According to the California Legislature, a commercial vehicle is “used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit or designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.” This is a broad definition, and it encompasses a wide variety of different vehicles on the road.
If you have been injured in a crash with a truck, bus, or other vehicle transporting goods or people, it is important to speak to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Commercial vehicles are subject to a complex array of regulations, and recovering compensation for an accident is not easy.
Attorney Kate Harvey-Lee is a distinguished accident attorney with experience handling a range of claims involving commercial vehicles. Please call California Truck Law at (213) 214-1234 today for a complimentary case evaluation at our office in the historic core of downtown Los Angeles.
Types of Commercial Vehicle Accidents
Semi-trucks are perhaps the most prominent, recognizable type of commercial vehicle. These tractor-trailers carry a vast amount of cargo across the country, sometimes traveling thousands of miles in the course of a haul. Generally these massive trucks are involved in accidents on the LA freeways and interstates like 5, 405, 210, 110, 605, 10, and 15. Around the city streets of Los Angeles, delivery trucks, box trucks, dump trucks, garbage trucks, and cement trucks typically cause accidents with our clients.
Despite the regulations governing commercial trucking and commercial drivers, truck accidents still happen. When they do, the outcomes (particularly for the occupants of passenger vehicles) can be catastrophic.
True to the name of our firm, California Truck Law handles all types of accident claims involving commercial trucks, including:
- 18-wheeler accidents: Also known as big rigs, an 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. These trucks dwarf most vehicles on the road, and the massive size and heavy weight can lead to devastating injuries and even fatalities in the event of an accident. Oversize loads and trucks can require pilot or escort vehicles and have other special rules with which we are familiar.
- Box truck accidents: Box trucks tend to be smaller than big rigs. They have fewer wheels and chassis and carry less cargo. However, these trucks are still bigger and heavier than passenger vehicles, and the consequences of a collision can still be severe.
- Flatbed truck accidents: Flatbed trucks have an open trailer. Cargo must be properly balanced and secured to avoid accidents involving rollovers, objects falling into the road, and more.
- Tanker truck accidents: Some of the most hazardous truck accidents involve semis hauling tankers filled with gasoline, diesel fuel, and other volatile substances. A crash may puncture the tank, releasing harmful liquids or gases that can cause a fire or explosion. Sloshing and surging liquids may make the vehicle harder to stop and make them much easier to roll over.
- Dump truck accidents: From rocks to gravel to wood chips to refuse, a dump truck’s haul is often made up of a variety of loose items. If the contents in the truck bed are not leveled off, the dump truck can tip over when driving. Nearby vehicles may also be at risk from debris falling off of the truck. Often overloaded, they also have a hard time stopping for cars and people in front of them.
- Cement truck accidents: Trucks outfitted with large cement mixers can be thrown off-balance as the drum spins and the concrete mixture hardens. Their weight and handling characteristics make them harder to stop, and much easier to roll over, because they are so top heavy and have a rotating drum.
- Garbage truck accidents: As with dump trucks, garbage trucks haul a number of loose items. When combined with careless driving (such as excess speed, errors in cornering, failure to brake, etc.), the unbalanced cargo increases the risk of a crash. Often they are rushing to pick up loads, and garbage truck drivers frequently fail to see the cars and people around them before rushing to the next pickup.
- Moving truck accidents: Multiple issues may be involved in an accident with a moving truck. Big rig trucks operated by professional crews and moving companies are subject to the same regulations as many of the other vehicles discussed in this section. A different standard applies to smaller trucks rented by non-commercial drivers.
- Lowboy accidentss: A lowboy is an open trailer (similar to a flatbed) with a graduated “level” design. Lowboy trailers are commonly used to transport heavy industrial vehicles and equipment. The weight of the cargo can cause the driver to lose control, leading to runaway accidents, jackknifes, and other types of collisions.
- Parked trucks or trailers: Any of the above trucks can be negligently parked causing accidents. There are very specific rules on when and why a truck can be parked on the side of the road in California. These rules are often violated by untrained truck drivers for a number of reasons. When the shoulder or emergency lane is occupied by a large truck, it increases the risk for catastrophic wrecks with cars who need to use the emergency lane to recover and get back on the road.
Attorney Kate Harvey-Lee is also recognized for her in-depth knowledge and experience handling bus accident claims. Laws and regulations concerning these vehicles vary depending on the type of bus, its purpose, and the party or parties operating the bus.
California Truck Law also handles other types of commercial vehicle accident cases, including:
- Delivery van and truck accidents
- Taxicab, town car, and limousine accidents
- Accidents involving corporate cars and personal vehicles operated in the course of business
- Rideshare vehicle accidents
- Medical transport vehicle accidents
The occupants of other vehicles and pedestrians who are struck by a commercial vehicle, as well as passengers of the commercial vehicle, may have claims in the event of an accident. If you have been in an accident with a truck, bus, van, or car used for commercial purposes, contact our attorney at California Truck Law for a complimentary evaluation of your case.
What Causes Commercial Vehicle Accidents?
A variety of factors can result in accidents involving commercial vehicles. However, unlike car accident claims (where liability is fairly straightforward and typically only involves questions of driver fault), the negligence of multiple parties is more likely to be a factor in commercial vehicle accidents.
To recover full and fair compensation for your injuries, it is important to identify all of the liable parties in the crash. Our commercial vehicle accident lawyer can investigate the following issues thoroughly for evidence of wrongdoing:
Commercial Driver Negligence
As with any accident claim, errors on the part of the driver are the first thing your lawyer will assess in investigating the cause of the crash. Commercial drivers may engage in the same reckless behavior as the drivers of other vehicles, including:
- Distracted driving
- Following other vehicles too closely
- Failure to adjust to traffic and weather conditions
- Aggressive driving
- Driving while fatigued
- Driving while intoxicated
Commercial drivers are held to higher legal standards than the drivers of personal vehicles. As such, negligence on the part of a commercial driver may represent more than an individual indiscretion; certain acts may violate federal regulations concerning:
- Hours of service limits: Drivers who transport people and property are subject to limits on the hours they can drive before taking a rest and/or going off-duty. Exceeding these limits increases the risk of accidents caused by driver fatigue.
- Alcohol rules: Commercial drivers are prohibited from using alcohol four hours before driving. In addition, 0.04 percent is the threshold for driving a commercial vehicle under the influence, as opposed to the 0.08 percent used for other drunk driving enforcement.
- Health and fitness: Commercial drivers must be fit to operate the vehicle. Federal regulations prohibit driving when the operator is sick. Commercial drivers must also submit to a physical exam every two years to ensure they don’t suffer from conditions that may affect safe driving ability.
- Driver distractions: Federal regulations prohibit texting while driving among the operators of commercial drivers. Phone calls can only be made using a hands-free device.
Unfortunately, untrained commercial drivers routinely violate these and other rules. Should an accident occur as a result, both the driver and his or her employer may be liable.
The legal doctrine of vicarious liability states that an employer is liable for the negligent actions of an employee when the act is performed in the course of the employee’s regular job. If a commercial driver was “on the clock” when the accident occurred, the employer is generally liable.
Negligence on the part of the employer may also be a factor in commercial vehicle accident claims. Trucking companies, bus companies, and other parties may:
- Fail to assess a driver’s licensing, qualifications, and driving record before hiring them
- Fail to screen drivers for drugs and alcohol
- Fail to maintain records concerning drivers’ physical fitness
- Fail to train drivers properly and supervise them
- Push drivers to exceed hours of service limits
- Fail to maintain and repair vehicles under their control
Requesting and evaluating company records is a crucial part of investigating a commercial vehicle accident. Review of these documents may reveal that the crash occurred due to a pattern of negligence or wrongdoing on the part of the company.
A commercial vehicle may log hundreds of thousands of miles in the course of its operational life. Regular maintenance and repairs are crucial for ensuring that a truck, bus, or other vehicle can be driven safely. Unfortunately, in an effort to save money and maximize service, companies may ignore important maintenance and put unsafe vehicles on the road.
Liability for negligent maintenance may rest with the company that owns and operates the vehicles. If the company contracts another party to perform service and repairs, the third party may be liable for accidents resulting from negligent maintenance.
Defective Parts and Components
All of the parts and components on a vehicle must work in harmony for the vehicle to operate properly. Defects in key systems such as the brakes, steering, electronics, and more can cause a commercial driver to lose control and cause an accident.
Multiple parties may be liable for vehicle failures caused by faulty or defective parts. Investigation of the manufacturer, distributor, retailer, and others is key.
Commercial vehicles that transport cargo are subject to weight limits. Private and common carriers that transport people are also subject to weight limits, although capacity is generally defined by the number of passengers.
If a commercial vehicle is overweight, it takes longer to stop and becomes more difficult to control. The party responsible for loading the vehicle (such as a shipping company that loads cargo on a tractor-trailer) may be liable for accidents caused by overloading and/or improperly secured loads.
Failure to Provide Proper Safety Equipment
Companies often fail to take reasonable steps to install safety equipment on trucks like brake assist, forward collision avoidance technology, lane departure technology, underride guards, etc. This equipment can be purchased new or in the aftermarket for minimal cost. Often the company’s choice to save money on safety results in horrific and preventable wrecks.
Investigating a Commercial Vehicle Accident
As you can see, commercial vehicle accident claims are significantly more complicated than cases involving car accidents and other types of vehicles. Comprehensive investigation is necessary to determine the cause of the accident and identify all liable parties.
At California Truck Law, our goal is to recover the compensation you deserve. Our thorough investigations gather and protect crucial evidence, giving our attorney an advantage in pursuing a favorable result on your behalf.
Contact Our Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyer Today
Vehicle accidents create a number of hardships for victims and their families. When a commercial vehicle is involved, getting the compensation you need and deserve can be extremely challenging.
Attorney Kate Harvey-Lee has achieved board certification in truck accident law from the National Board of Trial Advocacy. She has extensive experience handling accident claims involving big rigs, buses, and other commercial vehicles.
Please call California Truck Law at (213) 214-1234 today for a complimentary case evaluation. Our commercial vehicle accident attorney serves clients throughout California from our office in Los Angeles.