It goes without saying that driving alongside a massive semi-truck is a jarring experience. Your life is entirely in the hands of the truck driver, and a minor turn of the steering wheel could be all it takes to cause a deadly accident. This nightmare becomes a tragic reality for thousands of people every year. In many cases, these collisions could have been avoided if the truckers involved had checked their blind spots.
If you or a member of your family was injured or killed in such an accident, you may be entitled to monetary damages. Read on to learn the answers to a few FAQs about these claims:
1. Can I Sue the Motor Carrier That Employed the Truck Driver?
Maybe. If the truck driver was an employee of the motor carrier and performing duties within the course and scope of his or her employment, it may be possible to hold the motor carrier vicariously liable for your damages. This is often advantageous to the plaintiff because trucking companies tend to have liability policies with high coverage limits. Also, California’s joint and several liability law allows a plaintiff to hold one defendant liable for 100 percent of the economic damages accrued even if that defendant was less than 100 percent at fault, so it is strategically advisable to name as many defendants as possible in your claim.
2. Are Punitive Damages Available?
Failing to check a blind spot before merging or changing lanes typically constitutes ordinary negligence, so punitive damages usually are not available in these cases; however, if there are extenuating circumstances that constitute malice, it may be possible to recover a punitive award. For example, if the truck driver knowingly violated the Hours of Service regulations and fell asleep behind the wheel, or if the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, punitive damages may be available.
3. What If a Member of My Family Died in the Truck Accident?
If your loved one died due to another party’s negligence, you may be able to bring a wrongful death claim. These actions are intended to compensate surviving family members for damages like funeral and burial costs; loss of services the deceased provided; loss of gifts and benefits; lost financial contributions; loss of sexual relations; and the loss of advice, assistance, love, and protection.
If your family member did not die immediately in the accident, it may also be possible to bring a survival action. These actions must be brought by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate or by the successor in interests. They are intended to recover compensation for damages incurred by the deceased between the fatal accident and the death such as lost income, medical bills, and property damage. Under some circumstances, punitive damages may also be recoverable in a survival action.
4. How Can People Reduce Their Risk of Being Sideswiped by a Large Truck?
The easiest way to reduce your risk of being involved in a sideswipe accident with a big rig is to avoid their blind spots. There are four blind spots on an 18-wheeler: directly in front, directly behind, and two adjacent to each side mirror. The less time you spend in these areas, the lower your risk of being involved in a sideswipe accident.
You can also reduce your risk by driving defensively. If you notice a semi-truck entering the highway, give it plenty of space to merge.
5. How Do Truck Accident Claims Differ from Claims Involving Standard Passenger Vehicles?
There are several key differences between truck accident claims and those that involve only passenger vehicles. We’ve outlined a few of those differences below:
Types of Parties That May Be Liable: In the vast majority of car accident cases, one of the drivers involved is found liable for the crash; however, it is not uncommon for multiple parties to share liability for a truck accident. Such parties may include the truck driver, the motor carrier, a mechanic, or the party that loaded the cargo.
The Severity of Injuries: Big rigs can weigh up to 40 tons, and truck accidents usually happen on highways and interstates. The combination of immense size and high speed add up to a forceful impact that has the potential to cause devastating injuries. The more serious the injuries, the greater the damages will likely be. And the greater the damages, the more incentive the insurance company will have to dispute the claim. When a dispute arises, a case might proceed to litigation and possibly all the way to trial. It may be necessary to depose medical and financial experts to prove the value of damages. For these reasons, it is important that you hire an attorney who has extensive experience litigating truck accident cases.
The Relevant Statutes and Case Law: Truck drivers and motor carriers must adhere to certain laws that do not apply to the average driver. For instance, the Hours of Service regulations limit the number of consecutive hours a trucker can drive without rest. Truck drivers can also be arrested for DUI if their BAC is only 0.04 percent. That means certain behaviors may be considered negligent for a truck driver even though they would not be considered negligent for the average motorist.
Types of Evidence: There are many kinds of evidence that can play a role in all types of auto accident lawsuits. Examples include photos of the scene, surveillance footage, the police report, and eyewitness deposition. When a commercial truck is involved in a crash, however, there are other kinds of evidence your attorney might use to strengthen your case. Examples include black box data, timestamped bills of lading, and other cargo manifests.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Speak with a Long Beach Truck Accident Attorney
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
You can reach us 24 hours a day to schedule a free consultation. We accept personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis, so we won’t charge any attorney’s fees unless we resolve the case in your favor. Contact us at (562) 206-1939 or send us a message to speak with a member of our team.
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Click Here to download and print our free Car Accident Emergency .PDF. Keep this document in the glove compartment of each of your vehicles so you always have a handy guide to help you document the scene if you are ever involved in a collision.
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