving in a manner that allows a driver to maintain consistent control of the vehicle.
When an accident results in injury or death, drivers must report the accident to the California Highway Patrol or a local police department within 24 hours of the accident. The statute of limitations provides time limits within which individuals may file a personal injury claim. Experienced attorneys regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they deserve. An attorney may advise injured victims of the applicable deadlines for filing their claim, so they are not barred from seeking compensation.
Who May Cause a Truck Accident?
Just as an accident may be caused by multiple factors, there may be multiple parties who share responsibility for accident injuries. Injured victims should identify all responsible parties before filing a claim.
Potentially responsible parties may include:
Trucking companies. The trucking company may be liable for the driver’s negligence if the accident occurred while the driver was acting within the course and scope of employment. A trucking company’s failure to act may also deem the company liable if the failure contributes to causing an accident. For example, federal regulations require companies to perform background checks on each driver-applicant before deciding to hire them. Employers must supervise drivers to ensure their compliance with safety regulations. Trucking companies may also be responsible for an accident caused by their failure to ensure adequate inspection and maintenance of their fleet. In addition, they may be liable for an accident if they set unreasonable delivery deadlines or negligently load cargo.
Truck manufacturers. The manufacturer of a truck or truck parts, as well as the distributor and/or retailer, may be liable if the accident involved equipment or truck malfunctions. Malfunctions may include brake failure, tire blowouts, or defective steering mechanisms.
Other parties who may be at fault. The negligence of parties such as mechanics or warehouse workers may contribute to the crash. When mechanics or warehouse workers fail to provide adequate maintenance, they may be responsible for accident damages.
Compensation for a Truck Accident
Truck accidents tend to have larger settlements than accidents involving any other type of vehicle. Compensation may be larger for a variety of reasons, including strict insurance requirements for commercial trucks and the ability to sue parties other than the driver. Additionally, truck accidents usually cause serious injuries with extensive medical expenses. Injured victims may also be entitled to compensation for non-monetary damages, such as pain and suffering.
Depending on the circumstances, an injured victim may recover damages, including:
Medical expenses: Costs of medical care may include emergency room treatment, surgeries, hospital stays, prescription costs, and rehabilitation, among others.
Lost wages: Truck accident victims are entitled to compensation for current and future lost wages as well as losses associated with diminished earning capacity.
Pain and suffering: Injured victims may be entitled to seek compensation for pain and suffering they have experienced as a result of the accident. Pain and suffering may include emotional or psychological suffering, including depression and anxiety. Damages for pain and suffering may also include loss of enjoyment of life when a victim’s injuries prevent them from participating in activities they enjoyed before the accident.
Loss of consortium: Spouses of injured victims may be entitled to pursue compensation for the loss of family relationships and companionship resulting from accident injuries.
In cases where the conduct of the wrongdoer was particularly egregious, the court may award additional damages, or punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to act as a punishment to deter similarly egregious behavior in the future.
What Should I Do After a Truck Accident?
After a Palm Springs truck accident, injured victims may want to follow a few steps to increase their chances of success. Of course, after suffering an injury, a victim must seek immediate medical attention. Even for those who feel they have only suffered minor injuries, seeking a medical evaluation is important. As mentioned, some injuries do not display symptoms for hours, days, or even weeks after an accident.
Failing to seek immediate treatment may worsen injuries or delay recovery. Professional documentation of a victim’s injuries and the medical care they require are important for calculating damages for a personal injury claim.
In addition, injured victims should:
Preserve evidence from the accident. If you are able, take photographs of the damaged vehicles, the surrounding area, any nearby traffic control devices, and your injuries. Some evidence tends to disappear, so try to preserve evidence at the scene of the accident if possible or hire a Palm Springs truck accident lawyer to do it for you.
Gather information from the scene of the accident. Witnesses may be difficult to locate after the accident. If you are able, obtain contact information or a statement from any individuals who witnessed the accident. Eye-witness testimony can help fill in the gaps to support allegations of fault.
Contact the police. The truck driver or his or her superiors will probably contact the police following an accident. However, if the police do not respond to the scene within a reasonable time, you should contact them.
Don’t share too much information. In the wake of a traumatic incident, many people become anxious and want to talk about what happened. For some people, their first impulse is to post comments or photos about the accident on social media. However, remember that information shared on social media may be misconstrued and used against you in a lawsuit later. Injured victims should avoid accepting blame or blaming others for the accident.
Contacting an experienced truck accident lawyer before discussing the accident with other parties or signing any release forms.
Injured in an accident? Get a real trial lawyer. Get Gomez.
Palm Springs Truck Accident FAQs
The average semi-truck weighs up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. This massive size and weight can lead to treacherous truck accidents that often result in more property damage, more severe injuries, and a higher chance of fatalities than other traffic accidents. Truck accident victims and their families face a wide range of challenges that go beyond the physical pain of injury. Large medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses associated with severe injuries impact a household’s financial health.
If you or a loved one has recently sustained injuries in a Palm Springs truck accident, you might feel unsure about what to do next. You have the legal right to seek compensation for your damages if someone else’s negligence led to your truck accident injuries.
Contact a skilled Palm Springs truck accident lawyer at Gomez Trial Attorneys today. We can evaluate the circumstances of your truck accident and guide you in the right direction for your situation. Until you have the opportunity to consult our attorneys, the following frequently asked questions about truck accidents in Palm Springs provide useful information about taking legal action to recover damages after a truck accident.
Do I have to contact my insurance company after a Palm Springs truck accident I did not cause?
You should always contact your insurance carrier after a traffic collision, even if you did not cause the accident. Most auto insurance policies contain language that requires policyholders to report any accident. Failure to report the accident to your insurance carrier could lead them to cancel your coverage or refuse to renew your policy. Truck accidents are often expensive because of the massive property damage and severe injuries involved, so you need your carrier on your side when a trucker’s or trucking company’s negligence caused an accident.
Also, you may have coverage that can help you after a truck accident that was not your fault. While you wait for your truck accident claim to settle or go to trial, MedPay protection or medical insurance coverage could kick in to pay for some of your medical expenses and lost wages. California does not require drivers to purchase this add-on coverage, but if you chose to do so when you purchased your policy, you can collect the benefits quickly after your accident and injuries.
What is the statute of limitations for Palm Springs truck accident claims?
Under California law, you have two years from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit against the truck driver, trucking company, or another allegedly liable party. The same time limit applies if a loved one died in a trucking accident and you wish to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the allegedly liable party. The law does allow for some exceptions, but they are rare. In most situations, if you do not bring a lawsuit within the two-year statute of limitations, a court will likely refuse to hear your case and you will probably miss out on the opportunity to recover damages related to your truck accident and injuries.
If it has been longer than two years since your accident, you should still contact a lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced truck accident attorney can review your case and determine if your situation might be an exception.
Do I sue the truck driver or the trucking company after a Palm Springs trucking accident?
Sometimes, it’s obvious who you should name in your lawsuit, and sometimes, it’s not. Truck accidents are notoriously complex and choosing the right party to sue is not always clear. Also, you can name more than one party if multiple parties may bear liability. Your Palm Springs truck accident lawyer will evaluate the circumstances of your specific accident and the likely causes. After investigation, they will identify the party or parties you should name in your truck accident lawsuit.
Defendants commonly include one or more of the following:
The truck driver. Truckers generally have demanding pick-up and delivery schedules and many drive overnight to meet deadlines. Even though truckers are heavily regulated because they have commercial drivers’ licenses, the nature of their job sometimes still promotes negligent driving behaviors. Rushed truck drivers speed and sometimes travel too fast for weather and traffic conditions. Fatigued truckers risk falling asleep at the wheel and suffer fatigue-related impairment that puts others on the road in danger. Drivers who use alcohol and drugs also put others at risk of dangerous accidents. Whenever a truck driver’s careless choices behind the wheel lead to an accident, truck accident victims can name them in a lawsuit.
The owner/operator or trucking company. Truck drivers who own their own trucks—referred to as owner/operators—open themselves to extra liability as both the truck’s driver and owner. Your attorney might list the driver and the trucking company in these cases, but they are basically the same. In other situations, your attorney might advise you to name the trucking company as a defendant with or without the driver. Trucking companies that do not follow federal safety regulations put truckers and others on the road at risk of accidents and injury. For example, trucking companies have a legal duty to hire qualified drivers and adequately train them. Additionally, trucking companies are responsible for maintaining their trucks and keeping them road-worthy. Poorly maintained trucks can break down at critical moments and lead to dangerous accidents. Finally, trucking companies also have an obligation to properly load cargo onto trucks. This includes ensuring proper weight and balance and securing cargo for safe transport.
A driver in another vehicle. Although other drivers are rarely named in truck accident claims, it does happen on occasion. Motorists in cars, SUVs, and other passenger vehicles sometimes cause a truck accident when they make unsafe maneuvers on the road or engage in dangerous driving behaviors. Motorists who cut off semi-trucks and linger in their large blind spots can cause a dangerous accident. Distracted driving is one of the most dangerous driving behaviors. Motorists who use their cell phones, help backseat passengers, daydream, adjust vehicle controls, and engage in other dangerous distractions while behind the wheel risk running into a truck or running through an intersection, causing a multi-vehicle truck accident. Impaired drivers who haven’t gotten enough rest or have used drugs or alcohol also risk causing a truck accident. Your attorney will review your claim and determine the right party or parties to name in your lawsuit.
Truck manufacturers. All companies, including truck manufacturers, that produce goods and sell them to the public have a legal duty to ensure their products are safe for use and consumption. Sometimes trucks and truck parts have product defects. Not all product defects lead to accidents, but certain defects can cause chaos on the road, cause truckers to lose control of their big rigs, and lead to treacherous truck accidents. Defective braking systems, steering systems, and tires are examples of defects that put others on the road at risk of accidents and injuries. If a defect may have led to your truck accident injuries, your lawyer will likely advise you to name the truck manufacturer in your claim.
Should I accept an early settlement offer for my Palm Springs truck accident claim?
Any time an insurance company makes a settlement offer, accident victims are best served by consulting with a Palm Springs truck accident lawyer before accepting. Insurance companies are only concerned about their bottom line and take drastic measures to avoid financial liability. This is especially true with costly truck accidents that typically lead to high-value claims. If an insurance company knows their policyholder is at fault for the accident, making an early settlement offer is a go-to tactic to avoid paying a large settlement amount or court-awarded damages.
Truck accident victims who enter into an early settlement agreement are not only likely to receive far less compensation than they deserve, but they must waive their right to seek further compensation. One of the main issues with early settlements is that you typically do not yet know the full extent of your injuries and related expenses.
Before you agree to a settlement offer, you need to know the true value of your claim. Your body must heal as much as possible and you need to know whether you have any permanent injuries before you can accurately value your claim. Settling too soon can leave you without the compensation you need to cover future lost wages and ongoing medical expenses.
Can I seek compensation if a loved one died from fatal truck accident injuries in Palm Springs?
California law permits eligible surviving family members to take legal action against negligent truck drivers and trucking companies who cause fatal truck accidents. Wrongful death lawsuits in California have two parts that families typically pursue simultaneously: the wrongful death action and the survival action.
The wrongful death portion of the lawsuit involves damages that family members incur from losing their loved ones, such as burial expenses and funeral costs, as well as damages to relationships, such as loss of parental support for children or loss of companionship for spouses. Survival actions involve damages and losses incurred by your loved one from the time of injury until they died.
Medical expenses including ambulance services, emergency room treatment, surgery, doctor visits, diagnostic testing, and medication;
Lost wages from missing work;
Physical and emotional pain and suffering; and
Reduced quality of life.
A representative of the deceased’s estate must bring a survival action, so they typically handle the wrongful death portion of the claim too. If the court rules in your favor, damages go to the estate, which distributes them based on your loved one’s will or, if they did not have a will, California’s intestate laws.
Do I have to go to court for my Palm Springs truck accident claim?
In Palm Springs truck accident crashes, it’s common for the accident victim and the insurance company to reach a settlement agreement long before the case goes to court. Going to court comes with a wide range of costs that neither side generally wants to pay.
However, sometimes settlement is not an option. The insurance company might vehemently dispute liability or make insultingly low settlement offers. In these cases, your attorney can advocate for you in court and fight to get you the compensation you deserve for your truck accident injuries. Although it’s unlikely you will have to go to court for your Palm Springs truck accident claim, you should be prepared for that possibility in case settlement negotiations fail.
How much compensation could I receive for my Palm Springs truck accident injuries?
Several factors determine the value of a truck accident claim and how much you might receive from a settlement or court-awarded damages, making it impossible to predict a specific amount.
Some elements that drastically impact the amount of compensation you could receive include:
The severity of injuries. More severe injuries lead to more medical bills and more pain and suffering, which typically increases a claim’s value.
Nature of injuries. Injuries in highly visible areas of the body, especially those that leave permanent scars, generally increase a claim’s value.
Long-term prognosis. Truck accident victims who suffer permanent damage, a permanent disability, or develop a permanent condition due to a truck accident typically have much more highly valued claims than those without permanent injuries.
Amount of missed work. Truck accident victims who miss a lot of time at work because of their injuries, hospitalization, and recovery amass a great deal in lost wages. This can add significantly to the value of a claim.
Can I afford to hire your Palm Springs truck accident attorneys?
Yes, you can afford to get the legal counsel you need from Gomez Trial Attorneys. Our Palm Springs truck accident law firm always offers free case reviews for potential clients to discuss the circumstances of their truck accidents and injuries. During an evaluation, the attorney will consider your case’s merits and advise you about whether they believe you have a viable claim.
If you choose to hire a lawyer, you very likely will not have to pay an out-of-pocket retainer fee. We always take new clients on a contingency fee basis. Contingency agreements give lawyers permission to deduct their fees from any settlement or jury award you receive as a result of their representation.
Were You Injured in a Palm Springs or Palm Desert Truck Accident?