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Commercial Trucking Accident FAQs

March 25, 2020

A commercial trucking accident can have enormous implications for all parties involved, and the fall-out can involve assessing and determining liability among multiple parties. This often catastrophic event typically involves very serious injuries and requires extensive hospitalization and medical treatment. The impact of this long term care becomes costly, as medical expenses along with lost wages become a factor in the patient’s ability to recover after the accident. If you’ve been involved in a commercial trucking accident in California, consider contacting a Los Angeles truck accident lawyer who can offer insight into the most common frequently asked questions.

To prepare, here are some common FAQs to discuss with your attorney.

What Types of Trucks are Generally Involved in Collisions?

There are a variety of trucks on the road in California, and each pose their own type of danger on the road. Some of the types of trucks that are generally more likely to be involved in a serious accident include:

  • 18 Wheelers/ Tractor Trailers: Often some of the largest trucks you see on the road, 18-wheeler trucks are designed to carry heavy cargo, and as a result can often be far more deadly should an accident occur. A crash involving an 18-wheeler has complex legal ramifications.
  • Delivery Trucks: While UPS, FedEx, and the USPS may ring as the most familiar delivery trucks, today’s evolving logistics landscape has put far more delivery drivers on the road. Tech startups like Amazon, PostMates and the like are commissioning third-party drivers to deliver their goods, which increases the likelihood of accidents because there are more delivery trucks on the road.
  • Waste Disposal Vehicles: Typically considered ‘dump’ trucks, residential garbage trucks and other waste disposal vehicles often carry uneven loads that make a tip or spill more plausible.  
  • Tanker Trucks: Carrying liquid cargo, these trucks are especially dangerous because the contents contained within are often flammable. When involved in an accident, there’s a very high probability that the truck will cause a fire and leave a mountain of destruction in its wake. Getting far away from this type of accident is the only way to ensure your safety.
  • Fire Trucks and Emergency Vehicles: Fire trucks and ambulances often barrel down the road recklessly in an effort to save someone’s life. However, their focus in saving one person’s life may often put others in peril. Their size and shape, of course, only adds to the gravity of the situation when an accident occurs. 
  • Flatbed Trucks: These trucks, while often smaller than the largest trucks on the road, do carry many different kinds of equipment and cargo. If these loads aren’t properly secured, the consequences can be catastrophic. The debris can often crash through windshields, spill onto the road, and cause immense damage to both your vehicle and your person. 
  • Farm Trucks and Equipment: As California is a major agricultural state, there is a ton of farming equipment on its roads. Harvesters, livestock haulers, and other large, bulky vehicles haul heavy animals and goods across the state. Accidents with these vehicles often carry dire consequences. 
  • Passenger Movers: Buses, coach cars and the like carry an additional duty of care, and drivers behind the wheel of these types of vehicles are also held to a higher standard on the road. In fact, Section 2100 of the California Civil Code requires common carriers – vehicles such as buses, for example –  to use the utmost care and diligence for passengers’ safe carriage. 

If you’ve been involved in an accident with this type of vehicle, it’s wise to consider calling a Los Angeles truck accident lawyer.

What are the Primary Causes of a Truck Accident?

Some of the primary causes of truck accidents include:

  • Speeding: According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, speeding is a leading cause of auto fatalities in California. In fact, California reported the second-highest number of speeding deaths in the country this year. In the case of truck accidents, speeding is even more dire, as the sheer size and volume of a truck cause the accident to leave even more damage in its wake.
  • Jackknife Accidents: When a jackknife accident has occurred, the cab of the truck – this is the area of the vehicle where the driver sits – has angled away from the cargo hold. If a driver has lost control of the vehicle because they were speeding, slid or slipped in wet or windy conditions, the rear axle of the truck will often lock and create a whipping force that causes the truck to topple or otherwise spin out of control.
  • Negligence: Unfortunately, truck drivers aren’t always operating at their best. Because they often make lengthy trips, they don’t always get the amount of sleep they need. When the driver fails to properly operate the equipment, adjust their driving patterns, or take adequate care of their health, an accident becomes that much more likely. In addition to holding the driver negligent for his role in the accident, the driver’s employer may be liable for negligent hiring and supervision of employees, or failing to provide adequate safety training.
  • Equipment and Mechanical Failure: Poor maintenance and equipment failures can lead to a wide range of truck accidents. While drivers have a general duty of care, they are also responsible for properly inspecting their vehicles and using reasonable care in adhering to safety regulations put forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. These laws require periodic inspections of brakes, tires, and other parts on their vehicles.
  • Unsafe Cargo Loading and Overloading: When cargo is improperly loaded it can cause a variety of issues, including causing tire blowouts or causing accidents from flying debris.
  • Blind-Spot Crashes:  Large trucks also have large blind spots. When drivers sideswipe or change lanes, it’s likely they weren’t paying attention to their blind spots.
  • Runaway Trucks: It’s possible to lose control of a truck on a downhill stretch of road that can carry dire consequences for drivers. When the cab detaches from the load itself, the load can often go barreling downhill and towards oncoming traffic, causing immense damage in its wake. 
  • Rollovers: With a higher center of gravity trucks are much more likely to tip over than your average vehicle. This is particularly true of liquid cargo tanks because their center of gravity is constantly shifting due to sloshing.
  • Poor Weather and Road Conditions: When truck drivers are faced with poor driving conditions, such as bad weather or shoddy roads, the likelihood of an accident increases substantially. Visibility is reduced, dangerous conditions – like potholes or ice – abound, and it’s far more difficult to maneuver a truck out of harm’s way than your typical vehicle. As such, truck drivers should avoid these conditions at all costs if they wish to avoid accidents.
  • Improper Braking Technique: Most large trucks have air brake systems, and these types of brakes require extensive knowledge and experience to maneuver. Add to the equation that trucks are carrying heavy cargo and that it is far more difficult to stop a large, heavy vehicle than it is your average car, and understanding this complex brake system becomes all the more paramount.

What Kinds of Injuries Normally Occur in Truck Accidents?

A variety of injuries can occur due to an accident, and the severity of the accident can range from serious to fatal. While not all truck accidents can lead to a serious injury, it’s unlikely that you will walk out of a truck accident entirely unscathed. As such, it’s important to consider contacting a Los Angeles truck accident lawyer to understand how you can begin recovering damages for your accident.

Some of the most common injuries that can occur from a truck accident include:

  • Head and brain injuries: These injuries can lead to some of the most traumatic, long-term injuries that a person can occur. Brain injuries can cause paralysis, memory loss, and significantly alter a person’s ability to go on with their lives as usual. When a brain or head injury occurs, negligent drivers and their insurance companies are required to cover the injured’s medical expenses and lost wages.
  • Spinal injuries: Spinal injuries can cause permanent damage and often lead to paralysis or even death. While these injuries can range from mild to severe, a severe spinal injury can irrevocably alter the course of your life. As such, you may be entitled to both economic and non-economic damages, such as compensation for pain and suffering. 
  • Internal injuries: Bruising of your internal organs can lead to a host of complications, including death. While you may not have any visible injuries after a car accident, it’s important to see a doctor immediately to ensure that you haven’t damaged any internal organs. These injuries require immediate surgery or medical intervention in order to avoid a more serious complication.
  • Broken bones and lacerations: Fractures, deep cuts, and scars are all possible side effects of a truck accident, and depending on their severity may require long-term medical treatment and costly cosmetic procedures.
  • Death: Fatality is certainly possible when a truck accident has occurred, and the family or loved ones of victims of truck accidents are usually able to recover damages for this tragic loss. Wrongful death claims are one of a number of personal injury claims that can be made after a truck accident.

Who is at Fault in a Truck Accident?

Determining liability in a truck accident is complex and requires a dearth of insight into how an accident occurred. In addition, it will be important to determine whether the truck driver was operating in the normal course of business. Furthermore, insurance companies will typically be involved in determining liability.

Determining whether a truck driver is to blame for an accident will be gauged by what ‘type’ of driver was involved in the accident. There are three types of truck drivers, for all intents and purposes, under the law: Owner/operators, or drivers who their trucks and lease them to trucking companies or operate their trucks as independent contractors working for a variety of corporations; company drivers, who are drivers employed by a specific company and drive that company’s trucks; and independent owner/operators, who use their own trucks to haul goods that they also produce.

The type of driver you collided with will determine who is liable. For example, a driver that works for himself would be considered wholly liable for any injury his negligence produces; however, a driver that works for a company would likely mean that the company is also responsible for their driver’s negligence.

What if the Truck Contained a Manufacturing or Equipment Defect?

Truck accidents aren’t always caused by a driver’s negligence. Oftentimes, an accident may have been caused by defective parts or a glitch in the truck’s mechanical system. In that case, liability might be assigned to one or several manufacturers, and determining who is to blame becomes increasingly more complex. In addition to a personal injury lawsuit, a defective product lawsuit would be appropriate in these cases. A Los Angeles truck accident lawyer would be able to help you determine whether such a claim would be appropriate in your particular case.

How is Liability Determined?

Determining liability in a truck accident can be assigned to multiple parties. The accident may have been caused by whomever was responsible for loading the cargo, or it may have been due to the driver’s negligence or a defective part or product. Generally, it’s important to contact law enforcement immediately after an accident to ensure that a thorough investigation is conducted. Obtaining critical information immediately following an accident increases the likelihood that liability will be properly attributed.  

How Does a Los Angeles Truck Accident Lawyer Determine What Damages are Available?

Once you begin working with an attorney, they will make recommendations regarding the types of damages that may be available to you after this accident. If your injuries are extensive, you may be entitled to both economic and non-economic damages, meaning you will be compensated for your medical expenses and lost wages in addition to costs associated with pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life. In some instances, you may also be able to recover punitive damages, which are designed to rectify egregiously reckless conduct by requiring the negligent party to pay exorbitant damages that would utterly ruin their business.

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