California personal injury laws allow anyone that has suffered injuries in an accident that was the fault of another party to sue the responsible party for compensation. Therefore, if you are wondering whether you can sue after being hit by a semi-truck, the answer lies in the circumstances of your case. If your injuries were due to another party’s negligence or careless actions, say the truck driver or trucking company, you may have a valid reason to pursue compensation in a civil court. California personal injury laws involving big wheel trucks can be complicated. Thus, you need the help of an experienced truck accident injury attorney to understand your options and file a compelling case against the responsible party. 

Overview of Semi-Truck Accidents in California

Drivers in California are at constant risk of suffering injuries from accidents caused by motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and other distractions while on the road. While it can be said about other drivers worldwide, California roads are not the safest in the country. The state has the highest number of semi-trucks, and truck driving is the most popular job here. Big wheel trucks cannot be compared to passenger vehicles as they are large and heavier. A collision involving a semi-truck can result in severe injuries, some of which can be catastrophic. Therefore, it is good to understand the state laws regarding accidents like those and what you can do if you are injured in a semi-truck accident.

Passenger vehicles are a common form of transport in California. Even though most of these vehicles are equipped with safety devices such as seatbelts, airbags, and shatter-resistant glass, they are not strong enough to withstand a collision with a semi-truck. This vehicle is many times stronger and heavier than a passenger vehicle. A collision with a semi-truck will leave a trail of destruction behind, which might include death and catastrophic injuries. If you have incurred injuries in an accident like that, it is advisable to get in touch with an experienced truck accident injury attorney. An experienced attorney will review your case and advise you on the way forward.

There are many causes of semi-truck accidents in California. The cause of the accident will help you determine liability and the best course of action to take to recover compensation for your injuries. Most semi-truck accidents are a result of negligence. Negligence could be on the part of the driver or the truck company. Some truck drivers work longer hours than they should. Driving while fatigued is likely to cause the driver to lose control of the truck, resulting in a devastating accident. Due to their size and weight, semi-trucks are hard to bring under control once it loses control while on the road. The truck might veer off the road, crashing on other vehicles on the road.

Large vehicles require more time and distance to brake or accelerate, mainly because of their weight. Sometimes passenger cars drive too close, making it impossible for the truck drivers to create a safe exit or change lanes. Some truck drivers completely forget about the use of their indicators. Others want to drive faster to cover more distance in a day. Understanding the actual cause of the accident is a crucial step in determining liability. 

Fortunately, California personal injury laws are apparent in that any person injured in a crash involving a semi-truck can recover compensation for the damages incurred. Thus, you can sue the liable party if a semi-truck has hit you. Even if you were partly liable for triggering the accident, you might still recover part of the damages incurred through California comparative negligence law. The judge will calculate your percentage fault and only award you the percentage of injuries caused by the other party.

Who Could Be At Fault for Causing a Semi-Truck Accident? 

To be able to sue for compensation for your semi-truck accident injuries, you need to name a responsible party and provide sufficient proof that the party was directly liable for your damages. Here, we will look at possible parties that could be responsible for your injuries. Remember that the cause of the accident will guide you into determining liability. If you compile a strong case against the responsible party and file it in a civil court, the court will order the liable party to compensate you for your damages if your case is successful. The court will review all evidence presented to determine if, indeed, the alleged at-fault party was negligent in causing the accident. Here are possible liable parties you could consider:

The Truck Driver

Most semi-truck accidents occur when the truck driver loses control of the vehicle. When this happens, everyone around the truck is at risk of significant harm. Big wheel trucks are large and heavy, even when they are not loaded. When they are fully loaded, they need enough space and time to come to a complete stop after losing control. In California, semi-trucks use the same roads as other motorists and road users. It means that the driver is likely to crash into a few or more vehicles before he/she can regain control of the vehicle.

When that happens, the first party to blame for the accident is the driver. After all, he/she is the one that was in control of the vehicle at the time of the accident. Again, most investigations into semi-truck accidents in the state have revealed that truck drivers are mainly to blame for most accidents. Even in the presence of strict traffic rules in California, some drivers still violate road safety rules, putting their lives and the lives of others at risk. 

Fault in a semi-truck accident is based on carelessness/negligence. A negligent semi-truck driver will be accountable to other road users, including other motorists, pedestrians, and passengers, for any injuries they might incur if he/she caused an accident. A driver’s negligence occurs when the semi-truck driver fails to operate with care or observe all traffic laws. Under the state negligence laws, the negligent semi-truck driver will be required to pay compensation to everyone that has incurred damages in an accident the driver has caused. But you have to demonstrate that the driver was negligent when he/she caused the accident. Elements of negligence that you will be required to prove are:

  • That the semi-truck driver owed you a duty of care
  • That the driver breached that duty
  • That his/her breach of duty of care was a significant influence in causing your injuries

As mentioned here, every motorist’s duty of care is to use reasonable caution and be on the look-out for other road users while driving on California roads. Duty of care requires drivers to:

  • Use reasonable caution while operating vehicles.
  • Watch out for obstacles, pedestrians, and other motorists.
  • Control the movement and speed of their vehicles

Ways in which big wheel trucks drivers can be negligent include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Operating under the effects of alcohol or drugs
  • Improper change of lanes
  • Speeding
  • Failing to obey traffic rules
  • Failing to yield to other road users
  • Texting on the phone while driving

If there is evidence to show that the semi-truck driver violated the state Vehicle Code and, as a result, caused an accident, it is evident that the driver was neglectful. If the negligence were a significant influence in causing you to be hit by the semi-truck, the driver would be legally responsible for your injuries or damages. 

Sometimes semi-truck drivers are under intense pressure to meet deadlines, which is a major contributing factor to their negligent driving. However, there are laws in place, both state and federal, limiting the number of hours truck drivers must operate. The rules ensure that drivers have enough time to rest for improved concentration while on the road. For example, Section 21702 of the California Vehicle Code makes it a criminal offense for a truck driver to work for longer hours in a day. When a driver violates limits like these, he/she puts him/herself and other road users at risk.

Trucking Company

Sometimes an investigation into the cause of the accident exonerates the driver and points to the trucking company as the liable party. The company could also be careless in several ways, resulting in an accident. Like the driver, trucking companies owe a duty of care to the driver and other road users. If the company breaches its duty of care, and as a result, you are hit by the semi-truck, the company will be liable for your injury or damages. 

Some trucking companies recklessly or intentionally violate safety requirements and transportation regulations to make more profits. When a violation results in a semi-truck accident, the trucking company will be held responsible for the resulting damages. Some of how a trucking company could be negligent include:

  • Overloading trailers, which is a significant cause of truck drivers losing control of semi-trucks
  • Allowing overweight vehicles, contrary to Section 35551 of California vehicle Code. It is the law that sets the permissible weight limits for commercial vehicles
  • When a company allows an overweight vehicle on the road, the company will be held responsible for the resulting damages if it caused an accident due to this violation.
  • Allowing semi-trucks to carry unbalanced cargo
  • Allowing drivers to work while violating the set safety regulations
  • Encouraging drivers to work in violation of sleep and hour restrictions
  • Failing to maintain their semi-trucks or trailers
  • Negligent recruitment and training of truck drivers
  • Negligently retaining problem employees.

There are strict regulations, both federal and state, limiting the weight, size, and route designation for semi-trucks. Unfortunately, some truck companies intentionally exceed these limits and use fake documents to cover those violations. These reckless and intentional actions could cause a truck company to face punitive damages if their reckless actions resulted in an accident.

If a semi-truck hits you and experts establish that the trucking company was negligent, you can file a lawsuit against the company in a civil court. The court will order the company to pay compensation for all the damages you have incurred, whether monetary or non-monetary.

However, you might need the help of an experienced truck accident injury attorney to provide sufficient proof of negligence in court. An experienced attorney knows the legal processes involved and the kind of evidence required for the court to grant all your damages. Your attorney could also involve an accident expert, whose testimony can strengthen your case against the trucking company involved. 

Note that some of these cases are settled out of court before you file a lawsuit in court. If this happens, you will need an experienced attorney to negotiate for a fair settlement on your behalf. Experienced attorneys know how best to deal with insurance companies without compromising on the value of the payment. 

Other Possible Liable Parties

Some semi-truck accidents are not a result of negligence on the part of the driver or trucking company. Thus, you may have to pursue other possible liable parties if the evidence you have points in another direction.

Semi-Truck Manufacturer

If the accident’s cause is attributed to semi-truck defects, the truck manufacturer will be liable for the resulting injuries or damages if those defects were the primary cause of the truck accident.  Vehicle manufacturers also owe a duty of care to their consumers. The law requires all manufacturers to produce products that will not bring any harm to consumers. A semi-truck may have design defects or a defective part from the manufacturing point. A detailed investigation into the accident’s actual cause will determine the kind of fault and whether the manufacturer was negligent.

If the cause of the semi-truck defect were a defective part, the defective part manufacturer would be liable for the resulting damages.

The Local Government or Government Agency

You are allowed to sue the local government or a government agency if the reason a semi-truck hit you was due to inadequate road signage or unsafe road conditions. In that case, the agency charged with ensuring that our roads are safe and with good road signs will be liable for the resulting damages.

However, you need proper guidance in filing a winning lawsuit against the government or a government agency. You might have to act much quickly when a government entity is involved, as the deadline to file lawsuits against government agencies is much shorter. For instance, you will be required to file the initial administrative claim within six months of the accident. The government will then have 45 days to conduct an internal investigation, the results of which will cause it to either deny or accept your request.

Compensable Damages to Include in Your Claim

After establishing the cause of the semi-truck accident and the liable party, you may proceed to file a suit against the responsible party. To do that, you need to determine the kinds of damages you have incurred and their estimated value. Here is an overview of the types of damages you are allowed to include in your claim after a California semi-truck accident:

Economic Damages

These include all damages that have a monetary value attached. When a semi-truck hits a person, the person is likely to incur various economic damages, based on the accident’s severity. The most common ones are:

  • Medical Bills

You start calculating medical expenses right after the accident. Did you receive any first aid after the accident? Did someone call an ambulance for you? Were you rushed to the ER? You need to recall all these details to determine the exact amount of money you have spent right after the accident. Consider the medical bills you paid in the hospital and how much more you might need to pay before your recovery. 

  • Lost Wages

The determination of these damages is by the length of time you were out of work during the recovery period. Did you incur an injury that caused you to spend more time in hospital or at home recovering? 

  • Lost Future Earnings

The determination of these damages is by the number of earnings you might lose in the future due to your injuries. It could be because you need to stay in hospital or at home much longer to recover. It could also be that you incurred a severe injury that will not allow you to continue with your current employment.

Non-Economic Damages

They include all other damages you might have incurred in the accident but have no dollar value attached. For instance, the pain and suffering you incurred during and after the accident. 

Punitive Damages

These are damages awarded by the court as punishment for gross negligence. If the court determines that the at-fault party in your case acted with gross negligence, the court may award punitive damages in addition to other damages listed above. It is also a way for the court to caution similar parties against gross negligence.

Find a Truck Accident Injury Attorney Near Me

If a semi-truck has hit you, there are several considerations you must make to determine whether or not you have a viable lawsuit. For example, the cause of the accident and if another party is responsible. California personal injury laws can be complicated. Therefore, you might need the help of an experienced attorney to navigate the legal system. At Truck Accident Injury Attorney Law Firm, we have the skills and knowledge you need to determine your case’s legibility and the way forward. Call us at 619-754-7667 and let us simplify the process for you.