When traveling on the roads and highways of the United States, large trucks are a common sight. According to the American Trucking Associations 2016 Trucking Trends report, in 2015 trucks transported some "10 billion tons of freight" to businesses around the country. These vehicles usually have a much greater size and magnitude than passenger vehicles, such as cars or vans, and can "weigh 20-30 times as much" according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Additionally, they typically sit much higher up than other vehicles and have "greater ground clearance than cars." All these factors can lead to deadly consequences for smaller vehicles if they are involved in a collision with a large truck.
Unfortunately, collisions occur every year. Overall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that there were 6.3 million crashes that were reported to the police in the United States last year. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is the" lead federal government agency responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles" reported that there were 141,292 crashes involving large trucks in 2015. 4,197 people died in these accidents and 70,915 were injured.
Truck crashes can lead to devastating injuries and even death. If you or a loved one has been in a truck accident, please do not hesitate to contact the law firm of Woods Williford today.
Causes Of Truck Accidents
There are a variety of factors that can cause a truck accident. According to the IIHS, truck accidents can occur because of:
- Driver Fatigue: Truckers can work long hours. Those who spend more than eight hours on the road at a time are twice as likely to end up in a crash. Because of the hours that they work, the IIHS has found that truckers can suffer from "sleep deprivation, disruption of normal sleep/rest cycles and fatigue." In addition, those who have reported "hours-of-service violations are more likely to report having fallen asleep behind the wheel during the past month." In addition, those who reported these type of violations were more likely to have caused a crash."
- Age: Younger drivers are more likely to end up in a crash, both fatal and nonfatal. According to a number of studies, drivers who are in their 20's or under the age of 21 are involved in crashes at a higher rate than older drivers.
- Defective Equipment: A truck with equipment that is not working properly can pose a risk to others on the road. The IIHS reported that "tractor-trailers with defective equipment were twice as likely to be in crashes as trucks without defects." Some of the most common equipment defects were brake defects and lighting defects.
Negligence In Truck Accidents
When drivers cause accidents because they are careless in the operation of their vehicles, the drivers can be held liable for the damages they cause. In order to hold a driver liable, the injured party must show that the driver was negligent. Negligence is defined as a "failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation." Black's Law Dictionary 1133 (9th ed. 2009).
To prove negligence in California, the plaintiff must establish certain elements. These elements are: "'(a) a legal duty to use due care; (b) a breach of such legal duty; [and] (c) the breach as the proximate or legal cause of the resulting injury.'" Ladd v. County of San Mateo, 12 Cal.4th 913, 917 (1996). In order to hold an individual accountable for his or her negligent actions, that individual must owe the person they hurt a duty of care. For example, a truck driver, like other drivers, has a duty to operate his or her vehicle in a safe manner. A driver who breaches this duty and causes injuries to another person can be held liable for damages.
Employer Liability And Truck Accidents
Truck drivers are often employees, transporting goods for a trucking company. If an employee is negligent when acting in the course and scope of his or her employment, the employer may be held liable for any injuries or property damage that the employee's actions caused.
For example, Joe works for Star Trucking Company as a truck driver. He is delivering a shipment in his 18-wheeler when he rear-ended a small SUV that was being driven by Cheryl. He caused the accident because he was overtired and not paying enough attention to the road. If Cheryl later files a lawsuit to recover damages for the injuries she sustained in the crash, she may name Star Trucking Company as a defendant. Since Joe was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident, his employer can be held liable for his negligence.
The circumstances under which an employer can be held liable will depend on the facts of the case. For example, if an employee is on a lunch break and causes an accident, then his or her employer may not be on the hook for damages. Likewise, an employer may escape liability if an individual was not an employee but an independent contractor because employers are not generally liable for the actions of independent contractors. Some drivers are misclassified as independent contractors when they should really be considered employees. This determination is made based off of factors such as control, supervision, skill, and whose equipment or tools are being used to perform the work.
Contact A California Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, please do not hesitate to contact the law firm of Woods Williford. Our attorneys have been representing clients in personal injury cases for many years. Let our knowledge and experience work for you. Call our office today at (888) 340-2440, or click here to fill out our online form.