Large commercial trucks can be frequently seen on the roads and highways of Sacramento County, including Interstate 5, State Route 99, and the Capital City Freeway (I-80). While all motor vehicle collisions have the potential for devastating consequences, accidents involving big rigs can cause particularly catastrophic damage due to the sheer size and weight of these vehicles. Truck drivers are held to a higher standard of care than drivers of passenger cars because of the high risk of injury to others on the road. Unfortunately, not all truck drivers adhere to state and federal safety guidelines, and negligence often leads to 18-wheeler collisions. In such cases, victims and families of those who have passed away may seek justice with the help of legal representation.
Seeking Justice after Suffering Injuries or Loss in a Big Rig Crash
If you or a loved one has been injured or lost their life in a collision with a big rig, it is crucial to contact our Sacramento truck accident attorneys at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. Our team of skilled injury lawyers is available to meet with you at any time, carefully review your 18-wheeler collision case, and offer free, compassionate advice. As trucking accident attorneys in Northern California, we have decades of collective experience and are dedicated to helping families move forward after life-altering crashes. We have a proven track record of success in personal injury and wrongful death cases stemming from semi-truck collisions. When necessary, we collaborate with industry experts to construct strong and persuasive claims against negligent truck drivers and trucking companies. If you or a family member has recently been involved in a crash with a tractor-trailer, do not hesitate to reach out to our law firm today and arrange a free consultation. At AutoAccident.com, we proudly serve clients in Sacramento County and throughout California.
The Devastating Consequences of Crashes Involving Large Trucks
Not all traffic collisions are created equal, especially when it comes to accidents involving big rigs. Due to their substantial size, weight, and force, these accidents often result in catastrophic consequences that far surpass those of collisions between smaller vehicles. Occupants of passenger cars are far more likely to sustain serious injuries or even lose their lives in such accidents. Here are some statistics on crashes involving large trucks in the United States:
- According to data from the National Safety Council (NSC) for 2019, approximately 118,000 big rigs were involved in traffic collisions that resulted in injuries. This represented a 5 percent increase from the previous year.
- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported around 36,096 traffic fatalities in 2019. Among these fatalities, approximately 4,119 were caused by crashes involving large trucks, making up approximately 11 percent of all motor vehicle collision deaths.
- A 2019 report by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revealed that 27 percent of fatal semi-truck accidents occurred on highways, while 57 percent took place in rural areas.
- According to a 2017 trends table from the Analysis Division of FMCSA, Texas had the highest number of fatal big rig crashes with 649, followed by California with 361, and Florida with 292.
The Importance of an Independent Investigation in Truck Accidents
In any civil case, an independent investigation led by an experienced injury lawyer is vital to gather evidence and accurately assign fault. In motor carrier claims, it is crucial to send a letter to preserve evidence to the negligent parties, ensuring that no potentially relevant evidence is hidden, tampered with, or destroyed. While there is already an obligation not to do so, a spoliation letter provides the necessary legal recourse when the defendant fails to comply with the notice. Evidence that may indicate liability includes, but is not limited to:
- Distracted Driving: Like other motorists, commercial truck drivers are prohibited from using mobile devices while driving. To establish that the trucker was distracted at the time of the 18-wheeler wreck, evidence such as a traffic incident report, cell phone records, eyewitness testimony, and video surveillance of the accident scene must be presented.
- Driver Training and Screening: Truckers must undergo training to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Employers must provide medical documentation that proves the truck driver was medically fit to operate a commercial vehicle. Routine alcohol and drug screenings are also necessary to prevent drunk driving and drug use among truckers.
- Hazardous Materials: Tractor-trailers hauling dangerous loads must display appropriate signage to warn other motorists. This is typically done through placards placed on all sides of the 18-wheeler. Safe handling, loading, and securement of hazardous materials are also expected.
- Hours of Service (HOS): Truck drivers and trucking companies must comply with the FMCSA’s requirements for hours of service (HOS), as specified in 49 CFR 395. This regulation sets limits on the maximum amount of time truckers can be on duty and prescribes the number and duration of rest periods. Truckers and carriers must also maintain accurate and up-to-date logbooks.
- Vehicle Maintenance: Trucking companies must conduct thorough inspections and adequately maintain their large commercial trucks to ensure they are in good working condition. Inspection reports detailing the maintenance performed before and after each trip are crucial, as they may provide evidence of mechanical failure.
The Consequences of Negligence in Truck Accidents
Regrettably, many truck accidents are entirely preventable. When truckers and trucking companies disregard laws and regulations in the trucking industry, they compromise the safety of others on the road. Parties that fail to meet state and federal safety standards may be held liable for the crashes they cause. An experienced Sacramento truck accident lawyer at AutoAccident.com can help you and your family hold them accountable.
Proving Negligence in Tractor-Trailer Collision Cases
To secure financial compensation in a civil case, a skilled California truck accident lawyer must establish the liability of the trucker and trucking company. Proving negligence requires presenting evidence that satisfies the following four elements:
- Duty of Care: A truck driver has a responsibility to operate their big rig safely and in accordance with state and federal laws.
- Breach of Duty: The at-fault party failed to fulfill the legal duty mentioned above due to their actions or inactions.
- Causation: The trucker’s actions directly caused a traumatic injury or property damage.
- Damages: Others suffered harm as a result of the truck driver’s actions.
Liability in a Sacramento truck accident case is not limited to the trucker alone. It may extend to the employer, the manufacturer of the large commercial truck, those responsible for loading the cargo, and others. Establishing negligence is crucial in motor carrier claims, and achieving maximum compensation requires the expertise of a top-rated California truck accident attorney.
Who Can Be Held Liable in a Big Rig Crash?
In a lawsuit involving a large truck, liability may fall on several defendants, including:
- The driver of the big rig
- The company responsible for loading and weighing the 18-wheeler
- The insurer that provided a commercial policy for the vehicle
- The company that employed or contracted the semi-truck driver
- The manufacturer of parts and equipment for the large commercial truck
A skilled Sacramento truck accident lawyer has the resources and experience necessary to investigate a tractor-trailer crash and identify the responsible parties, enabling injured individuals and families of the deceased to obtain justice and compensation.
Seeking Compensation in a Sacramento Semi-Truck Collision
In a bodily injury claim for a commercial truck accident, compensation typically falls into two categories: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages encompass financial losses resulting from the incident and traumatic injuries sustained. On the other hand, non-economic damages are more challenging to quantify as they involve intangible losses that vary from case to case. Examples of compensatory damages that may be recovered through a motor carrier claim include:
- Medical expenses for past and future treatment related to the tractor-trailer crash
- Lost wages for the time missed at work due to accident-related injuries
- Loss of future earning capacity in the event of permanent injury or disability caused by the incident
- Loss of consortium due to the significant impact the injury has had on a marital relationship
- Pain and suffering arising from physical pain and emotional distress resulting from the accident
In some cases, it may be necessary to seek the opinion of an accident reconstruction expert to evaluate the scene and examine electronic information stored in the truck’s system. This could involve reenactments and virtual simulations to demonstrate to a jury how the crash led to serious injury and damages.
Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim for a Fatal Tractor-Trailer Wreck
Under California law, surviving family members may have the right to seek financial compensation in the event of a fatal big rig crash caused by another party’s negligence. This typically involves filing a wrongful death action against the truck driver and trucking company responsible for the collision. Surviving spouses, domestic partners, and children have priority in filing such claims, as stated in the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60. If none of these relatives are available, other family members may be eligible to pursue the case.
Recoverable Damages in California Wrongful Death Truck Accident Cases
Through a wrongful death case, survivors may be entitled to recover both economic and non-economic damages. These can include expenses for medical treatment related to the final injury of the deceased (recoverable through a survival action), funeral and burial expenses, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of future financial support, and loss of care, companionship, love, and support. When faced with such a situation, it is crucial to hire the best truck accident lawyer serving Sacramento, California. Your attorney will build a strong case on your behalf and do everything in their power to secure the full financial recovery you deserve.