If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident involving a semi-truck, tractor-trailer, 18-Wheeler or other commercial vehicle, you have a right to seek compensation for your injuries and other damages. Accidents involving big commercial trucks are very different from car or motorcycle accidents in several significant ways and it’s important to select a law firm that knows what the differences are.
Differences Between Big Truck Collisions and Car or Motorcycle Accidents
Some of the differences between a large commercial vehicle collision and a passenger vehicle accident are:
- Bigger and Heavier: The biggest factor that differentiates commercial truck accidents from automobile accidents is the size and weight of the vehicles involved. Commercial trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, while the average passenger vehicle weighs only 3,000 to 5,000 pounds. Because of their greater size and weight, big trucks can take longer to stop than passenger vehicles and strike with a greater impact, with the potential to inflict severe injuries to the occupants of the smaller vehicle.
- Severity of Injuries and insurance limits: Because of the differences in size and weight, injuries to the occupants of the smaller vehicles involved in commercial truck collisions tend to be more serious than injuries stemming from accidents involving vehicles of similar size and weight. As a result, truck drivers and truck owners are required to carry insurance with higher liability limits than conventional car insurance.
- Rules and Regulations: Federal trucking regulations put forth rules on everything from the height and weight of a commercial vehicle to the number of hours a truck driver is permitted to drive. They are designed to keep the roads safe. Operators of commercial trucks are held to higher legal standards and are required to follow more stringent driving rules. Industry-specific rules and regulations require truck drivers to log certain information, such as how many hours they’ve spent behind the wheel and the maintenance of their trucks and trailers. This information can help your attorney determine whether or not the driver and the trucking company were in compliance with safety regulations when the accident occurred. In addition, a commercial truck driver is required to have a certain level of knowledge, experience and training. If an accident is caused by a driver who does not possess the requisite amount of training and experience, their trucking company employers might be held responsible for negligent hiring and/or training.
Multiple Defendants in Truck Accident Cases
In your typical car accident case, there is usually only one party that is liable for financial reparations. This is not true in commercial truck accident cases. A skilled truck accident attorney will be able to identify all the responsible parties. These can include the:
- Truck driver
- Truck driver’s employer
- Truck owner
- Rental company
- Trailer owner
- Repair shop
- Manufacturer of a defective truck part
- Loading and unloading facility
- Federal, state, county and local government entities responsible for road maintenance
By including the trucking company as a defendant, the amount of insurance and assets available to compensate the victim are greatly increased, thereby providing a better chance of full recovery for serious injuries. It is common for a trucking company claim that is not liable because the truck driver was an independent contractor. As a general rule, companies are liable for the negligence of their employees, but not independent contractors. However, the law provides that a trucking company is liable for the negligence of the truck driver, even if the driver is only an independent contractor.
A highway motor carrier licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is liable for the negligence of its independent contractor truckers who cause a traffic accident. (Gamboa v. Conti Trucking, Inc. (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 663, 665-668.) This rule of liability is derived from the public policy exception which imputes liability to the hirer of an independent contractor when the work delegated to the contractor involves an unreasonable risk of harm to others and can lawfully be performed only under a license or franchise granted by public authority. (Serna v. Petty Leach Trucking, Inc. (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 1475, 1486.)
Even when the truck driver has their own permit, the trucking company remains liable for the truck driver’s negligence. In Lehman v. Robertson Truck-A-Way (1953) 122 Cal.App.2d 82, the trucking company was a common carrier licensed under the federal Interstate Commerce Act. Its independent contractor injured the plaintiffs in a traffic collision. The court held that the trucking company had a non-delegable duty as a common carrier, and was therefore liable for the negligence of the truck driver. The court reached this conclusion even though the independent contractor driver was also licensed by the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Public Utilities Commission. As Gamboa explains, it is sound public policy to make the primary contractor liable under the non-delegable duty doctrine in the event that the insurance coverage of the subcontractor is inadequate to cover the loss. (Gamboa, supra, 19 Cal.App.4th at p. 668.)
Frequently Asked Questions About Truck Accidents
California uses the principle of comparative negligence when it comes to assigning damages in a truck accident claim. This means that the amount of damages you may recover for your injuries will be reduced by the percentage of your fault in the accident.
You may be assigned some percentage of fault, for example, if you were hit by an 18 wheeler but it is determine that you were speeding at the time.
Read more about comparative negligence
The sooner you start, the better. In California, truck accident claims have a statute of limitations of two years from the date of injury. It’s also essential to get started sooner rather than later before evidence disappears, witnesses move away, and memories fade.
Read more about when to file an injury claim
Personal injury attorneys usually accept cases based on contingencies. The attorneys receive their fees as a percentage of the compensation they recover for their clients. A lawyer’s fees vary according to the stage of the lawsuit, but they are usually about one-third of the settlement before filing.
Read more about personal injury attorney fees
Speak With an Experienced Manhattan Beach Truck Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident that was the result of negligence on the part of a commercial truck driver or the company that hired the driver or owns the truck or trailer, don’t agree to a settlement with the insurance company until you’ve had a chance to discuss your case with a personal injury attorney.
Individuals who have been injured in a commercial truck accident have a right to seek compensation under California law. The Manhattan Beach truck accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Scott Dinsmore, APC will hold the responsible parties accountable and obtain a settlement or verdict that addresses all the pain, suffering and financial losses resulting from these injuries.
The Law Offices of Scott Dinsmore, APC has extensive experience when it comes to personal injury litigation involving 18 wheelers, semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, crane trucks, moving vans, cargo vans, dump trucks, garbage trucks, landscaping trucks, tanker trucks, food trucks and other types of commercial vehicles. We have been representing victims of big truck accidents in Manhattan Beach, Torrance, Redondo Beach, El Segundo, Hawthorne and surrounding communities for more than 25 years. Our experienced truck injury attorneys know the circumstances and conditions that lead to a big tuck accident and are familiar with the laws and regulations pertaining to commercial vehicles, their drivers and the companies that own and maintain them.
We handle commercial truck accident injury cases on a contingency basis. That means there are no upfront fees for our clients if we accept their case and we only collect our fee after our clients have collected their settlement or verdict after trial. Call us at (310) 318-1220 or contact our office online today to schedule a free consultation.