Trucks are a necessity for this country’s roadways to move things like building materials, food, and clothing to people who need them. A truck accident attorney San Diego knows all too well that the importance of these trucks can’t be overshadowed by the risk they pose to other drivers. Every driver on the road, including those behind the wheel of a commercial truck, needs to know the laws involving trucks and truck accidents.
Differences and Similarities Between Big Trucks and Regular Cars
The obvious difference between the thousands of big trucks on the roads and your personal vehicle is size. Most of us would prefer to hit something smaller if it came down to choosing one or the other.
Something drivers don’t always think about is the additional weight the truck is carrying. Granted, the government sets limits on how much weight any truck can haul depending on the type of truck it is. For a tandem or double axle truck, there may be as much as 34,000 pounds of freight in the back. Combined with the weight of the truck, the total gross vehicle weight is an amazing 80,000 pounds!
Compare to the average weight of a car at just over 4,000 pounds. That means, if the truck strikes your vehicle, it will have a much greater impact than a regular vehicle. What’s more, the faster the truck is traveling, the greater the impact force. Interstates across the country have legal speed limits of between 55 and 85 mph. That’s why truck accidents often have much more severe consequences for the other driver and their passengers.
Other Factors That Make Commercial Trucks so Dangerous
The size and weight of commercial trucks are what make them so dangerous in a collision. But, something has to go wrong to cause an accident in the first place. Sometimes the condition of the truck is to blame. In other cases, it is an overworked driver who is tired or distracted from the road.
Over the years, state and federal laws have been put in place to help prevent truck accidents. They also help determine who is at fault when a truck accident occurs. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation regulate these laws at the federal level. In addition, each state has an independent department of transportation to regulate trucks traveling in and out of their state.
As you might guess, truck drivers and the companies that own and operate them are responsible for following many laws. A truck accident attorney in San Diego knows the laws that apply to truck accidents in the state of California. If you or a loved one is the victim of a truck accident, the primary goal of your attorney is to determine the cause and who is at fault. The driver, the company they work for, or both may be responsible for the accident.
Commercial Driver’s License Requirement
Federal law requires commercial truck drivers to obtain a special commercial driver’s license or CDL. Different classes of licenses are classified according to the types of commercial trucks the driver will drive. Some states have statutes that differ somewhat in the regulations. If a driver doesn’t have the required CDLs, it can have an impact on your accident claim.
Hours of Service
Before strict regulations on how long a truck driver could stay behind the wheel were put into effect, it was common practice to go for many miles and hours without a break. Sometimes this was due to deadlines for freight delivery. In other instances, it was the driver who wanted to clear more miles and make more money. It was also common practice for truckers to rely on “No-Doz” and other stimulants to keep them awake.
Today, the “Hours of Service” determine how long drivers can drive before taking a break and resting. Many companies strictly enforce the maximum number of miles and hours that any driver can log during a specified period of time. Keeping their drivers alert helps protect the driver, the company, and other innocent drivers on the road.
Regulations on the manufacture, repairs, and maintenance on the trucks ensure that they stay in optimal operating condition. Features that enhance safety, such as air brake systems, only work when kept in good condition. When quality control of the truck is not maintained and it results in an accident, you could have a claim of product liability. The truck accident attorney in San Diego you use can explain your rights.
Transport of Hazardous Waste
Anyone who works in the healthcare industry recognizes the guidelines for handling hazardous waste in the workplace. Trucking companies that transport hazardous waste must follow OSHA regulations to prevent them from harming others. If they fail to do so, the truck company and the driver are liable for any injuries you incurred as a result.
Proving Liability in Your Truck Accident
Like any type of personal injury, one that occurs from a truck accident occurs due to someone else’s negligence. The driver may be liable if they broke a law when the accident happened. The company the driver works for may be liable just because the driver is their employee.
A good San Diego truck accident attorney will know the different ways that the driver’s or trucking company’s behavior makes them liable for your injuries. Once you hire an attorney to represent you, the first thing he or she will do is determine the truck driver’s liability. The best way to do this is to start with the cause of the accident and then determine who was at fault. Liability is determined by something someone did or something they didn’t do.
Some circumstances that prove liability include:
- Driving under the influence
- Hiring a driver with a history of DUIs
- Failing to have a truck repaired when needed
- Providing insufficient training
- Distracted driving
- Manufacture of a defective part
The list of potential reasons for a liability claim goes on and on. Any time a law is broken or regulations are not met, there is a case for liability.
The combination of federal and state laws and regulations truck drivers must abide by are difficult for the average individual to understand simply because they are so complex. The process gets even more complicated once you start trying to break the liability down to the driver or the truck company. Even though the factors surrounding the case may seem obvious at first, there may be more layers to the case than you realize once interested parties start digging. In some cases, the insurance company or the trucking company may try to place part of the blame on you.
Since California is a “Pure Comparative Negligence” state, it is possible that you could receive a portion of the fault. For example, if you were speeding when the truck struck you, you are partially to blame for the accident. You can only collect compensation for the portion of the fault of the other driver.
Damages are the expenses that you can get from the at-fault driver in your truck accident. Your truck accident attorney in San Diego can help you determine the number of damages you should pursue. These include:
- Medical Bills – Starting with the ambulance ride to the hospital and continuing with therapy and ongoing treatment that you will need, possibly for the rest of your life.
- Pain & Suffering – The anxiety, physical and mental impact of pain, pain management therapy, and other causes of mental or physical distress that impact your quality of life.
- Loss of Income – Growing medical bills seem to mount even higher when you can’t work due to your injuries. Loss of income includes treatment and recovery for your injuries as well as follow-up appointments or therapy.
- Loss of Earning Capacity – The long-term inability to earn an income.
- Loss of Companionship – The loss of affection from a loved one in the case of wrongful death of a loved one.
You may also receive compensation for special damages caused by the accident.
The very nature of truck accidents increases the risk of fatalities. In addition to the severity of injuries that many people endure, some are also killed either on impact or within a short period after the accident occurs. While the majority of deaths occur in accidents between large trucks and passenger vehicles, there are exceptions to the rule. Sometimes, the death occurs to pedestrians, road workers, bicycle riders, and even other truckers.
A wrongful death is when a personal injury is so severe that it ends the person’s life. If you lose a loved one due to a truck accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim. It doesn’t matter if your loved one was the driver of another vehicle, working or walking on the side of the road, or a passenger in the car with you.
The damages for a wrongful death claim include the loss of companionship. There is a great deal of anguish from losing someone close to you in a terrible and unexpected manner. If they had medical treatment prior to their death, you can collect compensation for that as well. The at-fault party is also liable for their final expenses and the loss of income if you depended on them for your needs.
An experienced San Diego truck accident attorney can discuss your rights according to California law. Each state has specific laws about who can file a wrongful death claim and the types of damages they can get. Losing someone in a truck accident is emotionally devastating. The last thing you want to deal with is the financial burden that the loss can incur.
Preventing Truck Accidents
Trucks are essential to the freight delivery system in our country. Trucks transport nearly every type of goods we use. There’s simply no getting away from the need to share the roads with them. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to help prevent being the victim of a truck accident.
For one, keep in mind that it takes nearly three times as long for a big truck to stop as it does for a passenger vehicle. Never pull in front of a truck or cut them off in their driving lane. Even the best efforts of the driver aren’t enough to prevent a collision.
You’ve probably seen signs on big trucks that say “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” Truckers have numerous blind spots in every direction. Never assume that the driver can see you. Even if you can see their reflection in their side mirrors, don’t take any chances. They can’t watch the road ahead and every car beside and behind them at the same time.
Stay off of a truck’s bumper, especially when you follow it through slow traffic. Most drivers roll back a short distance when starting out from a red light or other traffic stops.
Never pass a turning truck. Their long length requires them to swing out farther than a normal sized car, putting you at a greater risk of a collision.
Accidents aren’t always the fault of the truck driver. If you obey the laws and give big trucks the room they need to drive safely, it can help prevent some accidents from ever happening.
If you are in a truck accident in spite of your best efforts, contact a truck accident attorney in San Diego for advice on what to do next. Trucks operate under more complex laws than cars and the laws pertaining to truck accidents are more complex too. Only an experienced truck accident attorney knows if the truck driver or the company they work for is liable for your injuries and the damage to your vehicle.
If you need the advice of an experienced truck accident attorney in San Diego, contact Batta Fulkerson. We make you our number one priority and give your case the attention it deserves. We work to get our clients the best settlement for their injuries so they can take the time they need to recover. You never have to worry about getting a lower settlement than you need or deserve. We will fight for your best interests and rights.