California Truck Accident Guide: How To Get Help
If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident involving a semi-truck (aka big rig, tractor-trailer, or 18-wheeler), it is vital that you hire a truck accident lawyer who is knowledgeable in state laws and trucking regulations. You will need a legal expert at your side if you want to successfully navigate the complex procedures involved in these types of cases, and obtain a full and fair settlement or verdict.
Truck Accident Claims And Their Unique Challenges
Semi-truck accidents are not your typical fender benders. Due to the destructive capabilities of heavy and huge semi-trucks, the damages involved in these cases are often far more severe than those involved in regular passenger vehicle accidents. Also, most legally operating semi-trucks carry commercial policies that are mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and they don’t follow the same rules as policies required for passenger vehicles.
What Should I Do After a Truck Accident?
There are certain steps you must take to ensure that your rights remain protected in the aftermath of a truck accident. First and foremost, get immediate medical attention. Not only is it essential for you to get your injuries treated by a physician before they get worse, but it is also important that you fully document your recovery. Your medical report may be used during settlement negotiations to establish the full extent of your injuries and maximize your compensation.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that the insurance company is not on your side. The claims adjuster may act as if he or she is looking out for your best interests, but his or her job is to settle your case for as little as possible. Don’t let yourself get lowballed. Have a reliable personal injury attorney handle all of your communications with the opposing insurance company. This way, you won’t have the opportunity to put your claim in jeopardy by doing or saying the wrong thing.
Who Can I Sue For a Truck Accident?
Depending on the circumstances of your truck accident, the liable party or parties in your claim may include one or more of the following:
- The owner of the rig;
- The owners of the cab and trailer;
- The owner of the freight;
- The driver;
- The driver’s employer;
- A parent company;
- The manufacturer of the truck parts; and/or
- A third-party maintenance company.
An attorney can investigate your case to sort out who the liable parties are and help bring them to justice.
How Long Do I Have to File a Truck Accident Lawsuit?
In California, the deadline to file a personal injury claim, also known as the statute of limitations, is two years from the date of the injury. If you fail to file your claim before the window closes, you will be barred from pursuing compensation. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, speak with a lawyer about your case as soon as possible.
Are There Special Regulations Governing the Trucking Industry?
Yes, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces certain laws and regulations in the trucking industry to reduce trucking accidents and keep the roads safe for everyone. These regulations are as follows:
- Truck drivers must abide by Hours of Service restrictions which dictate how many hours they are allowed to drive in a certain period of time. The amount of driving and off-duty time must be kept track of in a driver’s log.
- No driver can go on duty while having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater. In addition, the regulations prohibit drivers from consuming alcohol four hours before driving.
- There are other rules that must be followed before a commercial vehicle can be operated. For instance, a trucker may not drive if he or she is too tired, drunk, knows that the vehicle is not in good working order, etc.
- All drivers must be approved, certificated, and adequately trained to operate an 18-wheeler. They must also not have a record of certain criminal offenses.
- Trucking companies must properly maintain all equipment and parts to ensure safe operation.
- Cargo must be properly distributed and adequately secured.
The Most Abused State And Federal Trucking Regulations
In order to win your injury claim against the trucking company and/or driver, you will need to prove that their negligence was the proximate cause of the accident and therefore your injuries. Perhaps THE most effective way to win semi-truck accident claims is to prove that the trucking company and/or driver violated a state or federal regulation; courts have traditionally said these violations constitute clear and indisputable proof of negligence.
While there are several types of regulations that can potentially be violated by truck driver or company, the following are the most common:
- Hours of Service (HOS) – Federal law specifies the amount of hours a truck driver can drive in any given day or span of days before he is required to take a break, the length of which is also specified by law. These limitations are in place to prevent fatigue, a common factor in trucking accidents.
- Truck and Load Weight – In California, a semi-truck’s trailer cannot exceed 53 feet and its load cannot exceed 80,000 pounds. An overloaded truck may not be able to stop when traveling down a hill due to weight restraints on the brakes. Furthermore, an overloaded truck could easily crush a motorist or pedestrian in a crash.
- Approved Routes – Truck drivers in California must abide by certain signage posted by the California Department of Transportation. Failure to abide by posted signs could result in an accident.
Finding Evidence To Support Your Truck Accident Injury Claim
An experienced personal injury attorney can use various effective legal strategies to collect supporting evidence for your truck accident injury claim. He can subpoena all information, conduct a pretrial discovery and gain access to the truck driver’s actual logbook, and even take statements from the driver, his employer, and coworkers. Other crucial information can be extracted from analyses of the involved truck’s onboard systems, the driver’s CDL license history checks, drug screening results, etc.
At Wilshire Law Firm, we utilize cutting edge technology for litigation management, legal and medical research, and data collection. In addition, we have highly trained specialists handle all aspects of a case – from medical treatment to liens reduction to litigation. If you need an attorney who has the skills and resources to obtain a high settlement or verdict in a truck accident case, call us today at (866) 344-0588. We offer FREE consultations.
The owners and their drivers of large trucks face very specific regulations and requirements in addition to those imposed upon drivers of regular passenger vehicles. When an accident involving a truck occurs, these regulations and requirements come into play, affecting liability and other elements of the subsequent injury claim.
Trucking Industry Rules and Regulations
Among the most important requirements for truck drivers is that individuals who operate commercial vehicles must possess a commercial driver’s license. In order to qualify, prospective drivers have to complete specialized safety training and pass an extensive background check that vets individuals for prior accidents, violations and criminal convictions. Trucking company employers have the duty to make sure that their drivers have the proper qualifications and adequate training. In a truck accident case, an attorney can conduct an investigation to evaluate whether the driver involved was qualified to operate the vehicle.
As for vehicles and cargo, all trucks in an active fleet must be well-maintained and inspected on a frequent basis, and cargo must be loaded and secure properly. Trucking companies are expected to keep maintenance, inspection and cargo records, which can be analyzed by a truck accident attorney to reveal a company’s bad practices.
Other documentation that can be used as evidence in a truck accident case include:
- Bills of lading
- Delivery documents
- Weight tickets
- Dispatch instructions
- Company manuals, policies and procedures
- Driver logs
An experienced truck accident lawyer is familiar with trucking industry regulations and therefore knows what information can and should be looked at closely during an investigation.
Truck Accident Investigation: Driver Qualification File
Truck accidents differ from car collisions in many ways: (1) the stakes are usually higher since damages tend to be more severe, and (2) the state and federal regulations which govern the trucking industry add a layer of complexity to truck accident injury claims that are for the most part absent in claims involving regular motor vehicles. That is why it is highly advised that you consult with an experienced attorney after a California truck accident.
You may have a claim against not only the liable truck driver but also his or her employer as well. While the bulk of the supporting evidence for your claim will be extracted from the accident site, the Driver Qualification File (DQF), a vital piece of evidence which most people don’t know about, can give you information that will boost the strength of your claim.
So What Is a DQF?
Federal regulations require trucking companies to properly maintain DQF files on every one of their drivers. The following documents (or copies of them) must – by law – be included in the DQF:
- Driver-specific applications for employment
- Valid licenses
- Original motor vehicle record
- Background investigation reports
- Driver’s road test and certification
- Medical examiner’s certification (or waiver, if issued)
- Annual review records
- Truck maintenance records
- Personnel records
- Hours of Service (HOS) records
- Employment history
- Relevant training certificates
- Alcohol and drug screening results
Requesting the DQF is one thing – actually getting it is another matter. Trucking companies are highly resistant when it comes to parting with DQF files, particularly if the information is incriminating. Only a qualified truck accident lawyer can ensure that you get the DQF. He or she may have to subpoena the trucking company if they are being withholding.
Photos Can Help You Win Your Truck Accident Case
The success of your vehicle accident claim depends on the evidence and documentation you can provide to prove your case. One of the most common – and effective – forms of demonstrative evidence is photographs. Photographs depict the accident scene as things actually were and not as remembered by those involved and witnesses. Any truck accident attorney who is worth his salt knows this.
The Importance of Photographs
To anyone who was not present at the scene of accident, photographs serve as a window to the accident and make it easier for them to decide who was at fault. Accident scene photographs tell a story of how the events may have progressed, provide graphic evidence of personal injuries and property damages, and help reconstruct the accident scene.
Photographing the Truck Accident Scene
If you are not incapacitated by an accident, then take photographs of the truck accident scene using your cellphone, tablet or a digital camera, if you happen to have one. If you are severely injured, then ask someone who is not injured or a bystander (witness) to take photographs. Take these photos from different angles so that they will give a clearer and more comprehensive picture.
The photographs should be of the entire accident scene, including the trucks and stationary objects like trees, poles and traffic signs. Take photographs of all the parts that have sustained damages. If there are skid marks on the road (there usually are in a truck accident), take clear photos of them. These will prove valuable in determining the speed and location of the other vehicle at the time of accident.
If you or anyone who was accompanying you is injured, then take photographs of the injuries. These will act as proof of your injuries when filing a claim or a lawsuit later. Accident scenes are often cleared within a few hours to allow the unhindered flow of traffic, so take all the necessary photographs before leaving the scene.
Tips For Taking Effective Truck Accident Photographs
The effectiveness of accident scene photographs depends on their clarity and capacity to tell a story. Here are some tips for taking effective truck accident photographs:
- Begin by photographing the entire accident scene: Take wide angle shots of the accident scene from several different angles.
- Photograph the traffic signs: If there are traffic signs that can be used to show that other driver was at fault, then photograph them.
- Photograph injuries: If anyone is injured (including yourself), then take photographs of the injuries. Try to capture images of lacerations, abrasions, contusions and broken bones.
- Photograph the vehicles involved in the accident: Take photographs of the vehicles involved in the accident to show their position immediately after the accident and their proximity to the exact place where the accident occurred.
- Photograph the damages to your car: If your car has sustained damages or dents, then take photos of the damages from several different angles and distances. Make sure the photographs can be associated with your car.
- Photograph the damages to the truck: If the truck has sustained any damages or dents, then take photos of its damages, too.
- Photograph damages to objects: If any surrounding objects have been damaged, such as trees, guardrails and streets signs, then take pictures of them.
- Photograph reference points: If there is an intersection, crosswalk or any other point of reference near the accident scene, then photograph them.
- Photograph skid marks: If there are skid marks made by the truck, then take close-up and long-range photographs. If possible, show where the truck was when the driver started braking.
- Photograph debris: If there is any debris that had come off from your car as well as the truck, then photograph them.
- Photograph everyone involved in the accident: Take photographs of everyone involved in the crash, including the truck driver, the other occupants of his truck, the occupants of your vehicle and witnesses.
- Photograph police officers and paramedics: Take photographs of police officers and paramedics who have arrived to respond to the accident.
Make a copy of your photographs available to your truck accident attorney before filing your accident claim. The success of your claim depends on them.
California Truck Accident Guide: Types Of Wrecks
Not all motor vehicle accidents are the same to a truck accident lawyer. While every type of vehicle can cause injuries and deaths in a collision, trucks can cause much more harm due to their sheer size. Trucks are also referred to as semi-trucks, tractor-trailers and 18-wheelers. These massive vehicles can weigh as much as 80,000 lbs. when loaded. When such a large vehicle crashes, even a low-speed collision can result in serious damages and multiple fatalities.
California Truck Accidents are Different
Due to the massive size of trucks, truck drivers face a different set of challenges. In addition to the usual types of accidents, such as head-on collisions and rear-end collisions, which are common with cars, there are other types of accidents that commonly occur with trucks:
- Jackknifing: Jackknifing occurs when the truck towing a trailer skids, causing the trailer to hit it and push it from behind until it spins and turns around, facing backwards. The causes of jackknifing may be improper braking, equipment failure or adverse road conditions. A jackknife accident is often fatal to the driver and other occupants of the truck.
- Rollovers: A rollover is a type of crash in which a vehicle tips over onto its side or roof. Occurring much more frequently with trucks than with cars, rollovers are the top cause of injuries and deaths in trucking accidents. Rollovers may be caused by driver error (such as driving too fast or taking a curve too quickly), vehicle malfunction (such as a tire blowout, brake failure or improper load distribution), and adverse road conditions.
- Brake malfunctions: Brake malfunction is one of the main causes of truck accidents. Large trucks use air brakes, a type of friction brake which uses compressed air to apply pressure on the brake pad and stop the vehicle. The trouble with air brakes is that they can take only so much heat. A full stop at 60 mph raises the brake temperature to 600 degrees Celsius, which is the limit for safe operation.
- Fires: A truck can catch fire if its battery and fuel compartments are located so close to one another that the sparks from the battery can easily reach the diesel fuel during an accident. This is often the result of manufacturer negligence.
You can claim all kinds of damages
If you are injured in a truck accident in which you were not at fault (or only partially at fault), then the law allows you to file a claim for damages. The claim can include compensation for the costs of medical care, medical tests, physical therapy, rehabilitation, loss of wages (if you are unable to go to work until full recovery), and loss of earning capacity (if you are disabled for life or for a long period of time).
You may also seek recovery for pain and suffering (physical and/or mental), disfigurement, inconvenience, loss of consortium or diminished relationship with your spouse. If you can prove that the truck driver and/or company exercised egregious negligence, then you may also seek punitive damages.
There is more money available for compensation
Owing to their huge size difference, trucks can cause much more severe damages and injuries than cars (which only weigh about 3,000 lbs.). Because of this, truckers are required by law to carry insurance with higher liability limits, which means there is often more money available for compensation (to the accident victims) in truck accidents.
There is always someone who will pay damages
Commercial trucks are owned and operated by trucking companies, which means that there will always be someone you can file a claim with or sue even if the truck driver gets killed in the accident. Also, the likelihood of the truck driver or the trucking company having no insurance is almost nil. The same cannot be said about car accidents if the car driver is killed or has no insurance.
It is easier to sue truck drivers for negligence
Commercial truck drivers are expected to adhere to a higher legal standard and must follow strict rules. They are required to have special training and education, and obtain a special license called a Commercial Truck Driver’s License before they can drive a truck. If a truck driver who caused an accident does not have said license or the requisite training and experience, then he or the trucking company can be sued for negligence.
If you or your loved has been injured in a truck accident, talk to a skilled and experienced
who has the skills and the knowledge to help you obtain maximum recovery.
How Much is My Truck Accident Case Worth?
While a legal professional can conduct an evaluation of your damages (medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, etc.) and provide you with a rough estimate of your potential recovery, he or she cannot possibly provide you with an exact figure since there are so many factors which go into determining a claim’s value. Do not trust a lawyer who promises a certain settlement or jury award.
At Wilshire Law Firm, our California truck accident attorneys have the experience and resources to take trucking companies and their insurers head-on. Using the latest technology and experienced expert witnesses, we will establish your side of the story so the liable party or parties have no choice but to give you full and fair compensation for your losses. If litigation becomes necessary, we will aggressively fight to protect your best interests in court. In short, we will do whatever it takes to net you an optimal case outcome.
Truck Crash Statistics
- About half a million truck crashes occur every year in the United States, according to the Department of Transportation (DoT).
- About 68% of the fatal crashes occur on rural roads.
- Nearly 70% of all fatal crashes occur during daytime.
- Nearly 90% of all accidents are caused by human error – either by truck drivers or the driver of other vehicles.
- Nearly 30% of all accidents can be attributed to driver fatigue.
- About 75% of all accidents are caused by the drivers of other vehicles.
- Two-axle trailers pulled by three-axle tractors account for 89% of all truck accidents.
- Of all the driver-related truck accidents, brake failures accounts for 29%, speeding accounts for 23% of truck accidents, unfamiliarity with a route or roadway accounts for 22% of truck accidents, over-the-counter drug use accounts for 17%, poor surveillance accounts for 14%, fatigue accounts for 13%, work pressure accounts for 10%, illegal turns account for 9%, and driver inattention accounts for 9%.
- Single-vehicle crashes accounted for 16% of all fatal truck crashes in 2015.
Truck Injury And Fatality Statistics
- About 130,000 people are injured in truck accidents each year in the U.S.
- Nearly 4,000 people are killed in truck accidents each year in the U.S.
- Truck accidents accounted for 11% of all fatal motor vehicles crashes in 2015.
- Of all the people killed in truck accidents, 98% are passengers of the vehicles struck by trucks.
- Only 22% of truck accidents account for all the injuries and fatalities. No injuries occur in 78% of the accidents.
- Of all fatalities, head-on collisions account for 31%, rear-end accidents account for 19%, and side impacts account for 25%.
- Tractor-trailers accounted for 2,887 fatalities and single-unit trucks accounted for 963 fatalities in 2015.
- Of the 3,852 commercial truck accident fatalities in 2015, 1,158 occurred on freeways, 2,027 occurred on other major roads, 528 occurred on minor roads and 139 occurred in other places.
- Vehicle rollover accounted for 52% of truck accident fatalities in 2015.
- 17% of all truck accident fatalities occurred on Saturdays and Sundays in 2015.
- 42% of all truck accident fatalities occurred between 6 am and 3 pm in 2015.
- 58% of all truck accident fatalities occurred in single-vehicle crashes in 2015.
- Of the fatal victims who were car occupants, 29% were killed in head-on crashes and 20% were killed in accidents where their vehicle rear-ended the truck.
- Of the fatal victims who were truck occupants, 60% were killed in collisions with other trucks.
California Truck Accident Costs & Statistics
- Fatal tractor-trailer accidents cost Americans more than $20 billion each year. Of that, $13.1 billion is associated with the loss of quality of life.
- The average cost of a commercial truck accident is about $59,150.
Finally, here is one statistic that you really need to pay attention to if you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident. According to a study done by the Insurance Research Council, you are 3.5 times more likely to recover damages if you hire a truck accident lawyer. Therefore, get professional legal help before starting the claims process.
Truck Accident Guide: Fire Truck Wrecks & Collisions
Being injured by a fire truck is not like being injured by private vehicles. Fire trucks belong to the government and it is difficult to sue the government for damages. When the government is involved in an accident, filing a claim becomes complicated due to a provision called sovereign immunity. When a government vehicle, such as a fire truck, is involved, it becomes ever trickier. However, there are certain situations where you can make the government pay for your damages.
What Is Sovereign Immunity?
Sovereign immunity is a judicial provision that prevents anyone from suing the government or its political subdivisions, agencies and departments without its consent. It stems from the old English principle that the monarch, having the divine right to rule, can do no wrong. In the United States, this principle has been in place since 1793.
Sovereign immunity laws are not the same in all states; they vary from one state to another. The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which governs incidents involving government vehicles, provides limited waiver of the government’s sovereign immunity if the responsible government employees are found to be negligent in the scope of their employment. However, you should be aware that courts tend to be lenient to emergency responders if the accident took place during an emergency.
What Should You Do If You Are Injured In An Accident With A Fire Truck?
If you are injured in an accident with a fire truck and can prove that the truck driver and/or their department was negligent in performing their duty of care, then you should file an administrative claim with the government department or agency that owns the truck. Some government units make available a claims form that you can fill out. If there is no claims form, then you should write your request on paper.
Before filing your claim, make sure that you have all the evidence and documents ready to support your claim. These include photographs of the accident scene, medical bills and medical test reports. The government, like all defendants, will not pay up without a fight. Therefore, you must back up your claim with really strong evidence if you want any chance of getting adequate compensation for your losses.
If a settlement is denied, you will receive a letter to that effect. The next step – if you still want to pursue the matter – is to file a lawsuit. But lawsuits against the government can be extremely complicated. If you are not in the legal profession yourself, you will not even know where to start. Therefore, you should hire a skilled and experienced truck accident attorney to take care of the process.
What’s The Statute Of Limitations For Fire Truck Accidents?
A statute of limitations is the period, starting from the day of the accident, within which you must file your claim. In the case of fire trucks and other government vehicles, the statute of limitation is 30 to 180 days from the date of the accident, depending on the state. If you miss the deadline, you will lose your right to recover your damages.
What Causes Fire Truck Accidents?
It is extremely rare that fire truck drivers are intoxicated while on duty, although they can be fatigued. Also, they are required to legally stop at red lights and stop signs, but they are often seen speeding through an intersection to get to an emergency scene. As a result, fire truck accidents are quite common. If you are injured by one, consult with an experienced truck accident attorney to find out whether you have a viable claim.
California Truck Accident Guide: Get Help Now
Have you or a loved one been injured in a truck accident? If so, please don’t hesitate to contact the knowledgeable truck accident lawyers at Wilshire Law Firm for immediate assistance. For many years, we have been helping truck accident victims get full and fair compensation for their damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. To discuss the specifics of your case with one of our dedicated legal team members, call us today at (866) 344-0588. We offer FREE case evaluations.