“A Big rig” is essentially the name that we call a large truck attached to a trailer and is used for hauling freight. For the purposes of this discussion we can call them large trucks or big rigs.
Big rig accidents are frequent in California. According to statistics by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) more than 4,300 large truck and bus accidents resulted in fatalities in 2015. Those that resulted in non-fatal injuries were 87,000 large trucks during the same year.
There are a number of big rigs that large trucks that usually get involved in large truck accidents including:
- 18 wheelers
- freight trucks
- commercial trucks
- semi-trucks, and
- large tractor-trailers.
What are the common causes of big rig accidents?
The following are some of the common causes of big rig accidents in California and even elsewhere:
- Disregard of federal regulations and/or applicable safety regulations by those in the trucking industry
- Driver fatigue
- Negligent truckers/truck drivers
- Distracted driving
- Poor truck maintenance
- Hazardous driving conditions
- Bad weather
- Inadequate training, and
- Mechanical failures.
- Drowsy Truck Drivers
- Freeway Accidents
- Head-On Collisions
- DUI Truck Accidents
- Left Turn Truck Accidents
- Rear-End Truck Accidents
- Sideswipe Truck Accidents
- Wide Turn Truck Accidents
- Accidents with Overloaded and Unbalanced Trucks
- Accidents with Runaway Semi-Trucks
- Accidents with Food Trucks
- Accidents with Livestock Trucks
Given the size of big rigs, accidents that result from big rig accidents can be quite severe but sometimes the victim can luckily come out with minor injuries. The following are the common injuries that can result from big rig accidents:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Whiplash and other neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones, and
Big Rig Accident Attorneys in California: Who commonly gets sued in a big rig and truck-related accidents?
Big rig accident attorneys often file lawsuits against the following persons whenever an accident occurs and people get injured/due as a result.
- Trucking companies who own the trucks
- Truck manufacturers (in product liability cases) – a truck manufacturer can be sued if there’s a manufacturing defect with the truck which in turn causes an accident e.g. perhaps the truck has been recalled, the truck manufacturer can be held liable for the defect which ultimately caused the accident and injured the plaintiff/victim
- Property owners (in premises liability cases)
- Government entities -(if the governmental entity is responsible for poorly maintained roads)
- Independent Driver — an independent driver may have caused the accident. The independent driver may be sued and compensation claimed from the independent driver and/or the driver’s personal insurance policy.
- Any other negligent party (for instance, any other parties who are at fault and who cause an auto-accident e.g. negligent motorist)
What to do when you fund yourself in a big rig accident?
The first priority in a big rig accident is your health. You need to ensure that you are still fine. You need to call 911 for health emergency or get someone else to do so.
The second thing is to collect evidence. If you are in a position to collect evidence, you need to do so. You can take picture of the accident scene, record the name, insurance information and take down contact information for the driver. You need to also talk to witnesses who witnessed the accident and record their personal information and contact information. This will be helpful in proving your case later.
What does the victim have to prove in order to claim compensation?
In law there is a provided way for claiming for compensation. This is called a cause of action. In big rig accidents, the owner/driver/or any other persons mentioned above who can be sued as defendants can be sued for compensation under a cause of action called “negligence.”
Negligence is a familiar term and it also means the same thing in law. However, in law, the victim of a big rig accident big rig accident has a number of conditions to prove in order to succeed in a claim under negligence.
These factors include:
(a) Duty of Care
The victim has to prove that the defendant had a duty of care. Duty of care means that someone has a duty to act in a careful and reasonable manner so as not to pun any other person in danger.
In the case of a big rig driver or manufacturer or owner etc., they have to ensure that the big rig is in a good working condition and driven carefully so as to avoid causing accidents and possibly injuring other road users or damaging property. This is the duty of care in big rig cases.
(b) Breach of Duty of Care
The problem starts if the defendant breaches (i.e. disregards the duty of care) towards other road users.
What the victim has to prove in breach of duty of care is that the defendant acted in a manner that disregarded the safety of other road users. An example is through braking traffic regulations, speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol etc. this shows that the defendant breached the duty to care for other road users.
The victim has to also prove that as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty of care, an accident occurred where the victim sustained injuries/loss. How do you prove injuries sustained? Well, the doctor’s notes can do. The victim need to obtain a copy of the doctor’s notes made during examination and treatment as a result of the accident. If there was damage to the victim’s car, the victim can produce photographs of the accident showing damage to the victim’s motor vehicle. The victim can also produce a valuation report done by auto garage repair company.
There is one other thing that the victim has to prove, that is, that the injury or loss suffered by the victim is as a result of the unreasonable actions of the defendant. The usual way for doing this is by asking “but for the actions of the defendant would the accident have happened?” If the answer is “yes”, then the accident cannot be blamed, at least not entirely, on the defendant. The other person who can be blamed can be sued by the victim too in order to claim compensation. However, if the victim is partly to blame for the accident, then the defendant and the victim would have to share the liability/blame/responsibility for the accident. The usual way for doing this is for the jury to allocate liability in a percentage:
Example: Let us take an example of a situation where the victim suddenly applied brakes in the middle of the road and ends up getting hit from behind by a big rig, and it happens that the big rig driver was speeding past the allowed speed limit, who would be to blame for the accident?
One might say that they are both to blame. But what then? Should the victim be allowed to get full compensation like any other victim? No. The jury usually determines the liability of each party and awards liability in a percentage form. For instance, if the victim was supposed to be entitled to $10,000 in compensation, the jury might find them to be 50:50 liable. This means that the victim would end up getting $5,000 which is half of the original amount that the victim would have been entitled to receive.
In California, this sharing of liability/blame for the accident is called “comparative negligence”.
What kind of compensation can the victim claim from the defendant?
If the victim ends up winning a big rig lawsuit, the victim is entitled to claim the following damages/compensation:
- Medical bills and medical expenses – for treatment
- Lost wages – where the victim is unable to work as a result of the injuries from the accident
- Lost earning capacity – whether the victim can still earn but due to the injuries cannot earn as he/she used to before the accident
- Property damage e.g. damage to the motor vehicle, and
- Pain and suffering.
What if the victim was killed in a big rig accident? What kind of compensation can the family of the deceased/survivors claim?
The kind of compensation that the survivors/family of the deceased loved one who died as a result of a big rig accident can claim another set of damages from the defendant.
However, the suit for claiming for this particular set of compensation is called “a wrongful death lawsuit:
The damages that can be claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit includes (but not limited to the following:
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Amounts the deceased would have earned as income, and
- Compensation for the loss of the deceased’s companionship and support.
What if you/the victim file the lawsuit on your own?
Victims of a truck accident are allowed to file their own lawsuits against they blame for causing the accident. However, this might not be in the best interest of the victim especially if the defendant is a large company with deep pockets.
The usual traffic accidents involve the victim, the driver of the motor vehicle that caused the accident and the insurance company. However, with big rigs, especially those owned by big companies, they can afford to keep big shot law firms in retainer or have their own corporate lawyers while you have no one.
The company’s lawyers can be sent right to your doorstep to get you believing that you are the one responsible for the accident. If you are not aware of your rights, you may end up settling for less, or even worse, choosing to abandon your claim entirely!
Truck drivers sometimes work for themselves where they own their own trucks. Accidents involving such trucks can be sorted out between the truck driver and the truck driver’s insurance company.
When it comes to insurance claims, such claims can get quite complex. It is better and in the best interest of the victim to have a lawyer with knowledge and experience on such claims so that the victim does not end up settling for less out of confusion.
The insurance companies are not saints. They are also doing business and they also have their own lawyers. The victim would be on the safer side having his/her own lawyer who is used to the techniques that the victims get robbed out of compensation that they deserve.
How much compensation can you get in a big rig accident claim?
The amount of compensation that can be recovered in a big rig accident claim is not always the same and varies depending on a number of factors.
For instance, the severity of the victim’s injury can play a major factor in the amount of compensation that the victim can recover. Given the size, shape and weight of big rigs, the injuries commonly sustained by the victims tend to be more severe.
Recovery time for such severe accidents is longer which means that the victim might end up spending more time at the hospitals recovering…which can be quite expensive. During such a long time, the victim needs longer for rehabilitation and in the meantime the victim endures plenty of suffering.
Even with long rehabilitation, the victim’s injuries might not quite heal completely hence the victim might be left partially or permanently disabled. Disability on the other hand means that the victim cannot go back to work hence loses wages (unemployable).
Some victims might partially recover but not quite enough to resume the kind of work that the victim used to so before the accident. Therefore, the victim would have to seek employment that pays less, hence reduced earning capacity. The victim might also be unable to work for continuous extended period of time as partially healed injuries might start acting up. All these factors determine how much compensation the victim might end up getting.
Other few factors that play a hand in determining how much damages/compensation that a victim might be awarded in a big rig accident settlement or judgment include the following:
- Lost Paychecks -the longer the victim stays down due to an injury and the more time he/she misses out on work shifts at your place of employment, the more that the victim will need to be reimbursed for lost wages and potentially compensated for raises, bonuses, and promotions missed out due to the injury.
- Driver’s Insurance Limits – the big rig driver’s insurance may have cap limits which can be exceeded by the victim’s claim for compensation. In truck accidents, once the truck driver’s insurance has been exhausted, the victim has the choice of suing the trucking company for the additional compensation not covered by the insurance company.
- Physical and Emotional Hardships – Non-economic damages can also be awarded for your pain and suffering endured by the victim. After a devastating big rig accident, victims tend to suffer emotional hardship such as anxiety and depression. This is often the case when injuries keep them from doing things they once enjoyed.
What can big rig accident attorneys to in big rig accidents?
In addition to filing a suit in court, big rig accident attorneys can assist the victims of big rig accidents (clients) in the following:
- Informing them of their legal rights
- Managing their medical care and treatment
- Gathering evidence to identify all liable parties, and
- Filing an injury claim with an at-fault party’s insurance company.
- If the victims intend on settling the matter with the defendant of the defendant’s insurance company, the victims’ attorneys can also take an active role in negotiating with the defendant’s or the insurance company’s attorney’s so that the victims end up getting what they deserve, at least to enable them get back on their feet
A California Big Rig Accident Lawyer works to identify every party that bears fault in your accident. This is the only way to make sure you receive the support you need to make a full recovery.
The fight might get big, you might definitely need a big rig accident attorney on your side
Where the defendant is a big company with deep pockets, the might have big shot law firms on retainer of have their own corporate lawyers who specialize in nothing else but squashing personal injury claims brought by victims against the company.
For this reason, you seasoned California big rig accident lawyer on your side who can take to fight to them give you the much-needed piece of mind to recover and heal.
The bigger the company that you are claiming against for compensation, the bigger the fight that will end up on your hands. But not to worry, we at Big Ben Lawyers have decades of experience handling big rig accident claims on behalf of our clients. We have connections with a team of investigators who assist us in obtaining evidence and tracing witnesses who can testify in court on behalf of our clients.
Our team of attorneys work tirelessly in order to ensure that our clients end up getting the biggest compensation possible. This can only happen if we build a strong case from the beginning. Therefore, you can reach us through our contact information available at our website in any big truck accident or any other personal injury claim.