The destructive force of semi-trucks and 18 wheelers in an accident is far greater than any other vehicle on the road. A person who has an accident with one of these big trucks is much more likely to sustain major injuries and property damage than if he or she had been hit by another car. A California truck accident lawyer can help navigate the unique circumstances involved in trucking accidents.
In 2003, one out of every nine traffic fatalities in the United States resulted from a truck related accident. In Los Angeles County in 2010, truck and tractor-trailer accidents caused 30% of California’s traffic injuries and 22% of the state’s traffic fatalities. In the same year, close to half of the state’s traffic injuries caused by trucks occurred in Southern California (Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Orange County data).
These types of accident are on the rise across the nation. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, both 2010 and 2011 saw significant increases in semi-truck and big-rig accidents and fatalities.
As commercial vehicles, big trucks are owned and operated by business interests. They are also heavily regulated by state and Federal government. The combination of commercial and governmental interests in big trucks makes any accident claim involving a truck more complex than most other vehicle accidents.
It is smart to consult a trucking accident lawyer in California immediately after an accident with an 18-wheeler or semi-truck. Here’s why.
- The destructive force and increased risk of serious personal injury and property damage
- The likelihood that more than two vehicles have been involved in the accident.
- The many legal issues that can arise from the business interests that own or run the truck.
- The Federal and state regulations that govern big trucks on our highways.
Jacoby and Meyers has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to pursue and win complex truck related accident cases. If you are looking for an effective Los Angeles injury attorney, make Jacoby & Meyers your first call.
After an Accident with a Truck
Following a crash it is essential that you contact a lawyer and begin to document information at the scene. You may be sure that the company that owns the vehicle will pay close attention to every detail of the accident. You have to be prepared.
- Make sure everyone who may need medical attention gets it.
- Get license and registration information for all vehicles involved in the incident.
- Find out the name and contact information for the company that owns or has hired the truck.
- Get the names, contact information and insurance information for all drivers
- Record the names and contact information of passengers and potential witnesses.
- Preserve evidence. Subtle details about the scene may not be obvious to you but will mean a great deal to experts. They may also make an impression on the judge and jury if you have to go to court.
- Photographs and records of medical injuries.
- Measurements and photos before the scene is cleared.
- Legal documentation recorded by the police on the scene. The police are likely to be directly involved in a big-rig crash. Be sure they have photos and measurements.
- Preserve your vehicle. Do not allow it to be disposed of.
- Contact a trucking accident lawyer in California like Jacoby & Meyers.
An accident with a big truck is overwhelming and confusing. The conditions surrounding an accident with a big rig–when you or your passengers may be hurt or disoriented–make it difficult to do everything you should at the scene.
As soon as possible, do whatever you can and look for an experienced auto accident lawyer. Jacoby & Meyers can respond immediately and assure that the necessary information and evidence are preserved.
Liability and Owners of Commercial Vehicles
Accidents are a normal part of doing business for companies that own or hire big trucks. They are fully prepared to protect themselves whenever there is an accident.
They often have “SWAT teams” that go to the scene of the accident. The SWAT team’s job is to protect the company’s interests. These teams include technical experts, industry analysts as well as attorneys.
The victims of the crash are up against these well-organized businesses and their professional SWAT teams.
Remember, the injured person has to prove that the other driver was negligent or at fault. It is hard for a person who may be seriously injured to successfully handle a claim against these forces.
However, the accident lawyers at the Jacoby & Meyers California Law Offices have both the knowledge and resources to counter any strategies the SWAT team might pursue. Jacoby & Meyers is a leader in the state when it comes to winning claims in accidents involving large trucks.
Causes of Truck Accidents
As a group, truck drivers have excellent driving and safety records. Those are requirements of the job, and most trucking companies will immediately suspend or fire a driver that does not maintain a safe driving record.
18 wheelers and semi-trucks drive hundreds of thousands of miles, so they must be carefully maintained in excellent condition. Federal and state laws mandate truck maintenance and safety. They also regulate truck size and loads.
In spite of these safety measures, there are still as many as half-a-million truck involved accidents each year. Although many accidents are caused by the drivers of smaller vehicles, a significant number of these accidents are caused by the truck driver or the truck. Here are some common causes of these accidents where the trucker is at fault:
Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Abuse of alcohol and other drugs is the most common cause of vehicle accidents each year. The percent of truck drivers who have accidents while “under the influence” is lower than the national average for all drivers, but is still a factor in a significant percentage of big rig accidents.
Fatigue. Fatigue is one of the leading causes of accidents for truck drivers. The law limits the number of hours a driver can spend behind the wheel and how long he or she must rest afterwards. Drivers sometimes press these limits. About one-fourth of the truck drivers on today’s highways admit that they have fallen asleep at the wheel.
Speeding. In 2008, nearly one-fourth (24%) of all large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had at least one prior speeding conviction, compared to 18 percent of passenger car drivers involved in fatal crashes.
Product defects in the truck itself. Design and construction of today’s trucks use parts fabricated of many different materials and incorporate sophisticated electronics.
These new designs, parts and electronics can make truck maintenance more complex than it has been in the past. Improperly fitted parts or the incorrect parts can contribute to failures that lead to accidents.
Improper care and maintenance of the truck. Trucks are on the roads all the time, and require regular maintenance and care. A truck that has not been properly serviced can also fail in critical highway situations, causing an accident.
Improper loading. Distribution of the load in a large truck is critical to its safe operation. If a load is unbalanced, it can cause the truck to be unstable at higher speeds and can precipitate an accident.
Improper inspection. Owner and government inspections are intended to assure that trucks traveling on U.S. highways are safely loaded, within weight and size tolerances. An error in one of these inspections can allow an unsafe condition to continue and may be responsible for an accident, if the problem was not identified in the inspection.
Owner or employer negligence. Truck owners are responsible for hiring competent maintenance staff and for hiring and training skilled, safe drivers.
Owners who overlook problems with drivers speeding or fatigued drivers can be responsible when those drivers cause the accidents. They are also responsible if an untrained (or under-trained) maintenance person makes mistakes when working on a truck.
Damages and Compensation in California Trucking Accidents
Compensation in a truck related accident can require complex analysis and follow up after the accident. Particularly in a truck related accident, it may not be limited to immediate injuries and repairs. For these reasons, an experienced trucking accident lawyer can make a critical difference in the compensation for property damage and injuries.
Contact Jacoby & Meyers for more specific information about these potential sources of compensation if you have an accident that involves a truck.
Immediate compensation. If you have been injured, you may receive compensation for the following care that you receive immediately after the accident:
- Immediate medical costs.
- Long-term medical costs.
- Support and care during recovery.
However, trucking accidents often have significant long-term consequences. Documenting and receiving appropriate compensation for these is an important issue in recovering after an accident.
Compensation for long-term damages. Calculating this long-term compensation can require extensive research and documentation.
These are best handled by a Los Angeles accident attorney. Jacoby & Meyers has experience in these areas and is aggressive in documenting and pursuing them.
The following situations might be required in calculating long-term damages.
Pain and Suffering caused by the accident. There are real costs associated with the severity, duration and nature of an injury in this type of accident.
These may affect every aspect of your life and your family’s life, including your ability to work and engage in activities that were normal for you before the accident.
Lost wages. Lost wages often become an issue after an accident because of the extent of injuries and recovery time required. A person is sometimes able to reduce the financial impact of a truck crash by taking sick leave or vacation time.
Even so, the person should receive compensation for the work time lost, since he or she would not have used those benefits had it not been for the accident.
Reduced earning capacity because of long-term injury or disability. Accidents involving trucks can cause permanent or long-term injuries or disabilities. These will factor into the compensation if they permanently or temporarily affect a person’s ability to earn a living or to earn a living at the same level he or she maintained before the accident.
These costs might also include retraining or education necessary as a result of the injuries caused by the accident.
Lifestyle Changes. A major accident sometimes causes disabilities or creates handicaps that limit someone’s ability to pursue the lifestyle he or she had before the accident. These changed circumstances may also be taken into account when making a claim for damages after a big-rig accident.
Life Care. Sometimes the injuries after a truck collision are so severe that a person requires medical and physical assistance for life.
When it is clear that the accident has caused this level of injury, a person can receive an award that will assure that he or she has the care needed for life.
Punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded for wrongdoing. This is not too common in auto accidents and less common for trucks, unless the truck driver was breaking the law at the time of the accident.
Truck owners or employers may also be liable for punitive damages if they failed to follow federal and state laws, were negligent in maintaining vehicles or continued to employ a driver who had a record of substance abuse, speeding or another behavior that causes accidents.
An experienced law firm like Jacoby & Meyers will know what costs should be included and will have economic analysts who can put a financial value on those long-term injuries or disabilities.
Sources of Compensation in Trucking Accident Cases
Insurance is one source of compensation in any vehicle accident. However, many factors are in play in a big rig accident, Responsibility may rest with the company that owns or operates the truck, with the manufacturer of the truck or with the way inspections or laws have been applied.
Those involved. Truck crashes often involve several vehicles. Not only could the truck driver be responsible, but the drivers of other vehicles might also have caused the accident.
The owner of the vehicle or employer of the truck driver. The business owner of the truck or the organization hiring and running the truck can also have responsibility in a truck collision.
For example, an owner might continue to employ a driver with a history of speeding or substance abuse. In this case, the owner can be considered liable for the accident, if the driver’s drinking or speeding were factors in the accident.
The owner’s responsibility can extend to punitive damages in some situations. For example, if the truck owner or employer was requiring the driver to drive more than the legal number of hours, a trucking collision caused by the driver’s fatigue could result in punitive damages.
Owners can also be responsible if they have failed to maintain or repair the truck properly. They could be at fault if the accident was caused by an unbalanced load, by the load shifting or by other similar issues.
Defective parts and products from manufacturers or retailers of the truck. The manufacture of trucks and parts becomes more complex all the time.
Trucks use parts made of plastics and composite materials, and these parts sometimes are defective or do not stand up to the wear-and-tear of truck use. Manufacturers have responsibility if the parts they use or the construction of the vehicle contributed to or caused the accident.
Retailers can be liable if they fail to let owners know about potential dangers, if they sold a truck that they knew to have defects or failed to notify the owners when there were defects.
Service facilities providing truck maintenance. A repair service that made faulty repairs or failed to maintain the truck in good operating condition may also have responsibility if the truck is involved in an accident where those problems were a factor.
Government agencies. Different local, state and Federal agencies maintain and improve roads and highways. These agencies sometimes fail to design and maintain safe roads or have proper traffic controls for trucks. In these situations, they may have liability for accidents that occur because of the unsafe conditions.
If an accident could have been prevented by the use of specific safety measures, the agency that maintains that road or highway could have liability.
Accidents involving large vehicles can have complex causes. Understanding these potential causes and doing the extensive research that might be necessary to prove them requires an accident lawyer like Jacoby & Meyers with the resources to hire experts who can document these and other potential issues that caused the accident.
Contact Jacoby & Meyers for a free consultation that will allow you to determine how to best handle your case. Their lawyers have successfully handled accident claims throughout their 44 years of successful business in California.
If you are looking for an accident lawyer with extensive experience and a track record of success, Jacoby & Meyers can provide you with the services you need.
The Challenges to a Truck Accident Claim
Trucking companies and the trucking industry continually work to re-direct responsibility for the accidents to the drivers of other vehicles via research and statistical studies. This information can come up in legal actions associated with any accident.
Taking action without delay. Your quick action after an accident can–in the long run–prevent truck companies and their lawyers from using these industry statistics and research against you.
- Act immediately. The truck owner and its SWAT team will be on the job as soon as the accident is reported. However, you are more likely to be confused or injured. In those situations, most of us delay making a decision if we can. An accident requires immediate action to protect your interests and your potential to recover the full value of the damages you experience!
- Hire a resourceful accident attorney in California or your state immediately. If you quickly hire a lawyer in California like Jacoby & Meyers or the state where you accident happened, you have the best chance of preserving evidence, documenting what happened and successfully pursuing your claim in the accident.
- Preserve evidence. Secure your car and other vehicles in the accident. They are evidence. Be sure they are salvaged so that experts hired by your lawyer can study them for proof of what happened in the accident.
- Secure truck and driver data. Truck drivers are required to maintain driving logs. The company that owns the truck and hires the driver has computer records about the driver and about each truck, its maintenance record and other details. Trucks also carry on-board black boxes.These records can be critical to understanding what happened in an accident and substantiating your claim. They must be secured before they can be lost or destroyed.Jacoby & Meyers and their accident reconstruction experts will use them to understand how the accident happened and who was responsible.Jacoby & Meyers will also make sure these vital pieces of evidence remain available.
Paying for truck accident litigation. Paying for the experts and the other resources necessary to pursue an accident claim can be time consuming and expensive.
Truck companies and government agencies have deep pockets and time on their side. Truck companies will also rigorously defend themselves from injury claims and property losses.
In some cases, your attorney may have to hire a number of technical experts to identify who had responsibility for your accident and to prove it to a judge and jury. They also have to prove that you are entitled to recover damages.
If there have been serious or catastrophic injuries or deaths in the accident, medical experts are also required to document the extent of the injuries and the care required.
In looking for an accident attorney, ensure that attorney has the resources and can pursue the claim for the extended period of time required to see your case through. With their more than 40 years in practice, Jacoby & Meyers has demonstrated both these qualities again and again.
Understanding the potential difficulties of this type of case. As with any industry, some companies “push the envelope” and, directly or indirectly, follow marginal, illegal or dangerous practices.
Here are several examples of those dangerous practices:
Inaccurate or falsified records. Federal law limits how long a driver can be behind the wheel and how long he or she has to rest after a shift.
Some companies directly or indirectly force their drivers to falsify the logs documenting how long they have been driving. Driver fatigue is one of the most common causes of truck crashes, so violating the law and falsifying driving records can be a significant factor when the trucker has an accident.
The government reviews driver logs to assure compliance with rules about driving time, but companies have techniques for hiding this data.
Companies may also encourage drivers to falsify their driving records indirectly through hidden messages in driver manuals or training materials.
Support services may also collude in falsifying driving records. For example, fueling stations may fail to print the time of a gas purchase on a receipt.
An experienced accident attorney like Jacoby & Meyers can determine when driver logs have been falsified and other common scams that cover for drivers who may be fatigued because they are driving too many hours.
Company policies documented but not followed. Companies sometimes ignore issues like substance abuse or speeding, even though the company rules say that those behaviors are grounds for termination. The right attorneys can identify flaws in company policies and procedures, and will also independently verify the driver’s driving record.
Multiple responsibilities for truck maintenance and care. In accidents caused by equipment failure, the source of the problem can be difficult to track down. The problem could originate with the manufacturer, with shoddy repairs or because of improper maintenance.
Investigators and experts have the best chance of pinning down the real cause of the failure and identifying who was responsible.
Looking for a California Accident Attorney
Subtle details about the scene may not be obvious to you but will mean a great deal to experts and lawyers experienced in handling these types of accidents. They may also make an impression on the judge and jury if you have to go to court.
Here are some critical issues to keep in mind when looking for a truck accident lawyer.
- Does the lawyer or law firm have extensive experience with this type of accident?
- Has the lawyer firm won most of its cases involving truck accidents?
- Do lawyers in the firm have expertise in the trucking industry?
- Does the law firm have access to experienced investigators and the necessary vehicle, medical and other experts?
- Does the law firm have staying power? Accident cases often go on for a long time. Not every law firm can afford to stand firm and get the best recovery for their client.
- Does the law firm have experience in litigating truck crash cases? Can they go to court and win?
Jacoby & Meyers: Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys
Jacoby & Meyers has successfully handled numerous accident cases involving trucks. Supported by their proven technical, industry and medical experts, Jacoby & Meyers can fully investigate and document your accident. They then use that information to build a powerful case for the judge and jury.
If you are looking for a successful accident lawyer, Jacoby and Meyers provides the expertise and necessary industry knowledge to pursue and win your claim. We have office locations throughout California, but if travel is difficult we will come to you. Call (888) 522 6291 today for a free consultation.