Santa Ana Truck Accident Lawyer
When a passenger vehicle gets into an accident with a large commercial truck, the latter almost always wins. Federal institutions recognize the unique dangers that trucks and trailers pose to other roadway users due to their immense size and weight. There are federal laws in place to prevent these types of collisions, but not every trucking company or driver takes these laws seriously. If you or someone you love has been in a truck accident in Orange County, come to Bentley & More, LLP, for legal assistance. You may be eligible for damage compensation.
Statistics in California
California is a major state for the transportation of goods, with one of the largest trucking industries in the country. With such an enormous trucking sector, it is no surprise that California sees a greater amount of trucking accidents than other states. Trucking accidents take hundreds of lives in California every year, and injure thousands of others. The most recent truck accident statistics for The Golden State are as follows:
- The state contains about 350,000 independent trucking owner-operators, with 70% of revenue coming from long-distance trucking. The California trucking industry hauls about 10 billion tons of goods every year – 60% of the total volume of all U.S. commercial freight activity.
- In 2015, 290 fatal accidents in California involved commercial trucks. This is a 3.9% increase from 2014, which saw 279 fatal truck accidents. In 74 of the truck crashes in 2015, the truck was what caused the crash. Trucks caused 2,662 injury accidents in CA, 2015 – a 7.6% increase from the previous year.
- The most common causes of trucking accidents in California include truck driver error, distracted driving, drowsy driving, speeding, alcohol/drug impairment, and broken traffic laws. Truckers must obey federal and state laws when operating commercial vehicles in California. Broken laws may lead to negligence per se cases in California, or cases in which negligence is a given due to unlawful acts.
Trucking is the most common mode of freight transportation in California. It is impossible for drivers in Santa Ana, Irvine, and Anaheim to avoid sharing the road with commercial trucks and trailers. Some interactions between big rigs and passenger cars will end in tragedy. After a truck accident in Orange County, seek help from our attorneys. We can investigate the collision, identify acts of negligence or broken federal regulations, and help you pursue fair recovery.
Federal Regulation of Trucking Accidents
Commercial trucks are unique in that they must obey federal and state laws of operation. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has hundreds of laws in place for trucking companies, carriers, and drivers to obey. These laws cover all aspects of trucking, from driver training to fleet maintenance. A truck driver or company’s failure to obey a federal law is strong evidence of negligence in a personal injury or wrongful death claim. Federal trucking laws include:
- Hours of service regulations. No truck driver may drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Every eight-hour driving period, drivers must take at least one 30-minute break. No driver may drive more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days, or 70 hours in eight consecutive days.
- Drug and alcohol testing. Drivers must comply with pre-hiring drug/alcohol tests, spontaneous tests, and tests after serious accidents. In California, the legal blood alcohol limit for commercial drivers is 0.04%. However, any trace of alcohol or drugs could point to an impairment-related crash.
- Cargo loading. Trucking companies must obey specific cargo loading rules depending on the materials, size, and weight. Loads cannot exceed certain height and weight limitations. There are special considerations for transporting hazardous materials. Cargo loaders must obey a variety of securement rules to prevent lost loads in transport.
- Electronic logs. Most drivers must maintain electronic logs that serve as records of driver behaviors and activities. These logs help limit mistakes, manage fatigue, and avoid scheduling issues. Electronic logging devices can serve as excellent evidence of negligence if they show a driver breaking a rule or lying on the log.
- Vehicle maintenance. There are strict maintenance minimums for commercial trucks. Quality control involves daily vehicle inspections by the driver and timely repairs. Failure to properly inspect a truck before it hits the road could result in part failure and related accidents. Keep in mind that part failures may also point to manufacturer fault, with potential grounds for a product liability claim.
Working with an attorney can help you discover if the truck involved in your collision broken any FMCSA or state laws. There are several potential forms of evidence that could support your claim. Our lawyers can investigate the crash using police reports, eyewitness accounts, electronic logging devices, and/or black boxes on the vehicle. An investigation could determine a broken rule, such as hours of service violations or improper vehicle maintenance. This information could prove the defendant’s negligence, and result in a settlement or verdict in your favor.
Types of Truck Accidents
There were about 87,000 large trucks involved in injury accidents in the U.S. in 2015, according to data from the FMCSA. The number of large trucks involved in fatal accidents the same year was 4,050. Data from thousands of trucking accidents over the years have given rise to certain recurring trends. There are trends in what cause trucking accidents most often, as well as in how 18-wheelers tend to crash. Learning the most common types of truck accidents can give you a better understanding of what may have caused or contributed to the collision. The following are the five types of truck accidents that occur most often:
- Overturn (rollover) accidents. Rollover was the primary event in 4% of all large truck fatal crashes in 2015. A truck may rollover if the driver is speeding or takes a curve too fast. Tripping on curbs, potholes, and debris can also cause trucks to overturn.
- Jackknife accidents. This describes an accident in which the trailer of the truck swings out at a sharp angle from the cab, in a “jackknife” shape. A jackknife accident can happen when a driver uses an inappropriate braking technique, causing the axle breaks to lock and the trailer to skid. A driver has no control over a jackknifing truck.
- Rear-end collisions. Trucks cannot stop as quickly as smaller vehicles. Truckers must therefore maintain longer following distances. Following too closely or distracted driving can lead to a truck rear-ending other vehicles – often causing catastrophic harm to the smaller car and its passengers.
- Underride accidents. Underrides are rear-end collisions that occur in the opposite manner – a passenger vehicle rear-ends a commercial truck. These crashes can be particularly devastating when the smaller car goes under the trailer, crushing the top of the passenger vehicle.
- Blind spot accidents. The length of commercial trucks lead to significant blind spots, known as “no zones.” Other drivers should avoid driving in the no zone for any amount of time. Truckers can easily miss vehicles that are in the no zone, resulting in merge or sideswipe accidents.
Large trucks operate very differently from passenger vehicles. Truck drivers require special training and licenses (class C licenses) to legally operate commercial trucks. A simple mistake behind the wheel can have catastrophic consequences to other drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Data from the FMCSA shows that the most common causes of trucking accidents are speeding, driver distraction/inattention, and impairment (alcohol, drugs, illness, fatigue, etc.). Almost all truck crashes are preventable with proper care and attention.
Involvement of Insurance Companies in Truck Accidents
As soon as the day of the accident with a commercial truck, you may hear from the trucking company’s insurer. Someone with the title “insurance claims adjuster” may contact you and request more information about the accident. This party may represent the trucking company or a third party. Adjusters have no legal or medical training. They also typically do not have a lot of time to investigate your claim. The job of the adjuster is to settle a claim as quickly and for as little money as possible.
Dealing with a major trucking insurance company can be intimidating. The insurance company may try to deny the trucking company’s liability for the crash. It may try to pin some or all of the fault on you, or deny your claim altogether. Do not give the insurance claims adjuster any reason to think you were responsible for the accident. Do not agree to give a recorded statement. The insurer could use what you say in this statement against you in the future. Before you accept a quick settlement offer, speak to an attorney. The adjuster is most likely offering less than your case is actually worth.
In the past, trucking companies evaded liability for accidents by renting equipment and hiring independent contractors instead of employees. Federal laws now prohibit trucking companies from shirking responsibility for accidents. If the trucking company, truck driver, or company employee contributed to your crash, you will likely have to engage in settlement negotiations with the insurance company. A competent attorney can represent your best interests during these negotiations, fighting for a just and fair amount. If the company denies your claim or refuses to settle for an agreeable amount, we can take the case to trial in Orange County.
Experienced Orange County Truck Accident Attorneys
Truck accident settlements and verdicts are what our firm does best. We’ve won hundreds of awards for our clients in Santa Ana, Irvine, and Anaheim in our years or representation. We understand federal and state trucking laws, and know what it takes to prove liability in these cases. Let us help take over the legal processes while you focus on healing from accident-related injuries. Our firm can investigate your crash, identify defendant(s), and take the first steps toward compensation on your behalf. For a free consultation about your recent truck accident, call (949) 870-3800 or reach out online.