According to the Federal Highway Administration, the portion of Interstate 5 that runs through Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Santa Ana is not only the most heavily traveled location in California– but the most traveled location in the nation. With more than half a million vehicles on this highway daily, it should come as no surprise that truck accidents occur every day in Southern California.
Unlike accidents involving only passenger vehicles, 18-wheeler accidents raise many technical questions based on trucking regulations, driver licensing, vehicle ownership, vicarious liability, and the physics of accident reconstruction. They also tend to involve more serious injuries. In other words, it pays to have an experienced professional on your side.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of a severe crash, call Salamati Law to speak with a Los Angeles truck accident attorney. We team up with the industry experts who are needed to maximize compensation for those who need it most.
Dangers of truck accidents
Accidents involving 18-wheelers and other large commercial trucks are the source of life-altering injuries for individuals across Southern California every year. The size and weight disparities between vehicles of this type and conventional passenger cars almost always result in a serious accident.
There are more than 1,000 semi-truck accidents in California each year, and with more than 2,600 annual injuries and fatalities, Los Angeles is, by far, the most dangerous county. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, most deaths in large truck accidents are the occupants of passenger vehicles. Commercial trucks typically weigh between 20 and 30 times as much as a typical passenger car, and their greater height and ground clearance can produce potentially catastrophic under-ride events.
Negligence on the part of truck drivers, trucking company operators, equipment manufacturers, and others are often at the root of a serious accident. When this is the case, victims may be entitled to compensation for the physical and financial impact that the accident has on them and their families. At Salamati Law, we provide aggressive advocacy to prove these complex cases and secure maximum compensation for clients who have been harmed by truck accidents.
Causes of truck accidents
To qualify for a commercial truck driver’s license in California, a driver must complete a special exam and undergo a thorough background check. To increase safety, the California legislature added a requirement that, as of 2020, entry-level truck drivers must also undergo a training course that includes at least 15 hours of behind-the-wheel training before becoming eligible to sit for the exam.
Despite these stringent requirements for obtaining a commercial truck driver’s license, it is estimated that over 30 percent of all truck accidents are attributable to factors relating to driver error, such as accidents caused by driver fatigue.
Common causes of truck accidents include:
- Dangerous right turns, or swinging turns at intersections
- Inclement weather
- Truck driver fatigue
- Poor road conditions
- Jackknife accidents
- Shifting of cargo causing dangerous imbalances
- Falling debris or unsecured cargo
- Road debris
- Poor vehicle maintenance or faulty equipment
- Failures of critical truck components or faulty equipment that lead to a loss of driver control
Safety standards for truck drivers
As noted above, fleet vehicles like 18-wheelers weigh 20- to 30-times more and have longer stopping distances than cars. These trucks, which cover far more miles of road than a typical vehicle, are also more likely to be involved in fatal crashes.
Commercial truck drivers must comply with federal laws and regulations enacted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and state-specific laws. The guidelines govern matters such as a driver’s maximum allowable drive-time between rest periods, vehicle maintenance, weight allocation, and the loading and unloading of freight.
A truck accident lawsuit can hinge on a thorough understanding of industry regulations. Suppose a crash was caused by the driver’s violation of one of these safety regulations. In that case, the plaintiff benefits from a legal presumption that the driver was at fault, which essentially means they have a reduced burden when it comes to establishing fault.
Liability in truck accidents
Regardless of whether the crash event was a fatal truck accident or a less severe car accident, personal injury plaintiffs in California need to prove the fault of the defendant. However, there are many potentially liable parties in truck accidents, and the legal issues are highly complex.
When a truck driver’s negligence causes an accident, depending on the circumstances, they may be personally liable, and their liability insurance carrier would likely be responsible for paying the damages. However, if the driver was working for a trucking company involved in interstate hauling– as an employee or an independent contractor– or if the driver was the employee of a company involved in intrastate hauling, the trucking company may be vicariously liable. In addition to the driver or the trucking company, potentially at-fault parties may include:
- Vehicle maintenance contractors
- Truck component suppliers
- Vehicle manufacturers
- Freight companies
It takes a trained eye to untangle the facts, legal relationships, and statutory responsibilities involved in a commercial accident involving multiple parties. An experienced truck accident attorney is the best person to provide a comprehensive review of the facts and determine which parties are potentially liable for damages.
Common truck accident injuries
Truck accident victims– including those in passenger vehicles and bystanders, road workers, pedestrians, and bicyclists– are all at risk of serious injury. Some common injuries resulting from such crashes include:
- Bone fractures, including hip fracture and skull fracture
- Traumatic brain injury, as well as other head injuries and neck injuries
- Severe burn injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
Compensation available to plaintiffs
Truck accidents can create long-term economic harm. According to one insurance carrier’s inflation-adjusted calculations based on FMCSA data, the average cost of a large truck accident in 2017 was about $120,000, while the cost of a semi-truck accident was $382,000. In cases involving fatalities, the average cost was about $4.8 million.
The good news for victims is that the law recognizes their right to seek full and fair financial compensation.
Successful plaintiffs may be able to secure payment for:
- Current, future, and past medical bills
- Rehabilitation and therapy services
- Accessibility modifications to personal residences
- Pain and physical suffering
- Emotional trauma and mental distress
- Loss of marital or familial relationships
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Loss of financial support for dependents in wrongful death actions
- Funeral costs
However, even when the facts are on your side, proving fault in a tractor-trailer accident can be extremely challenging. It is unwise for victims to do battle with deep-pocketed defendants on their own. Choosing an experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney assures your case is handled the right way, with all of the legal and technical requirements met and your case presented in the most persuasive way possible.
Committed advocacy for accident victims in LA
At Salamati Law, we bring a deep understanding of the industry, strong negotiation skills, and dedicated client service to every truck accident lawsuit that we handle. From the insurance company’s initial investigation to working with medical experts and accident reconstructionists and through settlement negotiations and trial, we are by your side.
Whether you were injured or lost a loved one in a fatal truck accident, we are here to help. We never charge up-front legal fees, only getting paid when you do. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to find out more about your rights.
- S. Department of Transportation, Office of Highway Policy Information Tables: Top 25 Most Traveled Locations by Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT), https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/tables/02.cfm
- California Legislative Information, Status: SB-1236 Commercial driver’s license: education., https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billStatusClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB1236
- NHTSA, The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010 (Revised), https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812013
- CRC Group, Truck Accident Frequency, and Claims Severity on the Rise, https://www.crcgroup.com/Tools-Intel/post/truck-accident-frequency-and-claims-severity-on-the-rise?portalid=34