Commercial trucking accidents are an unfortunate reality in today’s fast-paced world. Roads and highways in San Diego and throughout California are filled with commercial trucks and due to their incredible size, they pose a serious danger to anyone with whom they share the road. Accidents involving commercial trucks are oftentimes disastrous, leading to serious personal injuries or death.
The trucking industry is heavily regulated regarding certain issues, such as how much sleep a driver should have, how many hours a driver can drive, loading procedures, and the weight and type of cargo being hauled. However, with a significant weight advantage against the other motor vehicles, commercial trucks often dominate the roadway. Understanding a trucking accident case requires a thorough understanding of all of the potential causes of such accidents such as driver error, mechanical failure, improper loading, road conditions, or even third-party negligence.
If you have been seriously injured in a commercial truck accident, it’s crucial to seek legal counsel from experienced San Diego truck accident lawyers to protect your legal rights and seek the fair compensation you deserve. Commercial truck accidents are notoriously complex. At Berman & Riedel, LLP, our personal injury attorneys have decades of experience representing accident victims against insurance companies and in court.
Table of Contents
Our San Diego Truck Accident Lawyers Understand Many Trucking Accident Causes
There are many factors that can contribute to truck accidents in San Diego County. For example, some accidents are caused by dangerous road conditions, truck defects, improper loading, or incorrect maintenance, but these factors may only contribute partially to a crash. Our San Diego truck accident injury attorneys find that most accidents are caused primarily by driver error or negligence. It’s important to understand the causes of trucking accidents because the cause of the crash will affect liability and how much you may recover as an injured party.
Some of the most common types of San Diego truck accidents include:
- Jackknife accidents which happen when the trailer moves and pivots on the hitch and acts much like a hinge. This eventually causes a 90-degree angle between the truck and trailer. When a truck jackknifes, it may lead to a rollover accident or other vehicles may crash into the jackknifed truck.
- Rollover accidents may happen when a curve is too sharp, an incline too steep, or a truck is driving too fast.
- Underride accidents are usually fatal and they happen when a smaller passenger vehicle strikes the back of the tractor trailer and is crushed as it slides under the rear trailer.
- Rear-end crashes may happen when a truck strikes a passenger vehicle or a car hits the back of a truck.
- Side-impact accidents or T-bone accidents happen usually at intersections when a truck crashes into the side of a vehicle.
- Lost load accidents occur when a truck’s load falls out onto the road and poses a danger to other vehicles.
There are many factors that can contribute to truck crashes. Some factors are more likely to lead to some types of accidents than others. For example, improperly loaded cargo is likely to result in a lost load or jackknife accident. It’s also common for more than one factor to contribute to a crash. Our truck accident law firm in San Diego frequently encounters the following factors in crashes:
- Driver error or negligence. “Driver decisions” are classified as the most common reason for commercial truck accidents, according to the Large Truck Causation Study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This includes speeding and following too closely. Speeding contributes to 1 out of every 4 crashes, according to the National Safety Council, and trucks are even more dangerous when speeding due to a long stopping distance.
- Distracted driving. The FMCSA found that “driver recognition” problems contributed to 28% of truck accidents. This includes drivers who were distracted or simply failed to adequately observe the road. According to the NHTSA, distracted driving alone is a factor in 10% of all fatal accidents and 15% of all accidents that cause injury.
- Fatigue. Despite state and federal rules on how many hours a trucker driver may work in a shift and strict record-keeping regulations, many drivers are still on the road despite extreme fatigue.
- Alcohol or drugs. The good news is commercial truck drivers are far less likely to be on the road while under the influence of alcohol but impairment can play a role in accidents. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are more likely to be a factor in truck accidents than alcohol when the truck driver is negligent.
- Inadequate training or supervision. Drivers must undergo minimum training and may be subject to supervision by a trucking company. Sometimes drivers on the road are not properly supervised and are allowed to work without meeting minimum training standards.
- Incorrect loading. Loads are required to meet strict weight, size, height, length, and width standards. When a truck is not loaded correctly, it can directly cause an accident by making the trailer unstable and prone to jackknifing.
- Dangerous conditions. Sometimes dangerous weather or road conditions contribute to truck accidents. While rain is not a common concern, dangerous intersections and deteriorating or damaged roadways are common in San Diego.
- Truck defects. While less common than other factors, some truck accidents are caused by defects in parts like the brakes or tires or simply insufficient maintenance of the truck.
According to the FMCSA, the top factors associated with truck accidents are:
- Congestion or traffic flow problems
- Brake problems
- Prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs
- Speeding or driving too fast for conditions
- Roadway issues such as potholes
- Unfamiliarity with the roadway
- Insufficient surveillance of the road
- Driver fatigue
- Being required to stop just before the crash such as a crosswalk
- Distraction by something in the vehicle
- False assumption of how another driver will react
Typical Injuries Handled by San Diego Truck Accident Attorneys
Commercial trucks are incredibly large and heavy which means collisions are likely to lead to very serious and sometimes fatal injuries. In most crashes involving a commercial vehicle, it’s pedestrians and occupants in passenger vehicles who are most likely to be hurt, not truck drivers who are fairly protected.
Our truck accident injury lawyers in San Diego represent victims who are facing injuries such as:
- Back and neck injuries which may not cause symptoms for hours or days.
- Head injuries such as traumatic brain injury which may cause life-long impairment.
- Spinal cord injuries, among the most serious injuries in a truck accident, which can cause permanent disability.
- Internal injuries to organs may be the result of blunt trauma in an accident.
- Disfigurement or amputation. Truck accidents may cause burn injuries, amputation, or extensive scarring.
- Lacerations and fractures. Even though fractures and lacerations will heal, they may require physical therapy and cause pain and disfigurement.
- Wrongful death. Commercial truck accidents are more likely to result in fatalities than regular car accidents.
Proving Fault in a San Diego Truck Accident
When you have been hurt in a truck accident, it’s necessary to prove fault to recover compensation. It’s not uncommon for both drivers and even other parties to share some amount of fault in traffic accidents. Under California’s pure comparative negligence laws, you may recover compensation even if you were partially or mostly at fault for the accident. However, damages are reduced directly by your share of fault in the accident. This is why it’s crucial to clearly prove fault.
Commercial truck accidents are notoriously complex and many parties may share fault including:
- The truck driver
- The driver of a passenger vehicle
- The trucking company
- The company that loaded the truck’s cargo
- The company that maintains the trailer or truck
- The manufacturer of the truck or its parts
An experienced San Diego motorcycle injury lawyer at Berman & Riedel, LLP will work diligently to investigate every aspect of your accident for evidence that proves fault. This evidence can include:
- Medical records of your injuries
- Police reports and crash reports
- Statements from witnesses
- Testimony from an accident reconstruction specialist or accident investigator
- Video and photo of the accident, scene, and conditions
- Damage to the vehicles
- The phone records of the other driver
- The trucking company’s maintenance logs
- The truck driver’s logs
It’s important to note that trucking companies can still be held legally responsible for accidents and negligence on the part of their truck drivers whether drivers are classified as employees or independent contractors!
At Berman & Riedel, LLP, we believe that no stone should be left unturned given the complexity of commercial truck accidents, the number of potential parties who can be responsible for an accident, and how severe these accidents can be. Our truck accident law firm in San Diego will uncover as much evidence as possible to build a strong case while fighting for maximum compensation for your injuries.
San Diego Truck Accident Common Questions
How much do truck accident lawyers cost in San Diego?
Personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. You pay nothing out of pocket for experienced legal representation as you fight for the fair compensation you deserve and pay attorneys’ fees as a percentage of your settlement only if you recover.
How much is my truck accident claim worth?
There is no way to accurately determine the value of your claim although experienced San Diego truck accident attorneys can estimate the value after reviewing your case. The value of your claim will depend on the severity of your injuries, the details of the accident, who is at fault, your general and special damages, and other factors.
Do I need a lawyer after a truck accident in California?
Commercial truck accidents are more complicated than other traffic accidents as there may be extensive insurance coverage, very serious injuries, and multiple parties responsible. If you have suffered serious injuries, it’s recommended to work with a San Diego truck accident lawyer to seek full compensation.
San Diego Trucking Accident Statistics | Commercial Truck Laws
While commercial trucks account for a fairly small number of vehicles on California roadways, accidents involving commercial trucks account for a disproportionate amount of fatalities and serious injuries. In 2015, California had 14 million trucks registered in the state out of 141 million trucks in the entire country. That’s more than any other state. The following are important statistics involving truck accidents in California and the U.S.
- In truck accidents with passenger vehicles, 72% of fatalities are occupants of passenger vehicles.
- In 2017, there were 4,889 fatal bus and truck accidents in the U.S., according to FMCSA.
- Of 450,000 police-reported accidents involving large trucks, over 4,000 were fatal and 344,000 resulted in injuries.
- Most fatal accidents involving large trucks occur in rural areas (57% of all fatal truck accidents) and on interstate highways (27%).
- 30% of fatal work zone accidents involved a large truck, according to FMSCA.
- Driver fatigue is a factor in 13% of commercial truck accidents.
- According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, 87% of commercial truck accidents were caused by a driver, whether through action, inaction, distraction, poor training, or some other factor. 10% were caused by the condition of the vehicle and 3% were caused by the environment such as weather or road conditions.
Truck drivers and trucking companies are subjected to many commercial truck laws including federal and California regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) under the US Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates how many hours per day a truck driver may be on the road. The following are some of the most important federal regulations drivers must abide:
- There are restrictions on hours of service depending on the class of driver. Drivers cannot work more than 60 hours on duty during 7 consecutive days or 70 hours over 8 days. Drivers can be on duty for up to 14 hours after 10 hours off duty but cannot drive for more than 11 hours. Mandatory 30-minute breaks are required after 8 hours on duty. The 14-hour period of duty can’t be extended for fuel stops, breaks, or meals.
- The Adverse Driving Condition exception allows drivers to extend their on-duty driving time by up to 2 hours due to adverse weather or delays caused by unforeseen conditions but only when they can’t safely stop and layover.
- Drivers who violate hours of service rules can be placed on shut down or face fines. The carrier’s safety rating can also be downgraded and federal criminal penalties may be brought.
Drivers who only drive within California are subject to California commercial driver regulations. These rules are similar to federal rules and require, for example, that truck drivers rest at least 10 minutes every 4 hours on duty and take a 30-minute break every 5 hours. This is true even though the FMCSA took away mandatory paid rest breaks for truckers.
California truck drivers must have a California Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to operate a commercial truck. A CDL requires a driver to submit a current DOT long medical form, pass a TSA background check, and pass a DMV commercial driving test.
Types of Commercial Trucks Involved in San Diego Truck Accidents
A truck accident can refer to a collision with many types of commercial vehicles on the road:
- Semi-trailer trucks, also called semi-trucks, semi-tractor trailers, and 18-wheelers, refer to trucks that are made up of a tractor unit plus one or more semi-trailers that attach with a hitch.
- Box trucks may or may not have a cabin separate from the cargo area and they’re chassis cab trucks that have a cube-shaped cargo hold. They have a unibody design and may be 10 to 26 feet long. They often have a roll-up rear door and may be used to transport or deliver appliances and furniture or for moving.
- Flatbed trucks do not have sides or a roof on the flat cargo bed for fast, easy loading and they’re used to transport heavy loads that can withstand exposure to the elements.
- Bucket trucks or boom trucks have an extendable, hydraulic boom with a bucket to elevate workers.
- Dump trucks are used to transport waste from construction sites and usually have an open-box bed with a hinge at the rear.
- Garbage trucks are designed to collect and haul municipal waste to a waste treatment facility.
- Refrigerator trucks are used by food distributors and grocery stores to transport food that must be chilled.
- Cement mixers have a large cylindrical unit that rotates to mix concrete.
Tanker trucks have a large tube on the back instead of a trailer to transport fluids such as oil.
San Diego Truck Accident Settlements
If you have been hurt in a truck accident, you may be facing life-changing injuries that impact your ability to work and even enjoy the things you love. Commercial truck accidents are often serious and leave victims with catastrophic injuries. Under California law, you have the right to seek financial compensation when someone else is at fault or contributed to the accident.
The amount you can recover in your truck accident settlement in San Diego will depend on the severity and type of injuries, economic and non-economic damages, the details of the accident, what your life was like before, and other factors.
An experienced San Diego truck accident injury attorney will help you build your case and represent you in negotiations with the insurance company to seek compensation such as:
- Lost wages and reduced or lost earning capacity. This means you can recover not only income you lose while you recover but the income and benefits you would have earned in the future if you are left unable to work.
- Medical expenses. This includes current and future surgery, doctor visits, prescriptions, counseling, physical therapy, and medical devices.
- General damages. This refers to non-economic damages that do not have a set dollar amount. It may include emotional distress, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and mental anguish.
In rare cases that go to court, punitive damages may also be an option. These damages are designed to punish someone for egregious behavior such as driving under the influence or very reckless behavior and disregard for human life.
Note that your damages can be limited by two factors.
If you are found even partially at fault for the accident, the damages you are awarded will be reduced by your share of fault. You may recover damages if you are up to 99% at fault for the crash. If you are 20% at fault and a court awards $200,000 in damages, your recovery will be $160,000, or 80% of $200,000.
Your damages can also be limited by the insurance coverage of the at-fault party. Commercial truck accidents usually involve high-value claims but truck companies generally have high-value insurance policies. For example, an accident involving a semi-truck may involve one or several commercial policies for the truck driver and the trucking company.
Berman & Riedell, LLP | San Diego Truck Accident Attorney
Why Work with San Diego’s Top Truck Accident Lawyers
Commercial truck accidents in California are notoriously complex for several reasons:
- These cases often involve very serious or catastrophic injuries
- There may be multiple parties at fault for the accident
- Trucking companies generally have large policy limits
These factors mean that careful accident investigation is crucial to determine liability. With very serious injuries, it may take some time before the full extent of your injuries are apparent. The higher the potential payout, the more the insurance company will fight to limit or deny your payout as well.
If you are facing serious injuries after a commercial truck accident, the compassionate San Diego truck accident injury attorneys at Berman & Riedel, LLP will serve as your advocates to navigate the complex legal landscape and aggressively fight for the compensation you need. We will help you seek justice and hold the responsible parties accountable through:
- Thorough accident investigation that uncovers facts and evidence to support your claim.
- Strong communication with the insurance company to avoid mistakes that can devalue your claim.
- Negotiation with the insurance company on your behalf to reach a fair settlement that fully compensates you.
- Litigation when necessary to improve your chances of recovery.
At Berman & Riedel, LLP, we have recovered more than $100 million for our clients including multi-million dollar settlements for traffic accidents. Contact Berman & Riedel, LLP today for a free consultation with our San Diego truck accident law firm to review your legal options and build your claim. You never pay anything out of pocket with no attorney’s fees unless we recover for you!