Truck accidents can have devastating consequences, leading to severe injuries or even fatalities. While car accidents are more common, crashes involving large trucks pose a higher risk of harm. This article explores the reasons behind the seriousness of truck accidents, common causes, and the steps drivers should take if involved in such an incident. We also discuss the importance of seeking legal representation to ensure fair compensation for victims.
The Severity of Truck Accidents
Large trucks, weighing up to 30x more than cars, require significantly longer braking distances. This increased size and weight make accidents involving trucks more severe. Shockingly, data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reveals that pedestrians, bicyclists, and passengers in other vehicles account for over 80% of fatalities in truck accidents. In 2018, tractor-trailers were involved in 74% of fatal large truck accidents.
Rising Truck Accident Rates
Despite safety regulations in the trucking industry, accidents involving large trucks continue to increase. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the United States experienced over 164,900 truck accidents in recent years, a 7% rise compared to 2017. Almost half of these accidents resulted in injuries, and nearly 5,000 proved fatal.
Injuries Sustained in Truck Accidents
Given the immense impact of a truck collision, drivers and passengers can sustain severe injuries. Some common injuries include back injuries, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, fractures, and wrongful death. These injuries often lead to significant hardships, such as extended time off work and frequent medical visits.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents can occur due to various factors, including fatigue, longer braking times, difficulty in turning, and unsecured loads. Fatigue is especially prevalent among truck drivers who travel long distances to meet delivery deadlines, resulting in limited reaction times and increased risks. Additionally, the size and turning radius of trucks can lead to accidents, especially when blind spots are involved. Furthermore, improperly secured loads can cause debris to create hazardous conditions for other drivers.
Actions to Take Following a Truck Accident
While no one anticipates a truck accident, it is essential to be prepared and know the necessary steps to take. Immediately after an accident, drivers should turn off the engine, turn on hazard lights, and assess injuries. Contacting emergency services and providing accurate location details is crucial. It’s important to avoid admitting fault or making statements about the accident. Documenting the scene, including taking pictures and collecting witness information, can be valuable for future legal proceedings. Seeking medical attention, even for seemingly minor injuries, is essential for immediate evaluation and potential future claims. Contacting a truck accident lawyer is highly recommended to ensure the victim’s rights are protected and fair compensation is pursued.
Gathering Evidence for a Truck Accident Case
As victims recover from their injuries, their legal representation will begin the process of collecting evidence to build a strong case. Key evidence often includes witness testimonies, data from electronic control modules (ECMs), truck cameras, electronic logging devices (ELDs), and trucking company records. This evidence helps establish negligence on the part of the driver, maintenance company, or trucking company.
Compensation for Truck Accident Victims
Truck accident lawsuits are complex, and liability may extend to multiple parties. Depending on the circumstances, victims can seek compensation for medical expenses, physical therapy, counseling, home modifications, lost wages, job retraining, pain and suffering, and wrongful death expenses. Consulting an experienced personal injury lawyer is crucial to ensure victims receive fair compensation.
Partial Responsibility in Truck Accidents
In comparative fault states like California, victims can still pursue legal action even if they bear partial responsibility for.
The Statute of Limitations for Filing a Lawsuit
In California, victims of truck accidents have a two-year window to file a lawsuit if they have been injured. For families seeking compensation for a wrongful death resulting from a truck accident, the same two-year timeframe applies. The clock starts ticking from the day of the accident when it becomes apparent that someone is responsible for the injury or death. Failing to file within this timeframe forfeits the opportunity to pursue legal action in court.
Jurisdiction and Statute of Limitations
Even if the accident occurred in California but the victim resides in another state, they must still file the lawsuit in California and abide by its laws and statute of limitations.
Vehicle Damage Lawsuits
In cases where victims are seeking compensation solely for vehicle damage caused by a truck accident, they have a three-year window to file the lawsuit.
Laws and Regulations for Trucking Safety
To mitigate the risks associated with commercial trucking, the trucking industry is subject to federal and state laws that establish minimum safety standards. Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations governs trucking regulations at the federal level, with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Department of Transportation overseeing compliance.
Each state, including California, has its own Department of Transportation to regulate intrastate commercial trucking. These regulations cover areas such as driver training, rest requirements, physical and mental health evaluations, and defensive driving techniques. They also ensure that trucking companies perform routine inspections and maintenance to guarantee the safety of their vehicles, including brakes, lights, and tires.
Trucking Company Liability
Trucking companies can be held liable for accidents under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. This doctrine attributes the fault of an employee to the employer, making the employer responsible for damages resulting from the employee’s negligent acts within the scope of their employment. Even if the employer exercised due care in hiring and supervising the employee, they can still be held accountable.
Trucking companies may also be held liable for the actions of independent contractors under a non-delegable duty. This duty prevents a party from evading responsibility by delegating it to an independent contractor. This applies to ensure the public’s protection from financially irresponsible contractors and to strengthen safety regulations in the trucking industry.
Negligence by a trucking company may involve failures in vehicle maintenance, negligent hiring practices, violations of hours of service regulations, inadequate driver training, and more.
The Importance of Legal Representation
Truck accident cases can be legally complex, involving theories of negligence and products liability. The damages can be significant, including medical expenses for catastrophic injuries, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Seeking legal representation from experienced truck accident lawyers is crucial to navigate these complexities and pursue the compensation victims deserve.
Understanding the statute of limitations for truck accident lawsuits in California is vital for victims seeking justice. Compliance with safety laws and regulations is crucial in preventing truck accidents, and trucking companies can be held liable for their negligence. By consulting skilled truck accident lawyers, victims can effectively pursue their claims and secure the compensation they deserve. Contact ACTS Law, with offices in San Diego and Los Angeles, for a free, confidential consultation and experienced legal representation throughout southern California.