Orange County Truck Accident Lawyer
If you were seriously injured in an accident involving a commercial truck, a truck accident lawyer can help protect your rights. Depending on the nature of your injuries, you may receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, punitive damages, and other emotional and financial losses. Moreover, a seasoned personal injury lawyer can help relieve the emotional stress involved in a claim and let you focus on your recovery.
Why Are Truck Accidents So Dangerous?
Compared to a car or pickup truck, semi-trucks and eighteen wheelers are heavier and less responsive in dangerous situations. It takes longer for a truck to stop or maneuver around a hazard. And, their increased weight and size lead to greater impact forces during a collision. All of these factors result in a greater likelihood of serious injury or death during a truck accident.
Other circumstances can also worsen truck accidents and crashes. Some truck companies focus on their financial bottom line, rather than driver safety. They pressure drivers to ignore federal trucking regulations that limit their hours on the road and push them to make faster deliveries — even if this involves ignoring traffic rules. Other times, trucking companies delay truck maintenance and let the drivers operate vehicles with dangerous tires, brakes, and other systems.
Additionally, there is a truck driver shortage in some parts of the country. Because there are fewer experienced truck drivers available, trucking companies are hiring less experienced, rookie drivers. While some of these new drivers are well-trained, it’s easy for an inexperienced driver to panic and make mistakes in an emergency.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Commercial truck drivers spend a lot of time on the road. This can lead to increased risk of:
- Driver fatigue,
- Speeding, and
- Distracted driving
Truck drivers are also just as likely to engage in reckless behaviors (such as drunk driving or substance abuse) as other drivers. Sometimes, accidents are the result of trucking company decisions. Many trucking companies pressure their drivers to drive for dangerously long periods of time or may insist that they work in dangerous conditions (such as hazardous weather or while seriously ill). Other causes include:
- Defective truck parts and equipment,
- Improper truck maintenance, and
- Poorly or overloaded trucks.
Remember, California has a fault-based negligence system. If someone (such as a negligent driver, trucking company, or manufacturer) causes your injuries, their insurance company must cover your losses.
What You Should Do After a Truck Accident
After a truck accident, you may be emotionally overwhelmed and in physical pain. However, it is important that you:
- Call 911 and report the accident to law enforcement
- Seek immediate medical care (if necessary)
- Document the accident scene (take photographs of the site, the vehicles, and your injuries)
- Identify potential witnesses that saw the events preceding the crash
- Contact a skilled truck accident lawyer
- Avoid making statements to the insurance companies until you retain a lawyer
It is also important that you act quickly. Under California law, you only have two years to file a truck accident lawsuit. If you file after this deadline has expired, you automatically lose your right to compensation.
Your truck accident lawyer should help you file claims with the appropriate insurance companies, negotiate on your behalf, and file a lawsuit (if necessary). If litigation is required, your truck accident lawyer will also guide you through this process — including formal discovery procedures, hearings, and the presentation of your case to a judge or jury.
What Is Negligence?
Negligence is a legal theory. Truck drivers and trucking companies owe other motorists and vulnerable road users (like pedestrians and bicyclists) duties of care. When they violate these duties (such as an obligation to operate their trucks safely), and injuries occur, they are typically liable for the victim’s damages. However, the victim must prove through compelling evidence that the driver did not meet his obligations, caused the victim’s injuries, and that he or she suffered damages.
There Are Strict Trucking Regulations That Drivers and Trucking Companies Must Follow
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets strict rules that most commercial vehicles must follow. They include regulations that:
- Limit the number of hours a truck driver can operate his or her vehicle
- Require thorough background checks on truck drivers
- Restrict a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle when ill or fatigued
- Mandate regular maintenance and inspections of semi trucks and other commercial vehicles
- Set rules about logbooks, document retention, and other procedures
If a trucking company or driver violates these rules, a truck accident lawyer might argue that the violation is “negligence per se.” Under this rule, a violation of a safety rule is automatically deemed negligence — and the victim must only prove that the violation was the proximate cause of his or her injuries.
While this might sound easy, the reality is much more challenging. Trucking companies and their insurers do their best to hide regulatory violations. If you do not act quickly, you might lose valuable evidence. For example, truck drivers only need to keep their logbooks for six months. After an accident, most drivers and trucking companies will destroy their logs as soon as the six-month period expires. A truck accident lawyer can help you preserve this evidence and present it to a jury.
Truck Accidents Can Lead to Complicated Litigation
It can be difficult to navigate your way through a truck accident claim. While many cases are due to the driver’s negligence, you may also have claims against other parties, such as the company that owns or maintains the vehicle or truck and equipment manufacturers and retailers (in a product liability or defective product claim). Your claim may also involve multiple insurance companies. Additionally, truck accident cases involve extensive technical and legal knowledge. During litigation, you or your Orange County truck accident lawyer may have to:
- Read and interpret medical records,
- Analyze accident reports and driving logs,
- Apply California’s motor vehicle and negligence laws to your case,
- Hire expert witnesses and prepare their testimony,
- Calculate your damages and negotiate with the insurance companies, and
- Prepare your case for presentation at trial.
This might involve the analysis of complicated telematic data — information from the high tech communication systems that many trucks have that track their speed, driving maneuvers, and time on the road.
It can be incredibly difficult to handle these tasks on your own — especially when you are recovering from traumatic injuries. Unfortunately, insurance companies try to take advantage of unrepresented motorists by offering excessively low settlement offers or improperly denying their claims. An experienced Orange County truck accident lawyer can help you handle the complexities of your claim, provide emotional support, and ensure that you receive fair compensation. A lawyer will advocate on your behalf and should meticulously prepare your case for settlement negotiations and (if necessary) trial.
What Is My Truck Accident Claim Worth?
Every truck accident claim is different. Your claim’s value will depend on a series of factors that are unique to your claim. They might include:
- The extent of the driver or other party’s negligence
- The severity of your injuries and the extent of your medical bills
- Whether you can return to work and the extent of your lost income
- Your ability to live independently after the crash
- The insurance coverage and policies involved in your claim
- Whether you contributed to the accident
- The level of your pain and suffering
- Whether there fatal injuries
- Other factors
A truck accident lawyer will carefully calculate the full extent of your damages and document the impact of the accident on your life.
Importantly, you should never respond to a settlement offer before you consult with a truck accident lawyer. Insurance companies typically make unreasonably low offers to accident victims — especially if they’re unrepresented. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses that want to minimize your recovery. They might pressure you to accept an offer, even if it isn’t in your best interest.
A truck accident lawyer, in comparison, is on your side. Your attorney will help you understand your legal rights, give you honest advice about your claim’s value, and stand up to the insurance company’s intimidation tactics. At Russell & Lazarus APC, we are readily available for consultations. If you’re ready to talk, call us today.
Speak With an Orange County Truck Accident Lawyer
When you work with a truck accident lawyer from Russell & Lazarus APC, you will receive personalized attention and advice. Our experienced lawyers will evaluate your claim, advise you of your rights, and tirelessly work on your behalf. We fight tirelessly for our clients and will demand fair compensation and accountability for your injuries. Contact us for a consultation today by calling (888) 998-2318.