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Hurt in an Accident with a Tractor Trailer or Commercial Vehicle? Our Los Angeles Truck Accident Attorney can help!

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, then it’s important that you seek immediate medical care, and — when you’re ready— that you consult an experienced Los Angeles truck accident attorney for guidance on how to proceed with your lawsuit.

We routinely handle truck accident disputes and have capably litigated claims involving a variety of personal and commercial truck types, including:

  • Big Rig Accidents
  • Semi Truck (Tractor Trailer) Accidents
  • Fuel Truck Accidents
  • Garbage Truck Accidents
  • Dump Truck Accidents
  • Utility Truck Accidents
  • Tow Truck Accidents
  • Delivery Truck Accidents

At Banafshe Law Firm, PC, our Los Angeles accident attorney team understands the many frustrations and challenges that plaintiffs encounter in the wake of a truck accident, from medical concerns to work-related issues, and more. Injured plaintiffs may find, for example, that they are being misled or otherwise manipulated in communications with their insurance company to undermine an insurance claim. We’re here to help. Our attorneys provide comprehensive representation so that clients can “rest easy” and focus on what’s important: their recovery.

Standards of Care for Truck Drivers and Trucking Companies 

Depending on whether you are injured by a driver with a standard license (i.e., a driver operating a passenger truck) or a driver with a commercial license (i.e., a driver operating a delivery truck, or some other commercial vehicle), the success of your negligence-based claim could vary significantly — commercial truck drivers must satisfy a stricter standard of care than truck drivers operating passenger vehicles with a standard license. As such, commercial truck drivers can be held liable for conduct that other truck drivers might not. 

For example, suppose that you are injured in a rollover accident with a truck. The truck’s load may have gotten loose, which caused the rollover accident. Usually, the defendant might avoid liability if the circumstances show that they did not violate the applicable standard of care in securing their load. If the defendant is a commercial truck driver, however, then they are much more likely to be held liable, as they are expected to know how to properly secure a load (and how to identify potential issues in the cargo loading process).

Potential Employer Liability

In accidents involving commercial vehicles, employers can potentially be held liable under two different theories: 

  1. Vicarious liability
  2. Independent negligence

Successfully imposing liability on an employer gives you — the injured plaintiff — an opportunity to access the employer’s “deeper pockets” (i.e., insurance coverage and assets) to cover suffered damages.

Proving employer liability is not necessarily a straightforward task, however. At a minimum, a successful suit requires that you and your Los Angeles accident attorney show that the employee was acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time of the accident.

Employer Liability & Vicarious Liability 

Employers can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of their truck driver employees, and in some cases, may be separately responsible for their own — independent — contribution of negligence. Let’s explore each option, in turn.

Vicarious liability is quite simple — the employer is made responsible for the damages caused by an employee’s negligence. It is irrelevant whether the employer knew about the employee’s negligence, or even whether the employer attempted to do anything to prevent the negligent from the occurrence. Vicarious liability applies strictly, meaning that it applies regardless of the employer’s actual negligence.

Critically, you must be able to show that the employee was acting within the course and scope of their employment. Employers cannot be held vicariously liable for actions taken by their employees that are not linked to work. For example, if a truck driver employee is driving to a friend’s house after work (in their personal vehicle), then a subsequent accident would not lead to vicarious liability, as the employee would no longer be acting within the course and scope of their employment.

Independent Negligence

If vicarious liability principles do not apply — for example, if the truck driver employee engaged in acts that go beyond negligence (i.e., reckless or even intentional misconduct) — then you or a Los Angeles accident attorney may still be able to bring a claim against the employer if you can show that the employer’s own negligence somehow contributed to the accident. This can be a bit confusing to understand, so let’s clarify with a quick example.

Suppose that you are injured by a drunk truck driver who was on-the-job while intoxicated. As the truck driver employee engaged in what could be considered gross negligence or intentional misconduct (by driving while intoxicated), vicarious liability principles may not apply. If you could show that their employer knew or should have known about their prior drunk driving history, then you could ostensibly sue the employer for having committed negligent hiring and supervision. 

Cargo-Based Accidents

Lost Load Accidents

If cargo is improperly secured, then it could loosen and fall off the truck. Lost load accidents can be hazardous, as items falling from the truck can obscure the vision of other drivers, collide with other drivers, or present road obstacles that force other drivers to engage in dangerous avoidance maneuvers.

Roll-Over Accidents

Improperly loaded cargo (i.e., unsecured cargo, cargo loaded too heavily to one side of the truck) can heighten the risk of a rollover accident due to significant weight shifting aboard the truck. Rollover accidents are quite common in the truck driving industry, but litigation may involve more than just the truck driver — in fact, you or a Los Angeles accident attorney may be able to sue the employees (and employer) responsible for loading and inspecting the cargo.

Collisions and Other Causes of California Truck Accidents

Rear-End Collisions

In rear-end accidents, it is easier for a Los Angeles accident attorney to prove liability than in most other collisions, as — unless you came to a sudden stop on a highway — the defendant most likely was not paying sufficient attention to the road, was traveling at a high speed or encountered a mechanical issue that led to the collision.

Head-On Collisions

Head-on collisions tend to be associated with a severe injury, and for a good reason. The total force of impact in a head-on collision is a combination of the force of impact of both vehicles colliding (separately measured). A head-on collision can, therefore, lead to severe injuries even if both vehicles are not speeding.

T-Bone Collisions

T-bone collisions (also known as side-impact collisions) are among the most dangerous types of truck accidents.

Most vehicles feature a large amount of material on the front and back that crumples to disperse the force of impact from a collision. The sides of vehicles do not generally feature this protective material, however. Though some vehicles attempt to strengthen the frame to minimize the damage from a side impact, there is simply not enough absorptive material in the sides to crumple and disperse the force of impact. This is further compounded by the fact that many vehicles do not have side airbags installed. As such, the injuries from a T-bone collision can be quite severe.

Multi-Vehicle Collisions

Multi-vehicle collisions can give rise to several unique legal issues.

If there are multiple potentially liable defendants, for example, then one or more of the defendants may argue that they are not responsible for your injuries. Causation can perhaps best be visualized as a chain of events that links the defendant’s conduct with the suffered harm. If the chain is broken by an unforeseen event, then that defendant cannot actually be held liable. Unexpected events sometimes include the conduct of other defendants.

California imposes pure comparative negligence principles. What this means is that a defendant can be held liable for damages, even if they are only partially at-fault. As such, if the defendants may argue that they are not actually responsible for the percentage fault claimed. For example, Defendant B might say that they are only 20 percent liable, not 40 percent. This could cause significant conflicts throughout the litigation.

Unsafe Lane Changes

In California, and elsewhere, unsafe lane changing behavior is a major factor contributing to truck accidents. In fact, under California Vehicle Code 22107, unsafe lane changes are made explicitly illegal.

Vehicle Code 22107 allows drivers to change lanes only when it is reasonably safe, and only after giving the appropriate turn signal. Changing lanes by providing a turn signal (but when the circumstances are dangerous) is considered a violation. Changing lanes when it’s safe to do so, but without giving an appropriate turn signal, is also a violation.

Whether the circumstances made the lane change safe is a fact-dependent evaluation. The court will compare the defendant’s conduct to other similarly situated drivers and determine if their conduct fell outside the applicable standard of care. If the defendant’s conduct did not meet the standard of care, then they can be found negligent (and therefore held liable for damages resulting from the dangerous lane change).

Fatigue Log Book

Driver fatigue is one of the main factors contributing to truck accidents across the United States, and it is particularly common in the commercial truck driving industry. Despite the fact that commercial truck driving is a highly regulated industry with maximum consecutive driving hours limits and mandatory break periods, many truck drivers are overworked, improperly scheduled and incentivized or otherwise encouraged to get their jobs done in a way that puts them at risk.

Fatigue logbooks can give the injured plaintiff a sense of the driver’s schedule and whether it is consistent with the facts of the case. Truck drivers and their employers often skirt regulations by falsifying information on their logbooks. If you discover falsified records, then you and a Los Angeles accident attorney may be able to hold the driver and employer liable for significant damages — the court may even choose to impose punitive damages, depending on the circumstances.

Damages Available in California Truck Accidents

If you have been injured in a trucking accident you are entitled to compensatory damages, which can be divided into two categories: economic damages (out of pocket expenses) and non-economic damages. Damages your Los Angeles truck accident attorney will fight for include:

  • Medical Bills
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Lost earnings or wages
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Physical Disfigurement
  • Mental Anguish
  • Property Damage
  • Funeral Expenses and related costs in the event of a wrongful death claim

Contact Banafshe Law Firm for a Free Consultation with an Experienced Los Angeles Truck Accident Attorney

Ready to move forward with your claims? Call us at (800) 789-8840 or complete a case evaluation form through our website to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced Los Angeles truck accident attorney at our firm. The consultation is confidential, and there is no obligation to continue.

Even if you are not sure about your truck accident claims, it’s crucial that you contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible. In California, as in other states, there is a statute of limitations period that applies to your injury claims (specifically, two years from the date of injury in California). Failure to bring an action before the statute of limitations deadline passes could lead to an automatic case dismissal. As such, a brief evaluation could spell the difference between a win and a loss. Call now to learn the strength of your truck accident claim.

© 2020 Banafshe Law Firm, PC.