Truck accidents can cause catastrophic injuries to yourself and damage to your vehicle and / or property.
Truck drivers have a greater responsibility on the road and must totally ensure the safety of those around them. However, at times they may become distracted, have not properly rested, or may simply not have the proper training to take on this responsibility in the first place.
Getting involved in an accident with a commercial truck can be tragic, both emotionally and physically. If the truck driver / trucking company is at fault for the accident, it is important that they are held legally responsible for the injuries caused to help prevent a similar incident from occurring to others in the future.
Fortunately, people who have been injured or have lost family members because of a trucking accident have the legal right to pursue compensation for their injuries.
I. Truck Accident Statistics
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration keeps track of traffic and accident data throughout the country. In 2019, the most recent year for which truck accident statistical data is available, there were approximately 119,000 large trucks involved in accidents resulting in injuries. Additionally, there were about 414,000 large trucks that were involved accidents resulting in property damage only.
There were also about 5,005 large trucks that were involved in fatal crashes, which fatalities increased by about two percent from the data collected from 2018. Another significant change from 2018 to 2019 included a four percent increase in the large truck involvement rate in fatal crashes, which went from 4,909 to 5,005. The large truck involvement rate is a measure of large trucks involved in fatal accidents per 100 million miles traveled.
II. Different Types of Trucks
There are a variety of truck types, including:
When you think of a large truck, one of the first types of trucks that comes to mind is called a “Big Rig.” These are tractor trucks that have a cargo trailer attached. These trucks are also commonly referred to as semis, tractor-trailers, and 18-wheelers. Big rigs are considered commercial vehicles.
Since these trucks can carry large loads of cargo, a trained and skilled licensed truck driver must drive them. Due to the size of these trucks, a collision can be very serious and even deadly.
Tractor trucks can be driven with or without cargo. You will likely see multiple tractor trucks when you drive on the highway. Tractor trucks can still cause significant damage and severe injuries in a crash, even with no cargo attached.
Tanker trucks can be dangerous due to their large size and the hazardous materials that they may carry.
A primary concern with these types of trucks is their tendency to burst into flames on impact. A serious truck accident can result in severe injuries or even death to multiple drivers on the road.
Utility trucks come in multiple sizes and shapes. There are many different uses for utility trucks, including ambulances, fire trucks, postal service trucks, garbage trucks, and street cleaning trucks. State, city, or federal agencies typically own these kinds of trucks.
Utility trucks typically have unlimited access to highways and roads, regardless of their size. In the case of ambulances and fire trucks, drivers of these emergency vehicles can travel well above the designated speed limits when they are responding to an emergency or urgent situation.
There are special rules regarding the filing times of cases against these entities, for personal injuries and property damage so speaking with an experienced California truck accident attorney as soon as possible is crucial.
Delivery trucks are commonly found on the roadways. Many different companies use delivery trucks, such as Fed Ex, UPS, DHL, Amazon, and more.
These trucks can be on the large side, making a collision quite damaging for all vehicles involved. A big concern with delivery trucks is that the people that drive them may be distracted, in a hurry, or may exceed the posted speed limits to try and meet a deadline
III. Causes of Truck Accidents
In a trucking accident, there may be more than one person or party who is at fault for the collision. The person or party who is at fault for the truck accident is considered to have legal liability and responsibility for any personal injury.
Since each case is unique with its own set of facts, it is helpful to consult with a Premier Truck Accident Attorney who can review the specific facts involved in your case and ensure everyone involved is accounted for.
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes motor vehicle accidents, including those involved with trucks.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 3,142 people were killed as a result of distracted driving on the roadway in 2019. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that eight people in the United States are killed each day because of a distracted driver!
A driver of a vehicle is considered to be distracted when something takes their attention away from the road.
Texting while driving is one of the most common driver distractions. Other distractions for drivers include the following:
- Looking at their phone;
- Doing their makeup / looking in the mirror at themselves
- Playing devices
- Reaching for the radio or any other object; and
- Eating while driving.
Negligent Hiring and Training
Another cause of truck accident crashes is the negligent hiring and training of truck drivers by the companies that employ them.
In some cases, a company may hire a truck driver who is not qualified for this job position. If the company responsible for hiring an incompetent driver was negligent in its training or hiring practices, it might be liable for an accident caused by its employee.
As of 2021, there is currently a shortage of truck drivers. The American Trucking Associations estimates that over the next 10 years they may have to recruit nearly 1,000,000 new drivers! If not properly trained, this rush to get new drivers on the road may cause a dramatic increase in trucking accidents.
Federal Regulation and Industry Violations
Truck drivers, along with their employers, must abide by certain laws and regulations.
There are rules in place at both the state and federal levels, which drivers and employers must follow.
For example, there are federal regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that dictate the hours that truck drivers are able to be on the road working. These rules include:
- Truck drivers that haul property can drive 11 hours each day—but only after the driver has had ten or more consecutive hours off duty.
- It is a requirement that truck drivers are to take at least one break for 30 minutes during the first eight hours of their shift.
- Truck drivers cannot drive after completing 60 hours of driving in seven consecutive days, or 70 hours of driving in eight straight days.
- Truck drivers who are at the maximum of 70 hours of driving within a week can only resume working after a consecutive 34-hour period of rest. The rest period is required to include at least two nights.
If you are injured in an accident caused by a truck driver’s failure to adhere to the relevant state and federal regulations and industry practices, you may be eligible for compensation. Depending on the facts of the case, both the driver of the truck and the driver’s employer could be liable for the accident.
Most truck accidents and collisions on the roadway, in general, tend to be caused by driver error. However, defects in the equipment may also cause or contribute to a truck accident.
For example, if equipment such as pulleys or ropes used on the truck are defective, the cargo may not be properly secured and may result in an accident and serious catastrophic injury.
While the weather in California is most often pleasant, there are, of course, some days with in climate weather.
When it is very rainy or foggy outside, accidents may happen more frequently.
It is crucial to consider the weather while you are driving out on the roadways. Make sure you drive appropriately for the weather conditions to avoid a potentially fatal accident and watch carefully for those trucks and big rigs on the road.
Truck Accident Lawsuits Q & A
What Steps Should I Take If I Get Hurt in a Truck Accident?
If you are injured in a truck accident, your first priority should be to get medical treatment as soon as possible. Even if you do not think you were injured immediately following the accident, you should still go to a doctor for an evaluation to ensure that nothing is truly wrong.
If you aren’t in immediate danger, it would be best to gather as much contact information from witnesses, if any, to the accident.
Also, taking photographs of your vehicle and all other vehicles involved, as well as pictures of the scene of the accident, can be helpful to your lawyer in your truck accident case, especially if the matter ends up going to trial.
Should I Talk to the Insurance Claims Adjuster for the At-Fault Party?
- The short answer is “Never”, you should not talk to the insurance claims adjuster or the other party at any time, if you are planning to hire a lawyer and pursue a case for your injuries. Sometimes insurance claims adjusters will reach out to you in an effort to settle your claim quickly and inexpensively. Contact Premier Truck Accident Lawyers to seek competent legal advice. We will help you!!!
There are many reasons that it is unwise to immediately agree to a settlement that is offered to you shortly after the accident.
First, if the offer is made shortly after the accident occurs, you may not know the full extent of your injuries at that time. If you agree to the settlement, then you cannot go back and obtain additional personal injury compensation later if it turns out that your injuries require more treatment than you initially expected.
Another reason to wait before agreeing to a settlement offer is that while the offer might seem great to you, it might not be a fair and reasonable offer with all things considered.
It is always better to consult with a Premier Truck Accident Lawyer, after a truck accident injury, so that you can ascertain if any initial settlement offer made to you is actually fair before accepting it. Hiring a Premier Truck Accident Lawyer to handle your case could result in a much higher offer, along with the peace of mind that an experienced attorney will guide you in order to obtain the best results.
Can I Sue the Truck Driver Who Hit Me and Receive Compensation?
If the truck driver was at fault for the collision, then yes, you can file a lawsuit to recover the damages you suffered due to their negligence. However, you should keep in mind that there may be other parties liable for the accident, such as the company that the truck driver works for.
It is a good idea to talk with an attorney regarding your truck accident case. This way, you can make sure that you sue the correct parties when you file your claim and ensure that every liable party is properly named.
How Much Is My Truck Accident Injury Case Worth?
While no one will be able to give you an exact amount early in the process, meeting with a truck accident lawyer could provide you with a general idea of what you can expect. Typically, cases with more severe injuries and longer treatment plans tend to be worth more money than cases with minor injuries.
There are other factors that also go into consideration when calculating the value of a truck accident case.
For example, if there are different stories regarding what happened and the other driver is not immediately obviously at fault, then your settlement might be less than expected. The reason for this is because now the risk factors on both sides will be taken into consideration—since sometimes, the case could go either way once it goes to trial.
Will My Case Go to Trial?
After you decide to pursue your claim for injuries in a truck accident case, you may be wondering if your case will go to trial, with your fate being in the hands of a jury. Of course, just like the value of your case, no one can truly predict this right off the bat.
However, this is another question that a consultation with a truck accident lawyer can help you with. The lawyer will be able to assess all the facts and circumstances of your case and can give you an idea form experience of what to expect moving forward with your case.
How Long Will It Take to Settle My Case?
The time that it takes to settle a truck accident case varies and depends on many different factors. Typically, it will take months, depending on whether you are still receiving treatment for your injuries at the time you begin pursuing your claim.
Sometimes truck accident cases do not settle. When a case does not settle, it can be for any number of reasons.
In some cases, there may be a dispute over liability, and the insurance company for the other driver might not make any settlement offer. If that happens, your case may likely go to trial.
In other cases, settlement offers might be made, but they may not be fair or reasonable under the circumstances, so you might reject their best offer. In that case, your case can go to trial.
When your case moves forward with litigation, both sides begin the discovery process.
You may have to fill out questions from the other side under oath. These are called interrogatories.
You might also need to sit for a deposition. At a deposition, the lawyer for the other side will ask you questions which you must answer truthfully under oath.
If your case moves forward with litigation and eventually goes to trial, it can be a very long process, maybe even a year. Your truck accident attorney can give you a better timeline that is more specific to your individual case.
Have Questions About a Truck Accident You Were Involved In?
The attorneys at Premier Truck Accident Lawyers (PTAL) have over 52 years of combined experience in handling various types of personal injury lawsuits. They have a proven track record of success, achieving substantial settlements and awards for victims of accidents.
Speak with an attorney for free today by calling 1-866-999-9085 and learn more about what actions you can take if you were involved in an accident with a truck.
IV. The Statute of Limitations for Truck Accident Lawsuits in California
The statute of limitations for accident cases filed in the state of California is two years. This means that you are required to file your case within two years after the date of the truck accident.
Additionally, depending on the at-fault party or parties in your case, the time limit in which you must file your lawsuit might be even shorter. For claims that involve a government agency, these cases typically must be filed within six months.
It is always a good idea to talk to a law firm specializing in accidents about your case as soon as possible to ensure that your case is filed before deadlines expire.
Statutes of Limitations for lawsuits are strictly followed. If you do not file your case within this time, it is very likely that you will be barred from receiving compensation. There are some very limited circumstances in which you might be able to file your case after this date has passed, however, it is best to file your case right away.
V. Recovering Compensation for Your Case Even If You Were Partially at Fault
States in the U.S. have different laws regarding contributory negligence. You are contributorily negligent in a truck accident case if you shared some of the fault for causing or contributing to the accident due to your own negligence.
Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Fault
In some states, if you are found to be contributorily negligent, you are barred from recovery. This means that if you shared in the fault and were also negligent, then you would walk away with no compensation for your injuries.
The state of California is a pure comparative fault state. This means that a victim in a truck accident case can still recover some damages even if they are found to be 99% at fault for the collision.
However, when a jury awards compensation but finds the victim also at fault to some extent, the jury award given is reduced in accordance with their percentage of fault. For example, if a jury finds the victim to be 60% at fault for the accident, any award given by the jury for damages will be reduced by 60%.
Other states have different rules for these circumstances.
For example, Arkansas uses the modified comparative fault approach. With this approach, if the victim is found to be 50% or more at fault for the accident, then they will not recover damages.
VI. Damages for Truck Accident Victims
Victims of truck accident cases are entitled to damages, including:
- Economic Damages
Economic damages are quantifiable.
For example, economic damages may include replacing and repairing damaged vehicles, lost income, past, and future medical bills and costs, prescription medications, and other out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident. For most of these, there are actual bills or records that establish exactly what these amounts should be.
In a truck accident case, your lawyer will generally request that the at fault party pay for these damages as a part of any settlement. If your case ends up going to trial before a jury or a judge, your lawyer will include any economic damages that you suffered as part of your case in your request for damages.
- Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages include things that are more difficult to quantify or determine an exact dollar amount for the value.
Some examples of non-economic damages often included in truck accident cases are emotional distress, pain and suffering, disability, loss of affection and companionship, and disfigurement.
Some states have limitations or caps on the amount of money that can be awarded to a victim of a truck accident. In California, there is no cap for the number of damages that can be recovered.
However, there are some limitations in cases where a driver was uninsured at the time of the accident, along with certain other circumstances. A truck accident law firm can help you learn more about whether your case will be impacted by any limitations on damages.
- Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are available in cases where it can be shown that the at fault party acted with malice or caused the truck accident victim’s injury through extreme recklessness or intentional harm.
Punitive damages are designed to punish the at fault party for their reprehensible conduct.
These types of damages are rarer in accident cases. Your lawyer will be able to inform you about this and if it applies for your case.
Wrongful Death Cases
The unfortunate reality is that serious motor vehicle accidents involving trucks can result in deaths. If you have lost a loved one due to a truck accident, there are legal options available for you to pursue during this difficult time.
Under the California Code of Civil Procedure, certain living relatives of a deceased individual can file a wrongful death claim for their loved one’s death due to the truck accident. The following family members or loved ones can file this case with a California court:
- A surviving spouse, domestic partner, or putative spouse (a spouse of a void marriage found by the court to have believed their marriage was valid in good faith);
- The children of the deceased individual.
- Parents and siblings of the deceased individual.
- Any grandchildren of the deceased individual if their parents are no longer alive.
- Any other minor children in the household who were financially dependent on the deceased person (such as stepchildren).
- Most other individuals who stand to inherit from the deceased person’s estate in accordance with California intestate laws.
Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
The damages that are available in wrongful death cases in California are a bit different than the damages often available in other types of civil personal injury cases. Survivors who file a wrongful death case are entitled to get specific damages for their family member’s death which are set by state law.
Some examples of damages that are available in wrongful death cases include:
- Reasonable burial and funeral expenses.
- Loss of companionship.
- Loss of income and the financial support that the deceased individual would have brought in for the family if they were still alive.
Do I Need to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer for My Truck Accident Case?
While there is certainly no requirement that you need to have a lawyer handle your truck accident injury case, it is worth it in most cases. The legal issues involved in truck accidents can become complex very quickly.
Additionally, truck accidents tend to result in serious bodily injuries or even death. You might be entitled to a substantial amount of money to compensate you for your injuries.
A personal injury lawyer can often get a higher settlement for you than you would receive if you negotiated your settlement alone.
Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney for Your Truck Accident Case
You may not just need to sue the driver of the truck who hit you; you might also need to sue their employer or a local, state, or federal agency.
There are certain rules that must be followed to ensure that you are suing the proper parties. A California truck accident lawyer is best-suited to ensure that all necessary parties are included in your lawsuit.
Having a truck accident lawyer represent you is also hugely beneficial if the at-fault party’s insurance company does not make you an offer. Or, if the insurance company does make you an offer, it might be too small. A lawyer with years of experience negotiating settlements with insurance companies will know exactly what to do to negotiate a fair and reasonable offer for your case.
Finally, if no offer is made or you do not want to accept their final offer, an attorney will be able to help you move forward faster with litigation. Eventually, your lawyer can prepare your case for trial and represent you in court.
Ultimately, having a skilled and experienced California truck accident attorney handle your case can help to ease your mind and allow you to focus your time and energy recovering from your injuries. The attorneys at Premier Truck Accident Lawyers have the experience and skills required to help victims injured in truck accidents fight for the compensation that they deserve.
At PTAL, we fight tirelessly for our clients and work hard to ensure that each and every one of our clients receives the best possible result for their case. We know what it takes to successfully advocate for the results that our clients deserve.
Looking for more information or have questions about a recent truck accident? Speak with a truck accident lawyer today by calling toll free 1-866-999-9085 or by filling out the contact form on our website.
About the Author
For over 40 years Steven Peck's dedication to law has been unyielding. His approach to client representation and care is deeply respected by his colleagues and clients alike. Steven has extensive trial experience, with millions of dollars in damages recovered for clients in lawsuits throughout California.