front of commercial semi-truck in the middle of a highway accidentOver 4,000 people die each year in accidents with large trucks, and according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), nearly 70% of those fatalities are to the occupants of the passenger vehicle. In 2020, the number of truck accident deaths was nearly 30% higher than in 2009. And because a tractor-trailer can weigh 80,000 pounds and a passenger vehicle between 2,000 – 4,000 pounds, people in a car are at a higher risk of injuries if they crash with a truck.

There are challenging legal complexities if you’re hurt in a truck accident, and personal injury cases are tougher to win. That’s why it’s important to hire a skilled Dana Point truck accident attorney at Case Barnett Law.

Determining Fault in a Dana Point Truck Accident

The most important factor when determining liability for a truck accident is negligence. A truck driver is negligent if they fail to act in a responsible manner or fail to exercise reasonable care when driving. Statistics show that in 2019, 33% of truck crashes were caused by driver negligence. This negligence is due, in part, to a shortage of drivers whose training is rushed and who don’t have the proper education or preparation needed to drive a tractor-trailer.

Many types of negligent driving behavior can result in deadly crashes, and car drivers make these same mistakes; however, when a truck driver is negligent, the consequences are often catastrophic.

Negligent Driving Behaviors That Cause Truck Accidents in Dana Point

  • Reckless driving and speeding. The demanding schedules of truck drivers often motivate them to get to their destinations quickly. If they feel rushed, they may drive too fast for road or traffic conditions. Additionally, they may make quick, random lane changes or ignore road signs and signals.
  • Distracted driving. Distracted operating is anything that takes a driver’s attention from the road, hands off the wheel, or focus away from driving. Truckers are banned from using handheld electronic devices while behind the wheel. Specifically, it’s against federal law for a trucker to use a cellphone unless they’re using a headset. Other types of distracted driving include drinking or eating, adjusting the radio, using GPS, or reaching for an item in the back seat or on the floor.
  • Aggressive driving. Signs of aggressive truck driving include following too closely behind the car in front of them, blocking lanes, failing to yield to other cars, failing to let other cars merge, or blowing their horn in frustration.
  • Hours of service violations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has strict regulations about how many hours a trucker can drive. These regulations were implemented to prevent drowsy and fatigued driving. However, some truck companies and negligent drivers disregard the rules, falsify their logbooks, and drive over the hours allowed by law.
  • Impaired driving. Anyone behind the wheel of a vehicle is expected to be sober. Truck drivers are given random alcohol and drug screens and are required to take a drug and alcohol test if they’ve been in a crash. Sometimes, truckers rely on amphetamines to help them adhere to schedules that are demanding or require quick deliveries. 

Four Elements of a Truck Crash Negligence Claim in Dana Point

  1. Duty of care. The defendant owes a duty of care to other drivers. They must act in a reasonable manner that will not injure others.
  2. Breach of duty of care. The trucker did not fulfill their duty of care and did not drive in a manner that kept others safe.
  3. Causation. You must prove more than the trucker’s negligence. You must also prove that the trucker’s negligence caused your injuries.
  4. Damages. Because you suffered injuries and loss, this is money awarded to compensate you for the trucker’s negligence.

Truck Accidents: How They Are Different From Car Accidents

In an accident with a truck, the truck is likely to crush your car because it needs at least 40% more stopping distance than a regular vehicle. Truck accidents usually are more serious than car accidents, and personal injury claims require different kinds of evidence to prove liability. Even if you believe a truck driver was clearly at fault for your crash, it’s likely your truck accident case won’t be simple or straightforward.

Truck Accidents Cause More Damage

When there is an accident between a car and a truck, statistics show that it’s usually the occupants in the passenger car who die. If there are no fatalities, the victims will likely sustain severe, life-changing injuries that could include paralysis or permanent disability. Additionally, the large size and height of the truck increase the chance of an underride accident where the top of the passenger vehicle is sheared off, or the car is stuck underneath the truck.

Potential Life-threatening Injuries in a Truck Accident

Potential at-Fault Parties in a Dana Point Truck Accident Case

There can be multiple at-fault parties in a truck accident. This can create complications with your case, as your attorney will have to identify all the responsible parties and assign a percentage of blame to each one. You may also need to work with multiple insurance companies. Having legal representation is critical because truck accident cases are more complex due to the number of potential parties involved, including:

  • The truck driver. The driver of the truck may be negligent by operating the truck while drowsy or distracted, while speeding, or while intoxicated. Your attorney can obtain the driver’s logbook and BAC test results to help prove liability.
  • The trucking company. The trucking company that the driver works for can also be responsible for the crash. The trucking company must properly maintain its fleet of trucks, inspect every vehicle, properly load all cargo, and perform regular maintenance. Your attorney can request documents that may help prove the company’s negligence.
  • Manufacturer or truck parts. The truck’s manufacturer could be held responsible for the crash if it can be proven that a manufacturing or design flaw caused a malfunction. The same could be true for the company that manufactured the truck’s parts.

Evidence Needed to Prove Liability in a Truck Accident

  • Witness statements. A crucial piece of evidence is an eyewitness statement from someone who saw the accident. Obtaining a statement from this person can help your case and show the insurance company that you were not at fault.
  • Black box information. An attorney can obtain a court order to access any black boxes that might provide information about the truck driver’s speed at the time of the crash.
  • Maintenance records of all trucks. These records will show if the truck was recently repaired or has never received maintenance.
  • Driver’s log book. This can show important information about the time and length of the driver’s breaks and if they violated FMCSA regulations.
  • Truck driver’s personnel file. This information can show if the driver was properly trained, the driving record of the trucker, their substance abuse records, and if they’ve complied with safety regulations in the past.
Case C. Barnett
Costa Mesa Personal Injury Attorney practicing in child injury law, car accident injuries and elder abuse law