Collisions involving trucks are especially consequential. The sheer size of the trucks and the material they carry significantly increases the devastation victims of these crashes experience compared to other accidents. Victims incur significant financial losses while seeking treatment. Some consequences entail the inability to produce revenue and the forfeiture of their automobiles, enterprises, or other assets that were implicated in the incident.
Further, these victims also sustain life-changing injuries. In worst-case scenarios, the surviving victims lose their loved ones. California Civil Code 1714 allows victims to seek action against negligent parties. In this case, you can seek compensation for the financial losses, injuries, disruption of your daily routine, or loss of your loved one against a negligent truck driver or other parties responsible for the crash in a personal injury lawsuit.
Filling a Personal Injury Lawsuit
After being involved in a truck accident, most victims' first question is, “How will I recover from this catastrophe?’ Personal injury lawsuits help victims do just that. The compensation juries award in these civil proceedings attempts to “make the victim whole.”
“Making a victim whole" aims at compensating the injured party. The compensation caters to all the damages and losses they have suffered due to the accident that caused their injury. The idea is influenced by the necessity of restoring the victim to the same state they would have been in had the accident not occurred. The compensation awarded in a personal injury lawsuit aims to cover all of the victim's damages and losses. Thus the victims will be better positioned to move forward with their lives as much as possible after their injury.
Filing a personal injury claim requires you to evaluate key issues as they determine the success of your lawsuit. The issues are:
- The kind of loss you suffered — Did the accident result in financial loss, injuries, emotional loss, or loss of a loved one?
- The defendants in the case — Who are the parties responsible for the accident? The individuals you identify as responsible become the defendants in your suit.
- Damages you seek the courts to award you — These are the monetary compensation you want the court to award you for the losses you have incurred.
Let us look at each of the above issues in detail to help you successfully bring a claim for damages after a truck accident.
Losses You Could Suffer After a Truck Accident
Truck accident victims suffer various losses. As mentioned before, these form the basis of their claim. Some of the notable losses include the following:
Truck accidents can cause various physical injuries, some more common than others. The following injuries are the most severe that individuals involved in truck accidents are prone to experiencing.
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) — A traumatic brain injury (TBI) could arise from an object's forceful impact, jolt, or head penetration. The aftermath of this injury often manifests in a range of debilitating symptoms, including but not limited to headaches, vertigo, disorientation, amnesia, and difficulties with concentration and focus.
- Broken bones — These are common injuries in truck accidents. Victims could sustain minor fractures to severe compound fractures that require surgery to repair.
- Spinal cord injuries — Sustaining a spinal cord injury can lead to enduring paralysis or other forms of disability. Symptoms that arise from these injuries include loss of sensation, loss of movement, impaired breathing, and persistent chronic pain.
- Burns — Some truck accidents could end in an inferno depending on the severity of the crash or the cargo the truck was ferrying. Most victims sustain burn injuries when they come into contact with hot surfaces or chemicals. Burn injuries can have lasting physical and emotional effects. Scarring, disfigurement, and long-term physical and emotional damage are among the possible repercussions.
- Whiplash, sprains, strains, and contusions are among the soft tissue injuries frequently observed in truck accidents, which can cause discomfort, inflammation, and limited mobility.
- Internal injuries — Organ damage or internal bleeding can occur in a truck accident. If left untreated, these injuries have the potential to be life-threatening. They often go unnoticed because they do not have apparent symptoms that prompt individuals other than first responders and medical experts to act fast.
Injuries are not only limited to the physical. Truck accident victims can suffer emotionally. Truck accidents can induce considerable emotional distress. Examples include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health problems. The abrupt and unforeseen occurrence of the accident, the gravity of resulting injuries, and the disruption to daily routines could all contribute to emotional trauma experienced by victims.
Some of the most common emotional traumas experienced by victims of truck accidents include:
- Anxiety — Victims may feel anxious and nervous after a truck accident, especially if they have suffered severe injuries. Anxiety can manifest as a racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and panic attacks.
- Depression — Truck accidents can cause victims to feel sad and hopeless, especially if they cannot work or perform everyday activities due to physical injuries.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — Victims of truck accidents could experience PTSD, which can cause flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidance behavior related to the accident.
Loss of Income
Loss of income is a common issue for victims of truck accidents, as the injuries sustained in the accident can make it difficult or impossible for them to work. Sometimes, the victim could miss work briefly while recovering from their injuries. In other cases, the victim could be unable to return to work due to permanent disabilities resulting from the accident.
The loss of income can have significant financial consequences for victims and their families. They could struggle to pay medical bills, cover living expenses, and make ends meet. Here is a look at some common ways truck accidents result in a loss of income:
- Time off work — Doctors could recommend victims of truck accidents take time off work to recover from their injuries. Most employers will not pay the victims during their recovery. This can result in lost wages. Losing your pay can be a significant financial burden, especially if you do not have sick leave or other benefits to cover the time off.
- Reduced earning capacity — In some cases, the injuries sustained in a truck accident could cause a permanent disability. This is a significant injury as it affects the victim's ability to work in the future. With this injury, you will surely lose your future earning capacity, which can have long-term financial consequences.
- Job loss — If you cannot return to work after a truck accident, you could lose your job, which can be a significant financial blow. You will thus need to seek new employment or retrain for a different career, which can take time and money.
- Loss of business income — Business owners are affected too. If a victim is a business owner, a truck accident can result in a loss of income if they are unable to work or if their business is damaged in the accident.
The cost of medical expenses resulting from a truck accident varies greatly depending on the severity of the injuries victims sustain. Victims mostly suffer broken bones, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and internal injuries. Medical expenses can include hospital bills, doctor’s fees, diagnostic tests, surgery, medication, rehabilitation, and ongoing care.
Seeking medical attention immediately after being involved in a truck accident is a good idea. Even if you do not think you are seriously injured, get a medical evaluation. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent.
After receiving your medical treatment, gather all your medical bills and receipts linked to your treatment. These expenses serve as evidence to support your claim for compensation for medical expenses in your lawsuit.
In some situations, health insurance covers some or all of your medical expenses. Check your policy and discuss your options with your insurance provider.
Truck accidents also cause property damage. Primarily, the vehicles involved are the ones affected. In other situations, the crash could affect business premises, destroying the store's merchandise, the building itself, or other structures close to the accident.
It is best to document the damage. Further, keep a copy of the police report and evidence of out-of-pocket expenses you could have incurred to repair or replace your damaged property.
Defendants in a Truck Accident Civil Lawsuit
Negligence is the basis of a personal injury lawsuit following a trucking accident. Negligence arises when a person or entity fails to exercise reasonable care, harming another person. Negligence is defined as a failure to use the same degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would use in similar circumstances. In trucking accident lawsuits, the plaintiff typically alleges that the defendants acted negligently. Further, this negligence caused the accident and the resulting injuries.
As the plaintiff, you must prove negligence by establishing the following elements:
- Duty — The defendant (usually the truck driver or trucking company) had a duty of care to you, the plaintiff. In a trucking accident, this duty typically includes operating the truck safely and following applicable traffic laws and regulations.
- Breach — The defendant breached this duty of care by failing to act as a reasonable and prudent driver would have under the circumstances. For example, the defendant could have been speeding, driving while fatigued, or failing to maintain the truck properly.
- Causation — The defendant's breach of duty was the actual and proximate cause of your injuries. In other words, your injuries would not have occurred but for the defendant's negligence.
- Damages — You suffered actual damages from the accident, notably expenses to treat your injuries or repair or replace damaged property. These include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.
If you can establish all these elements, you will be entitled to recover compensation for your damages. Here is a look at the likely defendants in trucking accidents:
Truck drivers have a duty of care to other motorists on the road. They have a legal obligation to operate their trucks safely to avoid endangering the safety of others. This duty of care extends to all other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists who share the road with the truckers.
Truckers fulfill this duty of care by exercising reasonable care while driving. Truck drivers can be negligent in a variety of ways. This includes following traffic laws, being alert and attentive, maintaining a safe speed, and keeping a safe distance from other vehicles. Maintaining their cars and being aware of weather and road conditions are also on the list.
Truck drivers can be negligent in the following ways:
- Distracted driving — Truck drivers engaging in distracted driving can cause accidents due to a lack of attention to the road. Examples of distracted driving include texting, eating, or using a phone while driving.
- Speeding — Drivers who exceed the speed limit or drive too fast for road conditions can cause accidents due to reduced reaction time and increased stopping distance.
- Overloading — Overloading or failure to secure cargo properly can cause accidents due to shifting or falling cargo.
- Impaired driving — Truck drivers driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can cause accidents. Their judgment is impaired, and they have reduced reaction time and decreased coordination.
- Fatigue — Truck drivers who are tired or overworked may fall asleep at the wheel or make critical errors due to a lack of focus. California Vehicle Code 21702 is the statute that limits driving hours for bus drivers and truck drivers. It makes it a misdemeanor for bus and truck drivers to drive for too many consecutive hours and/or too many hours in one day. No person shall drive upon any highway or vehicle designed or used for transporting persons for compensation for more than ten consecutive or more than 10 hours spread over 15 straight hours.
A trucking company can be considered negligent in a truck accident if it fails to meet certain legal obligations or industry standards related to trucking operations. Examples of negligent actions include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Failing to maintain the truck properly — Trucking companies are legally obligated to comply with the extensive regulations. These rules govern the industry to ensure the safety of drivers and other road users. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in grave consequences. These include legal liability for any resulting accidents or injuries.
- Allowing unqualified or inexperienced drivers to operate a truck — It is the responsibility of trucking companies to ensure that only qualified and experienced drivers operate their commercial vehicles. This includes providing adequate training and verifying that drivers possess the necessary licenses and qualifications to drive a truck. Failing to comply with these requirements puts the safety of drivers and other road users at risk. Thus, the company becomes exposed to potential liability for negligence.
- Failure to comply with industry regulations — The trucking industry is heavily regulated. Trucking companies are responsible for complying with these regulations. You can hold a company responsible for a trucking accident if they fail to comply with rules related to driver hours, cargo securement, or other safety requirements.
- Pressuring drivers to violate safety regulations — Some trucking companies could pressure drivers to disregard safety regulations to meet delivery deadlines or increase profits. If a company does so, and their action contributes to an accident, you can seek compensation from the driver’s employer.
- Failing to screen or monitor drivers properly — Trucking companies should adequately screen and monitor their drivers. This includes checking their driving records and conducting drug and alcohol tests. Should the company fail in its screening and monitoring obligations, you can hold them responsible for the crash.
Truck drivers' and companies’ negligence are not the only reasons that cause trucking accidents. Poor roads, bad weather, or other factors could cause the accident. You can include government agencies, mechanics, or truck manufacturers in the suit.
Damages You Can Seek in a Trucking Accident Civil Lawsuit
In your suit, you must state what damages you seek to recover. The jury will then award the sum based on the facts of the case.
Note: The jury could award the amount you quote in the lawsuit. Alternatively, they could also award a higher or lower amount than your request.
The following are the damages you can recover in a trucking accident lawsuit:
Economic or special damages represent a plaintiff's financial losses due to harm or injury inflicted by another party. The awards in damages compensate plaintiffs for their out-of-pocket expenses and monetary losses resulting from the injury or harm.
Plaintiffs must prove that their injuries or losses resulted from the defendant’s negligence. Only then can they recover damages. Additionally, plaintiffs must present evidence of the losses, including receipts for expenses incurred after the accident, pay stubs, and medical expenses. In short, economic damages cover any out-of-pocket costs you incurred following the crash.
Non-economic or general damages compensate a plaintiff for losses that are not financial or economic. They are intended to compensate plaintiffs for losses that cannot be easily quantified. These may include physical pain, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and other subjective experiences resulting from the injury or harm caused by another party. In some instances, non-economic damages could far exceed economic damages in their value and importance in the compensation process. Understanding the nature and scope of non-economic damages is critical in ensuring that plaintiffs are fully and fairly compensated for their losses.
In some cases, non-economic damages could be significantly greater than economic damages. This is likely in cases where the plaintiff has suffered a catastrophic injury or permanent disability. Non-economic damages are often more difficult to calculate than economic damages, as there is no objective measure of pain, suffering, or emotional distress. Consequently, the extent of non-economic damages granted in a case can differ considerably, contingent upon the particular facts and circumstances of the case.
Sometimes, juries award the plaintiff punitive and compensatory damages. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for especially egregious or malicious behavior and deter the defendant and others from engaging in similar conduct. Unlike compensatory damages, which aim to compensate the plaintiff for their losses, punitive damages serve a broader societal purpose by discouraging wrongful behavior.
Punitive or exemplary damages are typically only awarded in cases where the defendant's actions were particularly reckless, intentional, or malicious and where compensatory damages alone would not be sufficient to address the harm caused.
Note: California is a comparative negligence state. This means you can recover damages even if you were partly at fault. The jury will assign a portion of the blame to plaintiffs and defendants. Thus, you only recover damages equivalent to the defendant’s assigned culpability.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Call the Truck Accident Injury Attorney Law Firm immediately if you have suffered any injuries or lost a loved one in a trucking accident. We will assess your case and seek fair compensation for your losses. Contact our team at 888-511-3139 for more details.