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Truck Accident

With their massive size and weight, commercial trucks are among the most significant dangers on California roadways. When you realize that many large trucks also transport hazardous materials, you can see why commercial truck crashes are a highly specialized area of personal injury law. 

If you’ve been injured in a trucking accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and expenses. Contact Caputo & Van Der Walde, LLP for a free initial consultation. If we handle your California truck accident claim, we advance all costs and will  will not owe any fees unless and until you receive a settlement from the insurance company or an award from the court. Caputo & Van der Walde, LLP levels the playing field so that truck accident victims do not have to pay out of pocket for our professional services.. 

California Truck Accident Statistics

According to the California Highway Patrol, truck collisions claim hundreds of lives and result in thousands of serious injuries annually. 

  • The California Highway Patrol reported that there were 7,009 crashes in 2019 alone, and the average number of truck crash injuries per year over the preceding five years was 6,762.
  • From 2015 to 2019, California had 1,580 truck crash fatalities, averaging 316 per year. 
  • Los Angeles county leads the state in injuries and deaths, with 1972 injury accidents and 57 fatal crashes occurring in 2019 alone. 
  • Although trucks represent a much smaller percentage of all vehicles on the roadways, they are involved in 8.9% of all fatal crashes. 

As California truck accident lawyers, our attorneys know the dangers of big rig accidents. That’s why we represent our clients on a contingency basis. Call today to speak to a personal injury attorney who handles truck accident claims. 

Common Causes of Truck Accidents in California

The following are all factors that can cause a truck collision:

Distracted Driving 

Truck drivers spend long stretches operating on California highways, which is why they are particularly susceptible to distracted driving. The temptation to use their cell phone to answer a text or engage in some other distraction can be overwhelming. Additionally, many truck drivers pick up food and eat en route to their destination. These activities all represent dangers to other drivers.  

Driver Fatigue 

Truck drivers are subject to state and federal mandatory break periods. That does not, however, mean that they’re actually resting during these off periods. Falsified drivers logs are quite common. Fatigue slows response times and impairs judgment. This is a common underlying factor in truck accident cases. The following infographic shows the latest CA laws regarding driving schedules.

California Highway Patrol  Infographic
Source: California Highway Patrol

Driving Under the Influence

Most trucking companies have a zero-tolerance policy regarding alcohol or drug use. However, alcohol is readily available along every major truck route, and illegal stimulants and other drugs are frequently used by truck drivers to ward off fatigue. When impaired, semi-truck drivers are a significant danger to other vehicles, which is why California’s legal BAC limit for tractor-trailer drivers is .04% — half the legal limit for other drivers. 

Improper Load 

Truck Load Schematic
Source: U.S. Federal Highway Administration

It may not occur to many drivers, but the way that semi-trucks are loaded can determine how they maneuver in an emergency situation, like a tire blowout or unexpected debris in the roadway. Even if the truck driver involved does everything else right, an improper load may make it impossible to operate the truck safely. Furthermore, improper loading can cause cargo to fall off or break free of the truck.

Failure to Perform Mandatory Inspections of Brakes/Equipment Failure

Truck drivers are required to perform a detailed safety inspection before starting out each day. One of the most important inspections, especially for trucks traveling over significant grades like the Sunol Grade, Highway 17 and Pacheco Pass. Often there is significant time pressure on drivers to deliver their loads by a certain time or date. If drivers are running late, it is common to forgo inspections and falsify inspection logs. When truck brakes get too hot, due to improper braking, down shifting or because other brakes aren’t functioning, the truck will experience brake fade where the brakes progressively fail and may even start smoking or emitting noxious fumes. One such case handled by Caputo & Van Der Walde resulted in a multi-vehicle pile up by Lexinton Resevior at the bottom of Highway 17 in Los Gatos when a truck plowed into stopped vehicles at approximately 50 MPH.

Inclement Weather Conditions 

Wet roadways or poor visibility due to smog are frequent causes of California truck accidents. While these are dangers for any driver, a tractor-trailer is even more difficult to maneuver on wet roads and has a much longer stopping distance due to its large mass. 

Common Types of Truck Accident Injuries

Any injury a driver or passenger could sustain in a car accident is also possible in a truck accident. The difference is that when large commercial trucks are involved, the risk of injuries, even at low speeds, is much greater. The following types of injuries are common when commercial trucks collide with other vehicles:

  • Death
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Internal injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Catastrophic personal injuries
  • Lacerations
  • Chemical exposure
  • Severed limbs
  • Muscle tears and sprains

If you’ve experienced any of the above injuries from a truck accident or if your family member was killed by a negligent driver, you are entitled to collect compensation for your damages. A California truck accident lawyer can help you recover money for your medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and more. In the event of a wrongful death, a truck accident lawyer can represent you or the estate in their pursuit of justice. 

Tips for Preventing or Avoiding Truck Accidents in California

The following defensive driving tips can help you avoid truck accidents while driving on California roadways. Understand that no matter how diligent you are, you may still someday be involved in a trucking accident. If this occurs, contact Caputo & Van Der Walde, LLP for immediate representation. 

  • Give commercial trucks a wide berth – A commercial truck has a large blind spot. A driver may not be able to see you in their side-view mirrors. If you’re passing a truck, do so quickly. Watch for lane-change signals before you attempt to pass. 
  • Look for erratic driving patterns – Swerving in the roadway could be a sign of drunk driving or fatigued driving. If you notice any unpredictable patterns, try to avoid passing the truck. 
  • Pay particular attention near on-ramps and off-ramps – truck drivers may try to make sudden lane changes if they aren’t paying attention, particularly when exiting. They may try to make up for this lapse in judgment by making a sudden lane change. 

What to Do in Case of a Truck Accident

The first few moments after a commercial truck accident are critical to your survival, recovery, and future attempts to secure financial compensation. While all truck-involved accidents are different, these general tips can be invaluable. 

  • Get to a Safe Location – When it comes to a semi-truck transporting hazardous materials, you may have to move a mile or more to be safe. In many cases, the safest place for you is in your vehicle. If your car is operable, carefully drive to a safe place. Otherwise, exit your vehicle with caution and create some distance between yourself and the crash. 
  • Call 911 – It’s essential to get first responders on the scene. The 911 dispatcher will need to know your exact location, the direction of travel, a description of the vehicles involved, apparent serious injuries, whether the truck appears to be leaking hazardous materials, whether you can see a placard on the truck, etc. Do not risk your safety to try to get a better view. Provide the information that you can. 
  • Ask Witnesses to Remain – If there is a witness to your truck accident, they could make a difference in your case. If a witness can’t remain on the scene, ask for their contact information.
  • Take Photographs – Take photographs from a position of safety. You’ll want to capture an overview of the truck accident, the truck, any markings that indicate the name of the trucking company, placards, vehicle damage and other property damage, debris on the roadway, skid marks, the truck driver, and any visible injuries. 
  • Seek Medical Attention – Even if you feel well, you may be injured and not realize it. Allow the EMTs to check you out. If they recommend it, go to the emergency room. In any event, you should follow up with your regular physician.
  • Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer – The adjusters who work for the insurers of truck companies are paid to minimize claims. It’s not unusual for an adjuster to reach out to an accident victim within hours when a semi-truck accident occurs. That’s because they would prefer to negotiate directly with the plaintiff instead of a skilled personal injury lawyer. They may tell you that they’ll write you a check for your medical bills, vehicle damage, and a little extra for your inconvenience.

    While this fast money may seem like a fair amount at the time, you don’t know how extensive your injuries will be right after the incident. A truck accident attorney from Caputo & Van Der Walde, LLP will review the settlement offer. You’re under no obligation to use our services, but you can call us today for a free consultation. 

Establishing Fault for Truck Accident Injuries

In order for law firms to be able to pursue a personal injury claim on behalf of their clients, they must establish the following four elements of liability:  

  1. Duty of Care 

Both the driver and the truck company have a duty of care when it comes to the safe inspection, maintenance and operation of their vehicles on California roadways. Drivers must ensure that they are well-rested, sober, alert, and compliant with all safety laws. Likewise, trucking companies must monitor their drivers and properly inspect and maintain their trucks. 

  1. Breach of Duty of Care 

To pursue a claim of liability, personal injury lawyers must then demonstrate there was a breach of duty. For example, if the driver was fatigued because they didn’t take the mandatory breaks or used alcohol or drugs while driving. Another example would be commercial trucking companies (FedEx, UPS, CRST, Swift Transportation, Stevens Transport, and others) failing to maintain their tractor-trailers in a manner consistent with trucking industry laws and regulations. 

  1. Causation

The third element that personal injury attorneys must demonstrate is causation. The plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer must show that some portion of the damages was caused by the defendant’s breach of duty. California follows the pure comparative negligence principle, so the plaintiff only has to show partial responsibility to collect a portion of the damages. 

  1. Damages

In order to collect compensation, the plaintiff’s law firm must show that their client suffered damages. Damages can include medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, vehicle damage, etc.

Damages in California Truck Accident Cases

As is the case with a car accident, damages in truck accident cases are divided into two categories: compensatory damages and non-compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are further divided into economic damages (wage loss, medical bills, property loss) and non-economic damages (pain, suffering and emotional distress). Non-compensatory damages are also referred to as punitive damages.

Economic Damages 

These include all financial expenses incurred by plaintiffs in semi-truck accidents. For example, all medical bills, lost earnings, vehicle damage, etc. In the case of fatal accidents, it can also include burial expenses and future lost earnings of the deceased. 

Non-Economic Damages 

Not all costs of an accident have a direct financial impact on the victim. For example, accident injuries cause emotional trauma and physical pain. Additionally, there is a great deal of disruption to the victim’s life. Non-economic damages, or pain and suffering, attempt to compensate victims for intangible costs. In fatal accidents, pain and suffering can also include the emotional pain of losing a loved one. 

Punitive Damages

In some trucking accident cases, the courts determine that the defendant acted recklessly or intentionally. An example of where punitive damages might apply is a truck accident involving a drunk driver, or one where a company hired a driver who did not possess a comercial drivers license or skills. Punitive damages may also be indicated where the log and inspection books are falsified leading to a collision.

With the exception of punitive damages, there are no caps on damages in the state of California. If you have been in a trucking accident, our team’s experienced truck accident lawyers can assess your damages based on your unique damages as well as other similar cases. Call today for immediate and effective representation from our California truck accident lawyers. 

Truck Accident Frequently Asked Questions

These are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding trucking accidents. For specific questions about a trucking accident that you were involved in, contact Caputo & Van Der Walde, LLP. We will put you in touch with a truck accident attorney who will listen to your questions and provide you with free legal advice.  

How much does it cost to hire a truck accident lawyer?

Our truck accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. That means our clients do not have to pay costs or fees out of pocket until we obtain just compensation for your losses..  

Who is liable for a truck accident in the state of California? 

This all depends on the particular case. One of the first places that truck accident attorneys look is at the truck driver’s actions. Did the truck driver violate the vehicle code, did they comply with ther maintenance, were they under the influence of intoxicating substances and did they engage in otherwise dangerous behaviors? Additionally, trucking companies are generally liable for the conduct of their drivers.


How much can a truck accident case be worth in California?

As was previously mentioned, there are no caps for damages in California. Truck accident lawyers will calculate the past and future medical expenses and wage losss resulting from the accident. Additionally, they’ll compare your injuries, duration of injuries and level of disability case to other trucking accidents to help determine the amount of total damages.

Only after our law firm has fully assessed all of your damages, will they approach the insurance company with a demand letter. If necessary, and with your consent, your attorney will initiate a truck accident lawsuit. 

Do you need a truck accident lawyer to file a lawsuit in California?

While there’s no legal requirement to hire an attorney to initiate a truck accident lawsuit, most plaintiffs recognize that they’re ill-equipped to go up against the insurance company attorneys who handle truck accidents. Furthermore, failure to name the right parties in a trucking lawsuit, including all owners, drivers, maintenance personnel, haulers and sub-haulers can be fatal to your success.. 

At Caputo & Van Der Walde, LLP, our attorneys recognize that the victims of truck accidents don’t always have the money to hire an attorney; this is why they work on a contingency fee basis. None of our clients pay out of pocket for our truck litigation services.. 

What can a trucking accident attorney do for my case?

The many services a trucking accident attorney can provide include the following:

  • Collect police reports and medical records
  • Subpoena trucking company documentation, such as the driver’s logbook, manifests, GPS information, delivery schedules, etc. 
  • Tabulate all damages caused by the accident
  • Hire an accident reconstruction expert to review the data and determine fault
  • Draft a demand letter for the insurance company
  • File a lawsuit in civil court
  • Negotiate with insurance company attorneys
  • Draft letters of protection to ensure you have uninterrupted medical care. 
  • Answer all of your truck accident questions throughout the process. 

How long do I have to file a trucking accident claim in California?

Unless you are a minor, or a governmental entity was involved, California allows two years from the date of the accident to bring forward a personal injury claim. After that time has elapsed, you will not be able to pursue damages through the civil courts. 

Trucking Collision Attorneys for California Plaintiffs

If you’ve been injured in a California trucking accident, representation is just a phone call away. Contact Caputo & Van Der Walde, LLP for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our attorneys work on a contingency basis, so plaintiffs never have to pay out of pocket.