Accidents involving large trucks, are among the most serious and deadly in the United States. An automobile does not stand a chance against an 18-wheeler weighing up to 80,000 pounds. The risk of being in an accident involving a large truck or big rig is particularly acute here in California; we have the highest volume of truck traffic of any state in the United States. In 2004, there were 415 fatalities within the State of California in accidents involving large trucks.
LOS ANGELES AND LONG BEACH PORT SHORT HAUL TRUCKERS
More than 16,000 truckers serve the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. Some of these truckers are low-paid independent contractors who routinely put off needed repairs and drive their big rigs in dangerous condition despite the danger involved. Some of the trucks needing repairs have been driven more than 3 million miles. As a stopgap measure, many truckers will have new treads carved into their tires instead of replacing the tires with new ones. In a Los Angeles Times article “Unsafe Trucks Stream Out of L.A.’s Ports,” the spokesperson for the Tire Retread and Repair Information Bureau, a nonprofit industry association, warned that “[w]hen they cut into the steel belt, that tire becomes a bomb[.]” To read the Los Angeles Times story, click on the following link: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-trucks21jan21,1,3615994.story?ctrack=1&cset=true
Some truckers will perform dangerous and illegal maneuvers such as using the trailer’s brakes to stop particularly heavy loads when they deem their rig’s brakes “untrustworthy.” Many keep an eye out for California Highway Patrol (CHP) inspections, adding miles to their trips to avoid inspection sites.
Accidents involving commercial vehicles are not simply personal injury cases involving a larger vehicle. Specific laws and regulations govern the safety of commercial motor vehicles, and cases involving commercial vehicles have unique issues that require a thorough understanding of commercial vehicle regulations on both the federal and state level.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (Title 49, Parts 350-399) govern all vehicles engaged in interstate traffic. To view the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, click on the following link: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/fmcsr/fmcsrguide.asp?section_type=A
Drivers and their employers must keep logbooks, fuel receipts and other trip documentation for six months and vehicle maintenance records for a year. After an accident, some unscrupulous trucking companies alter or forge records, especially with respect to the number of hours driven.
Some truckers ignore federal regulations limiting the number of hours they may drive to 11 hours over a 14-hour period. They are also required to rest for 10 straight hours before returning to the road. A tired driver is a dangerous driver. When a tired driver is driving a poorly maintained vehicle, an accident is inevitable. According to a study released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in March of 2006, action or inaction by the driver of either the truck or other vehicle was cited as the critical reason for 88 percent of the crashes studied. To view a Press Release from the FMCSA about the study, click here http://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/ltccs/default.asp?page=press
COMMON FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO TRUCK ACCIDENTS
The following factors are frequently cited as factors contributing to accidents involving large trucks.
- Driver Fatigue
- Improperly Trained or Inexperienced Driver
- Driver Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
- Aggressive Driving
- Driver with a history of dangerous or reckless driving
- Speeding or driving too fast for road conditions
- Oversized or overloaded vehicle
- Unsafe reflectors, lights or other safety equipment on vehicle
- Poorly maintained brakes
- Poorly maintained vehicles
ACCIDENTS INVOLVING LARGE TRUCKS REQUIRE QUALIFIED LEGAL REPRESENTATION
Accidents involving tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, or other large trucks require specialized knowledge of the issues unique to such cases. The success of your case depends not only on the merits of the case but on your attorney’s understanding of both federal and California law applicable to trucking accidents. You need an attorney who understands the complexities and nuances of the law and has experience in dealing with these types of cases.
It is important to act promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the cause of the accident, and to file a lawsuit prior to the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations. If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident with a large truck, or a bus or commercial vehicle, contact James R. Gillen at 877-619-3095 for a no cost, no obligation consultation.