The danger of California truck accidents: Who is to blame?

California residents depend on large semi-trucks to transport essential goods across the state and throughout the country. As the economy continues to improve, more commercial trucks are needed to keep up with increasing freight demands. With a rise in heavy truck traffic around the state, the potential for serious large truck accidents also increases. In 2012, large truck accidents killed 244 people in California and 3,802 people nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. An additional 104,000 injuries stemmed from commercial truck accidents that same year.

Common causes of truck accidents

According to a reputable American insurance company, some common causes of truck accidents include:

  • Drowsy truckers who stay behind the wheel despite federal Hours of Service regulations.
  • Distracted truckers who engage in other activities while driving, such as eating, drinking, programming navigational devices, texting or talking on cellphones.
  • Truckers who drive recklessly in bad weather conditions, including snow, ice, wind, fog and rain.
  • Truckers who speed or fail to yield.
  • Freight that is not loaded properly and has unequal weight distribution.
  • Impaired truck drivers.

Trucks that are not properly maintained and have equipment that is not functioning properly also run the risk of encountering problems while driving.

Can trucking companies be held liable?

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, large trucks can weigh anywhere from 10,000 to 80,000 pounds. Skilled and focused truck drivers are needed to transport this massive weight. However, according to the American Trucking Association, the trucking industry is currently experiencing a lack of qualified commercial vehicle operators. With more freight to distribute and not enough drivers to meet demands, some trucking companies are scheduling truckers in violation of the FMCSA's Hours of Service regulations or putting unskilled truck drivers behind the wheel.

In a recent high-profile case, comedian and actor Tracy Morgan was severely injured when his limousine was rear-ended by a drowsy commercial truck driver. Businessweek reported that the accident seriously injured several other passengers in the limousine, and killed fellow comedian Jimmy Mack. Morgan and the other passengers of the limousine have filed a third-party lawsuit against the trucking company, citing negligence in hiring, training and scheduling the truck driver. The driver had been scheduled to pick up his truck 700 miles from his home, and then continued on his route despite having been awake for 24 hours. The truck driver had fallen asleep at the wheel, when he caused the catastrophic accident.

Seeking legal assistance

When a car is involved in an accident with a massive tractor-trailer, the results can be devastating. Those people who survive the impact may be left with debilitating injuries that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Even if you have emerged from the accident injury-free, you may develop injuries later on down the road. A personal injury attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve for your case.