San Francisco Truck Accident Attorney
We've Recovered Millions of Dollars for the Seriously Injured in California
Large trucks, commonly referred to as “big rigs,” “semi-trucks” or "tractor-trailer” trucks typically weigh 80,000 pounds and range from approximately 67 to 75 feet in length. Despite that large trucks represent only 3% of all registered vehicles on the road, they account for over 25% of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multiple vehicle accidents.
The tremendous difference in size and weight between passenger vehicles and large trucks make visualization of catastrophic injury easy. However, the difference in size and weight between passenger vehicles and large trucks are at issue. For example, it will take a 40 ton 18-wheeler driving at 65 miles an hour an additional 100 feet to stop than were it traveling at 55 miles an hour. Given this, it is not surprising that typical big rig accidents usually involve rear-end collisions. Jack-knifed trailers, right hand squeeze, and brake failure are also common accidents involving large trucks.
Contact Scarlett Law Group today at (415) 688-2176 to schedule a free consultation with our experienced truck accident attorneys.
How to Maximize Your Truck Accident Settlement
After a truck accident, a thorough investigation will be conducted. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and police will gather evidence to determine what caused the crash. This may include pictures of the scene, witness statements, and other documentation. There may be many different parties who are responsible for the accident, including the truck driver, trucking company, maintenance crew, or truck manufacturer. It is important to obtain experienced legal services to uphold your right to a settlement after a truck wreck.
In order to try to maximize the amount of compensation you will be entitled to, you should:
- File an accident report - Contact law enforcement to file an accident report because it can be used as evidence later on.
- Document evidence from the scene. Take pictures of the accident by using your cellphone or digital camera. Make sure to snap photos of the damage to both cars (inside and outside), the road conditions, street signs, and the surrounding area to paint the clearest picture possible. Don’t be afraid to take as many pictures as you can.
- Seek medical treatment - Speak with your doctor to understand your prognosis.
- Obtain copies of your medical records - Having copies of all your diagnoses, treatments, and other medical expenses can be help assess the value of your claim.
- Review your policy before you call to ensure you understand your coverage first. Remember, only disclose the important aspects of the accident and not every single detail that could result in admitting fault. Insurance providers are looking for ways to reduce your payments or deny your claim altogether.
- Wait to settle until you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI).
- Keep a journal to document your emotional trauma after the accident.
- Get a quote on the cost of vehicle repairs or replacement from a qualified mechanic.
- Get copies of your employment records and documentation as this can factor into any lost wages as a result of your injuries
Depending on the situation, you may be able to receive a settlement for past, present, and future expected medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and other economic and non-economic damages. The insurance company will likely offer you an initial settlement, but this is usually lower than what you need. It is important to avoid signing an insurance release form until you have spoken with knowledgeable legal representation.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates that 500,000 Americans will be in a trucking accident each year. In recent years, this number appears to also be on the rise, including a noticeable increase in serious injuries or deaths caused by big rig accidents. Before the problem can be addressed and corrected, the causes of these devastating accidents must be better understood.
Some of the most common causes of truck accidents include:
- Exhaustion: Truck drivers are expected to complete shifts average 14 hours a day, 70 days a week. Each day shift also includes around 11 hours of time spent behind the wheel. Truckers that become tired will lose reaction time or could fall asleep, almost-guaranteeing they will cause an accident.
- Speeding: Many commercial trucks are not permitted to go faster than 55, 60, or 65 miles per hour – depending on the area or the type of truck – while traveling down the highway. Stricter speed limits were created since trucks are much heavier than other vehicles and therefore require much more space to stop, even at low speeds. A truck driver desperate to meet a schedule or complete a day’s work may speed illegally, endangering everyone on the highway.
- Mechanical failure: The average big rig needs routine maintenance to be in top and safe operating condition. Mechanical failure, including tire blowouts and broken brakes, will cause even a veteran truck driver to lose control of the vehicle.
- Blind spots: A large tractor trailer has numerous and large blind spots. Although motorists are instructed not to stay within a truck’s blind spots, the responsibility to change lanes, merge, or turn safely still lies on the truck driver. Acting careless and giving drivers no time to escape a truck’s blind spot can put liability fully on the trucker.
- Load shift: Cumbersome freight in the trailer of a big rig can shift around during transit, especially when it is not secured properly at the journey’s beginning. If the cargo shifts weight abruptly, it can wrest control of the truck from the driver, or even tip the entire thing onto its side.
Statistics Show Truck Accidents Are a Nationwide Epidemic
In the past 50 years, thousands of motorists and truck drivers have been killed and/or injured in large trucking accidents primarily resulting from driver error and negligent maintenance by trucking companies. Unsafe driving, over-sized loads and other acts of negligence have put the public, as well as, truck operators in danger.
Here are some crash statistics:
- California is one of approximately 10 states which impose a slower speed limit for large trucks and commercial vehicles.
- Approximately 7% of all of the vehicle miles driven in the nation are done so by large truck drivers.
- Federal crash statistics have shown that at least 20% of large trucking accidents are due to excessive speed. This is especially so when coupled with problems resulting from excessive speed and braking.
- While mechanical failures, reckless driving and improper driver training account for many of the crashes, the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) reports that driver fatigue is responsible for between 30% and 40% of all big rig crashes and is the probable cause in over 30% of the crashes that resulted in the truck driver’s death.
- Much like the tragic frequency of traumatic brain injury in this country, every 16 minutes, each day, another person in the United States will be injured or killed in a trucking-related accident. It is not surprising that at least one-third of the injured suffer catastrophic harm and damage. In 2003 alone, over 450,000 large trucks were involved in crashes. In a survey done that year, almost 20% of truckers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel at least once in the previous three-month period.
- Each year about 600 large truck occupants are killed and about 30,000 are injured in highway crashes according to data collected by NHTSA. (This compares to approximately 5000 deaths resulting to passengers in smaller vehicles involved with large trucks and over 140,000 injuries per year to individuals operating smaller vehicles involved with large truck accidents).
If you've suffered severe injuries in a truck crash in San Francisco, call our experienced team of attorneys today to pursue the compensation you rightfully deserve.
Clearly, in multiple vehicle crashes, smaller vehicles and their occupants are at a vast disadvantage when a large truck is involved. Nonetheless, large truck safety should involve safety to big rig drivers and their occupants as well as safety to smaller vehicles.
The Role of Bio-Mechanical Evidence & Recreation in Injury Trials
There is a dearth of federal regulation or efforts by truck manufacturers or trucker trade unions to provide rudimentary safety measures to protect truck drivers. Doors should stay shut, windshields should not pop out, and some type of safety cage, ought to be, but isn’t normally available.
Newly registered trucks and ever expanding fleets of trucks results in greater competition. Drivers are under increased pressure to deliver faster in order to remain competitive. While regulations state that a big-rig operator can only “drive” for 10 hours per day, and must have 8 hours off for each 10 hours of driving, there is also load/unload time, often involving hours of physical labor. It is no wonder that truckers admit to falling asleep at the wheel. Many times the truckers’ 10 hours of driving begins after hours of physical labor getting the load ready to go.
Unfortunately, when a 2,000 pound automobile is involved in an accident with an 80,000 pound tractor-trailer, even the best of passenger vehicle design may not prevent catastrophic injury from resulting.
Why You Need an Experienced Legal Advocate
The Scarlett Law Group has been involved in big rig accidents resulting from improper maintenance, braking problems, driver error, jack-knife, lane change error/blind spot, as well as fatigue. Despite that the resulting harm to passenger vehicles and occupants is easily seen, the Scarlett Law Group routinely utilizes the services of biomechanical engineers and accident reconstructionists, as well as safety specialists, mechanics and others in order to convincingly establish their clients’ cases.
Given the dramatic proportional difference between passenger vehicle and big-rig, accidents involving alleged operator error, or mechanical error in semi-tractor-trailers, generally these are vigorously defended. It is not uncommon for the defense to point to driver error on the part of the passenger vehicle operator. Did he or she cut in front of the truck? Did he or she operate their passenger vehicle in a blind spot for an inordinate amount of time? Was an improper passing technique utilized by the passenger vehicle?
If you or a loved one has been in an accident involving a tractor trailer or a large truck, our San Francisco trucking accident attorneys have the expertise to assist you through your difficult times. Call now.