The I-5 and I-99 can be dangerous roads for motor vehicle accidents. This is especially true if the accident involves a large commercial truck. Due to a large number of trucks that travel up and down California freeways, truck accidents that seriously injure and kill motorists are sadly too common.
Because so many of Southern California’s interstates and roadways are truck routes, thousands of people in and around Bakersfield are at an increased risk for these types of auto accidents every day. When you are involved in a truck accident, you need an aggressive personal injury lawyer on your side as soon as possible to ensure you are treated fairly and provided swift compensation.
How do semi truck accidents differ from typical car accidents?
The main reason they are different is due to the strict regulations that the owners and drivers of the trucks must follow due to the size and purpose of big-rig vehicles. Licensed drivers of commercial semi trucks are required to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). The limits set forth by the FMCSR are intended to prevent driver fatigue and establish driver accountability. Limits such as the number of hours that a truck driver can work each day or week, all have to be logged.
Insurance coverage for semi trucks is also much higher than standard vehicle insurance coverage. Federal regulations require that truck companies carry insurance of at least $750,000 per truck. If the trailer is towing hazardous materials, the minimum insurance coverage is $5,000,000.
If you or someone you know has been in a truck accident, please contact the Law Offices of Mickey Fine online or by calling our Bakersfield truck accident lawyer at (661) 333-3333 today for a free consultation.
Common Causes of Bakersfield Truck Accidents
At first glance, many truck accidents appear to be the fault of the driver alone. Some of the most common causes of truck driver error include:
- Speeding or aggressive driving
- Inattention or distraction
- Drug and/or alcohol use
- Vehicle Failures
- Improperly loaded trailers
According to a 33-month long study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the three leading causes of truck accidents are:
- Trucks veering off the road or running out of their own travel lane
- Loss of vehicle control
- Failure to stop, resulting in rear-end collisions
Clearly, many of these accidents could be avoided if those involved in all levels of the transportation of goods took a more active role in protecting the safety of everyone on the road. However, truck drivers are often forced to meet unrealistic schedules that require they forgo sleep and may even tempt them to speed and use stimulants to make their deliveries on time.
Other Causes of Truck Accidents Include
Improperly Loaded Cargo
Traffic accidents which involve improperly loaded trucks are typically more devastating and complex than average auto accidents. California truck accident lawyer Mickey Fine has witnessed the effects of truck accidents and pursued justice for collision victims and their families for more than two decades.
Examples of Improperly Loaded Trucks
Determining who can be held liable in a truck accident is often complicated. While many auto accidents simply involve two drivers, a truck accident could involve several parties. For example, if an accident occurs due to faulty cargo loading, the driver, the person who loaded the cargo and the trucking company could all be held liable.
Unsecured: According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured with shoring bars, tie downs or other tools of comparable strength. Improperly secured materials such as furniture, appliances, lumber or metal can create sudden, unavoidable roadway obstacles. Poorly secured loads can also move unexpectedly within a trailer, causing rollovers.
Unbalanced: A truck’s cargo, even when securely fastened, can still pose a potential threat if the weight within the trailer is not adequately distributed. Unbalanced loads can lead to raised centers of gravity or particularly heavy sides.
Overloaded: When a truck is loaded beyond its weight capacity, its risk of tipping over significantly increases. Excessively heavy loads also put a greater strain on a truck’s tires and braking ability, requiring a greater distance to stop properly.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently reported that trucker fatigue is a factor in 30 to 40 percent of all truck accidents. Driving on too little sleep has previously been compared to driving while intoxicated, and with good reason. Fatigue decreases attention span and increases the amount of time required to respond to changes in traffic. What’s more, a lack of sleep can cause consecutive losses of consciousness, each one endangering the lives of everyone else on the road.
In order to reduce the number of truck accidents caused by driver fatigue, the FMCSA has established a series of hours of service regulations:
- The maximum duration of a driver’s shift is 14 hours, and the driver can’t exceed 11 hours of driving time during that shift
- Drivers must take at least one 30 minute beak within the first 8 hours of their shift
- Drivers must have at least 10 hours off before starting their next shift
- The maximum allowable work week for a truck driver is 70 hours in an 8 day period or 60 hours in a 7 day period
- Once a driver reaches the maximum allowable hour total for a work week, he must take at least 34 hours off before the next shift
- Drivers must keep an accurate log of the hours they spend at work, including the number of hours spent driving
If these hours of service regulations are violated and the driver causes a truck accident, he may be held liable for damages.
Liability in Truck Accidents Caused by Fatigued Truckers
Determining who can be held liable following a truck accident is never easy. Even the seemingly black and white issue of sleep deprived truckers may prove more complex than anticipated when you begin to seek compensation. The only way to ensure you are not cheated out of the full compensation you deserve is by working with an experienced California truck accident attorney.
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Many truckers forego sleep to meet unrealistic demands placed on them by their employers. This can make a trucking company equally liable when a fatigued trucker causes an accident. What’s more, just because fatigue was a factor does not mean it was the only cause. Mickey Fine is prepared to investigate your accident to uncover all of its causes, identify every responsible party, and fight for the maximum compensation you are due.
No matter the vehicle – car, truck, or motorcycle – driving above the posted speed limit is an illegal practice. Trucks who engage in driving above the speed limit increase the risk of an accident due to:
Driving above the speed limit decreases the truck’s ability to come to a complete stop when required. Due to a semi truck’s massive size, the faster it is going, the harder it is for it to stop. Because of this, a speeding truck could crash into a vehicle in front of it and cause severe damage.
Speeding can also make it easier for the truck driver to lose control of the truck and the trailer it is pulling. If the driver were to encounter a curve or a steep hill, high speeds can make it very easy to lose control.
Many trucks have to drive through inclement weather. When drivers do not take proper precaution over their speed when driving in bad weather, severe accidents can occur.
Driving distracted is never a good idea. Habits like eating, texting putting on makeup, and others can all prove to be deadly if done behind the wheel. When a truck driver partakes in any of these practices, they put themselves and everyone on the road around them at risk.
According to a study by the NHTSA, out of all accidents that were caused by distracted driving, 6% of them involved a semi truck. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), strictly prohibits the use of cell phones by a semi truck driver. This includes everything from making calls, using GPS, texting, etc.
Semi truck drivers spend a lot of time on the open road, often driver cross-country. Traveling long distances often requires high rates of speed. It is estimated that a vehicle driving 55 mph covers 300 feet in 5 seconds. So much can occur in that time frame and if a driver is distracted from the road, disastrous events can occur.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs impairs the body’s essential motor functions. Drivers who are impaired lose the ability to react, see straight, and control a vehicle safely. Anyone who decides to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol puts themselves and others around them in great danger.
Federal law establishes that truck drivers have a limit of .04 BAC. This is half of the legal limit for normal drivers in most states. The reasoning for this is due to how dangerous it is to operate a vehicle the size of a semi truck even slightly impaired.
In addition to a stricter policy for BAC, there is a zero-tolerance for drug use in commercial truck driving. Even with these restrictions, truck drivers nationwide still partake in these dangerous habits. A study from Reuters found that nearly 30% of truck drivers use amphetamines. The same report revealed that semi truck drivers in the US had the highest frequency of positive alcohol tests in the world of 12.5%.
Lack of Proper Training
Due to the excessive size and weight of most commercial trucks, injuries sustained in truck accidents are often catastrophic in nature. In order to reduce the risk of these serious accidents and improve safety for other drivers on the road, the federal government has established a series of regulations governing the trucking industry. These laws cover a wide range of issues, including hours of operation, maximum vehicle weight, and safety standards.
The trucking regulations established by the FMCSA are intended to improve the safety of everyone sharing the road. These policies apply to everyone working in the trucking industry, including truck drivers, trucking companies and truck manufacturers. Failure to adhere to these regulations may result in the negligent party being held liable for injuries caused in a truck accident.
According to FMCSA regulations, truck drivers must:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Speak fluent English
- Have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL)
- Pass a physical exam every two years
- Avoid using drugs or alcohol during their shift, including any prescription medication that may impact the driver’s ability to operate a truck
Federal trucking regulations require trucking companies to:
- Verify driving records and check references of all truck drivers before they are hired
- Monitor all drivers’ records on an annual basis
- Perform routine mechanical inspections of all trucks and make any necessary repairs prior to sending the vehicle out on a trip
- Maintain accurate vehicle inspection and repair records
In addition, FMCSA regulations prohibit trucks from carrying more than 20,000 pounds of cargo per axle, and the gross vehicle weight (GVW) of the truck cannot exceed 80,000 pounds.
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident caused by the negligence of another, please contact the Law Offices of Mickey Fine today to schedule your free consultation. Mickey Fine serves clients in Bakersfield, California.
Common Injuries in Bakersfield Semi Truck Accidents
Truck accidents can be very severe. If the crash does not kill a victim, it can often leave them with lifelong or prolonged injuries that will affect them for the rest of their lives. According to the NHTSA, nationwide, 1% of truck accidents end up being fatal.
Injuries that stem from truck accidents include, but are not limited to:
Neck and Back Injuries
This includes anything from minor neck pain to ruptured discs. The neck and back are critical to everyday functionality, so a neck or back injury should never be taken lightly. Serious neck and back injuries can lead to symptoms such as:
- Partial to full paralysis
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Inability to perform basic daily functions
- Mild to severe daily pain
Broken or Shattered Bones
Trucks are massive and very powerful vehicles. Human bones stand little chance in wrecks involving semi trucks. Broken bones can cause long term damages such as:
- Pain when moving the affected area
- Bones being exposed through the skin
Head Trauma/Traumatic Brain Injury
Head trauma and traumatic brain injuries happen in truck accidents and are often life-altering. These injuries typically occur when the head encounter a blunt force in an accident. These injuries do not always show immediate symptoms. When symptoms do begin to show, victims may experience:
- Impaired vision
- Severe headaches
Blunt force trauma is very common in truck accidents. Such trauma can cause internal bleeding to organs such as the liver, kidneys, spleen, etc. These injuries are often very hard to treat and must be taken care of immediately.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Truck accidents can have a devastating effect on a human’s spinal structure. Often times, the tremendous force generated by these accidents leave their victims with paralysis. Just like with a TBI, spinal damage is not always apparent to start. A spinal injury can manifest into bigger problems over time, so you should always seek medical attention if your spine was injured in a truck accident.
Believe it or not, truck accidents are close to 10 times more likely to kill a victim that normal car accidents. Knowing this, if your loved one was killed in a truck accident in Bakersfield, Mickey Fine can help you hold the trucking company responsible for their death. Mickey Fine can never replace a loved one, but he can help your family get the compensation needed to begin to move forward.
Steps to Take After a Semi Truck Accident
The moments following a truck accident can be among the most frightening in your life. However, the steps you take after your accident can have a significant impact on your ability to collect compensation for all of your damages.
At the Scene of the Truck Accident
If you are able, contact 911 immediately, even in instances where there seems to be only minor damage. While waiting for emergency personnel to arrive:
- Obtain the contact, insurance, and employment information of the truck driver.
- Obtain the contact information of any witnesses.
- Take pictures of the scene from multiple angles, including as much of the surrounding environment as possible.
- Contact your insurance company to report the accident.
Remember, once police and EMTs arrive, be sure to file a police report and allow for a medical examination. Get the badge number and business card of any officers you speak to. Do not admit or even suggest you are at fault when discussing your accident with anyone on the scene.
Many truck accidents result in traumatic injuries which may make on-the-scene action on your part impossible. When this is the case, Bakersfield truck accident lawyer Mickey Fine can obtain necessary information through an extensive investigation into your accident.
Following Your Truck Accident
Even if you have been cleared by EMTs, you need to make an appointment with your physician. Brain injuries, in particular, may not show any immediate signs but can be detected in a follow-up examination. Your doctor’s evaluation will be essential for identifying any possible consequences of your accident that went unnoticed at the scene. Be sure to get a copy of your doctor’s findings.
As soon as possible following your accident, contact the Law Offices of Mickey Fine to schedule a free case evaluation. Mickey Fine and his legal team will evaluate the information you have gathered, begin to establish liability, and determine what course of action is most likely to result in full compensation for all of your damages.
Compensation After a Truck Accident
The compensation you receive in a truck accident claim in Bakersfield will depend on the circumstances of your case. Bakersfield truck accident lawyer, Mickey Fine will assess fault in your case and take the necessary steps to valuing your injuries.
What Compensation is Available in a Truck Accident Claim?
Following a comprehensive review of police reports, logbooks, eyewitness testimony and other vital evidence, our California truck accident lawyer may seek compensation for damages such as:
- Property damage
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Physical pain
- Emotional suffering
Depending on the circumstances of your case, we may be able to pursue compensation for punitive damages against a negligent trucking company, truck driver or other responsible parties.
Who is at Fault in a Truck Accident?
In the case of truck accidents, Mickey Fine has pursued compensation from:
The driver: Just like car drivers, those who operate trucks have responsibilities on the road. If a truck driver is reckless or negligent and causes an accident that results in significant injuries, he or she can be held responsible.
The trucking company: Many trucking companies set aggressive schedules for their drivers, which is why driver fatigue is such a common cause of truck accidents. If our truck accident lawyers determine that the trucking company was negligent or engaged in misconduct and that this negligence caused your accident, we can pursue compensation from them.
Cargo handlers: Overloaded or improperly loaded cargo is a common cause of truck accidents. We can investigate to determine if the truck that hit you was carrying too much cargo, and if it was, our truck accident lawyers could hold responsible the company that loaded the cargo.
Truck manufacturers: A poorly designed or manufactured truck is a danger to everyone on the road. Our truck accident lawyers aren’t afraid of bringing a claim against the large companies that manufacture defective trucks.
This is not an exhaustive list. We believe passionately that Bakersfield residents who have been hurt in a truck accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence should not be alone in this difficult time.
What is Comparative Fault in a Truck Accident Case?
In California, the monetary damages that you can recover will be determined by your percentage of fault in the accident. This is what’s known as comparative fault. In most cases, the insurance company of the defendant will attempt to prove that you were at least partially at-fault – if not completely at-fault – in the accident. Based on the jury’s decision, your claim can somewhat diminish or reduce entirely. It’s because liability is so complicated that you should make sure you find a truck accident lawyer whose skill, experience and reputation you trust. Mickey Fine and our other truck accident lawyers have spent decades helping the people of the Bakersfield area pursue justice and compensation for their injuries.
Do I Need a Truck Accident Attorney?
Bakersfield truck accident attorney Mickey Fine has over two decades of experience getting victims of accidents maximum compensation. Mickey Fine will investigate your accident, identifying all liable parties, and hold each accountable for their actions. In addition, our legal team will work with you personally to protect you against the predatory tactics of insurance companies, see that you receive the medical treatment you require, and fight tooth and nail for every penny you are due. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, please call (661) 333-3333 today.