If you have suffered injuries and property damage in a truck accident, you may want to seek compensation from those at fault for the crash. But determining who may be responsible for a truck accident will require a thorough investigation of the collision and a careful review of the evidence. A truck accident attorney can help you figure out your legal options for pursuing financial relief after a truck accident.
Truck Accident Statistics
According to the California Highway Patrol, in one recent year, the state saw more than 7,000 truck accidents that led to injuries and over 300 truck crashes that caused fatalities. These accidents injured nearly 10,000 people and killed 392. Furthermore, truck accidents accounted for 10 percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes statewide and 3.7 percent of all injury-causing auto accidents.
The top primary crash factors for California truck accidents included:
- Unsafe speed
- Improper turning
- Unsafe lane changes
- Failing to yield the right-of-way to other vehicles
- Disregarding traffic signs and signals
- Unsafe backing
- Following too closely
- Driving under the influence
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
The cause of a truck accident will help determine who has liability for the crash and resulting injuries.
Common trucker-related causes of truck accidents in California include:
- Tailgating or following too closely
- Reckless driving
- Aggressive driving or road rage
- Failing to use turn signals or mirrors
- Running red lights and stop signs
- Failing to yield the right-of-way
- Drowsy or fatigued driving
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Distracted driving
- Driver inexperience or unfamiliarity with delivery routes
- Failure to conduct pre-trip inspections
Trucking companies can also cause accidents due to:
- Negligent hiring and supervision of drivers
- Instructing drivers to engage in unsafe or illegal behavior
- Inadequate truck or trailer maintenance
Cargo and freight companies can also cause crashes through:
- Overloading cargo
- Imbalanced cargo
- Failing to secure cargo from shifting or falling out of the truck
Other causes of truck accidents include:
- Poor road conditions, such as potholes or debris
- Adverse weather conditions
- Low lighting
- Poor visibility
- Heavy traffic
Types of Truck Accidents
The type of truck accident may also help determine who should bear liability for personal injuries and property damage.
Some of the more frequent examples of truck accident types include:
- Head-on collisions. A head-on collision may occur when a truck driver crosses the center line or median and enters the path of oncoming traffic.
- Rear-end collisions. A truck driver may rear-end another vehicle by following the car too closely, speeding, or driving while distracted.
- Sideswipe collisions. A sideswipe collision occurs when the side of a truck collides with the side of another vehicle. Truck drivers may sideswipe other cars due to unsafe lane changes or merging.
- Underride accidents. An underride accident occurs when another vehicle gets lodged underneath the side of a trailer or the trailer’s rear overhang.
- Side-impact or T-bone collisions. A side-impact collision occurs when the front of a truck crashes into the side of another vehicle. These collisions often happen at intersections when a driver runs a red light or stop sign or fails to yield the right-of-way.
- Jackknife accidents. A truck jackknifes when a truck cab and trailer fold in like a pocketknife. Jackknife accidents often occur due to improper or negligent braking by a truck driver or due to imbalanced or unsecured cargo.
- Rollover accidents. A rollover accident occurs when a truck flips onto its side or roof. Truck rollovers may occur due to a truck driver’s careless or reckless driving, inadequate vehicle maintenance, or unsafe cargo loading.
- Cargo accidents. A cargo accident occurs when a truck spills its cargo. Spilled cargo may hit other vehicles or create a collision hazard for motorists.
What Evidence Do Truck Accidents Cases Need?
Determining fault for a truck accident requires various pieces of evidence. Truck accident claims can involve more types of evidence than other motor vehicle accident cases due to the documentation that trucking companies must keep.
The evidence in truck accident cases may include:
- The truck driver’s hours-of-service (HoS) logs. Hours-of-service logs show how long a truck driver spends on duty and behind the wheel, which could provide evidence of drowsy or fatigued driving by a truck driver.
- The truck driver’s alcohol or drug screen results. Truck drivers may take mandatory drug or alcohol tests, which can help prove if an accident occurs due to the driver’s intoxication.
- The truck driver’s pre-trip inspection reports. Trucking regulations require drivers to inspect their vehicles and cargo before getting on the road. Driver reports may indicate whether dangerous cargo or deferred vehicle maintenance caused an accident.
- The truck driver’s cell phone records. A truck driver’s cell tower logs and cell phone data may prove whether distracted driving caused the truck accident.
- The truck’s event data recorder (black box) logs. Many trucks have computers that record details about a truck’s operation, including speed, GPS position, braking, acceleration, and steering inputs.
- The truck’s maintenance records. Trucking companies must keep records of regular inspections and maintenance, which may help show whether deferred maintenance led to a truck accident.
- The truck’s cargo or load manifest. A manifest may indicate whether a truck had an excessive or unbalanced load or whether a failure to secure cargo caused the truck accident.
- Accident scene photos and videos—Photos and videos from the crash scene can reveal important details such as vehicle damage, skid marks, traffic controls, inclement weather, low lighting, heavy traffic, and road conditions.
- Surveillance and traffic camera or dashcam/in-cab camera footage. Surveillance or traffic cameras may record the accident, while truck cameras might record the truck driver’s actions leading up to the crash.
- Police accident reports. Law enforcement can conduct a neutral investigation of a truck accident and determine if driver negligence or vehicle code violations caused the crash.
- Post-accident vehicle inspection reports. A post-crash vehicle inspection may reveal whether a crash occurred due to a mechanical failure of the truck.
- Accident reconstruction expert reports. Engineering experts can provide an opinion regarding what occurred in a truck accident and which parties may have liability for causing the crash.
Who Can You Hold Liable for a Truck Accident?
Multiple parties may have liability for a truck accident.
Depending on the crash, you may pursue compensation from:
- The truck driver. You may hold a self-employed trucker liable for a crash caused by negligent, reckless, or careless driving. Drivers may engage in illegal or unsafe driving, fail to inspect their vehicles, or violate trucking regulations such as HOS limits.
- The trucking company. A trucking company may have liability for a truck accident caused by its employee. It may have direct liability if it fails to adhere to strict hiring practices or adequately monitor drivers or maintain vehicles properly.
- The truck’s owner. A truck owner may have liability for an accident caused by inadequate vehicle maintenance.
- The cargo or freight company. A cargo company that loads the truck or trailer may have liability for a truck accident caused by improper loading and securing of cargo.
- The truck’s mechanic. A third-party mechanic may have liability for a truck accident caused by negligent maintenance work that causes the truck to suffer a mechanical failure.
- The truck’s or trailer’s manufacturer. A vehicle manufacturer may be liable for a truck accident caused by a defective design or an assembly or manufacturing defect.
- Third-party auto parts manufacturers. Truck parts manufacturers may have liability for a truck accident caused by defective parts.
- Other motorists. Other motorists may have liability for causing a truck crash. For example, another driver who cuts off a truck may be liable for an accident after the truck driver swerves and crashes.
Compensation Available for a Truck Accident
The compensation you may seek from those parties liable for the truck accident that injured you can include financial relief for your losses, including:
- Costs of vehicle repairs or reimbursement of a totaled vehicle’s value
- Repair or replacement of your damaged or destroyed property
- Medical and rehabilitation expenses, including hospital care, surgeries, prescriptions, and physical or occupational therapy
- Long-term care expenses such as the costs of home health services, housekeeping, or home renovations to account for a disability
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma and distress
- Loss of wages or income due to missed time from work or reduced hours or duties
- Loss of future earning capacity and job benefits after suffering permanent disability
- Permanent disability, disfigurement, or scarring that causes a loss of enjoyment or quality of life
What Steps Should You Take After a Truck Crash?
You can protect your legal rights and begin the process of pursuing compensation for your injuries by:
- Calling 911 or law enforcement to report the accident
- Getting employer and insurance information from the truck driver
- Documenting the crash scene by taking photos and videos and talking to any eyewitnesses
- Seeing a doctor as soon as possible to get examined for any injuries you suffered in the accident
- Notifying your auto insurer of the accident
- Gathering bills and invoices of your accident expenses, pay stubs, income records, and medical records
- Starting a journal to document the pain and physical impairments you experience due to your injuries and medical treatment
- Avoiding posting photos or discussing the accident on social media
Finally, reach out to a truck accident attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal options for pursuing accountability for the harm and loss you’ve suffered.
How Can a Lawyer Help After a Truck Accident?
Seeking accountability and compensation for a truck accident can quickly become time-consuming. Truck accidents often involve complex evidence. Trucking companies and their insurers will use tactics to deflect liability and financial responsibility for your injuries and losses. An experienced truck accident attorney can help you pursue compensation by handling the details of preparing and pursuing your legal claim.
Your attorney can assist you by:
- Investigating the crash to obtain evidence for your case
- Reviewing the facts and circumstances of the accident to identify who may have liability for your injuries and losses
- Calculating your ongoing and future expenses and losses to determine what compensation you should seek in your case
- Identifying applicable insurance coverage and other sources of financial compensation
- Preparing and filing your insurance claims and demand letters
- Negotiating with insurance adjusters and defense attorneys on your behalf to pursue a settlement
- Litigating your claims in court to fight for the maximum compensation and accountability you deserve from those liable for the accident
Frequently Asked Questions About Truck Accident Liability
Some common questions about liability for truck accidents include the following.
How Long Do I Have to File a Truck Accident Claim?
Under California Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 335.1, you must file a truck accident lawsuit within two years of the crash. You risk losing your right to sue at-fault parties in civil court by filing suit after the statutory deadline. Starting your legal claim immediately after a truck crash will help preserve your rights. A truck accident attorney can keep track of necessary deadlines for you.
Can I Pursue a Claim if I May Have Partial Responsibility for the Accident?
Under California law, you may pursue compensation for injuries and losses from a truck accident even if you bear some responsibility for causing the accident. However, if you bear some responsibility for the truck accident, a judge or jury may reduce your compensation.
How Long Does It Take to Resolve a Truck Accident Claim?
Every truck accident case is different, so no one can predict how long your claim may take. You might recover a settlement within a few months, or it may take a couple of years to win a judgment at trial.
Multiple factors will affect the course of your truck accident claim, including:
- The severity of your injuries
- The duration of your medical treatment and rehabilitation
- Whether you suffer from permanent disabilities
- The period of your missed work
- Whether you suffer permanently reduced earning capacity
- The number of liable parties
- The number of other injured accident victims
- The policy limits of applicable insurance coverage
- The complexity of the evidence in the case
- Whether you have any liability for the crash or your injuries
- Whether you must file a lawsuit to pursue your claims
- The schedule imposed by the trial court on your lawsuit
An experienced personal injury attorney can give you a better idea of how long your case might take after they review it in detail.
Law Offices of Mickey Fine – Bakersfield Office
930 Truxtun Ave, Suite 110
Bakersfield, CA 93301
Phone: (661) 333-3333
I am grateful to Mickey Fine and his wonderful staff for their personal care and support throughout this entire ordeal. Tess and Micheal were great his team definitely went the extra mile for me. I could not have chosen a better attorney and staff , Thank You guys from the bottom of my heart I will…