Over 70 million people work in the trucking industry in the United States. So with millions of trucks on the U.S. roads every day, there is always a chance an accident will occur. This is where a truck accident attorney can help.
Also, these vehicles can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and are difficult to drive. They are hard to maneuver (especially in an emergency situation), need much longer distances to stop, and have multiple blind spots. When your car, small van, or SUV are struck by this 80,000-pound mass going 60-80 mph, the physics involved is massive and usually causes disastrous damage to your vehicle, and its passengers.
The injuries to you and your passengers being severe, the medical treatment needed for the recovery, and your loss of income may add up to 6 figures and months of recovery time. When you’re trying to decide who to sue, the first fact is to determine who is liable for your accident. These cases can result in multiple parties sharing the blame and various parties being sued.
Which parties can share the liability for my truck accident? A brief overview is below:
- The truck driver is usually the first party you and your personal injury attorney should consider in your suit. California is a no-fault state, and the driver may bear the whole burden of liability if his direct negligence caused the accident. For example, if the driver has not taken the mandatory breaks during their day, been impaired while driving, or willingly drove their vehicle in an unsafe manner. If negligence is proven, the driver will probably be sued.
- The manufacturer of the truck may also have a hand in why your accident occurred. These vehicles are large and consist of thousands of parts and systems. For the same reason you get recalls on your vehicle, a truck may have an inherent mechanical flaw that helped cause your accident. Your truck accident attorney may know at least some of these flaws, look for others, and will be invaluable in determining these types of details.
- The trucking company and/or the cargo company could also be in the mix. They employ the driver, load his truck (and may overload), mis-load a truck, or press the driver to drive to the point of exhaustion. Getting the cargo to the destination promptly is one of their main concerns. Safety, unfortunately, may at times come second. Taking on these companies is daunting, but your attorney will have the necessary knowledge and means to provide you with the defense to do so.
How Do I Know What My First Steps Should Be?
The absolute first thing to do first is to get the medical attention you need, and for any other parties involved in the incident. This should be your main concern, as life and limb can easily be threatened in a truck vs. car accident.
The next most important act is to notify your insurance company and file your claim. The quicker you get the proper documented medical attention and put your insurance claim in motion, the better your outcome could be. They will investigate the details of your claim and help greatly in the determination of fault.
There is a chance they will even offer you a settlement claim much faster than you’d expect. This may seem tempting, but it is not advisable to accept any settlement offer before you consult with your Orange County personal injury attorney.
The insurance company can provide you and your attorney with their findings, but it is in their best interests to pay as little as possible! The sooner you consult with your Orange County truck accident attorney, the better. Your truck accident attorney is working for you and your family, not the insurance company. By accumulating all the details, compiling the facts, and deciding who is liable, they will be successful in maximizing compensation that you need.
What If the Truck Driver Works as an Independent Contractor?
If the driver is an independent contractor, he may own the truck, provide his insurance, and maintain the truck himself. If this is the case, the company usually is not held responsible for the operator’s actions, but there are exceptions.
Although each state’s laws may vary, generally the emphasis is placed on whether the employer has the right to control the exact manner and means that the work must be performed. If the employer controls the result of the work, but not how the result is accomplished, then an independent contractor relationship is probable. This legal area gets complex, and you may have to ask exactly what acts are within the “scope of employment”.
In determining this relationship, the courts may look at:
- The nature, time, and place of the employee’s conduct
- The intent of the employee when the accident occurred
- Incidental acts the employer should reasonably expect the employee to do
- The amount of time doing work activity, as opposed to personal activity
Admittedly, this is a vague legal area. However, for example, if a driver rear-ends your vehicle while making a delivery, the employer still may be held liable. The driver was acting “within the scope of employment” of his employer.
Time is Not on Your Side
The quicker you receive documented medical attention, file your claim, and consult with a personal injury attorney, the better you can expect your outcome to be. The initial assumption, that the driver is often at fault, may hold, but that certainly is not always the case.
These cases are complex, and they may involve individuals or multiple companies in their filing. Gibson & Hughes are the Orange County truck accident lawyers fighting for the compensation that accident victims need and deserve.