What Caused Your 18-Wheeler Accident in San Jose?Many factors can lead to an 18-wheeler accident in San Jose, and with more complex accidents, multiple causal factors might be involved. A trucking company’s poor maintenance or a defective truck tire might cause an accident. A government entity that doesn’t adequately maintain roads might be liable for an accident caused by potholes. Third party motorists who cut off a truck might also be at fault, especially those who travel in a truck’s blind spots. Yet, negligent truck drivers who violate traffic laws also cause many 18-wheeler accidents. Truck drivers must adhere to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations for commercial vehicles, and they have the same legal duties as other motorists to drive carefully. When truck drivers breach their duty and break traffic laws, accidents happen. The FMCSA reports that the following common traffic violations result in the most truck accidents:
- Distracted driving is anything that takes a driver’s eyes, hands, or mind off of the wheel and the road. This includes eating, drinking, adjusting a radio, and entering information in a GPS. The law doesn’t prohibit these actions, but California law and federal law prevent truck drivers from using a cell phone, especially for texting. Truck drivers must use a hand-free device and can only push one button to begin or stop a call.
- Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol remains a common occurrence for truckers because of their demanding schedules and difficult work conditions. The FMCSA reports approximately 13 percent of 2016’s fatal truck crashes involved driver drug use. Approximately 20 percent had a blood alcohol content (BAC) higher than 0.08; the legal BAC limit for truck drivers is 0.04. Using controlled substances makes it difficult for an 18-wheeler driver to judge space and time, often resulting in severe or fatal collisions.
- Speeding is not always the direct cause of an accident, but it is a consistent factor in most fatal 18-wheeler accidents. Approximately one third of all truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2016 were speeding. Semi trucks weigh between 20 and 30 times more than the average vehicle. When truckers go too fast, they don’t have the same control of their rig that ordinary drivers have of their cars, making it difficult to maneuver or stop when there are road hazards.
- Following too closely is a result of truckers who are in a hurry to pick up or deliver their cargo. Safe driving requires leaving a two-second gap when following another vehicle. Anything less constitutes tailgating. The mass of a big rig requires extra stopping distance. In fact, the FMSCA suggests that truckers leave a four to five second gap between their rig and the vehicle in front of them, with an eight-second gap during rain or snow. A truck driver who tailgates risks colliding with the lead vehicle and causing serious or catastrophic injury.
- Failure to obey signs and traffic signals can result in serious crashes leaving motorists severely injured. Typically, ignoring signals is a result of distracted driving. It’s common for distracted truck drivers to miss a stop sign or traffic signal. Cars that collide with a semi-truck that has run a stop sign or stoplight risk an underride collision. These accidents happen when a small vehicle gets stuck under the trailer of a tractor-trailer truck; they are often fatal.
Injuries That Result From 18-Wheeler AccidentsThe injuries that one suffers from a semi-truck accident don’t differ greatly from those suffered in other kinds of motor vehicle accidents. Yet, the size and weight of a semi truck increase the severity of injuries and the likelihood of fatality in an accident. Some common injuries that result from 18-wheeler accidents include:
- Multiple fractures and/or crushed bones
- Deep cuts that leave scars
- Head injuries from impact and blunt force trauma which might cause a traumatic brain injury
- Neck injuries including broken vertebrae and whiplash
- Back and spinal cord injuries which can result in temporary or permanent paralysis of some or all of the body
- Organ damage and internal bleeding
- Burns from explosions or fires
Liability in California 18-Wheeler AccidentsSemi-truck accidents often feature complex issues for lawyers, who have no choice but to name drivers, trucking companies, and insurance companies in lawsuits. As a tort state, California insurance carriers and courts face the task of determining fault and liability in motor vehicle accidents. A truck driver might be entirely at fault for an accident, especially if drug or alcohol use was involved, or if the driver was breaking other traffic regulations such as using a cell phone while driving. In other cases, a trucking company’s poor maintenance or a manufacturing defect in the truck or one of its parts might have caused an accident, making the trucking company, truck manufacturer, or parts manufacturer liable for damages. In the most complex cases, any of the previous parties might share liability. For example, if a trucking company encourages or forces a truck driver to operate more hours per day than permitted by FMCSA regulations, or it forces a driver to use a truck that needs service, the driver and his employer might share liability for damages.
Recovering Damages in California 18-Wheeler AccidentsIf you have sustained injuries in a semi-truck accident, it’s in your best interest to consult with a San Jose truck accident lawyer. California law entitles you to seek compensation in civil court for your injuries. The amount of a settlement or court award varies based on the extent of one’s injuries and losses. Here are some common damages you might recover if the court rules in your favor or your 18-wheeler accident lawyer negotiates an agreeable settlement:
- Medical expenses including ambulance services, emergency room visit, hospitalization, radiology, surgery, and prescription medication
- Future medical costs for extended care, rehabilitation, or severe injuries that require multiple surgeries
- Lost wages for time away from work due to injury, hospitalization, and recovery
- Lost future wages in the event that a lifelong disability prevents an accident survivor from returning to work
- Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, and loss of consortium with a spouse
Dealing With Insurance Companies After a San Jose Tractor-Trailer WreckTrucking companies have large insurance policies to protect them if they or their truckers cause injury to others. Additionally, insurance companies will always protect their bottom line, meaning they will take any and all measures to minimize payouts. In addition to investigating your accident to the fullest extent possible, insurance companies will hire collision experts to shift the blame away from the truck driver. Sometimes, this includes shifting the blame to our clients. It’s imperative that you have skilled 18-wheeler accident lawyers in your corner to protect you from these tactics and advocate for you each step of the way. Your San Jose 18-wheeler truck accident lawyer can assist you in the following ways:
- Investigating your semi accident and hiring accident reconstruction specialists if necessary
- Gathering necessary evidence including policy reports, medical reports, witness statements, and video evidence
- Helping you document your injuries and enlist medical experts to support your case
- Handling the paperwork and communication involved with your case
- Negotiating a settlement, or aggressively litigating in court when settlement isn’t an option