Truck accidents are a common occurrence in California. A collision between a truck and a smaller vehicle or passenger results in catastrophic injuries. Victims who survive truck accidents sustain life-changing injuries. You may be entitled to compensation if you or a loved one is injured in a truck accident. By filing a truck accident claim or negotiating with the negligent party's insurance provider, you can be compensated for medical expenses, loss of wages, and pain resulting from the accident injuries.
One of the most important parts of filing a successful truck accident claim is determining liability for the accident. Liable parties are individuals or entities whose negligence caused the accident. Most people assume that a truck driver is always responsible for an accident.
However, the trucking company can also shoulder liability for the accident and your injuries if they fail to follow the federal trucking regulations. Understanding the cause of your truck accident is key to establishing the trucking company’s liability. Pursuing a personal injury lawsuit against a trucking company can be complicated and tiresome. Therefore, you must seek the services of a skilled lawyer.
Truck Company Liability in a Truck Accident
Establishing liability is critical in claiming compensation after your truck accident. Although a truck company is responsible for the actual driving of this vehicle, you can file a claim against them. In California personal injury cases, liability is based on negligence. Therefore, when holding the trucking company liable, you must establish the elements of negligence, including:
Duty of Care
The Duty of care is the responsibility of each person to ensure they do not cause injury or death to other people. Since the trucking company owns the vehicle that caused your accident and injuries, proving their duty of care towards you is not complex.
Breach of Duty
A duty of care towards you isn’t enough to hold a person or entity liable for your injuries. Therefore, you will need to prove that there was a breach of duty. A party breaches your duty by acting in a manner that puts your life at risk. While establishing negligence, you must present factual evidence to show how the duty was breached.
Causation is the link between a defendant’s actions and your injuries. Trucking companies will not be on the road when an accident occurs. However, this doesn’t mean that their actions did not cause that accident. Therefore, you must link the acts or failure of the company to your injuries.
You will be compelled to file a personal injury claim if you have suffered injuries from the truck accident. Before you can recover compensation, you must establish how the accident has affected your life. Damages may include physical injuries, emotional trauma, or even financial difficulties caused by an inability to work after the accident.
Instances When a Trucking Company is Liable for the Truck Accident
Strict federal regulations govern trucking companies to ensure smooth operations of the trucking industry. These federal regulars also ensure uniformity in the operation of trucks and transport of goods in California and other states. If you have suffered an injury or lost a loved one in an accident, the trucking company can be a liable party for your claim. The following are some of the reasons why you can hold a trucking company responsible for your accident and injuries:
Denying the Driver Rest Breaks
Driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of truck accidents in California. A tired driver can be liable for all sorts of crashes. However, the risk of collision increases in the trucking industry. Trucks are heavy vehicles that require the utmost concentration to navigate. When drivers are tired, they could fall asleep behind the wheel, cause serious collisions with their cars, or hit passengers.
The pressure placed on truck drivers to deliver the goods on a deadline prevents them from enjoying enough sleep and rest. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the hours a truck driver must operate per week. A truck driver hauling goods must not drive for more than 11 hours daily. The company must allow the driver a break of up to ten hours, where they will be off duty after 11 hours of driving.
If a truck driver has operated for sixty hours within seven days, they must take a rest break for up to thirty-four hours before resuming another shift. If drivers fail to adhere to the rest period's federal regulations, they can be held liable for injuries resulting from a truck accident.
A trucking company may be directly liable for your injuries after an accident caused by driver fatigue. This occurs when they encourage or force the driver to operate during rest breaks to meet unreasonable deadlines. When holding the company liable for the accident, you must prove how they contributed to the violation of rest hours.
Poorly Maintained Vehicle
Vehicle parts malfunctioning while on the road is likely to cause catastrophic injuries. Trucking companies ensure that the vehicles are in the right condition before allowing the drivers to operate them. The FMCSR encourages frequent inspection of the vehicles for repair. Failure to inspect and maintain trucks properly may be a significant cause of accidents. Some of the instances where poor vehicle maintenance results in accidents include:
Brake failure. The brake system is one of your car's most critical safety features. The brakes allow you to stop in an emergency or slow down to avoid collisions. If the brake system fails, the driver will lose control of the vehicle and collide with obstacles or other cars on the road.
Faulty windshield wipers. While windshield wipers may seem like an insignificant vehicle part, they are essential in ensuring proper driver visibility. During rainy and snowy seasons, the driver will need the wipers to clear out the windshield and see ahead. If you are injured in a truck accident caused by faulty windshield wipers, you can hold the part responsible for maintenance liable for your injuries.
Defective tires. Trucks are heavy vehicles that travel long distances. Therefore, regular tire replacement is necessary. Tire defects contributing to serious truck accidents include tread separation, mechanical issues, and old rubber. Federal laws require trucking companies to inspect and ensure a change of tires to avoid losing grip or bursting while on the road.
Broken tail lights. The brake lights are the most important lights on your vehicle. Brake lights signal drivers behind your vehicle on the change of flow in traffic and prevents rear collisions from sprawling out of control.
Faulty steering. The steering is the only way a driver can control the vehicle and prevent it from hitting obstacles on the road. If the steering pulls to one side or is loose, driver control becomes challenging. Regular maintenance of the vehicle's parts helps detect steering defects and make necessary repairs.
If you have suffered an injury or lost a loved one in an accident caused by a vehicle part malfunction, you can file a claim against the trucking company. You will claim that the company breached its duty of care towards you by failing to inspect the vehicle and repair these parts.
While the trucking company could attempt to pass the blame onto the driver, the driver does not have the responsibility to know whether the truck parts are defective unless they are visible, like a burst tire. Therefore, if the driver did not know of the defective nature of the vehicle, you will be left to sue the trucking company.
Drunk Driving Accidents
Drunk driving is a significant cause of all auto accidents. Alcohol and other drugs affect a driver’s brain function. This distorts their depth, speed, and distance perceptions. Drunk drivers often make numerous mistakes like speeding, tailgating, and other traffic violations. A drunk driver can cause various truck accidents, including rollover accidents, head-on collisions, T-bone collisions, and pedestrian accidents.
After a drunk driving accident, the law enforcement officers at the scene will perform breathalyzer tests to determine the driver's intoxication. Although driving over the speed limit doesn’t put the driver on automatic liability, you can file a claim on these bases. Most people will not drink on the job because of the risk of losing it. However, truck drivers spend long hours on the road away from their families. This can cause them to make wrong decisions like alcohol consumption.
If you prove that the driver’s impairment caused the accident, the driver will be liable for your injuries. However, your injury attorney can help you pursue compensation from other parties like the trucking company. Federal regulations require trucking companies and carriers to perform regular and random drug tests throughout the driver’s employment. The testing is done before or during driving.
Additionally, testing may be necessary when there is reasonable suspicion that a driver is impaired. Therefore, a trucking company can shoulder liability for an accident caused by one of its drivers.
Hiring Unqualified Driver
Operating a commercial vehicle is a serious responsibility. There are numerous risks associated with operating these vehicles. Therefore, drivers must meet the requirements for the job. The federal laws have the following regulations that govern the hiring of drivers by trucking companies:
Age Requirements. Before employing a driver to operate a truck, the company must ensure that the person is twenty-one years or older. Drivers under twenty-one years can only operate locally and not across state borders.
Driving experience. An applicant for a commercial truck driver must provide proof of up to ten years of driving experience. These records must include all the encounters and accidents in which they have been involved.
Licensing. A trucking company is only required to hire a driver who possesses a valid commercial driver's license. Additionally, the driver must pass the road test and vehicle inspection tests.
Medical qualification. Before hiring a driver, a truck company must assess their physicals and ensure they are medically fit. Some medical conditions make it impossible for a driver to operate safely.
If you discover that the driver who caused your truck accident does not meet the qualifications as stipulated by federal laws, you can file a claim against the company. In addition to hiring qualified drivers, a truck company must also perform the necessary training.
Overloading of Trucks
Truck manufacturers often issue a gross weight for every vehicle they produce. Trucking companies must follow these guidelines when loading their goods into the trucks. Federal regulations prohibit the overloading of trucks as they travel on interstate highways. Unfortunately, some truck companies want to maximize profits and reduce trips by overloading the vehicle. An overloaded truck poses a significant risk of accidents in the following ways:
Inability to brake. When a truck needs to change speed when traveling downhill, the extra weight makes it difficult to stop. This can result in the loss of vehicle control and veering off the road.
Overloaded or overweight trucks have a high risk of rolling over after a collision with another vehicle. With its heavy weight, rolling across the road can cause multiple other crashes and serious injuries or deaths.
Difficulty in controlling the vehicle. When a driver operates an overloaded vehicle, it is challenging for them to make turns or maneuver on the road.
Shifting cargo. Overloaded goods may shift as the ruck moves to cause a significant imbalance.
The extra weight caused by the overloading of the truck can strain the vehicle parts, causing them to malfunction and cause accidents.
Truck accidents are more catastrophic when the vehicle is overloaded. This is because the impact on smaller vehicles or pedestrians is higher. Truck companies ensure that the trucks deliver the right weight per the manufacturer's instructions and federal regulations. If you can prove that the vehicle's overloading was a crucial factor in your truck accident, the trucking company could be liable for your accident and injuries.
Shared Liability Between a Trucking Company and a Truck Driver
It is common to have multiple liable parties in a truck accident claim. Sometimes, the court will hold the trucking company responsible for the driver's actions. If the driver was working for the company's benefit at the time of the accident, both the driver and the company would be responsible for your damages. However, some trucking companies try to evade responsibility for the actions of their drivers by arguing that the drivers are independent contractors.
An assessment of the driver's duties must be done when determining whether a driver is an employee of the trucking company or an independent contractor. Additionally, the mode of payment for the driver may help determine whether the driver acted on behalf of the company. The court and insurance companies will assess these aspects of the driver company relationship to determine if the company can be named as a liable party in your lawsuit.
When you file a claim against multiple liable parties, each party will be responsible for the percentage of damages equal to their fault in the accident. California is a pure comparative negligence state. Therefore, the court will determine each defendant's liability percentage before awarding compensation.
Following your truck accident, the police, your attorney, and the trucking companies will perform separate investigations, each trying to find out the cause of the accident. Since the company may quickly repair the vehicle and put it back on the road, you must begin collecting evidence as soon as possible. Some of the critical evidence that you need to provide to establish trucking company liability in your case includes:
The truck's electronic records
Repair and maintenance reports
Roadside and annual inspections
Vehicle GPS records
Information on the truck driver. Essential details about the driver that could help prove company liability in your claim include their qualifications, employment history, and schedules.
The police report shows drug and alcohol test results of the involved parties
Find a Skilled Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Truck accident injuries are devastating and life-changing. Since most truck accidents result from negligence, you can file a lawsuit to recover compensation from the negligent party. In your pursuit of compensation, you have the burden of establishing liability for the accident. Different players in the trucking industry can be held liable for truck accidents, including the trucking company.
Federal regulations govern how a trucking company must operate, from hiring drivers to vehicle maintenance and loading vehicles. When a violation of any of these laws results in an accident, all injured victims can file a claim against the company and recover compensation. The moments following a truck accident are physically and emotionally draining. While you nurse your injuries, you need someone to handle your claims and help you recover compensation.
At Truck Accident Injury Attorney Law Firm, we understand the devastation of being injured or losing a loved one to another person’s negligence. We will help you file the claim and battle the liable parties and their insurance companies to recover maximum compensation for your injuries. We serve clients seeking legal guidance to pursue truck accident lawsuits in California. Contact us today at 619-754-7667.