Orange County Trucking Accidents Lawyer
In California and throughout the United States, accidents involving commercial trucks tend to be devastating and inflict severe injuries on the victims. Such accidents are more likely to cause fatalities than those between two passenger vehicles, and passenger vehicle occupants and pedestrians tend to be the victims. In fatal two-vehicle accidents that involved a large truck and a passenger vehicle in 2014, 97 percent of the victims were passenger vehicle occupants.
The sheer size and weight of tractor-trailers and semi-trucks are contributing factors to the severity of the accidents. Also, trucking companies often pressure their drivers to arrive at destinations by a certain time, regardless of traffic or weather conditions, so drivers ignore basic traffic safety laws and speed limits. This obligation to reach a location by a specified time also means that many commercial truck drivers are operating their vehicles while physically exhausted, increasing the chances of drowsy driving and falling asleep behind the wheel.
Types and Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents
Some common types of commercial trucking accidents include the following.
- Jackknifing—The vehicle that tows the trailer folds back, forming an angle with the trailer.
- Rollovers—The truck flips onto its side.
- Tire Blowouts—Most tractor-trailers have 18 wheels, which increases the chances for tire blowouts. This could cause the truck to swerve, endangering nearby vehicles.
- Lane Changes—Given the size of their trucks, semi drivers may experience blind spots, causing them to switch lanes despite the presence of another vehicle in that lane.
There are innumerable reasons why the above types of accidents happen, but with commercial trucking accidents, the most likely causes are:
Driver Fatigue. Federal regulations state that drivers must not work longer than 14 hours, they can only drive for 11 of those hours, and they must take a 10-hour break prior to the next shift. Many trucking companies allow or pressure their drivers to violate these regulations to increase profits and meet strict schedules, but driver fatigue can cause drivers to lose proper focus and/or fall asleep at the wheel. Research has found that truck drivers are
twice as likely to crash when they drive longer than eight hours at a time.
- Unsafe Driving Practices. Commercial truck drivers' failure to observe safety and speed regulations are major causes of accidents.
- Improper Truck Maintenance. Failing to correctly maintain a semi-truck is dangerous and could contribute to accidents such as those that occur after a tire blowout.
- Impaired or Distracted Driving. A commercial trucking driver's legal blood alcohol concentration is half of what is permissible for a passenger car driver. Truck drivers who are impaired by drugs or alcohol or distracted by texting or phone calls can easily cause accidents.
Liability and Damages in Trucking Accidents
In commercial trucking accidents, liability is determined according to negligence theory. In a negligence case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, that the defendant breached this duty, that the defendant's breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries, and that the plaintiff suffered actual damages. When a truck driver's negligence is found to be the sole cause of an accident, she or he will be held liable for the victim's damages.
In a personal injury suit claiming negligence, a plaintiff may attempt to recover the following:
- Medical expenses (past and future)
- Property damage
- Personal injuries
- Pain and suffering
Proposition 213 required car drivers to obtain proper California automobile insurance. Without this liability insurance, a car driver is barred from obtaining pain and suffering damages in a personal injury lawsuit, even if the truck driver was entirely at fault.
California's comparative negligence law states that if the plaintiff's negligence contributed to the accident, the amount of damages the plaintiff is able to recover will be reduced proportionately to her or his responsibility. For example, if the passenger vehicle driver is found to be 20 percent at fault for an accident with a semi, she or he will only be able to recover 80 percent of damages.
If you or your loved one was injured or killed in a trucking accident in Los Angeles or Orange County, call attorney Scott D. Hughes at (714) 423-6928 today to review your potential claims. He can evaluate the viability of your civil lawsuit and help you pursue compensation.
California Negligence Laws, FindLaw, Thomson Reuters.
Large Trucks, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute, April 2016.