Southern California is one of the most well-used routes for logistic companies and freight service providers in the trucking industry.
Trucking activity offers plenty of benefits for the local economy but can also result in more trucking accidents.
Given the variety of weight and size of most commercial trucks, victims of these accidents often suffer extreme injuries that can affect them for the rest of their lives. Because of the nature of these semi-truck accidents, claims for damages can be a complicated and tedious process.
If you’ve been involved in a truck accident, Zucker Law Firm is here to help. We’ll answer questions, offer advice, and lay out options for filing a lawsuit against an insurance company for our clients. We’ll protect your rights and ensure that you acquire the compensation you need to move forward.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, trucking accidents have almost doubled in the past two decades. Most of these accidents are caused by the trucking company’s failure to comply with safety regulations.
These regulations cover the following:
- Record-keeping requirements for trucking companies and truck drivers
- Limits on a trucker’s hours of service
- Suspension of a trucker’s licenses
- Vehicle inspection requirements
- Drug and alcohol use
- Procedures for the transport of hazardous materials
These service regulations were enacted to protect motorists and regulate the behavior of trucking companies and their drivers. After all, the risk of property damage, severe injury and death is higher for truck accidents compared to car accidents.
California truck accident victims need reliable representation to protect their rights, even if they believe their injuries are minor.
Common Injuries After a Truck Accident
Accidents involving big rigs, tractor-trailers, and semi-trucks are more likely to lead to catastrophic injuries and death because they involve bigger, heavier vehicles that can crush other motorists and pedestrians.
Common injuries resulting from truck accidents include:
- Cuts and lacerations
- Broken bones
- Amputation and disfigurement
- Neck and spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
Some of these injuries result in a very long recovery or stay with a person for lifetime, significantly affecting their day-to-day life and ability to work.
Sadly, some accidents are fatal. In these instances, victims’ families can file a wrongful death suit.
A California truck accident lawyer can help to prove damages to ensure that the victim receives adequate compensation.
Establishing Liability in a Trucking Accident
To recover damages after a truck accident, and in most other personal injury cases, the victim needs to establish that the defendant had a legal duty of care, that they breached that duty of care when they acted recklessly or negligently, that their actions are the proximate cause of the victim’s injuries, and that the victim suffered actual harm due to these actions.
In most ordinary auto accidents, the negligent driver is the one who’s responsible for the accident. However, when it comes to truck accidents, liability is a complex issue. In some cases, a party other than the truck driver may be held responsible for damages. For example, the trucking company owner may also be held liable if they failed to maintain the truck or trailer, were driving over the speed limit on the freeway or too fast for the conditions of the roads or weather. Or if they were found to violate other federal trucking standards such as maximum hours of work.
Thus, trucking companies can be held liable for a truck accident in two ways:
- Direct liability: A trucking company may fail to properly vet potential drivers, hire drivers with a record of drunk or distracted driving, or continue employing drivers who have been found to engage in such behaviors.
- Vicarious liability: A trucking company is responsible for any of their employee’s reckless or irresponsible behavior when such behavior occurs while they’re on the clock.
Manufacturers of defective parts and equipment as well as maintenance companies may also be sued in certain truck accident cases. For instance, if the tractor-trailer wreck occurred due to the failure of the truck’s brakes, the manufacturer may be held liable for releasing faulty products to the market. At the same time, if the mechanic failed to install the brakes correctly, they may also be named as a defendant in the claim.
Compensation and Damages for a Truck Accident Claim
California is a comparative negligence state. This means that the overall damages a victim is entitled to receive may be reduced by the court depending on the percentage that they’re deemed to be at fault. For instance, if a victim is found to be 25 percent responsible for their injuries, the court may reduce the compensation they receive by 25 percent.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations allow victims to receive adequate compensation for the losses they’ve suffered. Commercial trucks are required to carry a minimum liability insurance coverage of $750,000.00. If the truck handles hazardous materials, the minimum coverage goes up to $5 million. These figures ensure that the trucking company can compensate accident victims who suffer serious injuries.
The question of how much a truck accident claim is worth varies on a case-to-case basis. A settlement or a judgment award can reimburse the victim for the following expenses:
- Property damages
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Life-changing disability, disfigurement, or scarring
- Mental anguish or pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Past and future losses
- Punitive damages
More often than not, truck accident victims tend to receive greater compensation when they sustain severe and catastrophic injuries. It’s best to consult with a truck accident attorney to evaluate the case and determine how much a claim is worth.
Investigation and Evidence in Truck Accident Claims
The victim will need to provide the following evidence to insurance companies to strengthen their case:
- Electronic control modules (ECMs): Also known as black boxes, these devices are intended to record information from just before an accident. Accident reconstruction experts can retrieve and evaluate the data from these devices, including the truck’s speed, whether the driver used brakes, etc.
- Electronic logging devices: These devices keep track of the driver’s hours of service. They help determine whether the driver has already exceeded the limits set by federal regulations and was at risk of fatigue.
- Truck cameras: The footage from these cameras can help determine whether the truck driver was reckless or negligent.
- Witness statements: These may help corroborate negligence claims. Witnesses can testify, for instance, to whether the truck driver was driving aggressively or erratically.
- Trucking company records: These records will show whether or not the trucking company did its due diligence in conducting preventative measures, such as drug or alcohol tests, and observed the proper standards in the hiring and supervision of their drivers.
Contact a Truck Accident Law Firm in Temecula, CA
Truck accident injuries can be overwhelming. The high emotional and financial costs that can arise can be too much to bear, and some people even lose their jobs. Medical bills pile up, and people might not know what to do.
The Zucker Law Firm has been providing Southern California area residents with legal help for over two decades. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident in Temecula, Murrieta, Menifee or elsewhere in Riverside County or anywhere in Southern California, we can help you through this difficult time and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Call (951) 699-2100 for a free case consultation, or use our online contact form to email us.