Were You Involved in a Truck Accident?
Although car accidents are more common than truck accidents, crashes involving large trucks are more likely to cause serious injury or death, even if the truck driver is not harmed. According to the opens in a new windowInsurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), more than four out of five of those who died in truck accidents were pedestrians, bicyclists, or passengers in other vehicles.
A large truck may weigh more than 30 times as much as a car, and large tractor trailers carrying heavy loads may take up to 40 percent longer to brake. It stands to reason that the larger the truck, the worse the accident. In fact, in 2018, 74 percent of large truck fatalities involved tractor trailers.
Despite the many safety laws regulating the trucking industry, accidents are on the rise. According to the opens in a new windowFederal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were more than 164,900 crashes involving large trucks across the country, representing an increase of seven percent compared to 2017. Nearly half of these involved injuries, and 4,946 accidents were fatal.
Given these statistics, all drivers should be aware of the risks of being involving in a truck accident. If you or someone you know was injured in a truck accident, contact a truck accident lawyer to get the information you need concerning your rights to maximum compensation.
What Should You Do If You Are in a Truck Accident?
No one wants to think about getting into a motor vehicle accident, especially one involving a large truck. However, it is best to be prepared for the worst. The following recommendations may help minimize some of the difficulties you might face immediately after a truck accident. They can also improve your chances of obtaining a successful outcome, should you choose to pursue a personal injury claim later.
Call 911. Turn off your vehicle and pause to collect your thoughts before doing anything else. Do your best not to panic. Now is the time to think rationally. Turn on your hazard lights and check to see if you or any passengers are injured. If so, call 911 and be prepared to specify your location as precisely as possible, including nearest intersections or exits, mile markers, and other landmarks.
Provide only the information that is necessary. If you are angry at the other drivers, try to remain calm. Resist the temptation to get out of the car and talk to other drivers, unless it is necessary to render first aid. If you do talk with other drivers, do not admit fault or make any comments about how the accident occurred. When the police arrive, be prepared to provide your car registration, insurance, and driver’s license. If the police officer gives you a traffic ticket, sign it and do not disagree. At the same time, do not answer questions about any other action that could result in a criminal charge. Remember that you have the right to speak to an attorney before answering detailed questions.
Document the scene of the accident. If you can do so safely, take pictures of the accident scene with your phone. This includes photos of your car, the truck, road conditions, traffic signals, and anything else that may have contributed to the accident. If there were witnesses, ask them to provide their contact information. If circumstances allow and you have pen and paper, ask them to write a short statement about what they saw, and sign and date it.
Seek medical attention. If paramedics arrive, ask to go to the hospital even if you feel your injuries are minor. The extent of injuries are often hidden until days later. A medical examination immediately after the accident may discover internal injuries or, at minimum, document your initial condition in case you experience pain later. Medical evaluations will prove critical to strengthening your personal injury claim.
Contact an attorney. Contact your insurance company about the accident. Failing to do so may give them cause to cancel your policy or raise your rates. Note any directions they provide on filing a claim, however, never agree to accept an initial settlement. Contacting a truck accident lawyer is the best way to ensure you receive maximum compensation.
In the days following the accident, take care of yourself and follow up on all medical appointments and treatments. Drink plenty of water, as staying hydrated is best way to minimize muscle pain and soreness after an accident.
How are Injured Victims Compensated After a Truck Accident?
Personal injury lawsuits involving truck accidents are often more complicated than car accidents. In a car crash, the at-fault driver is generally held liable and their insurance company pays the settlement. In contrast, more than one party may be held liable in a truck accident, even if there was only one truck involved. Parties that may be considered negligent and, therefore, liable for injuries and property damage sustained in a truck accident may include the following:
- A truck driver is responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle. This includes maintaining a log of driving hours to prevent drowsiness. Drivers must also be aware of the condition of their vehicles.
- Loading crew. When a commercial truck pulls up at a loading dock, a separate loading crew may put the freight into the truck instead of the driver. Third-party workers that load or unload trailer contents are sometimes referred to as lumpers. Improperly loading a truck may result in a truck tipping over while driving on a curve or exit ramp.
- Trucking company. A company that overloads its trailers, fails to perform proper maintenance, or neglects other duties may be held liable if those actions are found to have contributed to the accident.
- Leasing or maintenance company. The truck may be owned by a fleet leasing company or maintained by a separate company. Either may bear some responsibility for the condition of the vehicle.
- Vehicle manufacturer. Defective brakes, headlights, tires, or other parts may be found to have contributed to the cause of the accident.
If the truck was equipped with a video camera or black box, additional information about the accident may be captured, including the speed of the truck, the precise accident location, and whether other vehicles contributed to the cause of the accident. Given the multi-layered complexity of establishing liability in a truck accident, it is crucial that truck accident victims retain the legal services of a qualified personal injury attorney with experience handling truck accident claims.
What Laws are in Place to Prevent Truck Accidents?
To regulate the risks associated with driving a commercial truck, drivers must undergo special professional training. The trucking industry is regulated by both federal and state laws that establish minimum standards that must be followed by all trucking companies and drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Department of Transportation are the two primary federal agencies that regulate this area under Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Each state has its own department of transportation to regulate intra-state commercial trucking. Some of the regulations are designed to assure the driver is well rested, in good physical and mental health, and understands defensive driving techniques. Other regulations verify whether the company performed routine inspections and regular maintenance to make sure the truck is safe for use. These laws aim to prevent trucks from leaving the yard with faulty brakes, poorly functioning lights, or inadequate tires.
Federal agencies support state regulatory efforts as well. The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCAP) provides financial assistance to states to reduce the number and severity of accidents involving commercial trucks. Thanks in part to strict regulatory requirements, truck accidents are rarely caused by truckers with high blood alcohol content levels (BAC). According to the IIHS, in 2018, only three percent of fatally injured truck drivers were legally drunk. Drivers convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) can lose their commercial driver’s license (CDL), jeopardizing their ability to earn a living.
Are Trucking Companies Held Liable for an Accident?
Liability against commercial trucking companies are often discovered under the doctrine of respondeat superior, where an employer may be liable for an employee’s acts committed within the scope of the employment. It imputes the employee’s fault to the employer and thus makes the employer responsible in damages, just as if they personally committed the negligent act.
The employer is responsible for the employee’s acts, even if the employer exercised due care in hiring the employee or supervising their conduct. The justification for the imposition of liability is in part based on the following two concepts:
Employers have deep pockets. An employer may be considered more likely than the employee to respond to an innocent third person injured due to the employee’s tortious conduct. Also, employers are able to protect against such risk by insurance, the cost of which can be spread over the entire business and passed on to the public.
Driving is a business activity. The decision of Sumrall v. Modern Alloys, Inc. noted a deeply rooted sentiment that a business enterprise cannot justly disclaim responsibility for accidents which may fairly be said to be a characteristic of its activities.
Employers have a nondelegable duty. A trucking company may also be liable for the acts of its independent contractors under a nondelegable duty, which prevents a party that owes a duty to others from evading responsibility by claiming to have delegated that duty to an independent contractor hired to do the necessary work. The non-delegable duty doctrine applies to find a motor carrier liable for the negligence of its independent contractor to protect the public from financially irresponsible contractors, and to strengthen safety regulations. Highway common carriers may not, therefore, insulate themselves from liability for negligence occurring in the conduct of their business by engaging independent contractors to transport freight for them as logistic brokers.
Specific acts of negligence on the part of a trucking company may include:
- Failure to properly maintain the vehicle
- Negligent hiring
- Hours of service violations
- Failing to properly train drivers
Commercial trucking cases can be legally complicated involving both theories of negligence and product liability for defective truck conditions. It is equally complex in the type of damages that could result, including significant medical expenses caused by catastrophic injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damages, burns, orthopedic fractures, amputations, and even death. Many of the survivors also face lost wages, loss of future earnings, and limitless pain and suffering, depression, anxiety, and disfigurement.
Los Angeles Truck Accident Lawyers at Abir Cohen Treyzon Salo, LLP Secure Maximum Compensation for Truck Accident Victims
If you were injured in an accident involving a truck, it is likely that your injuries may be serious. The process of establishing liability may also be complex. The experienced Los Angeles truck accident lawyers at Abir Cohen Treyzon Salo, LLP do not shy away from complex cases. We are determined to apply our skills to obtain the compensation you deserve. With offices located in Los Angeles and San Diego, we serve clients throughout southern California. For a free consultation, contact us online now or call 833-ACTS-LAW.