It’s all too common in Temecula…one minute you are in a car travelling safely to your destination, and the next you are hit by a semi-truck or 18-wheeler nearly 20 times your size. A collision with a vehicle of that size, combined with the elevated speed limits on California freeways, is a recipe for catastrophic injuries and tragic deaths. Those lucky enough to survive can face a long, expensive road to recovery and lifelong disabilities or limitations from their injuries. If you have been injured in a trucking accident, it is highly advisable to speak with a Temecula trucking accident attorney to learn about your options, protect your rights, and recover compensation for the harm you have suffered.
Am I At Risk of a Trucking Accident in Temecula?
Being involved in an accident with a truck in Temecula may seem a far-off possibility, until you realize the California Department of Motor Vehicles has over 5,600,000 registered commercial trucks on record that drive over 24.8 billion miles each year – mostly in Southern California.
Temecula’s home county of Riverside logs the third most commercial trucking miles of any county in California with over 2,100,000 average daily miles each year on its interstates. This makes the 10 freeway, the 15 freeway, and the 215 freeway high risk areas for involvement in an accident with a truck or semi. Even though California has enacted laws mandating commercial vehicles and trucks observe a lower speed limit than posted on the state’s highways, accidents still happen.
Do Truck Drivers Have Special Driving Requirements?
Both the federal government and California have enacted regulations governing trucking company and truck driver behavior to help protect other motorists on the road. The laws regulate areas including:
- Driver licensing and suspension;
- Record-keeping and inspection requirements;
- Substance and alcohol use by drivers;
- Transporting hazardous materials; and
- Limits on truck drivers’ hours of service and mandated breaks.
These laws are designed to prevent unsafe drivers from operating large vehicles, operation of vehicles while drowsy or under the influence, ensure that dangerous materials are moved safely, and ensure trucks are safe and road-worthy before and during their course of use.
Why Do Truck Accidents Happen?
Just because regulations exist does not mean truckers and trucking companies always comply with them. In addition to simple driver error, many other factors can result in accidents. Common causes include:
- Unsafe driving;
- Violation of traffic laws;
- Improperly credentialed drivers;
- Oversized loads;
- Drinking or drug use by drivers;
- Insufficient driver training;
- Driver fatigue – often due to violation of truckers’ hour regulations; and
- Improperly inspected, unsafe vehicles.
What Do I Have to Prove to Recover for my Trucking Accident Injuries?
In Temecula, there are different legal theories under which you can seek recovery. Trucking accidents fall under personal injury claims, so the most common theory of recovery is proving the driver or company was negligent. To succeed you must prove:
- The defendant owed you a legal duty of care to act the way an ordinarily prudent person would when placed in their situation;
- They breached their duty through either an affirmative action or omission;
- Their breach of duty was the cause of your injuries; and
- You suffered an injury.
A different way to establish negligence without proving the 4 usual requirements is to show a safety law or rule was broken by the driver or trucking company. California uses the doctrine of negligence per se, meaning that showing a violation is enough to prove negligence by itself. If the defendant cannot raise a valid defense, they will be liable.
For example, because drowsy driving has been a serious issue in the trucking industry, the government has enacted stringent record keeping requirements for drivers to log their hours and ensure their compliance with government safety regulations. Log books recording on-duty hours and rest break periods are mandatory for truck drivers and may be subpoenaed in the event you make a personal injury claim stemming from a truck accident. If their log book reveals a driver violated the regulations regarding their hours of service, negligence per se presumes they acted negligently.
What Can I Recover for My Injuries?
It is normal to wonder about how much your case will be worth. If you can establish a defendant acted negligently, you are entitled to recover for the damages you can prove to a judge or jury. Truck accident victims can recover damages to make them whole for their injuries and even to punish the defendant.
The federal government recognizes that truck accidents often result in catastrophic injuries, so they have mandated minimum liability insurance coverage of $750,000 on every regular commercial truck and $5 million on every truck carrying hazardous materials to ensure the defendant likely will be solvent to pay compensatory damage awards in these types of cases.
Victims may receive an award for economic compensatory damages for verifiable harm such as:
- Medical Bills;
- Future Medical Expenses;
- Lost Wages;
- Lost Future Earning Potential; and
- Funeral Expenses.
Noneconomic compensatory damages are awards for victims to compensate them for injuries you that do not have a concrete dollar amount. There is no way to put a price tag on mental or psychological suffering, but courts and juries allow victims to recover for, among other things:
- Pain and Suffering;
- Mental Anguish;
- Disfigurement or Scarring;
- Infliction of Emotional Distress; and
- Loss of Consortium.
If a personal injury victim is entitled to recover compensatory damages, then they may qualify for a punitive damage award on a further showing that the defendant’s injurious behavior was done with malice, fraud, or oppression. Once this is established the judge or jury has complete discretion as to whether an award should issue and in what amount.
Contact a Truck Accident Attorney in Temecula Today
Truck accidents can be catastrophic, traumatic events with extensive personal and financial consequences for victims and their families. You should speak with an experienced Temecula truck accident attorney at Walton Law today, because time is not on your side and it is important to protect your legal rights. We will guide you down the best path to receive compensation for your injuries. Contact us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (866)-338-7079 or through our online Contact Page to schedule your no-risk, no-obligation initial consultation today. The case review is confidential, and you do not pay unless we win your case. Our skilled attorneys will review the facts of your situation and find the best strategy to obtain the maximum possible recovery for you and your loved ones.