Whether referred to as trucks, semi-trucks, big rigs, 18-wheelers, or tractor-trailers, collisions with these large commercial vehicles are among the most catastrophic crashes that can occur on the road. They are also some of the most complex types of personal injury cases and require the help of an experienced truck accident attorney.
Attorney Kate Harvey-Lee is a distinguished truck accident lawyer with extensive experience in personal injury cases involving trucks, buses, and other commercial vehicles. She is board certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in Truck Accident Law and is an Executive Board Member of one of the preeminent trucking attorney associations – the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys.
If you were hurt or lost a loved one in a truck wreck in Los Angeles, contact California Truck Law today at (213) 214-1234 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our experienced truck accident attorney. Your initial consultation is complimentary, and you don’t owe any attorney fees unless a successful resolution is achieved in your case.
Truck Wrecks Are No Accident
Although motor vehicle collisions are often referred to as “accidents,” the truth is that truck wrecks are rarely accidental flukes or unavoidable cases of bad luck. When a crash occurs, it is almost always the result of negligence, involving a driver who was distracted, intoxicated, fatigued, or otherwise careless.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 94% of traffic wrecks can be directly linked to driver error. Even in the remaining 6% of U.S. crashes, human error is involved, whether from negligence in the design or manufacturing of an auto part or as a result of failures to maintain roadways or signage.
Truck wrecks can also be caused by other parties besides the driver. Trucking companies, their managers, employees, and maintenance personnel can all play a role in the safety – or lack thereof – of big rigs on the road. Throughout her distinguished career, Ms. Harvey-Lee has worked tirelessly to protect the rights of injury victims who were severely harmed in completely avoidable truck wrecks.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Truck Accident?
If you’ve been injured in a trucking wreck, you aren’t required to seek legal counsel. However, while you can attempt to handle your truck accident case yourself, if you do so, you will likely achieve a far less fair and just outcome.
Truck accident cases are very complex. Multiple vehicles may be involved, and numerous parties may share responsibility for the crash that caused your injuries. Without a seasoned attorney protecting your rights and best interests, you risk making mistakes and missing deadlines that could jeopardize your claim.
Before trying to file a claim on your own, you should know how a lawyer can help you. At California Truck Law, our truck accident attorney can:
- Investigate your truck crash: Trucking accident investigations can involve multiple agencies, from local and state police to federal investigators. Insurance companies have their own investigators as well. Your attorney can request copies of police reports, document the accident scene, obtain witness testimony, and seek relevant records from the trucking company.
- Investigate the parties involved: The negligence of several parties could have contributed to your big rig wreck. The truck driver, the trucking company, the maintenance technician, the person who loaded the cargo, and the designer or manufacturer of the truck’s parts are all involved in ensuring the vehicle’s safety. A truck accident lawyer can investigate all of these parties to determine who may share responsibility for your injuries and secure evidence to support your case.
- Calculate damages: Following a severe injury from a truck wreck, the subsequent bills may be your top concern. Your injury may prevent you from working, and leave you without the income to cover your mounting expenses. In addition to medical bills and lost wages, you may also be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, lost earning capacity, diminished enjoyment of life, and more. An experienced truck accident lawyer understands the hardships you face and can calculate the true value of your claim to cover your losses today and in the future.
- Negotiate with insurance companies: One of the most difficult aspects of any motor vehicle accident case is dealing with the insurance company. This challenge is further compounded in a truck accident case, in which multiple insurance companies may be involved. It’s important to understand that insurance companies are in the business of making money, not paying out claims. Insurers notoriously attempt to delay, devalue, or outright deny legitimate claims. A seasoned lawyer understands the tactics insurance companies use and knows how to negotiate a fair settlement that reflects the true value of your losses.
- Take your case to court: The majority of truck accident claims are settled out of court. However, if negotiations fail to achieve the full and fair compensation you deserve for your injuries, the only way to pursue justice may be to take your case to trial. Insurance companies are armed with vast legal teams and significant resources. You need an attorney on your side with the knowledge, skill, and resources to build your best case and present it effectively before a judge and jury. Hiring a lawyer who is both an exceptional negotiator and a skilled litigator will be essential to achieving justice in your case.
What Are the Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
Since multiple parties may be liable for injuries, determining the true cause of your 18 wheeler accident is one of the most crucial aspects of your truck accident claim. Some of the most common causes of truck wrecks include:
- Truck driver error: The single most common cause of truck accidents is driver error. Whether driving aggressively, drowsy, distracted, or intoxicated, negligent truck drivers pose a serious risk to everyone on the road. Even drivers who are alert and sober can cause serious accidents if trucking companies failed to properly train them.
- Trucking company negligence: Despite specific regulations, such as how long truckers are allowed to drive in a single shift, trucking companies notoriously push their drivers beyond the legal limits. When drivers are pressured to work longer hours than they should, the risk for catastrophe increases exponentially. Trucking companies are also required to conduct thorough background checks on their drivers and ensure all employees are properly trained to execute their duties properly and safely. When trucking companies fail in their duties, they may be held liable for accidents.
- Negligent maintenance: In addition to the amount of time a trucker can operate a big rig, there are rules that govern how trucks must be maintained. Specific parts must be replaced every certain number of miles, and detailed logbooks must be diligently maintained. If maintenance technicians fail to replace a part in time, miss a mechanical error that should have been noticed, or fail to properly fix a problem that should have been repaired, they may be held liable for accidents that result from their negligence.
- Cargo loading errors: Big rigs frequently carry extremely heavy cargo. When fully loaded, 18-wheelers can haul up to 80,000 pounds. Because of these massive weights, it is imperative that loads are properly secured, and the people loading the cargo know how to perform their jobs correctly. When cargo unexpectedly shifts inside a trailer, it can throw trucks perilously off-balance and lead to catastrophic wrecks. If a load is improperly secured, those responsible for securing the cargo may be held liable.
- Manufacturer error: Semi-trucks are extremely large and heavy vehicles that depend on sophisticated, reliable equipment to operate safely. If, for example, a big rig’s braking system fails and a trucker cannot stop an 18-wheeler carrying thousands of pounds of cargo or flammable liquids, the results can be catastrophic. Sometimes parts break due to wear, but in other cases, a serious flaw in the design or manufacturing of an auto part can be responsible for part failure. When negligent design or manufacturing plays a role in equipment failure that leads to a wreck, the responsible parties can be held liable for the resulting damage.
What Are the Most Common Truck Accident Injuries?
Injuries sustained in collisions with semi-trucks are often devastating. Considering the immense size and weight of 18-wheelers, this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Truck accident injuries typically require costly, ongoing medical treatment and result in long-term, life-altering changes.
Some of the most common truck accident injuries include:
- Neck and back injury: Injuries sustained in the neck and back are often difficult to treat, due to the complex network of interconnected muscle, cartilage, and bone that comprises the spinal column. These dangerous injuries caused in truck accidents can range from whiplash to paralysis. Many times, back and neck injuries aren’t immediately apparent, and manifest days after the initial impact with another vehicle.
- Brain, head, and facial injury: One of the most dangerous injuries that can result from a trucking accident is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). These injuries can damage cognitive function and significantly affect a person’s quality of life. Brain injuries can also cause chronic headaches, insomnia, and other debilitating, long-lasting complications that are difficult to treat. In addition to potential TBIs, victims of truck accidents often suffer facial injuries from lacerations, blunt force, or burns that can be disfiguring and require reconstructive surgery.
- Amputation injury: Losing a limb in a semi-truck accident can be physically and emotionally devastating. Limbs can be lost in the accident itself, or during medical treatment when a limb cannot be saved due to the injury’s severity. These injuries can irrevocably change your life. Limb loss typically requires significant changes to victims’ lifestyles, including modifications to their vehicles and homes.
- Burn injury: 18-wheelers carrying dangerous chemicals or flammable liquids pose a great risk in the event of a crash. When these semi-trucks are involved in wrecks, gas or liquid can ignite and cause life-altering burns. Third and fourth-degree burns require complex medical treatment and can cause permanent disfigurement.
- Broken bones: The severity of broken bones after a truck wreck can vary significantly. While simple fractures can be treated with a cast, more severe fractures may require surgery. Treatment for comminuted fractures – where the bone is broken in multiple places, and compression fractures, where the bone is crushed, may need pins and screws to hold the bone in place while it heals.
- Internal injury: While some of the injuries discussed above are noticeable right away, others, like brain, spine, and other internal injuries, are easier to miss at first. Since organ damage and internal bleeding can’t be seen, it is possible to overlook these life-threatening injuries, leading to very serious complications.
Can I File a Wrongful Death Claim for a Truck Accident?
In the most tragic truck collisions, the injuries incurred result in death. If you lost a loved one in a trucking accident, you may be able to seek damages in a wrongful death claim. In California, the deceased’s surviving spouses, domestic partners, and children may pursue compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances, siblings or parents of the deceased may also be able to file a wrongful death claim.
At California Truck Law, experienced attorney Kate Harvey-Lee has extensive experience in a range of personal injury matters, including wrongful death. She understands what a difficult time this is for you and your family, and she is committed to helping you seek the justice you deserve for your loss with dignity and compassion.
Potential Compensation in a Truck Accident Lawsuit
Following a truck accident that wasn’t your fault, you may be able to seek damages for your physical, emotional, and financial losses. Losses that are financial in nature are referred to as “economic” damages, while losses that don’t have a direct financial component are referred to as “non-economic”, or “general” damages.
Depending on the details of your truck accident case, you may be able to pursue economic damages such as:
- Medical bills
- Prescription costs
- Physical therapy
- Assistive devices
- Lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
Additionally, you may be able to seek non-economic damages for your:
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Anxiety and grief
- Loss of enjoyment of life
What Are Punitive Damages in a California Truck Accident Case?
Punitive damages are not intended to compensate injury victims for their losses; rather, they are meant to punish wrongdoers for misconduct and deter others from similar behaviors or actions. In California, punitive damages are restricted to claims in which the defendant acted with willful disregard for the safety of others.
Who Is Responsible for a Commercial Truck Accident?
One of the primary differences between trucking wrecks and other types of vehicle crashes is the number of parties that may be involved. After a thorough investigation, an experienced truck accident lawyer may determine that your collision was caused by negligence on the part of:
- The truck driver: Whether because of speeding, unsafe lane changes, or driving while distracted, intoxicated, or drowsy, truck driver error is the leading cause of big rig accidents.
- The trucking company: Trucking companies have a duty to ensure the drivers they hire have good driving records and are properly trained to operate a commercial truck safely. Trucking companies must also ensure their drivers are not exceeding the legal limit of driving hours per day to prevent drowsy driving.
- A vehicle or parts manufacturer: Companies that design, manufacture, and distribute commercial trucks or their parts may be liable in the event of a defective or malfunctioning part that led to a crash. These parts can include tires, brakes, lights, steering mechanisms, electrical systems, and much more.
- The shipping company: The company responsible for loading the truck may be liable in a wreck if the collision resulted from an overloaded truck or a truck that carried imbalanced or improperly-secured cargo.
- A government entity: If the accident was caused by a pothole, cracked pavement, faded road striping, inadequate road signage, or other unsafe road condition, state, local, or government agencies responsible for overseeing the roads may be held liable.
- Another driver: It isn’t uncommon for truck accidents to involve multiple vehicles. Big rigs take much longer than other smaller, lighter vehicles to stop or steer clear of hazards. When other drivers act carelessly or recklessly on the road, they can cause truck drivers to take evasive maneuvers, endangering other nearby vehicles.
Call Our California Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Attorney Kate Harvey-Lee has dedicated her career to serving clients in complex trucking accident claims. She understands the toll these accidents take, and she will handle your case with professionalism, honesty, integrity, and persistence. She will work tirelessly to help you achieve the maximum compensation you need to get back on track.
Call (213) 214-1234 today to schedule your complimentary case evaluation. Ms. Harvey-Lee welcomes clients from throughout Los Angeles and other nearby communities across California.