Trucking companies use all sorts of strategies to improve efficiency and to increase profits. Some motor carriers have even resorted to breaking the law to ensure their goods get delivered on time and to boost their bottom line. Overloading a truck beyond its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), for example, can improve the profits generated from each shipment—but it does so at the expense of everyone else’s safety.
Overweight trucks are far more likely to be involved in accidents. The heavier the vehicle, the longer the braking distance. Also, transporting an excessive load can increase the chances of a mechanical failure. The brakes will burn out more quickly, and the tires will be put under greater stress. It is even possible for an axle to snap, which can immediately cause the trucker to lose control. And it is not unheard-of for overloaded semis to cause bridges and roads to collapse.
If you were injured or lost a family member in a crash that involved an overloaded truck, you may be entitled to monetary damages. A skilled truck accident lawyer can review your case and help you determine how best to proceed. This free consultation is also the perfect opportunity for you to ask questions and to learn about the proceedings.
Read on to learn a few facts about overloaded truck accident claims:
1. Multiple Parties May Be Liable for Damages
In the state of California, it is often advantageous to name multiple parties in a personal injury or wrongful death claim due to the state’s joint and several liability law. If one defendant does not have the assets or insurance coverage to pay for your economic damages, you can pursue the difference from the other defendants. This sets California apart from other states where a defendant can only be ordered to pay the percentage of the plaintiff’s damages that corresponds to the defendant’s percentage of fault.
For instance, let’s assume that a third party loaded the truck but the driver was aware that the truck’s weight exceeded the vehicle’s capacity. In this scenario, you may be able to name the third party loading company and the truck driver in your claim. If the driver was employed by a motor carrier—and not an independent contractor—you may also be able to seek damages from his or her employer.
2. Valuable Evidence Might Be Altered or Destroyed If Too Much Time Passes
Trucking companies will go to great lengths to weaken any claim brought against them. It is even possible for key documents to be falsified. For instance, the bills of lading and other cargo manifests may be edited to conceal negligence and to weaken the plaintiff’s case for punitive damages.
Many other kinds of evidence may also be available for just a few days or weeks after the crash. Dashcam recordings and surveillance footage, for example, might show the trucker operating the vehicle in a negligent manner. Although this wouldn’t necessarily prove that the vehicle was overloaded, it might still contribute to the strength of your claim. You should therefore consult a lawyer as soon as possible after the wreck—preferably within 48 hours.
3. Your Statements to the Insurance Company May Be Used to Dispute Your Claim
You might be confident in the strength of your case, and perhaps you feel comfortable speaking to the insurance company. But it is important that you let your attorney handle this correspondence on your behalf. Otherwise, you risk saying something that has the potential to cause a dispute.
4. Punitive Damages Might Be Available
All successful personal injury claims yield compensatory damages of some amount. These damages include the direct monetary losses caused by the accident, such as medical bills and property repairs, as well as the intangible effects of the tort such as pain and suffering. In some scenarios, it is also possible to obtain punitive damages from the defendant.
To collect a punitive award, you will have to prove that the egregious nature of the defendant’s conduct surpassed ordinary negligence. Specifically, you will have to demonstrate how the defendant’s behavior involved malice, oppression, or fraud.
In the context of overloaded truck accident cases, punitive damages may be awarded if the defendant knew that the vehicle was overloaded yet chose to proceed with the shipment anyway. This would likely constitute “malice” since it would demonstrate a willful disregard for the safety of others.
To prove malice, your attorney would need evidence that the defendant was aware that the vehicle was overloaded. Essential evidence may include bills of lading, other cargo manifests, and eyewitness deposition. If the defendant had already been cited for a similar transgression, this may strengthen your claim for punitive damages.
5. Failure to Follow Your Doctor’s Orders Might Reduce Your Damages Award
It’s not easy to live a sedentary lifestyle if you’re typically an active person. And if you’ve been sidelined from work, you may be tempted to return without your doctor’s approval to avoid falling further into debt. Unfortunately, if you do anything that might delay your recovery or aggravate your condition, your award of damages could be reduced. It is therefore important that you take your healthcare seriously and do everything in your power to facilitate your recovery.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Speak with a Long Beach Truck Accident Lawyer
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Trial attorney Michael D. Waks can evaluate your claim in a free consultation and help you make informed decisions. Michael has more than 30 years of experience and has won substantial settlements and verdicts in truck accident cases. Use our Contact Form or call (562) 206-1939 to set up a case assessment.
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