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Trucks can roll over just about anywhere in the San Diego area. In the past few years, rollover accidents involving large commercial vehicles have occurred on I-5 in Mission Bay, on I-8 in Alpine, on Highway 76 in Pauma Valley, and on in-town streets in Escondido, to name just a few of the most common crash locations.
Anywhere a truck rolls over, the accident risks causing serious damage and catastrophic or even fatal injuries. Truck drivers, the drivers and passengers in other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, and anyone else unlucky enough to find themselves in the vicinity of a truck rollover all face deadly dangers. Cargo that spills from trucks can also put the public at risk for toxic exposures, explosions, and other preventable disasters.
Anyone who uses San Diego-area roads has a responsibility to do what they can to minimize the likelihood and severity of truck rollovers. Educating ourselves about the causes of and contributing factors in rollover truck accidents is a good place to start. Thanks to the Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS) maintained by the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) at the University of California, Berkeley, we have up-to-date data to help us explore the topic in detail. (You can explore TIMS data on your own, too, by signing up for a free account.)
We searched the TIMS database for information about rollover crashes in San Diego County involving box or tractor trucks (with or without trailers) resulting in injury or death over a recent five-year period. Here’s an overview of what we found.
Over the five-year period, 57 truck rollovers occurred in the San Diego area that resulted in injuries or fatalities. Three (3) of the crashes were fatal. Five (5) caused serious injuries. Twenty-eight (28) caused visible injuries other than serious injuries. Twenty-one (21) involved victims who complained of pain or discomfort.
According to TIMS data, roughly fifty percent (50 percent) of the truck rollovers in San Diego County over a five-year period occurred between 6 a.m. and noon. Interestingly, truck rollover crashes were not evenly distributed over the course of the week. Instead, half (50 percent) of all crashes occurred on Monday and Thursday, with each of those days accounting for 25 percent of the weekly total.
TIMS mapping data reflects that about 70 percent of San Diego-area truck rollovers happened on freeways, highways, and arterial roads, such as I-5, I-805, I-15, I-8, and Highway 52.
The major rollover hotspots in the San Diego region include:
Of the accidents that occurred on collector or local roads, many occurred on relatively rural stretches of road in the more mountainous areas north and east of downtown San Diego. The handful of in-town truck rollovers that occurred happened at intersections.
What causes trucks to roll over in San Diego? TIMS accident report and mapping data give us some clues by helping us examine crash locations and the reported Primary Collision Factor (PCF) for each accident. Law enforcement generally defines the PCF as the factor that best describes the cause of a collision, or without which the collision would not have occurred.
In approximately half of all truck rollover accidents in San Diego County in the five-year period studied, accident reports cited unsafe speed as the PCF. This is, perhaps, not terribly surprising.
Driving too fast for road or traffic conditions heightens risks for truck drivers in numerous ways:
After unsafe speed, police cited improper turning as the second-most common PCF in San Diego truck rollovers. Improper turning accounted for 35 percent of crashes, according to TIMS data.
Under California law, an improper turn can constitute one of a broad range of driving mistakes. An improper turn includes making a turn from the wrong lane, taking a turn too fast at an intersection, or making virtually any other dangerous maneuver in which a truck driver changes the vehicle’s direction.
By pairing crash report data from mapping data in TIMS, we can get a sense of the types of improper turns that tend to result in rollover truck accidents in San Diego.
These actions generally fall into two categories:
In other words, improper turning and unsafe speed probably go hand-in-hand in most truck rollovers in San Diego. Together, those two PCF categories account for 85 percent of all such accidents.
TIMS data reflected just one rollover accident in the five-year period searched was attributed to the truck driver’s use of alcohol. That finding generally tracks with recent data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) finding that drinking and driving is far less common among truck drivers than among drivers of passenger vehicles. That is not to say, however, that truckers as a group are immune from substance abuse. In fact, research shows that alcohol consumption is still a serious risk factor for truck drivers.
TIMS does not include truck driver fatigue or falling asleep at the wheel as a separate PCF category. However, odds are that those factors play a contributing role in many, if not most, San Diego truck rollover accidents.
As a group, truckers struggle to get adequate sleep. They work long, irregular hours. They’re in relatively poor health. They drive late at night and early in the morning—times when their bodies tell them they should be sleeping. Like many Americans, truck drivers are chronically sleep-deprived, regularly getting less than a full night’s rest.
Researchers estimate that fatigue causes 10 to 20 percent of all fatal truck crashes. However, precise data is hard to come by. Oftentimes, accident reports will list a factor like those above—unsafe speed, improper turn, etc.—as the PCF, even though a driver’s overall exhaustion may have been the underlying cause.
No matter where, when, or how they happen, San Diego truck rollovers can inflict widespread harm. They cause fatalities and serious injuries, result in massive property damage, and cost individuals, families, communities, and businesses millions of dollars.
Victims of San Diego truck rollover accidents frequently have the right to obtain compensation to help pay for the physical, emotional, and financial damages suffered. Experienced truck accident injury lawyers can help. Here’s how.
As the discussion of TIMS data above reflects, trucks can roll over due to numerous factors, each of which may have different underlying causes. One of the principal jobs that a skilled truck accident injury lawyer has is to examine the facts and circumstances of a rollover to determine exactly how it happened and whose actions contributed to it.
That investigation is important because, in California, liability for a truck rollover accident falls on anyone whose unreasonably dangerous actions caused it to happen and on anyone else answerable for that conduct. By exploring the cause of a San Diego rollover, in other words, lawyers can discover who owes compensation to injured accident victims and to the families of those who tragically perished in rollovers.
A thorough investigation into the causes of a truck rollover accident enables a lawyer to prepare and pursue legal action on behalf of accident victims and their families. That action may consist of an insurance claim, a lawsuit filed in San Diego County court, both, or some other strategy aimed at securing payment from the party or parties at fault for a rollover.
In general, by taking legal action with the help of an experienced truck accident injury lawyer, victims and families of truck rollovers in San Diego can obtain compensation for:
Additionally, in some cases, lawyers for San Diego rollover accident victims may ask a court to order payment of exemplary (also known as punitive) damages, which aim to punish the wrongful behavior that led to a crash and the injuries and losses the victims have suffered. Courts may award these damages in cases of extreme wrongdoing or intentionally harmful conduct.
In the aftermath of a rollover accident in San Diego, victims and grieving families can feel overwhelmed and uncertain of where to turn for help when pursuing compensation for damages sustained in a San Diego rollover accident.
When it comes to hiring a lawyer to represent you, there are usually plenty of options. Lots of lawyers advertise an ability to handle motor vehicle accident cases. However, victims can benefit by hiring a lawyer who has truck accident injury experience, specifically.
Here’s why: Truck rollover accidents are not run-of-the-mill motor vehicle crashes. As compared to a passenger vehicle accident, rollovers and other crashes that involve large trucks tend to cause more damage and expense to more victims, and often affect the legal and financial interests of more parties who may face financial liability. Rollovers, in other words, can get complicated.
Victims need a lawyer who is up to the task of sorting through the complexity of a rollover accident and figuring out what happened and who is to blame. The lawyer should understand the trucking industry and its laws and regulations. The lawyer should possess the skill and resources to act quickly and decisively to secure important evidence, such as electronic truck data records.
The lawyer should also have the sophistication to preserve and protect victims’ legal and financial rights, even if trucking companies and other parties potentially liable for damages start pointing the finger at each other, or seek the refuge of commercial bankruptcy to avoid paying damages.
Not all truck accident lawyers have that degree of knowledge, skill, and experience. If you have suffered injuries and losses in a San Diego truck rollover accident, make sure to contact a lawyer who does.
John Gomez founded the firm alone in 2005. Today, John acts as President and Lead Trial Attorney. He has been voted by his peers as a top ten San Diego litigator in three separate fields: Personal Injury, Insurance and Corporate Litigation. Since 2000, he has recovered over $800 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients with more than 160 separate recoveries of one million dollars or more. A prolific trial lawyer, John has tried to jury verdict more than 60 separate cases.
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