California traffic has a notorious reputation even outside of the state. It should come as no surprise that oftentimes big-rig trucks come into unfortunate tangles with other motor vehicles on the roadways and due to their size, the trucks usually end up doing the most damage.
In April of this year, a truck driver fled the scene of an accident in a Los Angeles suburb, leaving one man dead and another severely injured. The truck driver ran a red light, and after causing the accident, unhitched his trailer and drove away. A month later, multiple tractor-trailers jackknifed on a road in San Diego due to rain-slicked driving conditions. Fortunately, no one was hurt in this incident, but authorities closed down the highway while they cleaned up debris and fuel.
Sadly, in June two mothers and four children were killed when a tractor-trailer hit a minivan from behind at speeds of 55 mph in northern Los Angeles County. Their husbands survived the crash but suffered severe burns in their attempts to save their families.
When a semi-truck driver wrecks, it generally makes the news because the sheer size of the motor vehicle almost always causes damage in some capacity. Sometimes, we are lucky enough that only property is damaged, but many times, people are the victims of these accidents.
Injuries sustained in a trucking accident are often severe, ranging from spinal injury to amputation, and as demonstrated in the stories above, death. Permanent disability can cause a person millions of dollars over the course of his or her life in lost wages and medical expenses, not to mention the emotional damage that comes along with such a catastrophic life change. You should not be left empty handed in these situations.
Despite State and Federal Law, Trucking Accidents Happen with Alarming Frequency
Every year thousands of people are killed in trucking accidents and in 2014 alone, fatalities totaled almost 3,500 individuals across the United States. According to the California Department of Transportation, millions of commercial trucks are registered in the state and many communities rely exclusively on freight hauled by trucks for their needs.
On the national level, the trucking industry is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) which is a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The FMCSA regulates the trucking industry and promulgates rules pertaining to the trucking industry. Within the state of California, there are many agencies that regulate different aspects of the trucking industry, both on the state and local level.
What Laws are Truck Drivers Breaking?
The use of commercial motor vehicles is heavily regulated by federal, state, and local governments. Federal regulations promulgated by the FMCSA provide numerous rules meant to bolster safety of truck drivers on the road. Some of the most common accidents are caused by driver fatigue and improperly-secured cargo. The FMCA has very specific mandates concerning both of these issues.
These regulations put in place how many consecutive hours a truck driver may spend on the road, how often the driver must stop and rest, and how many days the driver can drive consecutively. The average work week for a truck driver is limited to 70 hours with mandatory hours off duty requirements. Failure to comply with these rules can result in fines placed on the trucking company of $11,000 per offense and the driver himself can be liable for up to $2,750 for each offense.
According to Part 392, under Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, the truck driver is subject to inspection requirements both before and during the trip. The pre-trip inspection includes generally testing brakes, steering, lights, tires, horns, windshield wipers, mirrors coupling devices, wheels, and emergency equipment. If the driver is hauling cargo, the pre-trip inspection becomes more involved, requiring the testing of the subparts of each item listed in addition to more mechanisms. If the driver takes the road, he or she is assumed to have complied with these rules. Additionally, the driver must stop during the trip to ensure all parts are in safe working order. The pre-trip inspection is one of the most frequently violated rules and it carries penalties applicable to the trucking company and the individual truck driver as well.
Part 392 also imparts a duty on truck drivers to abide by alcohol prohibition rules, speed limits, data logging criteria and many other laws. Although the FMCA imposes penalties for violation of its rules, these penalties will not benefit an injured person or persons in the event of a trucking accident. The victim of the accident must find its remedy through either negotiation with the trucking company or through litigation.
You Have Been Injured in a Trucking Accident: What Now?
If you are injured in an accident caused by a truck driver, you likely face a complex legal battle ahead. Not only do you have to prove your injuries and determine present and future damages so that you can be rightfully compensated, but you need to know whom to sue. Do you sue the truck driver? Do you sue the company that the truck driver was working for? Were there other individuals on the road who may have contributed to the injury? Once these questions are answered, your attorney will begin building your case by determining what laws the truck driver broke. The driver may have violated federal statute, or perhaps state law. Most likely, both the driver violated laws in both jurisdictions.
Another factor in trucking litigation is handling the insurance companies. Federal laws require the trucking companies to carry a minimum amount of insurance, and if you are injured in a trucking accident you will be negotiating with these companies. If you are injured, you should speak to an attorney before you speak to any party, excepting law enforcement officers. Injury Trial Lawyers, APC has extensive experience in truck accident litigation and as San Diego truck accident attorneys you can count on us to be your advocate both in negotiation with the insurance companies and in front of the judge.