Truck and Bus Accidents

What Is The Definition Of A Commercial Motor Vehicle?

Truck accidents are very serious and can cause severe personal injuries.  According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations there are two definitions for a Commercial Motor Vehicle, also referred to as “trucks”.

Pursuant to the Section 390.5 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, a Commercial Motor Vehicle may be any vehicle used in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property with a gross vehicle weight rating, gross combination weight rating, gross vehicle weight, or gross combination weight of 10,001 pounds or more. This includes many types of vehicles, such as small package delivery vehicles, pick-up trucks with trailers attached, box trucks, among others. 

In addition, pursuant to Sections 382.107 and 383.5 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, a Commercial Motor Vehicle may be a vehicle used in commerce to transport passengers or property with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, or a gross combination weight of 26,001 pounds or more, including a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds. These types of trucks are known as tractor/trailer vehicles. A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate these vehicles.

What Are The Different Types Of Trucks?

Commercial trucks cause substantial damage to other automobiles when in a vehicle collision. Drivers and passengers are at risk of serious injuries when in a collision with a commercial truck. Moreover, truck Drivers have to maintain strict regulations and schedules depending on the kind of truck they operate. 

There are two types of trucks which include: (1) passenger carrying trucks and (2) property carrying trucks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has established regulations for the hours of service that a property-carrying and passenger-carrying truck may be operated.  The following is a summary of the regulations: 

Passenger Carrying Trucks 

10-Hour Limit 

Drivers are allotted a maximum of ten (10) hours a day on the road after eight (8) consecutive hours of sleep or rest. 

15-Hour Limit 

Drivers may not drive after having been on duty for fifteen (15) hours, following eight (8) hours off duty.  Off-duty time is not included in the 15-hour period. 

60/70 Hour On Duty Limit 

Drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. 

Property Carrying Trucks

11-Hour Limit 

Drivers may drive a maximum of eleven (11) hours after ten (10) consecutive hours off duty.

14-Hour Limit 

Drivers may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following ten (100 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.

Rest Breaks

Drivers may drive only if eight (8) hours or less have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least thirty (30) minutes.]

60/70 Hour On Duty Limit 

Drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.

Tractor-Trailers

Tractor-trailers may also be referred to as “big rigs”, “18-wheelers”, or “semi-trucks”. These are the most common type of commercial trucks on California highways.  These  types of trucks are massive vehicles capable of causing substantial damage when involved in a collision.  These type of trucks will be attached to trailers, including flatbeds used to transport large cargo, tanker trailers used to transport dangerous liquids and hazardous gases, hauling trailers used to transport livestock and farm animals, refrigeration trailers and “reefers” used to transport frozen goods, medicines, alcohol, cosmetics, and other hazardous materials.       

Delivery Trucks

Semi-trucks transport consumer products on the national highways.  Delivery trucks deliver them to the residence.  These delivery trucks are medium-weight carrier vehicles, including services such as UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service. 

Passenger Buses

Passenger buses include transit buses, commercial bus lines, charter buses, and tour buses.  These types of commercial motor vehicles transport large numbers of people to destinations.

Business Trucks

Business trucks are those that are used in the course of conducting business, such as dump trucks, cement trucks, furniture trucks, among others.  

Can I Sue For A Tractor-Trailer Accident? 

Every case is dependent on its own facts.  The most common types of lawsuits filed involving tractor-trailers accidents include the following:

Rollover Accidents

Massive commercial trucks that roll over can be very dangerous.  Roll over collisions may involve multi-vehicle pileups.  

Tractor-trailers have high centers of gravity and are prone to rolling over. Rollovers are classified as either tripped crashes or untripped crashes.  Tripped crashes involve the truck flipping as a result of hitting an obstacle such as a curb or another vehicle.  Un-tripped crashes involve the truck flipping as a result of losing traction, unsafe driving, speeding, or slippery roadway conditions.

When a truck rolls over and flips it is most likely caused by the truck driver’s error.  This may include:

  • Failing to drive slow at curves, turns, and exits
  • Abrupt lane changes  
  • Speeding too fast for the road conditions
  • Not paying attention to hazards or obstacles
  • Trailer load not distributed safely 
  • Distracted, impaired, or fatigued while operating the truck 

Jackknife Accidents

Jackknife accidents can be very deadly.  Semi-trucks include the large cab that contains the engine and the massive trailer which is connected by an articulated joint.  Semi-trucks are vulnerable to jackknife accidents. This occurs when the semi-truck’s trailer folds in on the cab.  Jackknife accidents are also most likely the result of an error on the part of the truck driver such as speeding, cutting curves too close, and not paying proper attention to the roadway conditions.  

UNDERRIDE ACCIDENTS

Underride accidents are terrifying accidents that involve another vehicle plunging headlong into the underbelly of a big rig – either from the back or from the side. The roof of the smaller vehicle is often sheared off in the process. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that underrides account for almost half of all semi/car accident fatalities. Giving 18-wheelers plenty of space on the road and always avoiding the massive blind spots that truckers experience on the sides of their rigs can help you steer clear of exceptionally dangerous underride accidents.

The IIHS finds that if tractor-trailers were equipped with durable side guards, it could potentially reduce the risk of serious and/or fatal side underride accidents by almost 75 percent. Many safety groups have been vying for such mandatory safety guards for years, but the trucking industry has so far successfully fought this outcry by citing the additional weight, the added expense, and the potential difficulty of maintaining the physical integrity of the commercial truck while supporting the addition. It’s worth noting, however, that after the tragic death of Hollywood starlet Jane Mansfield many decades ago, rear safety guards – known as Mansfield bars – were legally mandated.

REAR-END COLLISIONS

Semis are many, many times heavier and larger than the vehicles that we drive, and as such, they require much longer stopping distances. FMCSA reports that a fully loaded semi-truck that’s traveling at highway speeds on good roads can take the length of nearly two football fields (placed end to end) to come to a full, safe stop. Inclement weather, inferior road conditions, poorly loaded freight, overweight hauls, and driver error such as speeding can increase this stopping distance considerably. As such, rear-end collisions involving trucks barreling into unsuspecting motor vehicles on the road are a common form of truck accident. Protect yourself by taking trucks’ increased stopping distances into careful consideration, by not cutting in front of commercial trucks, by avoiding the large swath of blind spots all the way around big rigs, and by yielding the right of way to the immensity of semi-trucks – attempting to outmaneuver a semi-truck is ill-advised.

How Are Truck Accidents Caused?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has strict regulations to prevent truck accidents. 

Common causes of trucking accidents in California are:

  • Sleep deprivation 
  • Drowsy driving
  • Overloaded trailers
  • Poor truck maintenance
  • Speeding and Reckless driving
  • Weather
  • Poor road conditions
  • Inadequate training
  • Blind Spots
  • Lane Changing

Negligence Within the Trucking Industry

Trucking Industries will shift the blame from truck drivers to passenger car drivers. Here at The Sterling Firm, we strive to make sure trucking industries are held accountable for negligent acts and regulatory violations. The Sterling Firm’s goal is to obtain full compensation for our clients, but also improve safety and prevent future harm to other motorists.

Common causes of negligent truck accidents are:

  • Aggressive truck driving
  • Violating traffic laws
  • Violating driving hour limits
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Improper loading of cargo
  • Negligent hiring and supervision
  • Violating FMCSA trucking regulations for inspections and maintenance of trucks

Truck Accident Statistics

  • There were 359 deaths as a result of truck accidents in California in 2017.
  • 51% of truck accidents were caused by tires.
  • 27,982 truck accidents in California in 2017.
  • 30% increase in deaths as a result of truck accidents compared to 2009.

What Are The Types of Truck Accident Claims?

If you are involved in a truck accident, you may be entitled to a liability insurance claim against the truck driver or their employer. It is best to file your claim with an experienced truck accident attorney. A large majority of people killed in truck accidents were occupants of smaller vehicles.

The different types of truck accident claims are:

Injury Claim

Because truck accident collisions are very dangerous, bodily injury claims are the most common type of insurance claim. There are many different types of injury claims and a truck accident attorney can help you file your claim.

Property Damage Claim

All property items that are damaged in a truck accident can be filed in a property damage claim.  The property damage to the vehicle is covered by the insurance policy. 

Wrongful Death Claim

The family of a deceased victim has the right to file a wrongful death claim. A truck accident attorney can help you file your claim.

What Are The Types Of Truck Accident Injuries?

There are many different types of injuries that can happen as a result of a truck accident such as:

  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Paralysis
  • Severe Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Amputations
  • Coma
  • Any degree of burns on the body
  • Wrongful Deaths

Compensation From Truck Accident

The injured victim is entitled to full compensation for the losses and harms caused by a truck and bus accident. Damages include all economic and non-economic harms and losses. 

Economic Damages

Economic damages include all past and future out-of-pocket financial expenses such as:

  • Loss of income or earning potential
  • Present and future medical bills
  • Physical therapy or rehabilitation 
  • Vehicle repair or replacement
  • Rental car

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages include those harms and losses that are not capable of being quantified such as:

  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Loss of a career
  • Decrease in interests, hobbies, and activities that were once enjoyable
  • General harms to to an individual’s life due to incident

What To Do After A Truck Accident?

Call 911 

Obtain proper medical attention even if you do not physically see anything wrong. Unseen injuries can prove to be catastrophic and even fatal. It is best to have all injuries, seen and unseen, documented. 

Take Pictures

If your condition permits, take pictures or even a video of the whole scene.

Insurance

Get insurance information from anyone involved. Tip: It is best to take pictures of insurance information to ensure accuracy.

Witness Information

If your condition permits find out the names and contact information of all witnesses.

Protect Your Vehicle

It is important to protect your vehicle until a lawyer is retained so that your lawyer can have experts determine if there was a defect with the vehicle or any parts of the vehicle.

Consult With An Attorney

You are entitled to full compensation. The Sterling Firm is here to help you. Contact us today for a free initial consultation. 

When Is The Deadline To File A Truck And Bus Accident Lawsuit?

The statute of limitations to file a lawsuit for truck accidents is 2 years. The “statute of limitations” is the amount of time a person must file a lawsuit.

How To Sue For A Bus Accident?

A bus accident may involve either a public bus or a private bus.  If a public bus is involved in the collision, certain procedural requirements must be followed in order to file a lawsuit against the public entity.  The injured victim must provide notice of the claim to the public agency responsible for operating the public bus within six (6) months from the date of the incident. Once the claim is denied, the injured victim can then file a lawsuit with the court.  

What Is The Standard Of Care For Bus Drivers?

Bus accident cases involve “professional” drivers who are considered in the law “common carriers”.  Bus drivers are held to a higher standard of care.  Pursuant to the California Civil Jury Instructions CACI 902: 

Common carriers must carry passengers [or property] safely. Common carriers must use the highest care and the vigilance of a very cautious person. They must do all that human care, vigilance, and foresight reasonably can do under the circumstances to avoid harm to passengers [or property]. While a common carrier does not guarantee the safety of its passengers [or property that it transports], it must use reasonable skill to provide everything necessary for safe transportation, in view of the transportation used and the practical operation of the business.

What Are The Types Of Causes Of Actions In Truck And Bus Accident Lawsuit?

The different causes of action that can be asserted in a lawsuit for a truck and bus accident collision may include the following: 

  • Negligence
  • Vicarious Liability
  • Violation Of Vehicle Code
  • Negligent Entrustment 
  • Negligent Hiring 
  • Negligent Supervision
  • Negligent Training

SPEAK TO A TRUCK ACCIDENT LAWYER

Contact The Sterling Firm to speak with an experienced attorney.  We are here to help!