While there are not as many truck accidents as there are car accidents, since there are not as many trucks as there are cars, truck accidents usually result in more severe and serious injuries than any other vehicle accidents.
Semi-trucks weigh over 10,000 pounds and some of them up to 80,000 pounds. Compared to an average vehicle, which only weighs 3,000 pounds, the size of the trucks makes truck accidents more dangerous often resulting in severe injuries and death. In addition to their size and weight, trucks often carry flammable liquids and/or cargo, which increases the dangerous outcomes when involved in an accident with one of these giants.
In 2008, 11% of all motor vehicle fatalities in United States involved large trucks according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. In 2010, across the United States over 500,000 semi trucks were involved in an accidents, resulting in 5,000 deaths and 100,000 serious injuries.
MAIN CAUSES FOR TRUCK ACCIDENTS IN WOODLAND HILLS
Given the dangers posed by truck accidents in Woodland Hills, it is important to determine what are some of the main causes for these truck accidents. Trucks are more closely regulated by state and federal laws than average passenger cars, because of their size, weight and the dangers they pose if involved in an accident. Such laws were implemented to protect other drivers, the public in general and the truck drivers themselves. In their effort to do so, these laws regulate many aspects of the trucking industry. Such regulations impose higher standard of care that needs to be exercised by truck drivers, limit the number of hours a driver may be behind a wheel in one day, and specially regulate the maintenance and manufacture of the trucks.
However, despite these closely tailored laws from the federal government and individual states, many trucking accidents still occur and cause severe injuries as well as deaths to many people. The most common reasons for truck accidents in Woodland Hills are the following:
Speeding – When a truck driver is speeding and causes an accident, he will be held liable for damages suffered as a result of that accident. A truck driver may be speeding if he is driving his truck at speed in excess of the posted speed limit, or if he is driving his truck at a speed that is unreasonable for the road conditions. In other words, a truck driver may be speeding even if he is driving at speed under the posted speed limit, so long as such speed is not reasonable taking into account the speed of other vehicles and other surrounding road conditions.
Reckless Driving – A truck driver is driving recklessly if he drives with wanton disregard for the rules of the road. Such wanton disregard may be displayed if the truck driver drives on the wrong side of the road, drives at an overly excessive speed, drives on the shoulder of the road, drives while intoxicated, or in other similar situations.
Drug or Alcohol Intoxication – When a driver is driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol and causes an accident, he will very likely face criminal charges in addition to being placed at fault for the truck accident. Drug or Alcohol intoxication may also give rise to Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Claims. (see more)
Fatigue From Driving – As stated above, there are state and federal laws that regulate how many hours any truck driver may drive in one day. In their efforts to earn extra money, truck drivers sometimes exceed the amount of hours allowed for one day. This causes truck drivers to become tired and fatigue from driving, which in turn makes them fall asleep and/or unable them to respond in time and causes truck accidents.
Inappropriate Maintenance of the Truck – Much like laws and regulations dealing with the amount of hours a truck driver may drive in one day, there are strict laws and regulations that deal with appropriate maintenance of the trucks. Thus, the mechanics of a truck, such as tires, axles, pistons, engines, alternators, and other parts of the truck must be closely inspected and brought up to appropriate standards. When they are not, they can cause truck accidents and subsequently serious injuries and deaths.
Lack of Experience of the Driver – As in every profession, individuals with more experience tend to perform better at their jobs than ones with less experience. Truck drivers that have less experience sometimes cause truck accidents when, for example, they miscalculate the amount of time it takes them to slow down their truck and avoid hitting a vehicle in front of them. Other examples may include miscalculations of the space needed by a truck driver to make an appropriate lane change, or the amount of space needed to make a proper turn.
Distraction by Drivers – Truck drivers are only human and thus make mistakes. Like many other drivers, they may be distracted by a cell phone call or a text message, or another maybe more uncontrollable factor which could result in an accident.
Negligent hiring of the driver – When employers seek employees to hire, they usually want the best qualified employee for the job. However, in real life many times the employee’s qualifications are not up to a proper standard, which in trucking industry can mean that people can get seriously injured and even killed. An example of negligent hiring occurs when an employer, a trucking company, hires a truck driver who has several Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges, who then causes a truck accident while driving drunk.
PROVING FAULT IN TRUCK ACCIDENT CASES
Proving fault in a truck accident case can be fairly simple or at times very difficult. It is the responsibility of the party bringing the claim to prove that the opposing party caused the accident, or under comparative negligence law, which applies in California, to prove that the opposing party was at least at fault for a portion of the accident.
In order to place the opposing party at fault Woodland Hills Personal Injury Attorney Sasha Bojat will know exactly what evidence to look for and how to obtain it. In some cases the Police Department that presented to the accident scene may prepare a Traffic Collision Report which will place one of the parties at fault for the accident. In other cases, there will be no Traffic Collision Report and thus the fault will need to be proven by interviewing witnesses, examining the accident scene, the area of impact, the amount of property and personal damage inflicted as well as many other relevant factors.
In addition, Woodland Hills Accident Lawyer Sasha Bojat will look whether the truck driver followed the rules and regulations imposed by the state and federal laws. In those situations it may seem that the truck driver is not at fault at first glance, even though a quick investigation of the truck driver and/or trucking company by a knowledgeable Woodland Hills Personal Injury Attorney would point out the contrary. Such investigation could reveal the following:
The truck driver was driving at an unreasonable speed for the road conditions, which would place him at fault for the truck accident, even though such speed was below the posted speed limit provided.
- The truck driver exceeded the amount of hours permitted to drive in one day
- The truck driver was fatigued or using drugs to stay awake on the road
- The truck driver did not meet the requirements to hold a commercial driver’s license
- The truck driver did not obtain the necessary medical exams to prove he is fit to drive, as required by law
- The truck was overloaded, or not loaded properly, as required by law
- The truck itself did not meet the required maintenance regulations provided by state and federal laws
These and many other factors can be determinative in obtaining a favorable settlement or verdict in any truck accident case. Thus, it is extremely important to retain an attorney who has knowledge in this field and obtain the highest amount of damages available for you.
RECOVERING DAMAGES IN TRUCK ACCIDENT CASES
As in any other personal injury cases, in other to recover damages the injured party must prove that they were injured as a result of the truck accident. Thus damages can be economic, non-economic, or even punitive in some circumstances.
Economic damages include monetary losses such and past and future medical expenses, loss of past and future earnings, loss of property, costs of repair or replacement and loss of employment or business opportunities.
Non-Economic Damages in personal injury cases are referred to as “pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, loss of consortium, or other non-pecuniary injury.”
Punitive Damages are awarded to punish the wrongdoer when he/she has done something particularly egregious. The courts will award punitive damages if the plaintiff or injured party proves that the truck driver or the company acted in complete indifference or conscious disregard for the safety of others. For example, if a truck driver drove 20 miles per hour over the speed limit in a school zone and caused the accident, while at the same time the company hired him knowing that his previous driving record was in great violation of the company rules.
Punitive damages may also be awarded in cases where drivers who caused the accident were fatigued; for example, if a truck driver caused an accident as a result of driving in excess of the number of hours allowed by state and federal law in any given day. In a case with similar facts, the court awarded $10,000,000 in punitive damages, basing the award on substantial evidence presented at trial which proved that the truck company did not have adequate process to control hours of service compliance of its truck driver employees.
Thus, in addition to recovering damages that are easily determined such as economic damages, the injured party in a truck accident is also entitled to recover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, loss of consortium, or other non-pecuniary injury, as well as possibly punitive damages. As recovering non-economic damages and punitive damages requires a knowledgeable attorney who understands every step of the process, it is extremely important to retain an attorney such as Woodland Hills Personal Injury Attorney Sasha Bojat who will obtain the most amount of damages available for his clients.