Truck accidents can occur through negligent operation, poor maintenance, or driver exhaustion. When these accidents occur, they cause serious injury or death to innocent drivers. Truck accident lawyers will know the laws around trucking accidents and will also hold all responsible parties liable.
A knowledgeable San Jose truck accident lawyer at Suits Litigation Inc. will investigate an accident in the most thorough way possible. Additionally, they will look into every aspect of the accident to hold all necessary parties liable.
Why Hire a Truck Accident Attorney?
Truck accidents are more complicated than car accidents. Typically, we assume that the only people who can be held liable in an accident are the drivers involved. That is not the case in trucking accidents, which is why it is critical to have a skilled attorney on your side.
Even though the majority of truck drivers are cautious and responsible, accidents can occur as a result of drivers not getting enough rest or skipping necessary maintenance to stay on schedule. When the truck driver is at fault, then the injured victim will want to go after them for compensation, which can be more difficult than in a regular car accident.
A truck accident victim will need an experienced truck accident attorney to file a lawsuit against the trucking company that employed the driver who hit their car in order to recover damages after an injury. Trucking companies have enough money to compensate injured people for their losses, but they also have enough money to pay for legal representation so that victims do not have to accept a large settlement. Victims may not be able to take on the transportation companies alone because they likely have a legal team ready to offer a lower settlement or have the case dismissed.
Types of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents can happen in a variety of ways. The following are the most common types of truck accidents:
- Accidents Due to Spilled Cargo: when cargo is not properly secured in a truck bed or trailer, it can fall off and cause accidents. Additionally, when carrying substances, it is possible that the trailer has an issue, which can lead to a spill of a potentially hazardous substance.
- Head-on collisions: this can occur at intersections when a party fails to stop or when a vehicle turns the wrong way down a road.
- Jack-knife accident: one of the more common types of truck accidents, which occurs when the trailer of the truck pushes the tractor unit towing the truck to one side. This happens when a truck has to come to a sudden halt.
- Rollover incidents: this can happen through side impact, which then forces the truck to tip and roll over, sometimes multiple times.
- T-Bone accident: also called a side impact, happens when the truck hits a car on its side, forming a T.
- Underride Mishaps: less common, but still occurs when a truck or driver switches lanes and another vehicle ends up below the truck.
Following a truck accident, it is critical to examine the entire scene and collect as much evidence as possible. The safety of all drivers and passengers is of the utmost importance. Photographs should be taken for evidence after securing the scene and ensuring everyone’s safety.
Truck Laws and Requirements
Driving a large truck, semi-truck, or other commercial motor vehicle necessitates more specialized knowledge than driving a standard vehicle. Truck drivers are required by California and federal law to have special licensing. This specialized license is known as a CDL or Commercial Driver’s License. Prior to taking a CDL exam, proof of insurance must be presented. Truck drivers must follow special insurance guidelines, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles:
- $300,000 combined single limit
- $500,000 for injury or death (1 person), $1,000,000 for injury or death (2 or more persons), $200,000 for property damage, or $1,200,000 combined single limit when transporting petroleum products
- $750,000 combined single limit when Vehicle Weight is more than 10,001 lbs
- A combined single limit of $1,000,000 when carrying hazardous materials
- The federal government requires trucks commuting in interstate commerce (across state lines) to carry $750,000 of bodily and property coverage
Insurance companies in California are required by law to electronically report private-use vehicle insurance information to the DMV. However, insurance providers are exempt from reporting if the vehicles are covered by commercial or business insurance policies.
Investigating a Truck Accident Claim
Truck accident attorneys conduct investigations of their own when filing a truck accident claim, which includes a thorough examination of police reports, accident scene photographs, and other critical data. The investigation may also include reviewing witness testimony and potentially speaking with witnesses. To begin their case and identify points of liability, attorneys will obtain and review police and crash reports and any information obtained at the scene by the parties.
Moreover, an attorney will review photographs in conjunction with the accident report to ensure that everything is correct and matches all records. This ensures that nothing was overlooked and that all points of liability have been established.
Following that, an attorney will read and obtain statements from witnesses and the scene, as well as hire their own expert witnesses to assist in recreating the scene and providing expert testimony on the type of crash and damages that could have been sustained.
Lawyers will procure all medical records, including expense receipts, and any details about missed work or inability to work, doctor evaluations establishing mental health, and any other documents in support of a monetary award. The attorney will be the one to help determine the cause of action and the amount of damages sought.
Liability After a Truck Accident
Commercial truck accidents differ from regular vehicle accidents because the truck driver involved is frequently employed by the trucking company. As the trucker’s employer, the trucking company may be held liable for the actions of its drivers as well as the maintenance and safety of their trucks. A truck accident may involve several other parties in addition to the truck driver and the carrier. They may include:
- Local government employees or contractors who are in charge of highway design or maintenance
- The owner of the cargo
- Vendors who provide services to the carrier
An independent investigation will likely be required to determine who should be held accountable for the injuries and other damages.
Following a commercial truck accident, a wide range of data should be examined to determine what happened and who is legally responsible. This includes gathering evidence at the scene, obtaining police reports, and conducting an investigation into the truck and other vehicles involved in the collision. This will include downloading data from any recording devices (like the black box) and any roadside cameras.
Possible Responsible Parties in a Truck Accident
The driver of the truck will not always be responsible for a truck accident. As previously stated, the cargo company may be responsible, but there are more than those two parties that can be involved in a crash. There are a lot of parties involved in trucking operations that can be at fault for an accident, including:
- Government entities: If a road hazard causes a truck accident, the local or state government responsible for that section of the route may be held liable. A government-hired maintenance contractor may be held liable if the work they performed caused a problem or if a work zone setup resulted in a crash.
- Cargo and shipping companies: Some carriers operate as independent contractors, transporting goods for other companies. Individual parties in such a transaction, such as the cargo originator, shipper, loader, and transporter, are each responsible for adhering to applicable federal and state standards and can be held liable if they are negligent.
- Carrier: The carrier is in charge of the trucks and truck drivers that it employs. This includes hiring and training methods, which could be an issue if the company employs drivers with a history of driving or FMCSA regulation violations. Records may reveal that a carrier allows circumventing FMCSA hours of service (HOS) restrictions or vehicle maintenance and inspection regulations in order to save money and expedite services. If a driver causes an accident and is found to have exceeded hours, the carrier will be at fault.
Inspection of the accident will lead to the party or parties who could be responsible for the accident. Even if the driver is at fault, it is possible to add two or more defendants that share in fault. However, they will share in damages depending on the amount of fault. A plaintiff cannot recover 100% from multiple parties. For example, if a driver is 50% at fault, then they will be responsible for 50% of the damages.
Delivery Truck Accidents
A delivery company, such as Amazon, UPS, or FedEx, will never automatically accept liability in the event of an accident. They never want to pay a large sum on a claim. Therefore, it is the injured party’s responsibility to prove their claim and demonstrate fault. Furthermore, there may be multiple parties involved in an accident, which means that there may be multiple avenues for receiving compensation for damages.
Employers are liable for an employee’s negligent actions under California law. Because delivery companies directly employ their drivers (rather than contracting them out), an accident will be covered by the company’s insurance rather than the driver’s.
Truck Accident Statistics in the United States and California
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were 4,444 fatal crashes and 101,000 injury crashes among the approximately 415,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in the most recently reported year.
In the same year, single-vehicle crashes accounted for 22% of all fatal crashes, 16% of all injury crashes, and 24% of all property damage only crashes involving large trucks. The majority of fatal large truck crashes, 62 percent, involved two vehicles.
California has some of the highest amounts of fatal truck accidents annually, according to traffic data and statistics. In fact, Texas is the only state with more fatal truck crashes each year. Every year, nearly 113 people are killed in truck accidents in California. Injuries occur in nearly 3,000 truck accidents in the state.
Truck accidents kill between 200 and 300 drivers each year across the state. The majority of truck accidents in California happen on the highway.
Filing a Truck Accident Claim
A statute of limitations applies to all personal injury claims, including truck accident claims. A Statute of Limitations governs the amount of time that a victim of an accident, specifically a truck accident, has to file a lawsuit. In the state of California, a person has two years from the date of the truck accident to file a lawsuit for their damages.
Before filing a lawsuit with the court, injured victims will want to call the insurance company of the driver or person at-fault to file a claim. They will likely ask for all relevant information, including medical costs and recorded statements. It is best to stick strictly to the facts and avoid saying statements like “I could be somewhat to blame.” Any trace of shared fault could lead the insurance company will dismiss or lessen the claim.
Once the claim has been reported, an insurance adjuster will get involved. Do not negotiate with the insurance adjuster and advise them that you are represented by an attorney. This will force all conversations to go through your attorney.
Your San Jose truck accident lawyer will try to negotiate with the insurance adjuster. Sometimes, the parties will not be able to meet on an agreed settlement. If this is the case, the attorney will speak with their client and discuss the next steps, which will likely include filing a lawsuit in court.
At this point, the attorney will have already investigated the claim and know what damages can be included in the complaint. This will make filing a lawsuit easier. If the victim agrees to filing a suit, the attorney will proceed with filing it with the court and serving the summons on the defendant. From there, the case will proceed through normal litigation and discovery. Filing a lawsuit will sometimes force a higher settlement on the defendant—no one likes to go to trial, but the San Jose truck accident lawyers at Suits Litigation are always prepared to fight for our clients.
Hiring a San Jose Truck Accident Attorney
Please feel free to call our San Jose, California office at (408) 539-6318 for a free consultation with James regarding your truck accident and how he can help you receive the compensation you deserve.