Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in the US, and accidents involving large commercial vehicles are particularly devastating. While the average passenger car weighs around 2,000 pounds, a semi truck or tractor-trailer with full cargo loads can reach 40 times that weight. The immense size, length, and heft of these vehicles make them extremely difficult to navigate, particularly in poor road conditions or extreme weather. Not only are collisions more likely to occur, but the impact of these collisions, even at low speeds, subjects your body to intense forces capable of causing severe, widespread damage. If the truck is carrying a load of hazardous materials, the risk of injury or wrongful death is exponentially higher for other motorists involved in the collision.
Because these vehicles are almost certain to cause fatal or disabling injuries in a collision at highway speed, state and federal laws regulate the speed, weight, loading, and inspection of 18-wheelers and other large trucks. Truckers are also subject to hours of service limits and mandatory rest periods to ensure they are alert enough to safely operate their vehicles. However, many companies incentivize long hours without stopping by offering higher pay, making it incredibly common for truckers to ignore these rules. When these regulations are broken in pursuit of delivery times and profits, accident victims and their families pay the price.
Learn more about trucking accidents by consulting the information below, then contact a personal injury lawyer at Guenard & Bozarth today to discuss how we can deliver justice and compensation for injuries you sustained in such an accident. Our personal injury lawyers can identify violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations and other negligence or intentional disregard of public safety in pursuit of compensation for clients, and we make sure trucking firms and businesses are held accountable for causing life-changing harm. We offer attentive, dedicated support and an impressive record of proven results helping clients just like you throughout the Sacramento area. Our team will aggressively advocate on your behalf so you can focus on recovery rather than fighting with insurance companies.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, over 36,000 people were killed on roadways in motor vehicle crashes during 2019, and approximately 2.4 million sustained injuries from such crashes. The US Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System recorded that 4,119 motor vehicle accident fatalities resulted from collisions with large commercial trucks, and 67% of these fatalities were the occupants of the other vehicles involved in the accident, an increase of 31% from 2009. Sixteen percent were the truck’s occupants, a rise of 51% during the same time.
Of all fatalities from motor vehicle crashes, 11% involved large trucks (74% with tractor-trailers, 28% with single-unit trucks). Due to their size, weight, and the sheer force they exert on the human body during a collision, 97% of all vehicle occupants who died due to injuries sustained from a collision with a large truck were drivers or passengers of the smaller vehicle. While not nearly as vulnerable as occupants of passenger vehicles, truck drivers can also experience serious damage or death in collisions; 64% of all large commercial truck occupants who died in multiple vehicle crashes were in collisions with another large truck.
How you choose to handle yourself directly following a trucking accident can significantly impact the outcome of any future personal injury claim you decide to file against the truck driver, trucking company, or any other defendants whose negligence led to the accident.
- Get Help
Immediately call emergency services and alert them of the accident and the location. If you are able, check on any motorists, passengers, or pedestrians who show signs of injury, assess their injury, and render first aid, such as performing CPR or placing pressure on wounds to stanch bleeding. Taking this step right away can save someone from lethal consequences while you wait for emergency responders to arrive. If no one is injured or if emergency services has arrived and is providing medical attention to victims, you must do what you can to prevent further injury and damage. If your vehicle is blocking traffic or otherwise causing a safety hazard and is still operable, move it out of traffic to avoid secondary collisions.
- Gather Evidence
After handling any immediate medical issues, the next step is to gather evidence at the accident scene, so you are ready for a future claim. This includes photographs, video footage, witness statements, and details about the date, time, location, weather conditions, and any obstacles in the road or other visible factors that may have contributed to the accident. You should document everything properly, from slick surfaces after a rainstorm to nearby construction activity that increases the chances of an accident.
- Exchange Information
Exchange contact information with the other driver or drivers (primarily names, addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers, make and model of the vehicles involved, license plates, insurance company, policy numbers, and other relevant information). This is crucial for making an insurance claim and holding the other party responsible for paying damages. If witnesses viewed the accident, obtain their contact information as well, so you can get in touch with them later to learn more details or request that they corroborate your account of the incident in court. Make sure you request a copy of the police report from the law enforcement officers arriving on the scene.
- Contact a Trucking Accident Attorney
If you sustained any injuries or property damage in the collision, contact an experienced trucking accident attorney right away so they can begin working on your case. Remember that some medical conditions may take time to develop, meaning that seemingly minor injuries can worsen over time and become increasingly dangerous. For example, pain and stiffness in the neck that you attribute to whiplash may be a herniated disc or fracture, or a persistent headache can be a sign of traumatic brain injury that requires prompt medical attention. An attorney can also help you navigate the process of notifying your insurance company about the accident.
- File the Personal Injury Claim
In California, victims of trucking accidents must submit their personal injury claims within two years following the date of the accident and claims for property damage within three years. Failing to file in time can cause the judge to completely dismiss your case without even reviewing it, so understanding the statute of limitations and adhering to it is vital for recovering compensation. Your trucking accident attorney will have helped you gather additional evidence and prepared your case so they can negotiate a settlement with insurance companies or pursue the claim in court if a fair settlement cannot be reached.
- Calculate Damages
Recovering compensation requires carefully calculating all damages you incurred from the injury you sustained, from economic damages like medical expenses and loss of income to non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. Your attorney can utilize your medical records, the police report, witness statements, and other evidence to support your claim. After these figures have been assessed, they will explain how each factor is necessary for completing a full recovery and moving forward, including the ability to gain employment or return to your previous lifestyle.
Even if you might be partially responsible for the accident, never admit fault at the accident scene. You cannot possibly possess all the relevant information at this point and can seriously jeopardize your case before you find out all the details of the accident. For example, you may have failed to properly signal before turning and feel that this makes you responsible for the accident, so you share this information at the scene. However, you learn later that the truck driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time, and this impairment made them unable to make timely maneuvers to avoid a collision. Because you have already admitted fault, you will likely be prevented from recovering the damages you are owed.
In collisions between large commercial trucks and passenger vehicles, the occupants of the smaller vehicle tend to suffer more severe and extensive damage than the truck driver. The type and extent of injuries sustained during an accident depend on various factors, including the truck’s weight, the type and safety features of the passenger car, the speed at which the vehicles were traveling, and the accident’s location. However, you can expect almost any collision of this sort to involve grievous injuries, both from the original crash and any secondary crashes that can occur due to the vehicles blocking a roadway or intersection.
Common injuries sustained in trucking accidents include the following:
- Head trauma, including soft tissue damage, fractures, or penetrative wounds.
- Traumatic brain injuries can lead to several harmful conditions, such as a build-up of fluid in the brain, seizures, paralysis, stroke, blood clots, coma, or meningitis, an infection that can spread to the rest of the body and quickly prove fatal.
- Neck and back injuries, including whiplash, vertebral fractures, facet joint injuries, herniated discs, and nerve damage.
- Broken bones, most frequently in the shoulders, collarbones, ribs, arms, legs, and pelvis.
- Serious burns from fire, explosions, contact with steam escaping from ruptured mechanical components, hot metal pieces broken from the vehicle’s body, or flammable cargo the truck carried.
- Damage to internal organs such as the heart, lungs, stomach, or kidneys, resulting from the blunt force of the collision or punctures from broken bones penetrating them.
The most devastating trucking accidents feature significant damage to the passenger vehicle that traps the occupants inside, requiring emergency crews to bring in specialized equipment to free them. When a trapped occupant has sustained a serious or life-threatening injury, the delay involved in waiting for the emergency crew to arrive and complete its work means more time passes before medical attention is provided. These victims are more vulnerable to smoke inhalation and demonstrate a much higher risk of dying from blood loss due to their injuries.
Under California law, legal responsibility for covering damages from injuries sustained in a trucking accident rests on any parties found negligent when this negligence directly contributed to the injuries. A negligent truck driver is liable to provide compensation for other drivers, passengers, or pedestrians injured in an accident, but the trucking company can also be negligent and legally responsible for the damages. Proving negligence in a trucking accident case requires your Sacramento truck accident lawyer to investigate the accident, gather evidence such as traffic camera footage or witness testimony, and produce a compelling case.
Demonstrating negligence requires proving three primary components:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the victim, meaning they were expected to control the movement and speed of the vehicle and exercise reasonable caution when operating their vehicle to prevent endangering other people.
- The defendant breached this duty of care by acting in a manner that a reasonably cautious driver with the same level of experience and training would have acted under similar circumstances.
- This breach formed a significant factor in the victim sustaining injuries that resulted in the damages for which they are pursuing compensation.
Truck drivers can be considered negligent for the following actions:
- Distracted driving, including talking, texting, eating, changing the radio station, or putting directions into a GPS.
- Driving while impaired, especially if drowsy from long shifts or little sleep.
- Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other controlled substances.
- Traveling at excessive speeds for the road and weather conditions.
- Failure to keep a proper lookout.
- Ignoring traffic signals.
- Tailgating, improper lane changes, and failure to yield right of way.
- Neglecting to regularly inspect cargo to ensure it is secure and balanced.
Trucking companies can be considered negligent if they violate any transportation or safety regulations, whether intentionally or carelessly, and cause an accident, such as:
- Hiring unqualified or inexperienced drivers.
- Failure to supervise drivers or enforce safety regulations.
- Knowingly allowing or encouraging drivers to violate safety regulations.
- Negligent training of their employees, including drivers and anyone responsible for loading or maintaining cargo.
- Negligent retention of employees who would have been fired by any reasonable company.
- Overloading trailers with cargo that exceeds the weight limit.
- Neglected maintenance of crucial parts of the vehicle, primarily brakes and tires.
- Failure to provide sufficient safety devices.
Defendants in a trucking accident claim can also include the owner or leasing company providing the truck, the insurance company, the truck manufacturer, the manufacturer of the vehicle parts, other drivers, government officials, and anyone else involved in the accident.
A valid trucking accident claim can involve economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include those that can be assessed with a dollar value, such as:
- Medical expenses, including ER treatment, surgical procedures, medical supplies, or prescription drugs
- Future medical expenses for continuing treatment
- Repairs to the damaged vehicle
- Loss of wages during recovery
- Loss of future earning capacity in the case of long-term injury or disability
- Court costs
Non-economic damages are more difficult to pursue as they cannot be easily assigned a dollar value. These damages can include:
- Disability or disfigurement
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
- Loss of consortium, or depriving the victim of the benefits they gained from their relationship with the injured spouse
- Loss of enjoyment in life
If a truck accident took the life of your spouse or child, you might be entitled to recover damages with a wrongful death claim. California law recognizes that truck drivers and other negligent parties should not escape legal responsibility for their actions because the victim is no longer alive and therefore is unable to file a personal injury claim. A spouse or domestic partner, children, grandchildren, or anyone else who may be entitled to the decedent’s property can file a wrongful death claim. You can pursue compensation for the following damages:
- Burial expenses and funeral costs
- Loss of financial support the decedent would have provided to the family if they had survived their injuries
- Loss of support, protection, and guidance from the decedent
Although financial compensation could never replace your loved one, it can allow you to move forward with financial security, gain a sense of justice, punish the negligent party, and prevent them from hurting other families in the future.
If you were injured in a truck accident or your loved one died due to injuries sustained in a trucking accident, contact truck accident lawyers Guenard & Bozarth today to discuss your case. Our skilled, experienced attorneys have recovered verdicts and settlements for serious and permanent harm such as quadriplegia/paraplegia, loss of limb, severe burns from vehicle fires and explosions, traumatic brain injury, broken bones and crush injuries, as well as wrongful death claims. We have decades of experience working with clients throughout Sacramento, and we make sure that every component of your loss and projected expenses is documented and included in your demand for compensation.
Our team of Sacramento truck accident attorneys has the legal knowledge and litigation experience you need to ensure you receive justice and restitution in your case. We limit our caseload, meaning our lawyers can take the time to make a thorough investigation of the causes of a truck accident; an analysis of the contractual and corporate relationships among owners, drivers, shippers, or lessees; and a complete examination of the full range of your physical, economic and intangible losses. We retain trucking experts and forensic specialists to develop and present evidence of the factors that contributed to the truck crash.
Guenard & Bozarth is here for you to deliver justice and fair compensation for your injuries. With offices in Sacramento and Elk Grove, we take cases across Northern California, including freeway accidents on I-5 and Highway 99. Our law firm handles all accidents with commercial vehicles such as semi-trucks and tandem trailers, farm trucks, package delivery trucks, garbage and utility trucks, construction and landscaping trucks, cranes, backhoes, and heavy equipment. FedEx and UPS distribution hubs in Elk Grove and West Sacramento provide a steady stream of trucks, and agricultural produce trucks regularly spill fruit and vegetables all over I-5 and Highway 99 as they traverse the San Joaquin Valley.
We provide a free consultation and take no attorney fees unless we recover compensation. If your injuries prevent you from leaving your home or hospital bed, we will come to you to discuss your case. To start the investigation, contact our Sacramento truck accident attorneys today by submitting the form on our website, and our team will be in touch with you right away.
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CAR ACCIDENT INJURY
Guenard & Bozarth llp obtained a $2,962,903 jury verdict in the Sacramento County Superior Court for plaintiff David Schoonover, who suffered head and neck injuries and fractures in a head-on accident on Roseville Road in Roseville on July 22, 2012
HAIR SALON INJURY
Guenard & Bozarth LLP recently settled a case for $300,000 involving a hair weave that went terribly wrong. Our client was a young lady, and aspiring model, who experienced pressure necrosis from a tight weave and it changed her life.
SLIP & FALL INJURY
Guenard & Bozarth LLP recently settled a slip and fall case for $500,000 a couple weeks before trial. The client slipped and fell on a wet piece of cardboard in a grocery store and sustained a serious shoulder injury that required surgery.
On February 13, 2013 Maricela, a Certified Nursing Assistant presented to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Emergency Room with complaint of neck and back pain. She was diagnosed with a neck strain and was given Ibuprofen and instructed to return if her symptoms did not subside.