Truck accidents are usually terrifying and fatal. These big rigs’ colossal size and weight mean that those involved in truck accidents sustain severe injuries or a high risk of death. There are multiple causes of truck accidents like driver negligence, unroadworthy cars, poor roads, and unfavorable weather conditions. Based on the circumstances and the severity of the crash, you might suffer injuries ranging from minor injuries, life-changing injuries, or even death. Proving the cause of an accident is not easy, but you can simplify the process with the help of an attorney.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Truck drivers work with tight schedules and pressure to deliver commodities to the destination on time. The tight schedule puts a lot of pressure on these drivers, causing stress while driving, which increases the risk of truck accidents. The primary causes of truck collisions fall into three classifications; those caused by the truck driver, driver of the other car, or environmental conditions. Apart from these, car malfunctioning can also cause an accident even when the driver is careful.
If you suffer injuries from a truck collision, understanding the cause of the crash is critical in identifying the liable individuals during your injury claim. The significant causes of truck accidents are:
As mentioned above, truck drivers operate on tight schedules. Sometimes, they are forced to stay on the road for more than 10 hours, which causes a loss of concentration. Other times, driving for long hours can cause loneliness which might tempt them, even the most professional drivers, to start operating the phone, talking over the phone, surfing, or texting. Also, checking the navigation system, changing the radio, or adjusting the volume can distract the driver from the road, causing a severe accident.
All commercial drivers in California must undergo vigorous training and licensing to ensure that they have the skills to operate the big rigs safely. Unfortunately, the trucking industry is dealing with a driver shortage, and most of the existing drivers are seniors above the age of 55. This shortage of drivers can push some companies to hire drivers and put them on the road without proper safety training. Driving a truck without maneuvering and safety operation training, the risk of causing a fatal accident is high. In these cases, the truck company is often held responsible for negligence.
Drunk or Drugged Driving
Drinking and driving or operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs are the leading causes of truck accidents in California. Despite driving under the influence being an offense, many commercial truck drivers with a duty of care towards other road users violate this obligation by operating trucks while intoxicated. Sometimes, even lawfully prescribed medications can impair a driver’s judgment, increasing the risk of an accident. When intoxicated, a driver loses concentration on the road, increasing the chances of an accident. Intoxication also slows down reaction to distance perception or time, which causes truck collisions.
Some of the significant behaviors portrayed by truck drivers that increase the risk of an accident are:
- Turning without signaling
- Not pulling over during an emergency
- Lane swerving
- Improper lane merging
Any of the above conducts increases the risk of an accident. If you have been involved in a truck accident where you feel one of the drivers involved in the crash might have been intoxicated, you should check on the status of the drivers and other occupants. If you discover signs of intoxication and call law enforcement, you will have a strong case because the police report will indicate the driver was under the influence.
As stated earlier, truck drivers are usually in a rush against time to beat the deadline. Sometimes, achieving this might require excessive speeding. With the size and weight of commercial trucks, it’s easy to lose control of the automobile or fail to stop when you exceed the designated speed limit, causing a crash. The rush to arrive at the destination on time also pushes truck operators to follow the vehicles ahead too closely, increasing the risk of an accident.
Mechanical Malfunction and Poor Truck Maintenance
Trucking companies, truck owners, and drivers are responsible for meeting the strict maintenance provided in the industry regulations. Unfortunately, many of these individuals abscond their duty by failing to maintain their trucks properly. Companies or auto repair outlets contracted to perform maintenance on the big rigs also might do a poor job, leaving the truck prone to mechanical malfunction, increasing the risk of a collision.
While the primary causes of truck accidents are impaired driving, distracted driving, and driver error, mechanical defects increase the possibility of a truck accident significantly. Although some vehicle defects are undetectable, if regular and proper maintenance is done on the truck, these defaults can be detected on time and addressed before the big rig returns to the road. However, having a truck sitting in a garage for long hours when it should be delivering products to clients doesn’t resonate well with many trucking companies, thus the improper maintenance and malfunctions.
When you sustain injuries or lose a loved one in a truck accident stemming from a malfunction or inadequate maintenance, you can sue the company or the people charged with the truck’s maintenance for negligence.
Some of the issues that might indicate the cause of the truck collision was a defective part, or poor maintenance are:
- Weak, defective, or inadequately inflated tires
- Faulty brake lights
- Broken tail lights make it challenging for drivers to see obstacles on the road
- Worn out steering system that might have caused the truck driver to lose control
When seeking compensation for your injuries, you must demonstrate that the mechanical malfunction or poor maintenance was the cause of the truck to obtain compensation. Sometimes the accident might result from a manufacturing defect, making it necessary to work closely with an experienced injury attorney specializing in truck accidents. These legal professionals will work with accident reconstruction experts to establish the cause of the crash and identify the liable parties.
The number of hours truck operators spend on the road is limited to avoid driver fatigues. When a driver operates the truck for ten to eleven hours, they should rest as provided by the law before continuing with their journey. However, the need to make more money and deliver the load to its destination on time might force these drivers to be on the road longer than required, causing fatigue. Tired drivers are likely to fall asleep behind the wheel or have low concentration, increasing the possibility of a crash.
Some roads in California have some uncorrected defects that are a considerable risk to all road users. These defects are:
- Excessive grades
- Uneven pavements
- Obstacles on the roads
- Lack of bumps on the road
- Missing or broken traffic lights
Any of these road defects increase the risk of a truck causing an accident. Note that if the road defect has been in existence for a long time, you will have a stronger personal injury claim because the defect ought to have been corrected long ago by the responsible parties.
After an accident where you suspect defective road conditions to have been the cause, you should take photos of the road conditions and document them because they will be crucial in winning your claim.
When you sustain injuries from a road accident, you should find the local government agency in charge of the road. If a company has been contracted to do the work, the company will be held liable for the truck collision if they didn’t complete the work on time or did a poor job. Other times, it might not be clear who is to take responsibility for the crash. This is where an injury attorney comes in. Using their experience, your legal team will find the liable party and gather evidence to prove negligence.
Overloading and Unsafely Loaded Cargo
The law requires that cargo-hauling be secure and immobile. Additionally, truck restraints should indicate the type of cargo being hauled and its weight. Unbalanced cargo can cause tire burst, cargo spill, or truck driver to lose control of the truck, causing an accident.
Similarly, a minor obstruction on the road can cause the truck driver to swerve a little bit. If the cargo is improperly loaded, it might spill on the road resulting in hazardous road conditions that end up causing accidents. On the other hand, overloading might result in tire burst, brake failure, or cause the truck to take long when stopping, which results in an accident.
Unfavorable Weather Conditions
Driving in adverse weather conditions increases the risk of accidents, regardless of the level of carefulness by road users. Not putting the proper measures in place during these times of adverse weather increases the risk of truck accidents. Some of the hazardous road conditions that could result in big rig crashes include:
- High rainfall and snow make the road slippery, and it's easy for trucks to slide. Further, snow affects visibility by truck drivers, reducing reaction time thus increasing the chances of a collision.
- High winds might blow snow dust and other obstacles on the road, reducing visibility. The winds can also cause tree branches to fall on the road making maneuvering difficult for drivers.
- Fog on the road decreases visibility and road judgment
How Do You Source Truck Accident Evidence?
Whatever the cause of the truck collision that led to your injuries, you need evidence to obtain compensation. Without adequate evidence, you will have a weak case that is likely to result in minimum compensation or no compensation at all. So, it's crucial to know where to find evidence for your case. The likely sources of the proof you need to win the claim include:
- The black box data
- CCTV footage at the scene
- Dashcam footage
- Eyewitness statements
- Expert witness testimony
- Videos and pictures from the accident stage
- The accident report from the law enforcement officers that arrive at the scene
- Tollbooth receipts
- Truck driver’s phone records
- Food and gas receipts
Remember, testimony from expert witnesses plays a critical role in your case’s outcome. Finding these expert witnesses is not a walk in the pack, especially if it’s your first time to be involved in an accident. Luckily, hire an attorney right after the crash. They will find expert witnesses to investigate the crash, the injuries sustained and the economic damages stemming from the crash for maximum compensation. These experts include accident reconstruction professionals, engineers, medical professionals, and economists.
How Do You Preserve The Evidence Gathered?
The best way to preserve evidence from a truck collision is by obtaining a copy of the police report. Remember, the police visit the scene to conduct investigations. The reports from the law enforcement officers usually capture all the details of the accident, including pictures, videos, witness statements, and their expert opinion regarding the crash.
Furthermore, you don’t necessarily need to rely on the police report to gather and preserve evidence. You can take pictures, record videos, and collect the drivers’ contact information involved in the collision. You can save these pictures and a soft copy of the police report in the cloud storage so that even if the physical documents are damaged, you can still retrieve the soft copies.
Who is Liable in a Truck Accident?
Truck crashes are very complex, and establishing the responsible party is not a walk in the park. If the collision is between a big rig and a car, the only witnesses might be the two drivers making it difficult to establish fault when there are no witnesses. Furthermore, the crashes might involve multiple vehicles and victims, making the crashes more complex.
You will need to retain the services of an injury attorney if you want a positive outcome. If the truck driver is the negligent party, they must compensate the passengers injured in the other vehicle. However, faulty must be proved first before damages are awarded. Some of the liable parties in truck collisions include:
- The trucking company if the truck was overloaded or the cargo was loaded unsafely
- The truck manufacturer if the accident was caused by a faulty part or malfunction
- The company tasked with loading the cargo
- A truck repair shop that performs repairs and maintenance
- The employer of the truck driver
- Weighing station officials for allowing an overloaded truck to be on the road
Suppose a fault or defective part led to the crash. In that case, you should request maintenance reports and other relevant documents to determine if a truck underwent maintenance regularly as the regulations state. You should also obtain witness statements regarding the accident because you might need people to testify in court. Gathering all this discovery for a person without knowledge of truck accident injury claims is next to impossible. You need an attorney to guide you to the proper evidence and help you find the at-fault individual.
Dealing With Insurance Companies
Many parties can be liable in a truck accident, including big trucking companies. Dealing with these corporations as an individual can be challenging because they can afford large teams of lawyers and deal with large law firms. Dealing with these legal experts in person can be challenging, which makes legal counsel critical. Further, insurance companies want to settle the case fast and settle with the least amount of money. Your attorney will ensure this doesn’t happen and that you don’t take the first deal offered by an insurance adjuster because it’s not the best.
Apart from offering the least amount of compensation, insurers might also try to turn the blame on you, and you could end up losing a large percentage of your compensation. For this reason, let a proficient attorney protect your interests and rights.
What Is Your Duty After a Truck Collision?
After being involved in a truck collision, you should take several steps. First, you should stop at the scene and check on the other vehicles involved in the crash. After, talk to the drivers involved and exchange information. Fleeing the scene without stopping will be deemed a hit and run unless stopping at the scene would endanger your life.
The information you should note down from the truck driver include:
- The driver’s name
- Insurance number
- Contact information
- Truck license plate numbers
- Driver’s address
In case you are asked to share the same information too, don’t hesitate to do so. Call the emergency response team if people have been injured, and where possible, you can help take people to the hospital. After leaving the accident, remember to notify the California Highway Patrol or local law enforcement about the crash. You must notify the DMV if the accident had casualties, severe injuries, or property loss exceeding $1,000.
After an accident, even if you are feeling okay, it’s recommended you visit the doctor for a medical examination right after leaving the scene. You are encouraged to take this action because some injuries have delayed symptoms, and you might start experiencing pain days after the accident. This is likely to affect your compensation because it will be hard to link the injuries with the truck collision.
Find a Truck Accident Injury Attorney Near Me
Are you wondering why you need a truck accident legal professional from the Truck Accident Injury Attorney Law Firm? The trucking company, truck owner, the driver, or the loading company may not be held accountable. Our attorneys understand the severity of the injuries, death, or property damages stemming from a truck accident. Thus, we are willing to help you seek compensation. Call us today at 619-754-7667 for a free consultation in California.