Trucking Accidents Attorney
Commercial trucking accidents leave devastating damage and permanent loss in the wake of their path. The loss associated with these types of accidents are traumatic and often deadly.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in 2015, 4,311 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, an 8-percent increase from 2014. This is an increase of 26% from its low of 3,432 in 2009. Between 2009-2013, California alone averaged 265 fatalities and 7248 injuries due to large commercial truck accidents.
In an effort to regulate the risks associated with driving a commercial truck, the drivers must undergo special professional training governing when and how they may driving their big rig. 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 (DOT) are the two primary federal agencies that regulate this area under Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Each state also 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 conforms to defensive driving techniques. Other regulations verify whether or not the company performed routine inspections and regular maintenance in order to make sure the truck was safe for use. Trucks that leave the yards with faulty brakes, poorly functioning lights, and inadequate tires are hazardous waiting to happen.
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 he or she personally committed the tortious act. The employer is responsible for the employee’s acts notwithstanding the exercise of due care in hiring the employee or supervising his or her conduct. The justification for the imposition of liability is in part based on “deep pockets”: As between employer and employee, it is felt that the employer is more likely to be able to respond in damages to an innocent third person injured by the employee’s tortious conduct. Also, employers are generally better 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. The other reason is “a deeply rooted sentiment that a business enterprise cannot justly disclaim responsibility for accidents which may fairly be said to be characteristic of its activities.” Sumrall v. Modern Alloys, Inc. (2017) 10 Cal.App.5th 961, 967.
Further, a trucking company may also be liability 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. Vargas v. FMI, (2015) 233 Cal.App.4th 638, 649. The non-delegable duty doctrine applies to find a motor carrier liable for the negligence of its independent contractor in order 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.
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 traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damages, burns, orthopedic fractures, amputations and even death. Many of the survivors are plagued for lost wages, loss of future earnings, and limitless pain, suffering, depression, anxiety, and disfigurement.
Due to time limits to file lawsuits, it’s a good idea to consult an attorney as soon as possible following any accident. If you or a loved one has been injured by a commercial truck, the lawyers at Abir Cohen Treyzon Salo LLP are ready to take your call to help guide you through the process and obtain the compensation you deserve from the trucker or the trucking company.