A California truck accident can leave you with various questions. Who is responsible for the accident? Can more than one party be liable? Often, truck accidents in California require a complex investigation to determine who bears liability for the accident, including whether more than one party may share liability.
Working with a lawyer can help you better understand who bears liability for your truck accident, the steps you need to take, and what compensation you may deserve.
If a truck accident injured you, several parties might be liable for your losses, including:
The Truck Driver
The truck driver often bears at least some liability for an accident. Truck drivers must decide how to handle challenges that arise.
If they make mistakes that cause an accident, they may bear liability.
- Truck Driver Distraction: Distracted truck drivers cause deadly accidents because they control huge vehicles that can cause more damage than the average passenger vehicle. Additionally, truck drivers need more time to brake than the average passenger vehicle driver. Unfortunately, truck drivers often work with some degree of distraction behind the wheel. They may try eating and drinking, texting, or playing with the radio to pass the time, causing an accident.
- Ignoring the Rules of the Road: Sometimes, truck drivers get frustrated by the challenges they have to contend with while driving. They may speed or ignore traffic signals to reach a destination faster. Unfortunately, those behaviors increase the risk of a collision. When truck drivers behave unpredictably, it is tough for other drivers to stay safe.
- Driving Excessive Hours: Sometimes, truckers may exceed the federally restricted number of hours they can spend driving. They might want to make up a little time after delays, try to reach a specific destination before nightfall, or put in more miles to increase their paycheck. Unfortunately, spending too many hours on the road can substantially decrease their driving skills and make it more difficult for the driver to navigate safely.
- Driver Fatigue: Truck drivers may struggle with fatigue while driving long hours. Generally, truck drivers should pull off the road and nap if needed. Unfortunately, truck drivers may worry more about meeting their deadlines than driving while drowsy. Fatigue can be just as dangerous as alcohol and has many of the same symptoms. Tired drivers struggle with tunnel vision and inattention; they may fall asleep behind the wheel, leaving the big truck entirely out of control.
- Blind Spot Collisions: Big trucks have massive blind spots on all four sides of the vehicle. In these areas, the trucker cannot see nearby drivers. Blind spots pose a significant danger, especially when other vehicles slide into those openings unbeknownst to the trucker.
- Aggressive Driving: In some cases, truck drivers may grow frustrated with the behavior of other drivers on the road. While truck drivers generally have more experience than the average passenger vehicle driver, they may still choose to drive aggressively at times. An aggressive truck driver may deliberately ram another vehicle, cut a driver off, or engage in behaviors that put those drivers at risk.
The Trucking Company
In many cases, the trucking company may share liability with the driver for an error that causes a crash. Trucking companies owe a duty of care and responsibility to their drivers and others who share the road.
When they violate their duty of care, they may share liability with their drivers for:
- Dangerous Policies: Federal law restricts the number of hours a truck driver can legally spend behind the wheel each day. They may work no more than eleven hours out of a fourteen-hour shift. Unfortunately, some trucking companies fail to control the number of hours their drivers spend behind the wheel. They may even have policies encouraging their drivers to continue driving despite reaching their hours. Furthermore, trucking companies may have policies encouraging their drivers to speed to make deliveries faster. Those policies, however, can substantially increase the risk of a severe accident.
- Inadequate Training and Oversight: Many trucking companies struggle to employ an adequate number of drivers. Often, companies resort to sending out drivers before they receive sufficient training. Unfortunately, poorly trained drivers do not have the skills to navigate safely. Furthermore, trucking companies must oversee their drivers by continuously monitoring their driving records. A trucking company that fails to scrutinize its drivers’ records or employs dangerous drivers who frequently cause accidents may bear liability for those incidents.
- Poor Maintenance: Trucking companies must maintain their trucks to meet vital safety standards. They must regularly inspect and repair trucks to prevent accidents. Trucking companies that fail to maintain their trucks may bear liability for an accident.
The Loading Company
Sometimes, trucking companies hire another company to handle loading. Or, a customer might want to load their products onto the trucks. Most of the time, trucks get loaded without difficulty.
However, in some cases, the loading company may place the cargo dangerously, increasing the risk of several types of collisions, including:
- Jackknife Accidents: A poorly-balanced load can affect a driver’s ability to control a truck safely, increasing the risk of a jackknife collision. In a jackknife accident, the truck’s trailer swings free of the truck itself. Because the trailer often weighs more than the truck, it can pull the entire assembly out of control.
- Shifting Load Accidents: Shifting loads can throw a truck’s entire trailer off balance. Sometimes, a shifting load can cause a rollover accident. In other cases, a shifting load can pull a truck into the side of another vehicle. Shifting loads often occur because the loading company puts too much weight on one side of the trailer or puts heavy objects on top of lighter ones. Shifting load accidents may also occur because the loading company fails to tie down the load properly.
- Falling Load Accidents: A truck’s cargo can fall off the back of a flatbed truck or out of the back of a trailer. Cargo might fall into the road or directly onto another vehicle, causing an accident.
Most of the time, trucking companies maintain vehicles with in-house mechanics. However, they sometimes outsource complex repairs to another mechanic.
Mechanics may bear liability for a California truck accident by:
- Failing to Fix a Mechanical Problem: If a mechanic certifies that they fixed a truck and that it is safe to drive, they may bear liability if inadequate repairs cause a collision. Generally, a mechanic must certify that they completed maintenance tasks before the truck can go back out on the road. A mechanic who certifies a truck as road-worthy without repairing it is likely liable.
- Damaging the Vehicle: Sometimes, a mechanic may damage a truck while repairing it. Unfortunately, if no one knows about the damage, it can cause an accident. When a mechanic damages a truck during repairs, they may bear liability for an accident.
The Truck Manufacturer
Mechanical defects can occur in any vehicle. To help reduce the risk of defects, manufacturers should conduct substantial testing before releasing new truck models or selling a truck. However, sometimes, defects may escape notice. If a truck manufacturer releases a vehicle with mechanical problems that ultimately cause accidents, the manufacturer may bear liability for injuries caused in those accidents. Truck manufacturers also bear liability when they fail to notify truck owners about defects.
Experienced Lawyers Can Help Truck Accident Victims in California
Because truck accidents in California involve so many parties they often require substantial investigation to determine who bears liability for the accident. You need a legal team near you with decades of experience figuring out who bears liability for truck accidents, the resources to conduct a full investigation, and a track record of obtaining millions of dollars in compensation for their clients.