The truck transportation industry is still growing, in part due to an excellent and broad system of highways across the country. Trucking is the dominant way to deliver freight direct from the manufacturer to a warehouse and then to a reseller or end user. Multiple products can be loaded, shipped and delivered in one smooth operation. The monetary and employment contribution of the trucking industry to the country is much higher than that made by other methods of freight delivery.
According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), in 2014, trucks delivered over 9.96 billion tons of freight nationwide, accounting for a whopping 68.8% of all domestic freight transported. The revenues from this industry totaled $700.4 billion, with over 7 million people employed. In 2013, there were 3.4 million truck drivers on the road, and $16.5 billion in federal highway user fees were paid by commercial truck users.
California Trucking Accidents Attorney
Much of the research performed by a California Trucking Accidents Attorney centers around determining that fault for an accident was due to negligence. California is an “at fault” state, which means a victim can seek compensation for their personal injury case by proving that someone else was negligent and that responsibility for the accident was due to that negligent behavior. California also is a “pure comparative negligence” state, so if it is proven that the victim also had some part in causing the accident, any compensation they get awarded will be reduced by the percentage of fault they bear.
Trucking accidents involve special circumstances not found in auto accidents. A California Trucking Accidents Attorney must dig deep into the evidence and associated elements to prove their case. While it is true that truck drivers are being more careful than automobile drivers on the road, big rig truck crashes still cause thousands of fatalities and around 100,000 injuries nationwide each year. Multiple factors are in play, including unforeseen road hazards, negligence of other drivers and the very loads of freight being carried on trucks. Flammable materials or dangerous cargo can greatly enlarge the injuries and damage caused by a collision.
It is the attorney’s job to show that a defendant did not take reasonable care to prevent injury or an accident. In addition to this task, the plaintiff’s attorney also has to determine how many other defendants to charge in a case, such as trucking companies, employers, contractors and others in addition to the other driver. In addition, liability for some trucking accidents extends to parts and equipment manufacturers or providers. If the accident resulted from a tire blow-out, brake failure or other mechanical problem, that manufacturer or an installer may also bear liability for an accident.
California Trucking Accidents
Millions of lane miles are travelled each day by truckers and other vehicles. Trucks alone racked up almost 3 million vehicle miles in 2013 nationwide, with 329,534 of those miles on California roadways. In that same year, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records, 574 people driving trucks were killed in crashes, approximately 18% of total vehicle fatalities. Of a total of 3,000 fatalities in California that year, 243 fatalities involved a large truck.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a tally of crash facts for trucks that reflects the portion of accident injuries attributed to California truck crashes in 2010. Here is a breakdown of those statistics, simplified:
- Non-Fatal Crashes: 8,282 Large Trucks; 1,118 Buses
- Injury Crashes: 2,948 Large Trucks; 679 Buses
- Personal Injuries: 3,852 involving Large Trucks; 1,198 involving Buses
The industry is focused on reducing injuries and fatalities, and the trend for crash numbers in recent years is are slowing down, but many people still will be injured or killed in truck crashes every year. Despite improvements in training and safety equipment, trucking accidents are inevitable, for many reasons.
Trucking Accidents – Causes/Injuries
While many trucking accidents are caused by driver error, fatigue or road hazards, there are additional, unique dangers that truckers face. A large eighteen-wheeler is subject to jackknifing when brakes are suddenly applied or there is a quick turning move. The truck driver may or may not be liable in a jackknife accident, depending upon the reason the jackknife occurred. For example, if there was unforeseeable slipperiness on that road, or the trucker had to make a sudden turn to avoid hitting another vehicle, it may not be considered to be negligence. Another factor is the difficulty of actually turning a big truck. Sometimes, it takes the use of both lanes to make a wide right turn. This may or may not constitute negligence in the eyes of a court.
- Liability – In determining liability, the attorney looks at many factors, including whether or not the truck driver has an employment relationship with a trucking company. Many truckers are independent contractors, but others are controlled in some degree by a shipping company. If an accident occurs while the driver was under the control of another company, whether that company is also a responsible company may hinge upon the degree of supervision involved. There may also be several insurance companies that the attorney needs to work with to resolve liability and compensation issues.
- Injuries – bodily injury is common in trucking accidents, especially if there is any type of fire due to flammable liquids or cargo spillage. Compensation may be sought to pay for medical expenses, work losses, damage to the vehicle and other claims typical of personal injury lawsuits. When there is loss of life, the survivors will seek payment for loss of companionship, loss of guardianship, loss of future inheritance, lost income, medical and funeral/burial expenses.
Personal Injury Compensation
The California code for Personal Injury is extensive and complex; an experienced attorney will be able to quickly determine how best to handle your case. There is a two year time limit for filing claims under California Personal Injury law. If your claims are against any government agency, that limit is less, just six months time from the date of your accident. If you delay getting your claims filed, you could lose any chance to obtain fair compensation.
Commercial trucking accidents can be very horrific, as seen in recent news coverage of many extensive accident scenes. Traffic can be tied up for hours, because trucks cannot be moved until federal investigators arrive at the scene and do their work. When high speeds and weather conditions aggravate an accident, as happens in foggy conditions, there could be hundreds of vehicles involved in chain-reaction accidents as well. There may also be high tech devices on the vehicle with data to find and examine, which can provide additional evidence for an attorney to use in a Personal Injury case.
It is important to immediately contact and obtain the legal services of an experienced California Trucking Accidents Attorney if you or a loved one has been involved in a trucking accident. Whether you are the truck driver, family member, or were injured by a truck driver, you need to get legal advice and representation from a legal profession who is familiar with California Personal Injury Law and trucking accidents.