California Truck Accident Attorney: Determining Fault In A Truck Crash

california truck accident attorney

Large trucks as defined by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are any medium or heavy truck, excluding buses and motorhomes with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds.

If you stroll anywhere in California, chances are you’ve already seen different trucks that are used to transporting products or materials, towing or moving houses, and delivering and recovering stranded vehicles.

According to a 2020 report by the NHTSA, 4,695 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks — a 1% decrease from 5,032 in 2019. Seventy-one percent of people killed in large-truck crashes in 2020 were occupants of the vehicle. In addition, 76% of the crashes occurred on weekdays or from 6 am on Monday to 5:59 pm on Friday.

In general, all drivers must adhere to the highway protocols to assure their safety and of the public. During truck crashes in California, truck drivers are oftentimes blamed for the incident. However, it should be remembered that the fault should be attributed to the negligent driver. To learn about everything regarding filing a personal injury lawsuit for truck accidents, you should seek the assistance of a California truck accident attorney.

Is It Always The Truck Driver’s Fault?

No, truck drivers should not always be blamed for a truck crash in California since there are other contributing factors as to why incidents occur. The reasons why vehicular accidents happen can include driver fatigue, drunk driving or operating while intoxicated, reckless driving, distracted driving, poor vehicle maintenance, poor cargo loading, road conditions, and even weather conditions. Negligent drivers are not always the truck drivers.

Categories of Truck Drivers

Depending on how a truck crash in California occurs, the responsibility for it may lie with the:

1. Owner-operator

Owner-operators are the owners and the drivers of the truck. There are two types of owner-operators: the power-only operator and the owner that owns both the tractor and the trailer.

The first operator is only the owner of the tractor, but not the trailer. On the other hand, the second operator owns both the tractor and the trailer. Unlike other drivers, owner-operators cover their miscellaneous expenses, such as occupational accident insurance, bobtail insurance, physical damage insurance, escrow accounts for maintenance of the vehicle, permits, and others.

2. Company

Company drivers are employed within the transportation industry, such as commercial trucking companies, shipping companies, and similar businesses. They get a consistent salary, access to employer-sponsored benefits, and steady home time. In addition, they do not have to pay for the fuel, scales, tolls, lumpers, or maintenance.

3. Lease Purchase

The lease purchase driving job is designed for truck drivers who want to be owner-operators but have no financial capacity to purchase a tractor. The goal of a lease program is to let the truck driver pay the tractor off through a time investment of working for the trucking company while having the driver continue making payments until the truck gets paid off.

How To Identify Liability In a Trucking Accident 

Identifying liability in commercial truck accidents is essential to filing your insurance claim and getting compensation for medical expenses and property damage. Check the following records to determine the cause of the incident and identify liability in a truck accident injury case:

1. Police report

During vehicular accidents, the persons involved in the crash usually call the police and file a police report. The police officer collects witness statements, investigates the accident scene, and issues a report. The report pinpoints the liability of the driver as stated are the rules that the latter violated including speeding, tailgating, ignoring the protocols, and more.

2. Truck driver’s driving record

You can never be sure that a driver has been a careful driver in his entire driving career. It is necessary to take a look at the truck driver’s driving record history. Regardless of the minor collisions, these can still be pieces of evidence that could add up to the liability. The trucking company that employs a negligent driver will be aware of the risk of accidents and may share the liability of the accident perpetrated by the driver.

3. Policy of a trucking company and maintenance records

Truck companies may share liability with the truck driver in the collision caused by the latter. The companies must exercise the duty of care by strictly implementing their policies, checking their driver’s histories, and having regular maintenance, check-up, and repair to their company-owned vehicles. Safety issues can be preventable if companies comply with federal safety regulations and conduct due diligence. 

4. Trucker’s records and black box

The trucker’s records will show what happened in the vehicle within the day such as the type of cargo and who loaded it, which may prove if it was attributed to the accident. In addition, it will show the distance that the truck driver has driven and whether he was speeding or not. These will help establish who the negligent parties are and the types of damages to file claims for. 

Similar to the airplane’s black box, a truck’s black box also records the information leading up to the crash including the speed of the truck while traveling, GPS coordinates, dash cam recordings, and even whether the driver stepped on the brake or not.

5. Witness and expert reports

Apart from the police reports, there might be first-hand witnesses who saw the accident happen. In this case, lawyers and insurance companies may communicate with the witnesses to determine the cause of the incident and identify the responsible party. On the other hand, an expert witness may inspect the vehicle involved in a crash to determine the cause.

Dealing With Insurance Adjusters After a Truck Crash

Do not forget that insurance adjusters are well-trained to persuade you into accepting lowball offers in truck accident claims. Most of them may appear that they are concerned about you when they ask you questions about how you are doing after the incident, especially when you’ve experienced catastrophic injuries.

But, beware — it may result in leading questions that can lower the value of your claims, thus, losing your chances to increase your insurance compensation. Insurance agents are not your friends, and having a seasoned trucking accident lawyer on your side will protect you from jeopardizing your claim. 

Adjusters during the first encounter may seem friendly. However, their goal is to pay truck accident victims less than the minimum amount they deserve after the injuries they sustained. As you talk, adjusters may convince you that negotiating with them without a California truck accident attorney is easier and cheaper.

If an insurance adjuster asks for your recorded statement, do not provide one as it may be used against you in your truck accident lawsuit. Recorded statements are not mandatory nor required to be provided. Hence, you should speak to a California truck accident attorney first to know your rights when you’re involved in motor vehicle accidents. 

California Laws On Truck Accidents

After being involved in accidents with commercial vehicles, you must be equipped with knowledge of California Laws on Trucks to know your rights and the compensation that you are entitled to receive. You need the help of an experienced California truck accident lawyer to obtain maximum compensation from the at-fault party.

1. Special Licenses for Trucks

The special license for trucks is called a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). The CDL is defined as the following:

  • Have a gross vehicle weight rating (commonly known as GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more;
  • Combination of vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or more;
  • Tows another motor vehicle with a GVWR of 10,001 lbs. or more;
  • Tow more than one vehicle or a trailer bus;
  • Has three or more axles (excludes three-axle vehicles weighing 6,000 pounds or less gross);
  • Is intended, used, or sustained to hold more than 10 passengers counting the driver (hire or profit) or is used by any nonprofit organization or assembly.
  • Necessitates hazardous material placards or is carrying material listed as a select agent or toxin in 42 CFR part 73;
  • Transports hazardous wastes (Health and Safety Code §§25115 and 25117).

2. Statutes of Limitations

In California, the Statute of Limitations is two years for an individual to file a lawsuit for the damages resulting from a truck accident. Filing the claim two years thereafter will bar your capacity to sue subject to exceptions. Remember that the exception to the rule only applies to the following:

  • The injured party is proven to be mentally incompetent or incapable of filing a claim
  • The party is a minor or under the age of 18. If so, the minor has until the age of 18 to file the claim in addition to the statutory period of 2 years
  • The statutory period may be extended where an injury is unknown and later discovered

Why You Need a California Truck Accident Attorney

Insurance companies are supposed to cover incidents caused by their insured. However, they have tactics to convince you to agree to lowball offers or to even avoid making fair compensation. Unfortunately, most claimants are not aware that they can sue insurance providers for bad faith.

Therefore, do not hesitate to call Farahi Law Firm‘s California truck accident attorneys! Our lawyers handle different types of accidents and will help you with what to do during a truck crash and guide you in filing a personal injury claim. In addition, you will get the proper medical care without spending a dime and get your property damage fixed.

Our personal injury law firm has a proven track record of success, recovering hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients. Our team of skilled attorneys wants to do the same for you.

The legal process can be long, winding, and tricky. You need a truck accident law firm in your alley.Contact our personal injury attorneys now or call (844) 8242955 for a free consultation. We work on a contingency basis — no fees unless we win. Our personal injury lawyers speak English and Spanish.