Los Angeles Truck Accident Lawyer
Our Personal Injury Lawyers Will Help Get You the Compensation You Deserve
Large trucks, 18-wheelers, and semi trucks are a leading cause of many traffic-related deaths in the United States. California, in particular, has witnessed some of the worst truck accidents in the country and Los Angeles is the second most traffic jam prone city in North America.
Truck accidents are different from car accidents. Because truck accident cases are complicated and will involve commercial trucking companies and insurance policies, it is crucial for a truck accident victim to take the right steps after a truck accident to ensure they receive fair and full compensation for their losses.
If you have suffered injuries or property loss after being involved in a truck accident, you may be entitled to compensatory damages. Contact a dedicated Los Angeles truck accident lawyer at West Coast Injury Lawyers by calling 213-927-3700 or completing our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Common Types of Los Angeles Truck Accident Injuries
One of the primary reasons why truck accidents in Los Angeles are so devastating is because they are known for producing catastrophic injuries. A tractor-trailer or eighteen-wheeler can weigh 20 to 30 times more than a passenger vehicle. Due to their size and weight, commercial trucks are dangerous and essentially guaranteed to crush smaller vehicles in an accident.
With that being said, the type of injury you sustain is not necessarily what will determine whether you have grounds for a truck accident claim. If your injuries, whether minor or severe, have had a serious impact on your life, you could be entitled to financial compensation. Some of the more common types of injuries we see in Los Angeles civil courts include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Head injuries
- Back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Burn injuries
- Neck injuries
- Compound fractures
- Broken bones
- Organ failure
- Internal bleeding
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
If you have been diagnosed with an injury that was not listed above, you may still be deserving of restitution. Find out what your truck accident insurance and tort claims could be worth when you contact West Coast Trial Lawyers for a free consultation.
Federal Trucking Regulations You Need to Know
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for the oversight and regulation of the U.S. federal trucking laws. There are many rules and regulations in place that trucking companies and their staff are required to adhere to if they hope to remain in compliance with federal laws.
When the trucking companies violate these laws to further their own interests, they can be held accountable for the injuries that victims sustain in collisions caused by their negligent actions. Some of the more common ways these companies violate federal trucking regulations include:
- Failure to give truckers the required minimum amount of time off between shifts
- Forcing a truck driver to work beyond the maximum number of hours allowable per shift
- Failure to do their due diligence when hiring a truck driver
- Failure to hire truck drivers with necessary training and experience
The FMCSA may be able to take enforceable action against the individuals and entities who violate federal trucking laws. However, you may also have the right to hold them accountable for the damages you sustained due to their negligence. In doing so, you could recover maximum compensation for your truck accident injuries.
Fault and Truck Accidents in Los Angeles
Determining liability after a truck accident can become a logistical nightmare. Not only are truck accidents catastrophic from an injury perspective, they are also very complex from a legal standpoint because multiple parties can all be held liable. It is also important to understand that there are also zones where trucks are allowed and not allowed to drive in, which may affect liability.
Truck accidents can be caused by many circumstances. And there are even no fault truck accidents, as well. However, California is a fault state, meaning that someone must be held liable for causing an accident. Depending on the specific circumstances, the truck driver, the trucking company, and even the truck manufacturer can all be held liable for the accident. Multi-vehicle semi-truck accidents, in particular, are very difficult to assess for these very reasons.
California Pure Comparative Negligence Laws
It is important to note that an injured driver can also share some degree of responsibility for causing a truck accident. However, an injured driver who is found partly responsible for causing a truck accident may still be able to recover some damages.
Under California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 3960, California is a comparative negligence state, which means that an at-fault driver may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit for damages, even if they were partially at-fault for causing a truck accident.
However, sharing fault could have a dramatic impact on the outcome of your case. California law still requires that injury victims be held accountable for their portion of fault. This means you can expect your injury settlement to be reduced in proportion to your percentage of fault. Let’s look at an example:
Kelly was driving down US 101 when she was sideswiped by a truck driver who dozed off at the wheel. She brought the truck driver to court. At trial, it was revealed that Kelly was not wearing her seatbelt at the time of the accident. The judge found her to be fifteen percent liable for her injuries. The jury awarded her $200,000 for her damages. Since Kelly was fifteen percent liable, her truck accident settlement was reduced by fifteen percent, and her truck accident claim was resolved at a final amount of $170,000.
As can be seen, even sharing a small portion of fault could dramatically impact the amount of your truck accident compensation. Make sure you take steps to ensure that liability is accurately assessed in your case by having your Los Angeles truck accident attorney advocate for your interests.
How to Prove the Elements of Negligence
According to California negligence law, any truck driver found guilty of negligence can be held liable for causing injuries and damages to another motorist. A driver who was injured by a negligent truck driver is entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, the aggrieved party must prove that the truck driver was negligent in causing the accident.
There are three elements for demonstrating negligence in a California truck accident:
- The truck driver owed the accident victim a duty of care;
- The truck driver breached their duty of care through negligence; and
- The truck driver’s breach was the significant factor in causing the victim's losses.
A duty of care is a basic legal requirement for every truck driver to watch out for other drivers and use reasonable caution while behind the wheel. For example, a duty of care for a truck driver would require that driver to:
- Control the movement and speed of their truck
- Use reasonable care while operating their truck
- Watch for pedestrians, other vehicles, and obstacles
Failure to uphold this duty of care is tantamount to negligence. Your truck accident lawyer in Los Angeles will be tasked with gathering the evidence needed to prove negligence no matter who is at-fault for your accident. Some of the more common types of evidence that could be used to help prove liability for your truck accident injuries include:
- Medical records
- Photos and video footage of the accident
- Photos of your injuries and property damage
- Copy of the official police report
- Safety inspection reports
- Witness statements
- Expert testimony
- Forensic evidence
For your attorney to secure the compensation you deserve, we will need to show that someone else’s negligence or misconduct caused your injuries. Although many truck accident victims are quick to assume they know who caused their injuries, you might be surprised which parties are often found liable for some of the most severe commercial truck accidents in Los Angeles.
Negligent Truck Drivers
All trucks are subject to state and federal laws and regulations to minimize accident risks. However, some truck drivers and commercial trucking companies will ignore safety laws in order to meet their deadlines and maximize profits.
Due to the immense pressure a truck driver is under to meet their deadlines, the potential for mistakes and negligent driving can exponentially increase. For example, according to California Vehicle Code 21702 VC, it is a misdemeanor for a truck driver in the state of California to spend more than twelve consecutive hours on the road in a 24-hour period. It goes without saying that a truck driver who violates these hour limits is at an increased risk of causing harm to others.
A truck driver who is found in violation of California’s safety regulations and causes an accident, may be liable to an injured driver for their losses. The majority of all truck accidents are caused by a truck driver who was not using reasonable care while driving or who was in violation of safety regulations.
Truck driver negligence may include:
- Distracted driving
- Texting and driving
- Unsafe lane changes
- Not following traffic signals
- Not yielding the right-of-way
- Not abiding by safety regulations
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Irresponsible Truck Companies
The actual commercial trucking company can also be found negligent for causing a truck accident. Trucking companies may intentionally or recklessly violate transportation regulations or safety requirements to increase their profit margins.
When these violations contribute to causing a truck accident, that company may be held liable for any injuries or damages caused. Examples of trucking company negligence include:
- Overloaded trailers
- Allowing overweight vehicles
- Not properly maintaining trucks
- Poor driver hiring and training practices
- Allowing trucks to carry unbalanced cargo
- Encouraging drivers to forego sleep and hour restrictions
- Allowing or encouraging drivers to drive in violation of safety laws
- Negligent retention of underqualified or underperforming employees
There are California and federal regulations that exist to limit truck size, weight, and route designations for trucks. Unfortunately, many commercial trucking companies will intentionally violate these safety regulations. They may also falsify their documentation process in order to hide evidence of their deliberate negligence. This is reckless and can also subject a trucking company to punitive damages for negligence.
There are also instances when a truck driver flees the scene of an accident, which have their own unique set of circumstances. Let’s consider an example:
Say that a local Los Angeles trucking company is short on drivers. Rather than diligently training and hiring a well screened and professionally trained fleet of drivers, they instead recruit a motley group of drivers with previous substance abuse issues. This group of drivers promises to give up drugs, passes a drug test, and begins work.
A few weeks later, one of the drivers relapses and drives while under the influence. Unfortunately, this driver’s negligence causes a serious accident which kills two people.In this example, not only is the driver guilty of negligence, but the trucking company that hired and trained him would also be responsible to the victims for their losses.
Other Third Parties
Negligent truck drivers and the trucking companies that hire them are not the only parties that are found liable for truck accident Injuries in Los Angeles. In fact, there are many other parties who could share blame for the cause of the accident. After all, there are multiple individuals and entities who are involved in the safety, operation, and maintenance of commercial trucks.
When parts on the truck malfunction in some way, truck technicians, safety inspectors, auto parts manufacturers and designers, truck dealerships, and even the owner of the truck can all be held accountable.
There have also been many truck accident injuries caused by cargo that has not been properly secured within the bed of the tractor trailer. When this happens, the truck driver, cargo loaders, the trucking company, and other parties involved in loading up and securing the truck could all be named in your Los Angeles truck accident lawsuit.
Only a thorough investigation into the cause of your truck accident will reveal which individual or entities should be named as liable parties in your insurance and civil claims.
Statute of Limitations for Truck Accidents in Los Angeles
It is crucial to understand that personal injury victims, including truck accident victims, will typically have two years to file a claim for damages. This is because under the California Code of Civil Procedure SECTION 335-349.4, the statute of limitations for tort claims is only two years. These are some of the shortest statute of limitations across the country. It limits the amount of time that victims have to pursue their claims within the civil court system.
Unfortunately, the date in which the statute of limitations expires for your Los Angeles truck accident claim may not always be clear. For example, does the statute of limitations end two years from the date that your accident occurred? Or does it occur from the date that you were diagnosed with an injury relating to the accident? These kinds of details can have a considerable impact on your ability to pursue your case.
For this reason, it may be in your best interest to have an experienced truck accident attorney handling the legal details of your case. You do not want to risk losing the compensation you would otherwise be entitled to by making a mistake like missing this critical deadline.
What to Expect From Your Los Angeles Truck Accident Insurance Claim
Dealing with the insurance company after your Los Angeles truck accident is one of the most tiresome, but necessary aspects of the claims process. Unfortunately, insurance companies like to masquerade as being “on your side”, or looking out for their claimant’s interests, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Under California Civil Code Section 1430-1432, California follows a fault system for car accidents and insurance purposes. After you have been involved in a truck accident, you will need to file a claim with the liable party’s insurance provider. Since you are dealing with an insurance company that is not your own, you can be sure that they will attempt to avoid having to pay out on your claim.
Even the most deserving of truck accident claimants can expect to face delays or denials from the insurance company. They will lose money by settling on your truck accident claim. For this reason, they have teams of insurance adjusters coming through every aspect of your case to find opportunities to reduce your settlement.
They may even attempt to place unwarranted blame on you or manipulate your statement to make it appear as though you have admitted guilt or accepted fault for causing the accident. Under California’s comparative fault laws, they could legally reduce your settlement if they can prove you share fault.
Your Los Angeles truck accident attorney is well aware of these unscrupulous insurance company tactics. We will never allow the insurance company to take advantage of you and will ensure that the insurance company is upheld to their financial obligation to you and your claim.
Compensation From Your Truck Accident Insurance Settlement
It is important to understand how insurance claims work to understand how you can recover maximum compensation for your suffering. Since you are filing a claim with the liable party’s insurance company, the amount of compensation you can be awarded from their insurance is directly correlated to the amount of insurance they purchased.
The insurance company is only required to cover compensation up to the highest amounts of their policyholder’s claim. For example, if the liable party only carried $50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage, but your medical expenses exceeded $500,000, the insurance company would only be obligated to cover a maximum of $50,000.
Furthermore, insurance companies often attempt to avoid having to compensate claimants for non-economic damages. In fact, many insurance companies will only offer compensation for medical bills and the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle after a truck accident.
When this happens, you need to be prepared to bring your case to trial. Your lawyer may need to file a claim against the insurance company if they refuse to settle your case fairly. However, we may also need to pursue legal action against the liable party in Los Angeles civil courts. In doing so, you can be sure that you will have your best opportunity at obtaining full and fair restitution for your injuries.
Damages That Are Recoverable After a Truck Accident in Los Angeles
Compensatory damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for their losses after a personal injury case. In general, a plaintiff must prove that they were harmed or injured in order to be entitled to damages.
Broadly speaking, compensatory damages can be divided in either of the two following categories, economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages include tangible losses, such as property damage. Non-economic damages include intangible losses, such as emotional distress
Economic damages in a truck accident may include:
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Hospital expenses
- Property loss
- Vehicle repairs
- Loss of earning capacity
Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out of pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
In very rare cases, a plaintiff may be able to sue for punitive damages. Punitive damages may be awarded on top of the normal compensatory damages an aggrieved individual may be entitled to and are intended to punish a wrongdoer for their negligent or malicious behavior.
Los Angeles Truck Accident FAQ
The truck accident claims process can be overwhelming when you are still struggling to cope with physical or emotional injuries. You may have many unanswered questions about your case and what to expect going forward.
With this in mind, we have answered some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding Los Angeles truck accident claims below. If you have additional questions that were not answered on this page, contact our office so we can further discuss your specific questions and concerns during your free consultation.
Should I Give a Statement to the Insurance Company?
No, it is never a good idea to speak to the insurance company without first having spoken to your truck accident lawyer. Remember, the insurance company is not going to prioritize your interests. What they care about is furthering their own financial gain. Settling your claim does nothing to further their interests, so you can expect them to try to use any opportunities they can to reduce or deny your claim.
Instead of giving the insurance company a statement, direct them to your Los Angeles truck accident attorney who can provide them with the specific information and facts they need without putting your injury settlement at risk.
Can I File a Claim on Behalf of My Child?
Yes, you can. Since a child may not be able to advocate for their own rights, the parent or legal guardian will have the ability to pursue legal actions against the party at-fault for the child’s injuries. If your child has been injured in a truck accident, they still have the right to be compensated for their damages. You can fight for the compensation they are entitled to by filing a truck accident claim on their behalf.
How Can a Truck Accident Lawyer Help With My Case?
An experienced truck accident lawyer knows the trucking industry rules and regulations and can uncover any truck driver or trucking company violations. It goes without saying that truck accident investigations and claims are complex.
A truck accident lawsuit will list all potential defendants who had or may have had a role in causing an accident. Depending on the specifics of your truck accident, the list of defendants may include:
- The truck driver
- The insurance provider
- The truck manufacturer(s)
- The city or county governments
- Any drivers who were involved
- The commercial trucking company
- Anyone else involved in the accident
- The defective vehicle parts manufacturer
Finally, even if a truck driver was directly responsible for causing your accident, the commercial trucking company can possibly be held liable for the negligence of their employees. According to California's respondeat superior laws, a trucking company can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of their truck drivers.
How Are Truck Accidents Different From Car Accidents?
Truck accidents involve other factors that are not common to car accidents, such as trucking industry laws, commercial trucking insurance coverage, special accident investigations, and the increased severity of injuries and fatalities.
- Trucking industry laws. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) has implemented various trucking regulations intended to make roads safer for all truck drivers and every motorist on the road. All commercial truck drivers are required to follow the regulations implemented by the FMCSA. Failing to comply with these safety regulations will almost guarantee the commercial trucking companies will be held liable.
- Insurance coverage. Commercial trucking insurance is different from other insurance policies because there is much more coverage. If you were the victim of a truck accident, our experienced truck accident attorneys can deal directly with the insurance companies to make sure you obtain maximum compensation for your losses.
- Truck accident investigations. Investigations and gathering evidence for truck accident cases is significantly more extensive than in car accident cases. It is important to retain the services of a skilled truck accident lawyer who knows the protocol for gathering evidence and who will do so in a timely manner to preserve any crucial evidence.
Can I File a Lawsuit for a Family Member Who Died in a Fatal Truck Accident?
An individual who loses his or her life after a truck accident can no longer file a claim for damages. Therefore, the child, spouse, and sometimes even other family members may be able to file a wrongful death claim under California’s wrongful death laws.
Available damages after a wrongful death suit include:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Financial support of the decedent
- Losses or benefits provided by the decedent
- Household services the decedent would have offered if they were alive
Individuals who can file a wrongful death claim in California include:
- The spouse
- The surviving children
- The registered domestic partner
- If the children are deceased, the surviving grandchildren
- Any person(s) entitled to the deceased’s assets according to California's intestate succession laws
Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer in Los Angeles Today
If you have sustained injuries as a result of a truck accident, you have the right to hold the guilty party responsible. An experienced truck accident lawyer at West Coast Trial Lawyers can help you recover compensation for your suffering.
Our firm is proud to offer free, no-obligation consultations to truck accident victims across Los Angeles and nearby cities. Take advantage of this opportunity when you complete our quick contact form or give our office a call at 213-927-3700.
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