California roads are famous for their traffic gridlock. Unfortunately, the high population of vehicles on the road leads to crashes, and those collisions are especially serious when they involve large trucks. According to 2019 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 9.8 percent of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes nationwide were large trucks.
In most truck accidents, pedestrians, cyclists, and occupants of other vehicles are more likely to be injured or killed than the driver of the truck. NHTSA data from 2019 indicates that only 18 percent of fatalities in crashes involving large trucks were occupants of the trucks. That means 82 percent were occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, or cyclists. The data for injuries is similar; 72 percent of people injured were pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a truck accident in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact the Scott Carr Law Firm. Call our San Francisco office at 415-799-2229. We’ll listen to your story and help you understand your options for a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
Federal Laws for Truck Drivers
Many of the large trucks on California’s highways are commercial vehicles. The federal government has specific regulations that drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) must follow. Here are some of the rules that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has created for CMV drivers:
- Must not drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Must not drive when impaired by illness or fatigue
- Must take adequate breaks and avoid driving too many hours over the course of the workweek
- Must not use a handheld cell phone or text while driving
- Must inspect the truck and all its parts (e.g. tires, coupling devices, lights, brakes) to ensure everything is in good working order
- Must ensure that the cargo is properly secured
There are many other specific rules for CMV drivers. These rules can be significant in a personal injury case when it comes to proving liability for an accident, especially if the crash was caused by a truck driver who wasn’t following them.
Liability for Truck Accidents in California
California has a “pure comparative negligence” law that affects liability in truck crashes. This law essentially means that the authorities who investigate a collision determine how much of a part each person played in the crash. Every party is assigned a percentage of fault. For example, if the truck was speeding when it rear-ended you, but you changed lanes without signaling, you may be considered partly responsible for the accident.
You may pursue compensation from any liable party. In a crash involving a large truck, this could mean several different parties:
- The driver
- The transportation company
- The maintenance provider
- The equipment manufacturer
Any or all of these individuals or companies may be considered partly at fault for the accident, depending on what exactly happened. Because these lawsuits can be so complicated, many people choose to hire a personal injury attorney to help them through the process.
How Much Compensation Can You Get?
California does not place any caps on damages in personal injury cases. That means the exact circumstances of the accident are the biggest factors in how much compensation you can receive.
In California, you can pursue economic and non-economic damages from the liable party in a personal injury case. Economic damages are related to the real amount of money the accident has cost you:
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning potential
- Medical bills
You can also pursue non-economic damages from the liable party or parties. The jurydecides the amount of non-economic damages to award for various considerations:
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (e.g. loss of sexual affection)
- Loss of enjoyment
While the jury determines the amount of non-economic damages to award you, how much you actually receive is based on your percent of liability in the accident. If you are found to be 10 percent at fault for the crash, you can only receive 90 percent of the total amount of non-economic damages awarded. If you were uninsured at the time of the accident, you may not pursue non-economic damages.
Should You Hire a Lawyer for a Truck Accident Case?
California law doesn’t require you to hire a lawyer to file a personal injury case, but there are potential benefits to doing so. Your lawyer can handle all communication with the other parties and insurance providers. They can also help you gather the evidence you need for your case.
There is a statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in California: two years, in most cases. If the truck crash also involved a government vehicle, then the statute of limitation is reduced to six months. It can be hard to figure out how to gather evidence and build a strong case, especially if you have to do it under a tight deadline while you are still recovering from your injuries. This is another reason to consider hiring an attorney.
What Causes California Trucking Accidents?
NHTSA data from 2019 shows that 7.7 percent of vehicles involved in fatal crashes in the state were large trucks. In that same year, large truck crashes killed 287 occupants of other vehicles and 65 nonoccupants (e.g. pedestrians). While every accident is unique, there are several common causes of trucking accidents:
- Improperly secured cargo
- Distracted driving
- Equipment failure (e.g. brakes, cargo securing devices)
While impaired driving and speeding frequently cause accidents with all types of motor vehicles, crashes are particularly dangerous when they involve large trucks.
Common Injuries in Truck Accidents
All motor vehicle accidents can cause severe injuries, but crashes involving large trucks are often worse. Because these large trucks are so much heavier than other vehicles, they tend to cause significant property damage and serious injuries:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Internal injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
Whiplash and other “minor” injuries can cause severe pain and even permanent disability. It’s important to consider the long-term effects of your injuries when deciding whether to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
Steps to Take After a Truck Crash
If you are involved in a truck crash, here are some steps you should take (if possible):
- Move away from traffic and call the police.
- Check on other individuals involved in the accident and call for an ambulance if necessary. Do not move an injured person unless they are in immediate danger.
- Gather names and contact information for all other involved individuals and witnesses.
- Record the truck’s license number and the transportation company’s name.
- Document and take pictures of your injuries and damage to your vehicle.
- See a healthcare provider for a checkup as soon as possible, even if you do not think you are injured. TBI and other injuries may not be immediately obvious.
You may want to contact a personal injury attorney, even if you don’t know whether you will be filing a lawsuit. An attorney can help you navigate the insurance claim and let you know your legal options if the settlement isn’t enough to cover your costs.
Talk to a Personal Injury Expert at the Scott Carr Law Firm About Your Truck Accident Case
Semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, and commercial vehicles make up a large percentage of traffic on California’s roads, freeways, and highways. Unfortunately, these big, heavy vehicles can cause significant damage in a collision, leading to severe injuries and death.
At the Scott Carr Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping victims and their families get fair compensation for the devastating consequences of a truck accident. We help people in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout California who have been affected by a truck driver’s dangerous or negligent driving. To schedule a free consultation, call our San Francisco office at 415-799-2229.