Large truck accidents are among the most serious motor vehicle accidents. The sheer size and weight of the vehicles puts those involved in truck accidents at significant risk of death of serious injury. In California, large truck crashes make up just 3.4% of injury-causing accidents, but 9.7% of fatal motor vehicle accidents.
Truck accidents are a particular concern in large, urban areas like Los Angeles County. According to data from the California Highway Patrol, more than 20% of California truck accident fatalities and nearly 30% of truck accident injuries in the state occur in Los Angeles County. For example, in 2014, 64 of 310 truck accident deaths and 2,280 of 7,831 California truck accident injuries happened on Los Angeles County roadways.
Other counties accounting for a significant percentage of truck accident injuries and deaths include Orange County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County.
Leading Cause of Truck Accidents in Los Angeles County
While these accidents occur for many reasons, one factor plays the primary role in a huge percentage of both fatal and injury-causing truck accidents where the truck driver was at fault: traveling at an unsafe speed.
In 2014, 31.4% of fatal California truck accidents and 42% of truck accidents involving injury were primarily attributed to speed. It’s worth noting, though, that traveling at an unsafe speed doesn’t necessarily mean exceeding the posted speed limit. For example, a truck driver may also cause an accident by driving too fast for weather conditions, such as low visibility, rain-slick surfaces, or snow and ice on the road.
Other Common California Truck Accident Causes
Other common causes of California truck accident injuries and fatalities in which the driver was at fault, from most to least common, are:
• Improper Turning
• Unsafe Lane Change
• Automobile Right-of-Way
• Traffic Signals and Signs
• Unsafe Starting or Backing
• Following Too Closely
• Wrong Side of the Road
• Driving Under the Influence
• Pedestrian Right-of-Way
Truck accidents are also caused by equipment failures, such as faulty brakes and lights, hazardous parking, improper passing, and even falling asleep at the wheel.
Although these causes relate to accidents attributed to the truck driver, it is possible for all drivers sharing the road with big rigs to protect themselves and their passengers.
Tips for Avoiding Truck Accidents in Los Angeles
Of course, all general safe driving principles will assist in safely sharing the road with large trucks and other commercial motor vehicles. Every driver should:
• Observe all traffic safety laws, such as speed limits and obeying traffic signals
• Avoid distractions and stay focused on the road and the surrounding traffic
• Refrain from driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs that impair one’s ability to operate a vehicle
• Get enough sleep—fatigued drivers are as dangerous as drunk drivers
• Ensure that vehicle equipment such as turn signals, brakes, and tires are in good working order
• Dim your bright lights for oncoming vehicles
In addition, there are some specific precautions for drivers who are operating cars, light trucks, and other passenger vehicles on roadways frequented by large trucks.
• Keep your distance. Large trucks and other commercial vehicles aren’t as easy to control as smaller vehicles. They take more time and space to alter their courses, and can’t stop quickly. Maintaining a safe distance will also protect you from splashing and spraying in wet weather and make it less likely that you’ll be affected if the vehicle loses a load, blows a tire, or encounters some other unexpected difficulty.
• Be conscious of the truck’s blind spots. Every vehicle has blind spots, but a commercial truck driver has much larger blind spots. In particular, a truck driver may be unable to see a car, van, light truck, or motorcycle if the smaller vehicle is immediately behind the truck or on the right-hand side of the truck.
• Respect the truck’s turning radius. It’s always important to stay in your own space on the road, but when you’re sharing the road with a large truck, that may not be sufficient. A big rig takes significantly more room to turn, which may require a car to back up or move over. In addition, the truck driver may not see a car that is close to the truck when it commences a turn.
• Give the truck driver adequate time to react. A large truck can neither stop nor swerve as quickly as a smaller vehicle. That means it’s even more important than usual to provide ample space when changing lanes in front of a truck or taking other action on the road that may require an adjustment by the truck driver. This is especially true when road conditions are less than ideal—the already slow process of stopping a large commercial vehicle will be even slower when the road is slippery.
Who is at Fault in Commercial Truck Accidents
As the data above indicates, truck driver negligence and poorly maintained commercial vehicles can harm or kill drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians, and passengers. In 2014 alone, there were 70 fatal trucker-responsible accidents in California and 2,473 trucker-at-fault accidents involving injury to at least one person.
Determining who is legally responsible for a California truck accident can be a bit more complicated, as there are many potential parties: the truck driver, the trucker’s employer, the owner of the truck, a company that has contracted with the driver, the person or company who loaded the truck, the person or entity responsible for maintenance of the vehicle, just to name a few of the most common. Sorting out who is responsible for compensating injured parties often requires both technical knowledge and an understanding of the complicated intersection of state, federal, and local laws.
A California Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help
Determining the cause of a truck accident is often the first step toward securing the compensation you need to move forward and rebuild your life. A California truck accident lawyer can be your best resource at this stage, as an attorney experienced in this type of litigation will have knowledge of the relevant legal responsibilities and access to experts who can review and assess the physical evidence.
Don’t take this burden on yourself while you’re recovering from serious injuries or dealing with the loss of a loved one. Schedule a free consultation as soon as possible after your accident, and put your claim in knowledgeable hands.