Jod Id: Accident.com November Guest Post | What to do after an accident involving an 18 wheeler in CA
5 MIN. READ
Large tractor-trailer trucks haul goods back and forth on our roads every day and are a vital part of our economy. However, when they get in an accident, the dangers can be greater than with smaller car accidents. Trucks are not only large and heavy, but many also carry dangerous substances inside of them. If you’ve been in a trucking accident with your 18-wheeler, you may be wondering what to do next and how to handle the problems that may arise right after the crash. A Sacramento truck accident lawyer can help you, but there are some items to remember at the scene too. If you’re involved in an 18-wheeler accident in California, here’s what you need to know.
How Are Truck Accidents Different Than Car Accidents?
There are notable differences between accidents that involve two or more cars and accidents that involve trucks, especially 18-wheelers.
The first major difference is the one you can see with your own eyes — the size, length and weight between your commercial truck and an everyday vehicle are significant. Any momentum from a truck, combined with its sheer size, can turn what would be an otherwise minor accident (if it were between two cars) into a potentially catastrophic event.
The causes of trucking accidents are often different than what they are with cars too. Your truck’s braking system differs from a normal car, and you have to maneuver the vehicle in a certain way to avoid tipping over. Cars don’t have to worry about tipping as much.
Additionally, because so many drivers drive overnight, it’s not uncommon for you to travel on the roadways with tired or fatigued car drivers. This can lead to accidents when other drivers aren’t careful and fall asleep at the wheel.
Besides these environmental factors, trucking accidents also involve a different set of laws, government regulations and investigations into trucking company policies than a normal car accident would (more on this later).
The number of parties involved is often different as well. Many times, when a car hits another car, it involves two parties. However, with trucking accidents, trucking companies may be owned by other companies. You may be an employee of the company that owns the truck, but you could also be classified as an independent contractor. Another important note: Your company may contract out with mechanic companies to do maintenance and repair on the trucks, making this party potentially liable if the cause of the crash was a mechanical failure.
Your Sacramento truck accident lawyer can help you pursue workers’ compensation benefits from your employer if that is a possible route to take. They can also assist you in figuring out if another driver on the road may be responsible for your accident and your injuries.
Trucking Accident Statistics
In 2019, the US Department of Transportation calculated that over 4,000 people died in trucking accidents. Sixty-seven percent of the deaths to those in car-on-truck accidents were passengers in the cars. Of all deaths that happened in car accidents of any kind, 64% happened in an accident involving a large truck.
Although many trucks use interstate highway systems, that doesn’t mean that normal roadways are safe from ancient potential. In fact, 51% of the deaths in trucking accidents happened on non-freeway roads.
A large percentage, 47%, of all trucking accident deaths happened when the truck rolled over — a common outcome of these types of crashes.
A Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration report found that California is a leader in trucking-related deaths. The state was second in the nation in deaths involving large trucks in 2019, with 385 deaths just behind Texas, which lead the nation. Unfortunately, the number of fatalities involving trucks in California is rising — since 2012, the number of deaths has risen every year.
What To Do After a Trucking Accident
If you’re in a truck accident, your Sacramento truck accident lawyer can help you determine your options. You may be able to sue another driver if they caused your accident. You also may be able to collect workers’ compensation benefits from your employer. Workers’ compensation doesn’t require that you prove that anybody did anything wrong. Here are some steps you can take at the scene of the accident to make this process easier.
Get Medical Help
If you’re injured, call an ambulance. Even if you feel okay, you’ll be full of adrenaline, which can often mask the pain that indicates injuries. Don’t think that because you feel fine you don’t need medical attention. It’s always a good idea to get checked out even if you think you’re fine just to be safe.
Call the Police
Be sure to call the police and fill out a police report. It’s okay if you don’t remember all of the details about the accident — it’s natural to not remember everything right after an event like that. However, filing a report can help your Sacramento truck accident lawyer with your case.
Take Pictures of the Accident
Try to take as many pictures of the accident scene as possible. This includes all of the vehicles involved and any damage to them, as well as the road around the cars. Your truck is likely large and heavy, and it probably left marks on the road where your brakes skid. Try to get pictures of those as well. If you see any debris on the road, such as part of either vehicle, photograph those also.
Report the Accident to Your Trucking Company or Employer
You should immediately report the accident to your employer or the company that owns the truck. If you’re injured, you could be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, but often, this requires that you report the accident immediately. There are time limits to filing any claim, so reporting it promptly is important.
Many companies have hotlines that you can call to report injuries directly to the worker’s compensation insurance company. Your Sacramento truck accident lawyer can help you communicate with the insurance company once you make the claim.
Get Witnesses’ Names and Contact Information
If any witnesses saw the accident, get their contact information if possible so that your attorney can talk to them about what they saw.
What Laws Apply to Trucking Accidents?
Trucking companies have to follow complex federal laws and rules. For example, there are legal limits on how long a trucking company can require you to be behind the wheel. You can only drive between 11-15 hours and have to take 30-minute breaks every eight hours. You can only drive between 60-70 hours on the road every eight days as well.
Additionally, the company must track the amount of time that their drivers drive with special software. You have to receive a certain level of training, and the trucks you drive must only carry a certain, legally specified weight. Those loads have to be tracked and cataloged, according to federal and California laws.
California has its own set of laws that govern trucking companies too. For example, under California law, trucks must be from 2011 or newer.
Furthermore, California’s AB5 law prohibits owners who own their trucks from driving them as independent contractors. This makes it easier for injured truck drivers to make workers’ compensation claims against their employers if needed.
Speak With a Sacramento Truck Accident Lawyer
Trucking accidents may seem complex, with many liable parties and federal regulations. A qualified Sacramento truck accident lawyer can help you figure out who is responsible for your injuries and get the information and evidence that you need to pursue workers’ compensation benefits or make your case against another driver that caused your accident.