The trucking industry is experiencing continued growth, largely due to the country’s vast and well-established network of highways. This transportation method is the dominant way to transport goods from manufacturers to warehouses and ultimately to resellers or end-users, with the ability to efficiently load and deliver multiple products in one operation. The economic and employment impact of the trucking industry in the United States surpasses that of other freight delivery methods.
Based on data from the American Trucking Association (ATA), in 2014, trucks carried an impressive 9.96 billion tons of freight throughout the country, accounting for a substantial 68.8% of all domestic freight transportation. The industry generated an astounding $700.4 billion in revenue and provided employment to over 7 million individuals. In 2013, the number of truck drivers on the road totaled 3.4 million, and commercial truck users contributed $16.5 billion in federal highway user fees.
Table of Contents
Role of a California Trucking Accidents Attorney in Proving Negligence and Liability
When handling trucking accident cases in California, a major part of a trucking accidents attorney’s research involves determining the fault for the accident through negligence. As an “at-fault” state, California allows victims to seek compensation for their personal injury cases by proving that someone else was negligent and responsible for the accident. However, California is also a “pure comparative negligence” state, which means that the victim’s compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault they bear.
Trucking accidents have unique circumstances not found in regular automobile accidents, requiring a California trucking accidents attorney to delve deeply into the evidence to prove their case. Despite truck drivers being more cautious than other drivers on the road, big rig truck crashes still result in thousands of fatalities and around 100,000 injuries each year across the nation. Various factors come into play, including unforeseen road hazards, negligence of other drivers, and the freight being carried on trucks, such as dangerous or flammable cargo that can amplify the injuries and damage caused by a collision.
The role of the truck accidents attorney is to demonstrate that the defendant did not take reasonable care to prevent the accident and the resulting injuries. Furthermore, the plaintiff’s attorney must determine the number of defendants to charge in a case, including trucking companies, employers, contractors, and others, in addition to the other driver. Liability for some trucking accidents also extends to parts and equipment manufacturers or providers. If the accident resulted from a mechanical problem, such as tire blowouts or brake failure, the manufacturer or installer may also bear responsibility for the accident.
California Truck Crash Fatalities and Injuries Statistics
Every day, truckers and other vehicles travel millions of lane miles across the United States. In 2013, trucks alone accounted for almost 3 million vehicle miles, with 329,534 miles traveled on California’s roads. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 574 truck drivers were killed in crashes that same year, accounting for approximately 18% of total vehicle fatalities. Out of 3,000 fatalities recorded in California that year, 243 involved large trucks.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a summary of truck crash facts in 2010, which revealed the number of accident injuries attributed to California truck crashes. The following statistics provide a simplified breakdown:
- 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
Although the trucking industry is focused on reducing injuries and fatalities, trucking accidents are still inevitable for various reasons, despite improvements in training and safety equipment. While the trend for crash numbers in recent years is slowing down, many individuals are still injured or killed in truck crashes every year.
Unique Dangers and Liability Factors in Trucking Accidents
Trucking accidents can be caused by driver error, fatigue, or road hazards, but truckers face additional and unique dangers that increase their risk of an accident. For instance, a large eighteen-wheeler may jackknife when brakes are suddenly applied or during quick turning moves. Liability in a jackknife accident can depend on the reason behind the jackknife occurrence, such as unforeseeable slipperiness on the road or the trucker making a sudden turn to avoid a collision. Additionally, the difficulty of turning a big truck may also be a factor in determining negligence.
When determining liability, an attorney considers various factors, such as whether the truck driver has an employment relationship with a trucking company. Many truckers are independent contractors, while others are controlled to some extent by a shipping company. If an accident occurs while the driver was under another company’s control, whether that company is also responsible may depend on the degree of supervision involved. Several insurance companies may also need to be involved to resolve liability and compensation issues.
Trucking accidents often result in bodily injury, particularly if there is a fire due to flammable liquids or cargo spillage. Compensation may be sought for medical expenses, work losses, damage to the vehicle, and other personal injury claims. In cases of loss of life, survivors may seek payment for loss of companionship, loss of guardianship, loss of future inheritance, lost income, and medical and funeral/burial expenses.
California’s Statute of Limitations on Truck Accidents
In California, as with all states in the US, injury claims are subject to a statute of limitations. This legal construct creates a deadline for filing claims in civil and criminal cases. If a claim is filed after this deadline, it may not be heard by the court and could be dismissed, irrespective of its merit.
In the case of truck accidents in California, the statute of limitations for filing a claim is two years from the date of the crash. It is crucial to file a claim within this time frame to ensure that the case is heard by the court and to avoid losing the opportunity to seek compensation.
While the statute of limitations may seem like an inconvenience, it serves an important legal purpose of protecting people, organizations, and government entities from frivolous or unwise lawsuits. The statute of limitations encourages people to seek swift recovery while protecting others from legal action that they cannot reasonably anticipate.
Importance of Seeking Experienced Legal Help for Trucking Accidents in California
The California code for personal injury is extensive and intricate, which is why an experienced attorney can quickly determine the best approach to handle your case. In California, there is a two-year time limit for filing claims under Personal Injury law. However, if the claims are against a government agency, the limit is only six months from the date of the accident. Failing to file your claims within the stipulated time can result in losing your chance to obtain fair compensation.
Commercial trucking accidents can be catastrophic, as recent news coverage has shown with extensive accident scenes and traffic tied up for hours while federal investigators arrive to conduct their investigations. Chain-reaction accidents involving hundreds of vehicles can also occur in high-speed and adverse weather conditions, such as fog. Moreover, high-tech devices on the vehicle can provide additional evidence for an attorney to use in a Personal Injury case.
Therefore, it is crucial to immediately seek the legal services of an experienced California trucking accidents attorney if you or your loved one has been involved in a trucking accident. Whether you are the truck driver, a family member, or were injured by a truck driver, you need legal advice and representation from a legal professional familiar with California personal injury law and trucking accidents.