Trucks: Practice Areas

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Accidents Involving Commercial Trucks
Overview > Catastrophic Injury and Death > Trucks

The Inland Empire is the commercial trucking gateway to Los Angeles from the rest of the United States. Because our streets and freeways are so crowded, accidents involving commercial trucks are a greater danger to Inland Empire motorists than almost any other place in the country. Predictably, accidents involving commercial trucks are much more likely to result in catastrophic injuries or wrongful death than other types of accidents.

Legal representation for a catastrophic accident involving a commercial truck requires in-depth experience and expertise in commercial trucking accidents that most general personal injury firms do not have. The McCuneWright attorneys are uniquely qualified to handle the complex and unique issues of commercial trucking accidents in the Inland Empire.

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Dangerous Drivers of Commercial Trucks

Drivers of commercial trucks are required to have special training and licenses. These drivers are also subject to strict regulations about how many hours they can drive and how they drive their trucks. When drivers ignore the rules, they can quickly become a hazard on the road. To know if the truck driver who caused the accident was violating the rules, the law firm handling the case has to have the experience and knowledge to know the right questions to ask. Some of those questions are detailed in the following:

Did the driver have proper training and the proper licenses?

California has strict requirements for the issuance of a commercial license, including: driving skill training, medical testing, drug testing, health, age, driving record, legal residence, and vision. These requirements must be met before the driver is issued a California commercial driver's license. Because of this, some drivers have found short-cuts around the requirements or come from states with less-stringent requirements. Therefore, some commercial truck drivers operating trucks in California do not meet all these requirements and pose a danger to other motorists. [ + ]

Many motorists do not carry any insurance. A large number of drivers only carry the $15,000 minimum amount of insurance required by the State of California. Even those drivers who do carry more insurance, usually only have insurance limits of $100,000. That means for the person catastrophically injured or the family of a wrongful death victim, the responsible party's insurance company will only have to pay a small percentage of the damage that their insured caused. That means there often will not be enough insurance money to compensate the person or family devastated in the catastrophic car accident.

In representing clients involved in catastrophic car accidents, it is necessary to explore other sources of insurance besides the insurance carried by the driver. The victim's uninsured motorist coverage will provide coverage if the responsible driver is either uninsured or underinsured. There will sometimes be insurance policies that will cover the actions of the driver carried by the owner of the car or the employer of the driver of the car that is responsible for the accident.

It takes a law firm with experience in catastrophic car accidents to know how to identify the other insurance policies, know how to obtain the insurance policies, and then what to look for in the insurance policies. A law firm inexperienced in catastrophic car accidents will often overlook these potential insurance policies that are vital to fully compensate the client. McCuneWright is experienced in the nuances and complexities of catastrophic car accidents.

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Did the driver violate the hours of service laws?

Commercial truck driver fatigue accounts for a large number of trucking accidents. A U.S. Department of Transportation study found that driver fatigue caused 31% of the accidents it studied. Fatigue causes drivers to have slower reaction time, make poor decisions, or even fall asleep. It also causes some truck drivers to use illicit drugs to try and stay alert. [ + ]

Because of this problem, the Department of Transportation has specific requirements for:
  • the number of hours a truck driver may drive before resting
  • the hours of rest between driving and the maximum hours of driving in a week
  • the number of hours the driver must rest before resuming driving
To insure compliance with these requirements, the commercial truck driver must keep a careful log book of his hours driving and rest hours between driving.

In representing a client in a commercial truck case, it is important to obtain and review the driver's log as soon as possible. Not only is it important to see if the truck driver complied with federal laws by reviewing the log book, but it is necessary to investigate whether the driver falsified his log book. [ - ]

Did the driver violate safe operating laws?

Because the size and weight of a commercial truck, there are special laws that apply to how they are operated including size (9 feet wide), weight (34,000 pounds per axle), speed (55 mph), lanes of travel (slow lane), parking (using emergency warning devices) and stopping distance (300 feet at 55 mph). [ + ]

In representing a client in a commercial truck case, it is important for the law firm to know what to look for in evaluating whether the driver safely operated the truck, such as:
  • Did the truck exceed the speed limit for his/her size truck?
  • Did any part of the truck or trailer go into another lane of travel?
  • Did the truck driver give himself or herself enough distance to stop considering the speed he was going and the load he was carrying?
  • If the truck was parked, was the truck all the way off the road and had the driver properly used the emergency warning devices?
  • Did the driver make a lane change without giving drivers in the blind spot time to get out of the way?
  • Did the driver yield to other vehicles?
The answers to these questions are often found through data recorded by either the truck's black box or the employer's GPS system. Both of these devices monitor the activity of the truck, including speed and braking right before and during the accident. This is vital and potentially incriminating evidence against the commercial truck driver that is often lost if not obtained right away. [ - ]

Was the driver tested for alcohol or drugs after the accident?

A commercial truck driver is required to submit to a drug and alcohol test in accidents where the driver's performance could have contributed to the accident and in all fatality accidents.

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Investigating Other Responsible Parties
It is vital in a commercial truck accident with catastrophic injuries or wrongful death that all possible sources of compensation are investigated. This requires knowledge and experience in commercial truck cases in order to consider and evaluate insurance issues, employer responsibility, product defect, and dangerous roadways.

Insurance Issues

When there is an accident involving a commercial truck, it often results in catastrophic injuries or wrongful death. However, a commercial truck driver is only required to carry $750,000 in insurance limits, and... [ + ]

...smaller trucks are only required to carry $300,000 in insurance limits. That means there often will not be enough insurance money to compensate the person or family devastated from the accident with a commercial truck.

In representing clients in accidents involving commercial trucks, it is necessary to explore other sources of insurance besides the insurance carried by the driver. There will often by additional insurance policies that will cover the actions of the driver through the owner of the truck, the employer of the driver, the owner of the trailer, and the owner of the cargo in the trailer. It takes a law firm with experience in commercial truck accidents to know how to identify the other insurance policies, know how to obtain the insurance policies and then what to look for in the insurance policies. A law firm inexperienced in commercial truck accidents will often overlook these potential insurance policies that are vital to explore to fully compensate the client. ... [ - ]

...destroyed before an expert can inspect it for defects and obtain valuable information from the "black box" that most cars have that record important information, such as air bag deployment, speed, and braking right before the accident.

The experienced law firm in catastrophic car accident cases knows that to obtain this information they must act quickly. Insurance companies are usually in a hurry to either repair or scrap the car so they do not have to pay storage. They also may be in a hurry to cover up evidence incriminating to the insurance company or driver. Once the car is repaired or scrapped, valuable information can and is usually lost.

Even when the law firm moves quickly by notifying the insurance company that they are not to alter the evidence, sometimes the insurance company will not agree to put off repairing or destroying the automobile. It is important in these situations that the law firm immediately moves for a Court order preventing the destruction of evidence. Without this Court order, the insurance company can repair the car, destroying evidence even over the law firm's objection. Most general law firms do not know this and think by putting the insurance company on notice that the vehicle is not to be repaired or destroyed, that they have protected the evidence. Thus, another reason why it is important to hire a law firm experienced in catastrophic car accident cases.

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The Experts to Use the Information

In auto product defect cases, the selection of the experts to investigate and testify about the product defects often is the difference between winning and losing cases. If the wrong expert is selected, a good ... [ + ] can be lost. A lot of self identified "experts" in auto product defect cases are really general accident experts without the expertise to identify and investigate the unique issues in the failure of a car in an accident.

Law firms with experience in catastrophic car accident cases already have existing relationships with the most qualified car product defect experts. They will know who to call, how the expert works, and the confidence of knowing the expert has the ability to effectively communicate the defect to a jury.

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Proving a Product Defect Case

Obtaining the right evidence and hiring the right experts is only the start of proving and winning an auto defect case. There are a number of traps in car ... [ + ]

...product defect cases that the high-priced lawyers hired by the insurance company or auto manufacturers lay for the law firm inexperienced in such cases.

First, proving an auto product defect case is very expensive. If the law firm is not willing or able to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars involved in properly trying the case, a good case can be lost. Second, product defect law is different than general accident negligence law, and the experienced law firm knows how to apply product defect law in their favor. Third, experienced and successful catastrophic car accident law firms are successful for a reason; they know how to prove a case and persuade juries.

A proven track record of success in catastrophic car accident cases is usually the best predictor of success in the future. The experienced law firm in these types of cases should be able to provide you with their history of success. Click here to see our history of successes.

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Obtaining Full Recovery in a Trucking Accident
To obtain full recovery for clients in a commercial trucking accident, the law firm needs to have experience in handling catastrophic injuries and wrongful death cases, not only to help clients with these life altering losses, but to obtain proper recovery for the losses. To receive full compensation, it requires a number of things.

Understanding the Clients Losses

It requires the knowledge to understand the medical issues in the case and to work to make sure in the difficult environment of insurance and medical providers that the client does not become just a number in the medical system and receives the medical treatment that is required. It requires the compassion to understand the client's loss.

Understanding what the Client Seeks in the Case

It requires the ability to listen to the client and understand what the client's seeks in the lawsuit. Lawsuits of these types of cases are not just about money, they are always about justice and usually about change.

The Ability to Effect Change

It is not enough to know what changes are needed, the law firm must have the ability to make the changes happen. Lawyers of McCuneWright have changed laws in California and Federal regulations after learning in a case those laws which should have protected people such as our clients did not.

The Ability to Obtain Full Monetary Compensation

The principal responsibility of the law firm is to obtain full monetary compensation for the clients' losses. That happens when the law firm takes cases to trial and is successful in trial. Without success in trial, insurance companies do not settle for full monetary compensation.

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