Category Archives: Truck Accidents

Truck Driver Fatigue is a Leading Cause of Crashes

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Some of the most devastating vehicle crashes are those that involve large commercial trucks. And one of the main causes of such crashes is driver fatigue. When those behind the wheel of a semi-truck, big rig, or other large commercial truck are fatigued or drowsy, they substantially increase the risk of causing a major accident. Many of those accidents are fatal.

In 2018, the most recent year for data, 4,951 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks in California. Of that number, 71 percent were occupants of other vehicles. 

Any person who drives while feeling fatigued increases their risk of causing an accident. Because of their size (the average semi-truck weighs 80,000 pounds and is 70 to 80 feet long), large commercial trucks can cause devastating damage to both property and lives if they are involved in a crash. Given that, truckers who drive while fatigued or exhausted take an inherently risky situation and make it even more dangerous. 

There are a few common causes of truck driver fatigue:

Driving for too long. Truck drivers in the U.S. are required by law to follow Hours of Service regulations. These stipulate how long they are allowed to drive and when they must take breaks.

Drivers carrying property (e.g., supplies, furniture, etc.) are legally allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. They may do so after having 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time.

Although driving hours are supposed to be monitored and enforced by electronic logs, drivers often go beyond these limits in order to meet a deadline. Trucking companies may not necessarily enforce the rules set down by Hours of Service regulations. Finally, even when a trucker follows the 11-hour maximum, they are still driving for an extremely long stretch of time and are at risk of extreme fatigue. 

Irregular driving schedules and inadequate sleep. Truckers don’t have schedules that follow a pattern of regular days and hours. Instead, they might work long stretches at a time that are then followed by lengthy periods off duty. Because of this, their sleeping patterns may be inconsistent, degrading the level of rest they actually get. For some, these irregular hours also make sleep more difficult, which can lead to fatigue over time. Over-the-counter sleep aids can increase this problem since they cause drowsiness that may not immediately wear off upon waking. 

Substance use. Substance use and abuse among truck drivers is a serious problem, with many drivers turning to “uppers” like amphetamines to stay awake during their long shifts. Unfortunately, one of the side-effects of such drugs is that they can cause extreme fatigue once they wear off, putting both the truck driver and others on the road at risk.

Unrealistic expectations. Some truck drivers feel enormous pressure from their trucking company or subcontractor to meet very tight deadlines. These deadlines do not always factor in traffic delays, weather problems, and other incidences on the road. Because of that, delivery deadlines can become unrealistic and force truckers to work longer hours than normal without breaks.  

Any of these things can lead to poor decision-making, delayed reactions, shorter attention spans, and even more aggressive behavior on the part of the truck driver or their trucking company. 

If you are involved in a truck accident, proving driver fatigue and negligence will be easier with the help of an experienced truck accident attorney. Rodriguez & Associates can assist you in navigating this complex area of litigation as you seek compensation for damages. Please reach out to us today to discuss your case and receive support by filling out our online form or calling (661) 323-1400.

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 9:06 pm

Critical Evidence After a Truck Accident

Monday, June 28, 2021

Truck accidents are physically and emotionally devastating events for those involved. Because of their size, commercial trucking vehicles tend to cause more destruction than a regular car would, so the risk of serious injury or even death goes up in a truck accident. In 2018, the most recent year for data, 5,096 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes according to the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration

Even when truck accidents do not cause fatalities, they can cause serious injuries with life-long consequences, not to mention damage to private property and mental pain and suffering.

If you are injured in a truck accident and plan on making a claim for damages, you will need to be able to prove the truck driver or another third party, such as the trucking company, was negligent. From there, you will have to show that this negligence directly caused the accident and your injury.

The best way to do that is to have ample evidence. Here are some pieces you need to be sure of collecting in the aftermath of an accident with a truck. 

Accident reports. Police create an official report of the accident when they arrive on the scene. Get and keep a copy of this report for your own records. The trucking company will usually send a certified truck inspector who will examine the vehicle before it gets removed from the scene. This person will check for things like a manufacturing defect, low tread on the tires, or other potential factors in the accident related to the truck itself. Obtain a copy of their report as well.

Electronic logs. Federal law requires all truck drivers to follow Hours of Service regulations. These rules stipulate how long they are allowed to drive and when they must take breaks. Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) automatically record this information and transmit it to the carrier. The point of these logs is to precisely record whether a trucker is keeping to their Hours of Service regulations or not. If they are not and cause an accident, these logs will be essential to your case.

Photos and witness statements. Take pictures at the scene of the accident: your vehicle, the truck, close-ups of the damage, tire or skid marks on the road, and any other visuals that could be relevant. It is also important to document cuts, burns, and other injuries. At the same time, have nearby witnesses give statements via video or written testimonials.

Evidence requested in a spoliation letter. Your attorney may send a spoliation letter. This document requests that all evidence related to the accident be preserved. That includes truck inspection reports, the truck driver’s qualifications and driving records, dispatch instructions, weigh station and loading dock reports, and the aforementioned driving logs. 

Any of this evidence will be easier to get with the help of an experienced truck accident attorney. At Rodriguez & Associates, our Bakersfield personal injury lawyers can assist you in navigating this complex area of personal injury litigation as you seek compensation for damages. Please reach out to us today to discuss your case and receive support by filling out our online form or calling (661) 323-1400.

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 5:13 pm

Truck Driver Substance Abuse Is a Danger to Everyone on the Road

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Seventy-hour workweeks, eight days in a row. An uncertain pay structure. Extended periods of isolation that can lead to severe loneliness. These are just a few of the realities for truck drivers in the United States. Unfortunately, they also contribute to widespread substance abuse in the industry as drivers struggle to cope with their working conditions.

Needless to say, anyone driving under the influence poses a danger to themselves and everyone else on the road. With commercial trucks, that risk increases. The average semi-truck is about 72 feet long and weighs roughly 80,000 pounds. It takes longer to stop a truck, not to mention a special set of skills to be able to maneuver these vehicles around turns, between lanes, and onto highways. All of which is to say that the risk of damage, injury, and death from a truck accident is far greater than with the average passenger vehicle.

A now-famous study from a few years ago found that among truckers, “overall use of mind-altering substances was high and linked to poor working conditions.” Amphetamines and cocaine were among the most widely used substances, given their ability to keep drivers awake for abnormally long periods of time. Years on, this problem still persists. After publishing a recent study, The Trucking Alliance said that there is “compelling evidence that thousands of habitual drug users are manipulating federal drug test protocols and obtaining jobs as commercial truck drivers.”

Drug abuse is also more prevalent among truck drivers than the general population. Data from the Journal of Preventive Medicine and Hygiene found the “overall annual prevalence” of amphetamine use among truck drivers was 21.3 percent, compared to a 0.7 percent consumption rate by the general population.

Alcohol is a problem, too. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health notes that when a trucker binge-drinks once per month, that person “increases the chance of being involved in crash accidents by tenfold.” Recalling the above information about the destructive nature of truck accidents, that’s an extremely unnerving statistic.

These substances are not only a danger to the truckers — they post a threat to everyone on the road because of the way they impair a trucker’s ability to adhere to safety standards behind the wheel. Besides keeping drivers awake for unnaturally long periods of time, these substances can also lead them to take more risks behind the wheel. Speeding, making sudden lane merges, and driving through dangerous weather are just a few examples.

Drivers of other vehicles should always maintain a safe distance between their cars and large commercial trucks when on the road. If you are involved in a truck accident and suspect the other driver was under the influence, you may be able to seek compensation for damages. Please reach out to us today to discuss your case and receive support by filling out our online form or calling (661) 323-1400.

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 6:42 pm

What Is the Hours of Service Rule for Truck Drivers?

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Commercial truck drivers must follow strict state and federal regulations while operating their vehicles. These rules are in place to ensure the safety of these drivers and the motorists they share the road with. One of the most important rules is known as hours of service, which establishes limits on the number of hours a driver can operate without taking a break. Unfortunately, not all drivers follow hours of service regulations, leading to serious collisions.

FMCSA Regulations for Hours of Service

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the agency responsible for overseeing commercial truck operations in the United States. Its hours of service rule limits the amount of time a truck driver can drive during a single shift and is in place to combat driver fatigue.

These rules are as follows.

  • Drivers that carry property may drive a maximum of 11 hours after spending 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • Proper-carrying drivers may not drive more than 14 consecutive hours after beginning their shift. They must take at least 10 hours off duty before driving for 14 hours.
  • When a driver has driven for 8 cumulative hours, he or she must take a break for at least 30 consecutive minutes.
  • A driver cannot drive more than 60 to 70 hours over 7 to 8 consecutive days. A driver can restart a 7 or 8 day period after he or she takes at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.
  • If a driver has a sleeper berth in his or her vehicle, he or she can divide his or her required 10-hour off-duty period. One off-duty period must be at least 2 hours long and the other must be at least 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth.
  • If a driver encounters adverse driving conditions, he or she can extend his or her 11-hour driving limit and 14-hour maximum limit by up to 2 hours.

Why Is the Hours of Service Rule Important?

It can be very dangerous for the operator of a large semi-truck to fall asleep behind the wheel, and the hours of service rule prevents these accidents from happening. According to FMCSA regulations, a commercial truck can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. These trucks are much larger and heavier than the average passenger car, and collisions between the two types of vehicles can be catastrophic.

However, truck drivers often face pressure to meet tight deadlines. They may violate these rules and spend an unsafe amount of time driving their vehicles. As a result, a driver can fall asleep behind the wheel and lose control of his or her vehicle, leading to disastrous accidents.

Fatigued driving can be extremely dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 91,000 crashes in 2017 involved drowsy drivers. These accidents contribute to an estimated 50,000 injuries and 800 deaths each year. Unfortunately, hours of service violations can lead to catastrophic accidents.

Legal Options for Truck Accident Victims

If you are in an accident with a drowsy truck driver, you have the right to hold the driver responsible for your losses. Through a truck accident lawsuit, you can recover compensation for the economic and non-economic damages you sustained due to his or her negligence. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your accident, you may also hold the trucking company liable.

In these situations, you need a truck accident attorney on your side. A lawyer can represent you in your lawsuit against the negligent driver, securing the compensation you need to heal. Contact a Bakersfield truck accident attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.

Posted by highrank at 5:07 pm

How Commercial Truck Accidents are Different than Passenger Vehicle Accidents

Monday, December 14, 2020

Commercial truck accidents differ from passenger vehicle accidents on many levels, including physical damage wrought, injuries sustained, multiple negligent parties, and insurance policies. If you’re involved in an accident involving a commercial truck (also referred to as a semi-truck or tractor-trailer) you will quickly realize that truck accident claims require a different approach than an accident involving only passenger vehicles, and here’s why.

Truck Accident Injuries and Physical Damages are Usually More Severe

The severity of truck accidents is often due to their weight and dimensions, which contributes to longer stopping distances, wider turn radiuses, and larger blind spots. Commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds which is 20 times heavier than the average car. Due to this difference, personal injuries sustained in a truck vs. car accident are usually more catastrophic, including death. The physical damage to a vehicle in a truck accident can also be severe and often the car’s condition is considered to be “totaled” (when the damage to repair the car exceeds the value of the car).

 Multiple Negligent Parties May Be Involved in Commercial Truck Accident Claims

When there is a car crash between two vehicles, usually only one person is at fault. When there is a crash involving a commercial truck, there may be multiple negligent parties involved. On top of this, each party may have their own separate insurance policies. Negligent parties can include:

  • Truck driver
  • Truck or parts manufacturers
  • Truck mechanics
  • Parent truck company
  • Freight brokers
  • Loading companies

Regulations for Truck Drivers and the Truck Companies

Commercial truck drivers and truck companies must comply with many federal trucking regulations, including the driving hours, training, truck maintenance, and much more. Navigating violations of these regulations is not an easy task.

 Massive Insurance Policies

In a truck accident case, there is a lot of money at stake because truck insurance policies are often worth millions. Therefore, the trucking insurance policies will aggressively defend their clients to avoid liability.

Compensation for Damages Incurred in a Truck Accident

Injured parties in a truck accident have the right to be compensated for medical care, rehabilitation, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and damages associated with pain and suffering, emotional suffering, and loss of consortium or diminishment of relations with a spouse.

Investigating Truck Accidents

Truck accidents are complex. Investigations are extensive and can require many months of research in addition to knowledge of federal and state trucking regulations.

Our Bakersfield trucking accident attorneys of Rodriguez & Associates have handled hundreds of truck accidents. Founder and senior attorney Daniel Rodriguez, along with attorneys Chantal Trujillo and Danay Gonzalez, obtained the highest personal injury verdict in Kern County history of $70,578,289 for a truck vs SUV case. We are familiar with truck accidents’ engineering, truckers’ fatigue, and other issues that lead to catastrophic accidents.

If you – or someone you love – has been a victim of a truck accident, contact us today. Call us at (661) 323-1400 for a free consultation to discuss your case and legal options.

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 2:38 pm

Types of Truck Accidents

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

According to the 2018 report from American Trucking Associations, 11.49 billion tons of freight was transported by large commercial trucks (also referred to as semis, big rigs or tractor-trailers) in 2018. Trucks are on our roads and highways daily and, unfortunately, truck accidents happen due to driver fatigue, mechanical failures, unsafe driving, and other causes such as drug/alcohol use, distracted driving or lack of skill.

Truck accidents involving other vehicles are severe and, often, fatal. Here are the common types of truck accidents that occur.

Head-On: A head-on accident is often due to distracted driving or driver fatigue (drowsiness or falling asleep at the wheel). These accidents usually result in serious injury or death.

Jackknife: A jackknife accident is when a driver brakes fast and the trailer slides outward to a 90-degree angle of the truck cab. This type of accident can cause vehicles behind the truck to collide with the truck or with each other when trying to stop suddenly.

Rollover: A rollover is when a commercial truck loses control and rolls over on its side. These types of accidents may crush other cars on the road.

T-Bone: A T-Bone accident occurs when a truck runs a red light or stop sign and hits a car on its side.

Wide Turn: This type of accident occurs when a truck driver is attempting to turn in one direction but swings out to the other before making the turn. If the truck hits another vehicle while swinging out, the accident is referred to as a wide turn or “swinging turn” accident.

Blind Spot: A big rig has many more blind spots than a regular sized car. A blind spot accident is when a truck driver is changing lanes and is unaware of a car (or cars) in the lane he is going into and as he moves over, he hits the car(s) or forces them off the road.

Underride Accident: An underride accident is when a truck stops abruptly and the car behind it doesn’t stop in time and gets lodged under the truck trailer. These accidents are often fatal.

Tire Blowout: When a tire blowout happens on a truck, it can cause the driver to lose control and/or tire debris can fly out and hit cars around the truck, causing an accident.

Rear-end Collision: If a driver in front of a truck stops suddenly, the truck may have not enough stopping room and will rear-end the car. A rear-end collision between a commercial truck and a car can cause significant damage and injuries.

Our Bakersfield truck accident attorneys have handled hundreds of commercial truck accident cases. In 2019, we obtained a $70.5 million verdict, the highest personal injury verdict in Kern County history, for a family who was driving in an SUV when a big rig ran a red light and slammed into them.

Learn more about the truck case in this video from personal injury attorney Daniel Rodriguez, founder + president of Rodriguez & Associates.

If you are looking for an experienced truck accident attorney, contact us at (661) 323-1400 or toll free (800) 585-9262 to schedule a no-charge consultation.

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 3:42 pm

How Long Do Commercial Truck Accident Cases Take to Settle?

Monday, June 22, 2020

Settling a case that involves a large commercial truck (such as a tractor trailer) often takes longer to resolve than an accident involving only cars because there are more components to the claim. In our experience as truck accident attorneys in Bakersfield, these are some of the factors that are involved.

Liability Investigation

An investigation of who was at fault will be done by your attorney and also by the truck’s insurance company. Many truck companies hold insurance policies that are $1 million or more so their goal will be to keep the claim amount as low as possible. Their investigation will try to build a case showing the driver was not at fault – or was only partially at fault. Because they will examine every possibility, investigations may take months or even years.

Injuries and Medical Treatment

Most personal injury cases are resolved when the victim is fully recovered, but injuries that involve a semi-truck may be more traumatic with a longer recovery period, thereby increasing the time it takes to settle the case. Settling the case without a clear picture of total injuries and/or necessary future medical treatment, is not advisable because it may result in an amount that will not fully compensate the victim.

Insurance Company Negotiations for a Settlement

As stated above, insurance companies have much more to lose if the truck driver is found to be at fault so they will aggressively defend the driver and the trucking company. Therefore, negotiations between the truck insurance company attorneys and your attorneys may be very lengthy. If nothing can be agreed upon, a lawsuit will be the next step.

A truck accident is unique and unlike an accident involving only cars. If you’re involved in a commercial truck accident, you will want to hire an attorney who is an expert in the field. Our Bakersfield truck accident lawyers have handled hundreds of truck accidents. We obtained the highest personal injury verdict (over $70 million) in Kern County history for an accident involving a big rig.

If you have been involved in a truck accident, call our Bakersfield personal injury law firm at (661) 323-1400 or 800-585-9262 to schedule a no-charge consultation.

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 6:51 pm

The Importance of Evidence in Trucking Accidents

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Accidents that involve a car and a truck, such as a big rig (also referred to as a tractor-trailer), often result in more catastrophic injuries and/or death because of the sheer difference in size and weight of both vehicles. If you are involved in a truck accident, it is important to have an expert truck accident attorney on your side because the case can be complicated. Your attorney must be familiar with state and federal transportation laws, motor vehicle carrier rules, and also the trucking company’s safety rules. In addition to this, your attorney must recognize the importance of collecting evidence early on in the case. This evidence can help build value into your case to work towards your advantage, and includes:

Evidence about the driver:

  • The truck driver’s qualifications file and the training file
  • The driver inspection records
  • Post-collision drug and alcohol screening
  • The driver’s log – close examination can determine if the driver has falsified their log. Drivers report inaccurate data for many reasons – including earning more money for driving more miles in a short amount of time, off-the-books incentives (bonuses) from their employer for “good service” by delivering their load early; or trying to make up time for a late start.

Evidence involving the truck:

  •  Maintenance history
  • Inspection history
  • Data from onboard systems relating to the engine, brakes, etc.,
  • Data from onboard GPS tracking and communication systems

Evidence involving the truck’s load and cargo:

  •  Weight tickets
  • Bills of lading
  • Trip envelopes
  • Dispatch instructions
  • Delivery documents

An experienced truck accident attorney will know what evidence to collect – and how to collect it – for your case.

If you are involved in a truck accident, here is additional evidence that your attorney will be looking for:

  • Pictures from the scene of the accident. If you are injured and cannot take photos at the scene of the accident, request that a family member takes detailed photos of your injuries as soon as you are able to communicate with them. Police or media may also have pictures from the scene.
  • Testimony from you and/or other witnesses plus expert witness testimony from professionals about your injuries (doctors, EMTs, etc.,)
  • Medical records from your injuries. These can help predict your long-term prognosis which can affect the value of your claim.

Our Bakersfield truck accident attorneys have handled hundreds of truck accident cases. If you, or someone you love, has been involved in a truck accident, contact us today (661-323-1400) for a no-cost consultation with one of our truck accident attorneys.

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 10:05 pm

Rodriguez and Associates Obtains Record $70 Million Verdict on Behalf of a Family Injured in a Major Big Rig Accident

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Rodriguez & Associates obtained a $70,578,289 verdict on behalf of a family injured in a major crash with a big rig in Bakersfield, California that happened in August of 2017.

Tomasa Cuevas, mother of Alex and Maritiza, was driving her kids to shop for school clothes when a big rig ran a red light and slammed into their SUV at the intersection of Pamana Road and Union Avenue in Bakersfield.

Tomasa was knocked unconscious and experienced a moderate traumatic brain injury and numerous skull and face fractures.

Her son, Alex Cuevas, was a cross-country runner. Because of the car crash, doctors said Alex may never run again. He was the front passenger during the accident who suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, facial fractures, and skull fractures.

The rear passenger was 11-year-old Maritza Cuevas who witnessed the horrific injuries to her mom and brother.

The $70,578,289 verdict is the highest personal injury verdict in Kern County history.

Our Bakersfield personal injury law firm has more multi-million-dollar verdicts than any other law firm in the Southern San Joaquin Valley.

Posted by Lorrie Ross at 7:34 pm

What Is the Difference Between Punitive Damages and Actual Damages?

Monday, November 11, 2019

In a personal injury lawsuit, you have the right to collect compensatory damages for losses you suffered in an accident that was not your fault. The aftermath of these accidents can leave us with unexpected medical expenses, lost wages while we are healing, property damage, emotional anguish, and more – and filing a lawsuit provides a pathway to recover from these significant damages. There are many types of damages you can claim, including actual damages and punitive damages.

What Are Actual Damages?

Actual damages refer to the financial, physical, and emotional losses you suffered as a result of the accident. They make up the bulk of the settlement that the court can award you at the conclusion of your case, and seek to help you restore your financial standing to what it was prior to the accident. To claim these damages, you will need to prove that the accident was the direct cause for them.

Actual damages come in two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages refer to the tangible financial losses you suffered from in the course of the accident. You can prove these damages in court by supplying invoices, receipts, and bills. Common economic damages include the following.

  • Past and future medical expenses for doctor’s visits, surgeries, hospitalization, etc.
  • Lost wages during recovery time or loss of earning the ability
  • Disability accommodations to a home or vehicle
  • Property damage

On the other hand, you cannot supply receipts or invoices to prove non-economic damages. These actual damages include the intangible losses you suffer in the wake of an accident, commonly known as pain and suffering damages. Some examples of non-economic damages include the following.

  • Emotional distress
  • Chronic pain
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Loss of quality of life

Courts calculate the amount of the non-economic damages you can claim in different ways. In most situations, the jury will examine the facts of your case after your attorney proves that the at-fault party is the cause of your injuries. Based on your case, the jury will assign an amount based on a combination of evidence and reasonability.

In the state of California, there are no caps on economic or non-economic damages in personal injury lawsuits. However, there is a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.

What Are Punitive Damages?

On the other hand, the court does not intend for punitive damages to restore your financial standing to what it was prior to the accident. Their purpose is to punish the at-fault party in your case for dangerous, reckless, negligent, or intentional behavior. At the conclusion of your case, the at-fault party will have to pay punitive damages on top of actual damages – they will not affect the outcome of your settlement.

The court will determine whether or not the at-fault party acted in a way that warrants punitive damages and makes a decision on the amount he or she will have to pay. The amount can vary based on the circumstances of your case, and the more severe cases typically result in a higher amount of punitive damages.

Do You Need an Attorney for Your Personal Injury Case?

Calculating these damages and knowing exactly how much you can claim in civil court can be difficult. You may forget about a certain line item that you could claim as an economic loss, or remain unsure of whether or not you qualify for non-economic damages. If you are filing a personal injury lawsuit, consider hiring a personal injury attorney to assist you with your case.

Your lawyer can help you determine which economic and non-economic damages you can claim, collect the evidence necessary to prove your economic losses, advise you on the amount of non-economic damages you might receive, and whether or not your case could qualify for punitive damages.

If you are grappling with the aftermath of an accident caused by someone else’s negligence or reckless, you have legal options available to you. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to claim actual and punitive damages for your losses. If you have not done so already, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your case and to begin the filing process.

Posted by highrank at 6:05 pm