Being involved in a truck accident can leave you with serious injuries, forcing you to seek financial damages. Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney can help you identify and sue the party that's responsible for the accident. Apart from truck accidents, we provide clients with legal help on wrongful death and auto accidents among other personal injury issues across Los Angeles, CA. The purpose of this guide is to shed light on the party that should compensate you when you are involved in a truck accident.
A Brief Overview of Truck Accidents in California
The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) usually releases yearly publications of the Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts. This report offers insights into the number of fatalities caused by bus and truck accidents across the US. According to the report, up to 361 fatalities caused by truck crashes were recorded in California in 2017 as compared to 351 fatalities caused by truck crashes in 2016. These numbers show that hundreds of motorists/pedestrians in California are either left dead or injured by truck accidents.
Victims of truck crashes can recover by seeking damages for pain and suffering, medical bills and lost wages. As a victim, you can increase your chances of being compensated in a lawsuit through the assistance of a personal injury lawyer. The attorney should help you understand whether to sue the driver or trucking company for any losses you suffered.
Who Can File a Lawsuit for a Truck Accident That Occurred Within California?
Provided that you’re injured in a crash involving a large truck, you can file a suit as a way of seeking damages for your losses. You may direct the suit towards a trucking company or a driver whose negligence lead to the accident. The suit helps you recover lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering and lost future earnings among others.
You need to speak with a proficient personal injury lawyer before approaching the truck driver or truck company's insurer. Schedule your meeting with the lawyer before accepting or receiving any settlement offer issued by the other party's insurer. Remember that without a lawyer's help, the insurance company can deny or delay your injury claim. If your injury claim is accepted in the absence of an attorney, you may be given a small sum of money (contrary to what you expected) as compensation.
What are the Factors That Make it Necessary to File a Lawsuit When Involved in a Truck Accident
Occupants of passenger vehicles usually suffer the most injuries or losses in truck accidents. This is because trucks weigh more than average passenger vehicles such as personal cars and buses. They're also raised at a higher point off the ground making the truck drivers sit above the level for passenger vehicles. You may experience injuries when a truck collides with your car or hits you depending on factors such as:
- The type of truck
- Safety features on the truck and your vehicle
- The speed at which the vehicles involved were traveling
- The area the accident took place (can be urban or rural)
- The truck’s weight
A severe truck accident may result in passengers trapped inside a vehicle. In this case, emergency crews will come to the rescue of the injured occupants, who need urgent medical attention. The trapped victims may be at a higher risk of suffering severe burns or bleeding to death. Common injuries that can make your injury claim include brain injury, broken bones, internal injuries, head trauma and neck and back injuries among others.
Who’s at Fault in a Truck Crash?
Negligence is among the factors used to establish fault in motor vehicle crashes including truck crashes. In simple terms, a negligent truck company or truck driver is responsible for the injuries or death suffered by the pedestrians, passengers or drivers in a truck accident. A truck driver may be negligent for failing to operate a vehicle with due care or violating a known traffic law. Consequently, a truck company may be negligent for failing to have a truck serviced or knowingly allowing a faulty truck to be driven on the road.
Truck Driver’s Fault
Just like other drivers, truck drivers should observe reasonable care and the traffic laws while they're driving on the road. Observing care, in this case, may involve looking out for obstacles, other vehicles, and pedestrians. Controlling a vehicle's speed and movement is also regarded as reasonable care. Traffic laws caution drivers against speeding, driving while intoxicated and obeying the traffic signals.
A truck driver may be at fault in a truck accident if he or she was speeding, driving while intoxicated or texting while driving. Failing to obey traffic signals and improperly changing lanes may also make the truck driver at fault for the crash. Though truck drivers have tight deadlines to meet, Federal and state (California) laws prohibit them from spending too many hours on the road. Driving for more than 10 hours in a day puts them and other people on the road at possible injury risks.
Truck Company’s Fault
You may blame the truck company for causing a truck crush especially if the company violates safety requirements and transport laws. Some truck companies are known to break laws for them to increase their profits while disregarding the possibility of truck accidents. Acts such as failing to maintain trailers and trucks, overloading trucks/trailers and load unbalanced cargo on trucks may make them an accomplice to a truck crash.
Truck companies should demote/fire problematic drivers and ensure that drivers observe the sleep and driving restrictions. They also need regularly to train new and existing employees. They may be at fault in a truck crash if they fail to carry out such tasks.
Other causes (not related to truck drivers or truck companies) of truck crashes include:
- Harsh highway or weather conditions
- Improper road signs
- Defects in trucks
- Defects in truck parts
What Makes a Truck Company Automatically Responsible for a Truck Accident?
A lawsuit directed towards a truck driver basically affects the truck company that hired the driver. The truck company will be liable for failing to ensure that their own employee drove safely or observed traffic laws. According to the Respondeat Superior law, employers are held responsible for any act of negligence exhibited by their employees. Rather than suing the driver, you'll be suing the truck company for their negligence.
For a truck company to be liable for the truck accident, the truck driver must have been operating the truck as mandated in his/her job duties. The company will also be liable for the accident if you or someone else was injured in the process. The Respondeat Superior law holds employers liable for their employees’ negligence acts for the following reasons:
- To give you (the victim) a higher guarantee of compensation
- To prevent the truck accident from occurring in the future
- To allow you to recover your losses from the liable company
What Makes the Truck Driver Automatically Responsible for a Truck Accident?
There are certain limits for applying the Respondeat Superior law. A truck driver who maliciously operates a vehicle and causes an accident in the process should be held accountable for your injuries. Instead of the truck company being held accountable for the truck driver's misconduct, the blame will be shifted to the truck driver. For this rule to apply, the driver must have deviated from his/her regular duties for a personal gain or purpose.
In the case of a truck accident, acts that aren’t within a truck driver’s normal scope of employment are as follows:
- Driving over the recommended speed limit
- Driving while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs
- Intentionally violating the traffic laws
- Deliberately ignoring the traffic signs
Should You Consider the Drivers or Truck Company’s Assets and Revenue When Suing Them?
The goal of pursuing a lawsuit to get the most out of the sought damages. If you're suing the truck driver, you must evaluate his/her personal income, personal assets, and future income/assets. On the other hand, you should consider professional licenses, business income and business assets of the truck company if you intend to sue them.
Suing an individual may prove difficult if the person's income, savings, insurance cover or assets aren't enough to recover your losses. If the person refuses to pay the amount you were awarded voluntarily, the court can allow you to access his/her personal income and assets. You'll also gain access to their future income/assets, professional licenses, business income, and business assets (if any).
Can You Extend the Period for Collecting the Damages?
In the State of California, settlement judgments usually expire in ten years. If this timeline expires, you won't manage to claim damages that were pending payment. Your only hope is to renew the judgment before the expiration date to allow you to extend the period for collecting damages.
Understanding the Damages Available in a Lawsuit Involving a Truck Accident
Compensatory damages refer to the damages meant to compensate you for your losses in an accident. In your truck accident situation, compensatory damages fall into two classes (economic and non-economic damages). Unlike non-economic damages, it's easier to put a money value to economic damages since they cater to the financial costs incurred in an accident. It's difficult to assign a cash value to non-economic damages since that cater for losses suffered emotionally and physically.
Economic damages in your truck accident case may include lost wages, vehicle repairs, medical bills and lost earning capacity. Others may include future medical treatment, medical supplies, and court costs. Consequently, non-economic ones include the inability to enjoy life, physical disability, emotional distress and pain, and suffering. Through your attorney's assistance, you can sue for wrongful death if the truck crash took your loved one's life.
Besides economic and non-economic damages, you may seek punitive damages if the truck driver or truck company acted maliciously. Such damages can also be sought if the responsible party caused the accident by being incredibly reckless. You can claim them to have the responsible party punished for how they conducted themselves in the event.
Can You File a Lawsuit if the Truck Accident Was Your Fault?
The State of California has a law (the comparative fault law) that make it possible to claim damages for an accident even if you’re at fault. For such a law to take effect, each party must have a certain level of fault. For instance, if a judge rules that you were at 20 percent fault for not wearing a seat belt, you’ll only receive 80 percent of the damages you claim. You shouldn’t admit fault at the accident scene since you may be hindered from recovering the damages,
What Does the Process of Filing a Lawsuit in California Involve?
As the injured victim, you only have two years to make a claim for damages in a California based civil court. The two-year period starts from the date you or your loved one got involved in a truck accident. If it took longer to discover an injury, you'd have one year from the date the injury was discovered to file the lawsuit. For suits involving the California State, you'll only have six months to make an injury claim.
With this limited amount of time, you have to hire a proficient personal injury lawyer to make your claim persuasive and reasonable. Expect your lawyer to understand the policies and regulations regarding truck accidents. Your lawyer must have also helped clients with the same need as yours obtain compensation from the insurance company.
The basic steps involved in a lawsuit in California are as follows:
- Having a legal stand to file a lawsuit
- Deciding the civil court and county for the suit
- Drafting and filing a complaint that states the essential aspects of your injury claim
- Notifying the responsible party that they have a pending lawsuit against them
At the beginning of the lawsuit filing process, you may not know the exact entity that’s responsible for causing the truck accident. Through your attorney’s help, consider naming any and every party that played a role in the truck crash. You should name the truck driver, truck company, truck manufacturer, truck company’s insurer, vehicle parts manufacturer and other drivers.
Whether you're suing the truck driver or company, you must determine where to have your lawsuit filed. You're required to file your injury claim within the particular county where you live or conduct business, the injury occurred, or the other party lives or operates. Your suit will be filed in a superior civil court, which is a court that hears civil matters where damages are collected for an injury.
Who Should You Sue If You Lost a Loved One Due to a Truck Accident?
Losing a loved one to any form of a road accident is devastating and emotionally draining at the same time. As the surviving family member of the victim, you can file a suit under the wrongful death laws of California. Though you may not want to sue the responsible party when grieving, a lawsuit is your only option to hold the truck company liable for your loss. The lawsuit may help you cover the funeral and burial expenses and the sum of money the deceased may have gotten as income.
Provided that you’re a family member or personal representative of the deceased individual, the state of California allows you to proceed with the wrongful death lawsuit. Damages obtained from the suit usually benefit spouses, domestic partners, children, grandchildren and minor children that heavily relied on the deceased’s financial support. You’ll only have two years from the date of death to claim your loved one’s damages.
What to Expect From the Truck Driver or Truck Company That You Want to Sue
The truck driver or a representative from the truck company may approach you requesting for an out-of-court solution. Such a strategy may be targeted at helping the responsible party maintain their reputation since most lawsuits taint company images. When they approach you, they'll try negotiating a compromise to prevent you from proceeding with the suit. For example, a representative from the truck company may suggest offering 80 percent of your demand if you don't take the matter to court.
Though such offers may seem attractive, you should discuss your options and chances of winning the suit with your lawyer. Both of you should consider the chance that you may get less than you bargained for or get more than what you demanded. Don’t accept to meet with the driver or representative from the truck driver without your lawyer being present. Your lawyer is the best person that can determine the odds surrounding your injury claim.
Have a Truck Accident Injury Claim Filed by an Experienced Lawyer Near Me
A truck accident can leave you or your loved one facing life-changing injuries and losing your natural ability to be productive at work/school. At Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, we can help you understand the graveness of the injuries you're facing and enable you to receive proper compensation. Our Los Angeles based clients seek legal help from us when pursuing civil matters such as motorcycle accidents, auto accidents and bus accidents among others. The simplest way to get a free case evaluation from our personal injury attorney is by calling 424-231-2013 today.