In 2021, there were 5,700 large trucks involved in fatal crashes which is an 18% increase from the previous year. Commercial truck crashes often result in severe injuries, extensive property damage, mental distress, and pain and suffering. If you were injured in a trucking accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be able to pursue a personal injury claim to recover compensation for your losses. Determining truck accident liability involves thoroughly investigating the circumstances surrounding the accident, collecting strong evidence, and building a compelling claim.
Who Is Liable for Damages in a Trucking Accident?
California truck accidents are typically more complex than other types of auto accidents because multiple parties are involved such as the truck driver, the commercial truck company, and insurance companies. Understanding who may be held liable in a trucking accident case is crucial for pursuing full and fair compensation. Parties that may be liable in a truck accident include the following:
The Truck Driver
If the truck driver’s negligent actions, such as speeding or reckless driving, caused the accident, they may be held liable. Commercial truck drivers are required to follow strict regulations on California roadways. Violating these regulations could make them liable for the resulting damages.
The Trucking Company
Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring their drivers adhere to California trucking laws and regulations. If the trucking company encourages unsafe practices or neglects maintenance, they may be held liable. The trucking company may also be responsible if they were negligent in hiring, providing adequate training, or supervising the truck driver. If the company neglected truck maintenance which led to a mechanical failure that caused the accident, they could also be held liable.
Cargo Shippers and Loaders
Shifting cargo can affect the truck’s balance and can lead to truck accidents. If the cargo was improperly loaded or secured, those responsible for loading the cargo could be held liable.
The Truck Manufacturers
Defective parts or manufacturing errors can contribute to commercial trucking accidents. If the trucking accident resulted from faulty truck parts, the truck manufacturer may share responsibility for the damages.
Other motorists can also contribute to truck accidents. A personal injury lawyer who specializes in truck accidents can help victims determine if other third parties share responsibility for the damages. An experienced truck accident lawyer can help you determine liability and hold the at-fault party accountable.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Driver fatigue – Long hours on the road without adequate rest can result in driver fatigue. This can impair a driver’s ability to operate the vehicle safely.
Speeding – Due to the sheer size of trucks, truck drivers require more time and space to slow down and stop. About 7.3% of large truck accidents involve speeding.
Distracted driving – When drivers take their eyes off the road to text, use the radio, eat, or drink they put other road users at great risk.
Driving under the influence – If the truck driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident, they may face criminal charges and be held liable for damages.
Maintenance oversight – Trucking companies are responsible for the maintenance of their vehicles. Failure to inspect and maintain trucks can lead to accidents caused by mechanical failures.
Steps to Take After a Truck Accident in California
Being involved in a truck accident can be a scary and stressful experience. Knowing the steps to take afterward can make a significant difference in protecting your rights and building a strong personal injury case. Here are important actions to take after a truck accident in California:
Get to Safety
If you are able to move your vehicle, pull over to a well-lit location and turn on your hazard lights. It’s best to ensure your vehicle is not in the path of oncoming traffic to help avoid additional car accidents.
Seek Medical Attention
Even if you believe you only suffered minor injuries, it’s crucial to pursue medical care promptly after the accident. Some injuries may not manifest immediately and can worsen over time.
Contact the Police
Report the truck accident to the police and wait for the authorities to arrive at the accident scene. Ensure you request a copy of the police report.
Collect the following information from all parties involved:
- Insurance information
- Driver’s licenses
- License plate numbers
Take pictures of the accident scene, including damage to vehicles, skid marks, broken glass, and road signs or signals. If you can, take pictures of your injuries.
Get contact information from any witnesses. Ask witnesses if they are willing to provide their statement on how the accident occurred.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
Report the accident to your insurance company promptly, preferably within 24 hours of the accident. If anyone sustained injuries or there is over $750 in property damage, you must also report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days. It’s best to consult with a truck accident lawyer who will communicate with the insurance companies on your behalf.
Consult with an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney
It’s best to consult with a California truck accident lawyer to understand your legal rights and options. Your personal injury attorney can help you gather and preserve evidence for your personal injury case. An experienced truck accident attorney will negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf and fight to recover compensation for your losses.
How to Prove Negligence in Trucking Accident Cases
Negligence refers to the failure to exercise the level of caution expected of a reasonable person in similar circumstances. Determining liability in trucking accident cases is often complicated because several parties are typically involved. Here are the key elements involved in proving negligence in trucking accident cases:
The Duty of Care
The plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed them a duty of care. In trucking accidents, all parties involved must adhere to traffic laws and regulations.
The Breach of Duty
The plaintiff must prove that the defendant did not uphold their duty of care. This could involve actions like speeding, distracted driving, or failure to follow safety regulations.
There must be a direct link between the defendant’s actions and the injuries or damages suffered by the plaintiff.
The plaintiff must have suffered losses, whether economic or non-economic, as a result of the defendant’s negligence. Economic damages include financial losses like medical bills, property damage, and lost income. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, address more subjective losses such as emotional distress, loss of consortium, and wrongful death.
How to Prove Truck Accident Liability in a Personal Injury Case
Gather evidence – An experienced personal injury attorney can collect police reports, witness statements, and photo evidence of the accident scene and damages.
Obtain medical records – Medical records documenting injuries sustained in the accident strengthen the case for damages.
Expert witnesses – A personal injury lawyer can help you gather expert witness testimonies to strengthen your case. Expert witnesses can include accident reconstruction specialists, mental health specialists, medical professionals, or engineers.
Driver’s log and company records – If the truck driver or trucking company violated regulations, their logbooks and records can serve as evidence of negligence. Statements can also be obtained from certain trucking company employees to support your claim.
Surveillance footage – If available, surveillance footage from nearby cameras can provide valuable evidence of the events leading up to the trucking accident.
Minimum Liability Requirements in California for Truck Drivers
California imposes minimum liability requirements for truck drivers to ensure they can cover potential damages in the event of an accident. Understanding these requirements is essential for both drivers and those seeking compensation for damages.
Liability Insurance Requirements
Truck drivers in California are required to carry a minimum of $15,000 per person and $30,000 for each accident for bodily injury liability. This coverage compensates for injuries caused to others in an accident. There is also a minimum of $5,000 liability coverage for property damage. This coverage addresses damages to the personal property of others in a trucking accident.
Contact a California Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Truck accident victims often deal with catastrophic injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Don’t face the aftermath of a truck accident alone. Reach out to an experienced truck accident lawyer today to safeguard your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve. At South Bay Accident Lawyers, we are committed to helping truck accident victims recover just compensation for their injuries and losses.
We will help you hold the liable parties legally responsible for their negligence. Our personal injury lawyers maintain a 99% success rate and have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients. Call our legal team today to schedule a no-risk, free consultation.