Truck Accidents in Pasadena Caused by Commercial Driver Negligence
If you were hurt in an accident with a commercial driver, you have a lot to think about. You have to determine who is at fault for the collision. You need to figure out what your case is worth. These are complicated considerations for someone who is trying to recover from serious injuries, especially if you don’t have legal training.
Both state and federal law dictate the responsibilities of commercial drivers. When drivers make reckless choices behind the wheel, they are behaving negligently. If those decisions harm others, they can and should be held accountable for their actions.
Have you been hurt in a wreck due to commercial driver negligence? Get Pasadena truck accident lawyer Pius Joseph on your side. He knows what it takes to win complex truck accident claims and has the case results to prove it.
Who Are Commercial Drivers?
The terms commercial drivers refer to operators of:
- Vehicles that weigh 26,001 pounds or more
- Tractors with trailers that weigh 10,001 pounds or more with a gross vehicle weight limit of 80,000 pounds
- Passenger vehicles equipped to carry at least nine people under federal law
- Vehicles that transport hazardous materials
- Courier vehicles and other delivery vehicles
- Sanitation vehicles
All of these vehicles have the potential to cause serious harm when they are involved in collisions. For this reason, commercial truck drivers are expected to comply with the strictest safety standards and act in a reasonable manner to keep everyone as safe as possible.
Training Requirements for Commercial Drivers
Commercial drivers need specialized training and a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in order to operate trucks. Truck drivers in California must have:
- A high school diploma or GED
- A good driving record
- Possession of a Class D license that is in good standing for a minimum of one year
- Be at least 18 years old to drive within the state, and 21 years of age for interstate travel
- Proof of residency in California
- Possession of a Social Security card
- Proof of insurance
- Passing a 10-year background check
- Passing a TSA screening
- Passing a medical examination
- Passing periodic drug tests
Individuals trying to get their commercial driver’s licenses must pass two tests — a knowledge test and a skills test. The knowledge test determines what the driver knows about the road and safety standards for the class of vehicle they are going to drive.
The skills test determines the competency of a driver in three areas: vehicle operation and control, vehicle inspection, and actual driving on the roads.
In California, legislators have also passed a law that requires all entry-level truck drivers to spend at least 15 hours of training behind the wheel of a commercial truck before they are eligible to receive their commercial driver’s license.
Commercial Driver DUI Limits
The massive size and weight of commercial trucks can cause catastrophic injuries in an accident. That’s why the DUI laws for commercial drivers are much stricter than for other drivers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits truck drivers to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04. This is half of the legal limit for non-commercial drivers.
California’s Vehicle Code 23152(d) largely mirrors federal law. Within the state, it is also illegal for any commercial driver to operate a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04 or higher. The limit only applies to when a commercial driver is operating a commercial vehicle and not when they are driving their own personal vehicle.
Unfortunately, commercial drivers do not always abide by these alcohol restrictions. When they drive drunk, the chances of a crash increase exponentially.
How is Liability Determined After a Commercial Truck Accident?
Your ability to secure compensation after a truck accident hinges upon being able to prove negligence. You must have solid evidence showing that the driver behaved carelessly and that those actions directly caused your injuries.
There are four basic elements that must be met in a negligence claim:
- Duty of care: All commercial drivers owe a duty of care to all other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. They must operate their vehicle in a safe and reasonable manner to prevent accidents.
- Breach of duty: You must show that the truck driver violated, or breached, the duty of care by driving negligently. When proving a breach, accident victims must identify the negligent behavior and prove the driver engaged in such a manner.
- Causation: Accident victims must also establish that the negligent act caused the accident and resulting injuries.
- Damages: Truck accident claims are intended to make an accident victim “whole” again. In California, crash victims can be compensated for their medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and many other losses.
A California truck accident lawyer will know how to prove a commercial driver’s negligence so that injured victims receive the compensation they’re owed.
How to Gather Evidence to Prove Driver Negligence
Evidence is critical to proving that a commercial driver was negligent. Some proof can be collected at the accident scene, while other evidence will be gathered after the crash. Examples include:
- Black box recorders: The majority of trucks today are equipped with black box recorders. These devices record the speed of the vehicle, braking patterns, driver identification, and the fuel consumed during the trip. Black box recorders will also show how many hours the driver was on the road and if they violated the federal hours of service rule.
- Driver logs: Commercial drivers must record their hours and when they took rest breaks during their shifts. A log book could also show the driver was on the road longer than he or she should have been at the time of the wreck.
- The truck’s camera: The camera within a truck can show if a driver was engaging in negligent behaviors, such as texting or talking on a cell phone. It is important to obtain this evidence right away or the trucking company may destroy or tape over it.
- Alcohol and drug screening results: Any time a truck accident results in injury or death, FMCSA requires the truck driver to undergo alcohol and drug screening. The results of these tests could show the driver was under the influence of illegal substances while on the road.
- Internal records: Trucking companies are required to keep many records regarding the condition of the truck and the training the truck driver received. Some of the most important records to collect include truck inspection records, maintenance records, a truck driver’s driving history, and their medical certification. These records may show that the trucking company did not properly vet its employee or neglected to make important repairs, which means they could also be held liable for the truck accident.
- NTSB investigation: In some cases, the National Transportation Safety Board will conduct their own investigation of a truck accident. This information is a great help when proving an accident case, but it is difficult for private individuals to obtain.
- Accident reconstruction expert: Accident reconstruction specialists can use technology, pictures from the crash scene, and their own knowledge to recreate how the accident happened. This testimony can be very valuable in a truck accident claim.
It’s important to act quickly after a commercial truck accident. Truck companies are not required to keep all of their records indefinitely, which means important evidence could be lost if it’s not collected right away. A truck accident lawyer can send a letter of spoliation to preserve potential evidence in your case.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
If you or someone you love has been injured in a truck accident, Pasadena truck accident lawyer Pius Joseph can help with every aspect of your case. Our legal team can investigate your claim, collect all necessary evidence, and build a claim that demands maximum compensation for you.
Because truck accident claims have a higher settlement potential, you can count on the other side to take every possible step to minimize their liability. At the Law Offices of Pius Joseph, we can anticipate those challenges and develop convincing arguments to counter their claims. Our sole focus is on winning the money you need and deserve after such a devastating experience.
Call us today or fill out our online form for a free consultation.