Commercial Truck Accidents
The proliferation of large commercial vehicles to transport goods across the nation has increased the occurrence of catastrophic truck accidents. Because these vehicles -- like 18-wheelers and tractor trailers -- are uncharacteristically large, they have significant blind spots and generally lack the ability to stop at a moment’s notice to avoid an accident. Moreover, commercial vehicle drivers are often subjected to lengthy, deadline-driven delivery routes, which increases the likelihood of negligence on the road. If you’ve been involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, our commercial vehicle accident lawyer can help you assess your damages and recover for your losses.
Because of their size and scale, truck accidents often cause more serious injuries, resulting in significant medical costs and lost wages while the victim recovers. These accidents can also become a burden on family and friends who are often tasked with caring for the victim on their road to recovery. Costly vehicle repairs add to a victim’s total damages.
Commercial vehicle accidents in California and elsewhere often involve some level of negligence, which means that the driver or the vehicle’s owner failed to take proper care when dispatching or operating the vehicle. Though the driver may be exercising a reasonable duty of care, the truck’s owner may have failed to properly maintain the vehicle, resulting in faulty brakes, defective tires or out-of-shape engines. On the other hand, a truck may be in perfect condition, but the driver may have failed to drive responsibly. Because any number of factors can be involved in a commercial vehicle accident, it is wise to speak with a trustworthy truck accident law firm who can help guide your recovery process.
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).
In accidents involving commercial vehicles, employers can potentially be held liable under two different theories:
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 commercial truck accident attorney show that the employee was acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time of the accident.
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.
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 commercial truck 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.
If you’ve been involved in a tractor trailer accident, you must first seek immediate medical care. Be sure to contact law enforcement at the scene to obtain crucial information about the details of the accident, including the driver’s or victim’s personal and insurance information.
Once you’ve begun to recover from your injuries, a commercial vehicle accident attorney with our firm will get to work reviewing the details of the incident. Our team will conduct a thorough analysis of the police report, interview potential witnesses and determine your total financial losses, including:
While you may wish to work directly with an insurance company, insurance adjusters often fail to adequately assess the total extent of your damages. Insurance settlements, for example, rarely consider whether your future earnings or quality of life may be impacted by the accident. Hiring a competent commercial truck accident attorney will ensure your interests are protected through the use of experienced counsel to help navigate the matter as it evolves.
The impact of a commercial vehicle accident can scar a victim for years to come. It is important to work with an experienced team of attorneys in order to settle your claims and ensure your future comfort. Please contact a truck accident lawyer at our office for a free initial consultation where we can review your case and give you an honest appraisal of its strengths and merits. Call 310-273-7300 now!
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