Commercial trucks are goliaths compared to regular passenger vehicles. It’s no wonder that the potential for devastating injuries and damage is higher for car drivers when there is a collision involving a large truck. The aftermath can be catastrophic. In the state of California, the trucking industry is prevalent, providing more than 870,000 jobs and serving as an important backbone of the Western supply chain. Sadly, California was second only to Texas in the number of fatal truck accidents as recently as 2021. That’s why it’s so important to have an experienced Fresno truck accident lawyer representing you if you have been in a truck crash and suffered injuries.
Why Hire Kuzyk Law for Your Truck Accident Case in Fresno?
As you will see, there are many potential complications — and higher stakes — when you are dealing with a collision with a truck. Navigating the legal processes to obtain satisfactory compensation for your losses requires solid, specific experience with the law relating to truck accidents. Kuzyk Law has that expertise in California. The Kuzyk team can help make sense of the various liability issues, evidentiary hurdles, and legal principles as they relate to injuries and damages caused by a truck accident.
Who Is Responsible for a Commercial Truck Accident?
In most car accidents, you can expect to be one of two parties, with one or both of you holding insurance policies. Determining who is responsible for the collision and damages would usually be a simple matter of figuring out who really caused the accident. A Fresno truck accident attorney will likely tell you that similar to car accidents where one driver is driving a company car or on company time, truck collisions have an extra layer of complexity.
Truck drivers can be (1) employees of a trucking company and driving a company truck, known as company drivers; (2) driving their own trucks, contracted by a trucking company, or independent contractors working for separate trucking companies, called owner-operators; (3) or independent owner-operators who own their own trucks (or a fleet) and drive them. The very nature or reason for trucking is that it is for one or more businesses. This means that the trucking company or shipper may bear the responsibility, depending on the cause of the accident.
If a truck driver’s fatigue caused the accident and it was because of inadequate rest between shifts, the company’s practices would be under attack. If a shipping company didn’t properly secure a load and it affected the performance and abilities of the truck (creating a potential to roll over or an inability to stop in time), it could be liable for the collision. Improper storage of hazardous waste or other hazardous materials could also be the shipper’s fault if it led to a leak that caused injury or damage. It is usually the company that has the responsibility for maintenance and repair of the truck. So, if it was a failure to properly maintain the vehicle that resulted in the crash, the company may have to answer for it.
A semi truck accident lawyer familiar with the nuances of the industry would determine who is liable by poring over the relevant employment or hire contract provisions. It is an important aspect of truck accident law that simple personal injury cases involving regular passenger cars usually don’t encounter.
What Makes Truck Accident Cases More Complicated Than Car Accident Cases?
The difference in weight and size of a large commercial truck means that the impact of a collision with a truck will tend to be significantly stronger than against a regular passenger vehicle. This understandably increases the severity of the potential injuries or property damage. It is not uncommon for cars to be crushed upon colliding with a large truck. Even worse, the driver and occupants of the passenger vehicle are much more vulnerable and constitute 97% of truck accident deaths.
It simply comes down to physics. A larger, heavier vehicle will hit harder, in part due to increased momentum, have a higher likelihood of tipping over, and need a bigger distance to slow down and stop. Rules and regulations impose upon truck drivers requirements beyond what is expected of drivers of passenger vehicles. For example, truck drivers must take — and pass — more frequent medical examinations and vehicle inspections. They must ensure that everything on the Vehicle Inspection Checklist is in proper working order for every trip. They must also be aware of how to properly load/unload and secure cargo, keep manifests, and adhere to laws relating to the number of consecutive hours worked, minimum rest requirements, and more. Just to obtain the Commercial Learner’s Permit, you must be 18 years or older and already have a regular California driver’s license. A full Commercial Driver’s License allows 18-20-year-olds to transport loads, but only within California. To carry any cargo across state lines — or any type of waste or hazardous material at all — one must hold the full Commercial Driver’s License and be 21 years old or older.
We Can Help You Gather All Available Evidence of Negligence
With most car and truck accident claims, the injured party will be suing on the basis of negligence. To succeed in a negligence claim, the plaintiff will have to prove that:
- The other driver had a duty of care to the plaintiff. When it comes to motor vehicles, all drivers have a duty to consider the safety of other motorists, so this is rarely a difficult issue.
- The other driver did not meet the required standard of care in this situation. The standard of care is the level of action or inaction expected of a reasonable driver in similar circumstances. As an example, a truck driver must be familiar with and follow regulations relating to vehicle maintenance and load handling. If they do not, they are not meeting the standard of care.
- The accident occurred because of the driver’s departure from the standard of care. Continuing the above scenario, the plaintiff would have to show that it was the trucker’s failure to follow requirements that caused the accident. The breach of the standard of care could come from a bad action or an omission of something that is required.
- As a result of the above — and the ensuing collision — the plaintiff suffered damages. Damages could include: medical expenses for required treatment/procedures/medication; wages lost because the plaintiff needed to take time off work to recover; lost economic opportunities (such as a promotion or a particular type of employment) because the plaintiff’s injuries prevented them from taking advantage of them; and in the case of the wrongful death of a spouse or family member, loss of consortium (companionship).
The plaintiff bringing the legal action for negligence must prove all four parts of their case by a preponderance of the evidence — essentially that their version of events was more likely than not what truly happened, based on the evidence. Even before reaching the court stage, such as when you are dealing with the insurance company, you may need to provide supporting information to convince adjusters of the extent of your injuries, the amount of your expenditures, and whose fault was the accident.
The more evidence you have to support your claim, the higher your likelihood of success. That’s why it is crucial to gather as much evidence as you can. Evidence can come in the form of pictures and videos, such as surveillance/dash cam footage and photos taken at the scene of the accident. It can also be found in documents, such as invoices for treatment, police reports and notes, medical assessments, employment contracts, correspondence, hours-of-service logs, freight and cargo manifests, event data recorder logs, inspection and driver intoxication reports, and company records. Evidence can also be provided by witnesses through examinations by lawyers during depositions or at trial.
Truck injury lawyers will be able to advise you on what evidence you will need to support your claim. For example, your 18-wheeler accident lawyer might determine that the medical diagnosis you received wasn’t detailed enough or you didn’t get the proper tests done. They may send you to get a second opinion, or to seek clarification from your medical practitioner. Other ways semi truck accident lawyers can help you with your claim include:
- Clarifying the law and your legal entitlements
- Demystifying the court process
- Speaking on your behalf with insurance companies or other lawyers, to make sure your interests are protected
- Conducting trials, depositions, and court hearings
- Representing you at arbitration or mediation
That is why it is never too early to get a truck accident lawyer on your case.
Understanding Damages in California Truck Accident Claims
The compensation a court grants for personal injuries is an award of damages. There are some types of damages that can be sought in a truck accident claim. These include:
- Medical expenses — physical or cognitive therapy (for a brain injury, for example), ambulance fees, medical consultation fees, prescription medicine, medical equipment or accessories, in-home or other services
- Property damage — to the vehicle, real property, or personal property beyond what can be recovered under insurance policies
- Pain and suffering — physical distress and/or emotional damage arising from the kind of injury suffered, the severity of pain experienced
- Lost wages — being unable to return to existing employment because of needed medical treatment, hospital stays, mobility issues arising from the injuries, or limitations/restrictions to your ability to work
- Lost future economic opportunities — no longer being able to avail yourself of a job or other economic opportunity because your injuries now prevent you from fulfilling the required duties
- Loss of consortium (companionship) — a detrimental impact on a harmonious, loving relationship by way of injuries suffered by a spouse or the death of a family member
- Punitive damages — to deter and punish particularly malicious conduct or gross negligence at the defendant’s hands, which could include failure to remain at the accident scene (hit-and-run).
What Is the Average Truck Accident Settlement Amount in Fresno?
The settlement amount in your case will depend on a number of factors, including the severity of the injuries, nature and extent of the defendant’s negligence, and other circumstances unique to your case. We can tell you, however, that we handle any size personal injury case. Small cases with minor injuries may settle for the minimum liability limits ($15,000), whereas our work on more serious cases with more severe injuries and extensive medical expenses usually sees 6 or 7-figure settlement amounts. We’ve also handled cases in the multimillions. See some of our most notable case results here.
While no lawyer should ever guarantee a particular settlement amount, because we specialize in personal injury claims, we should be able to provide a ballpark number based on our own cases and legal precedents set by the court.
Located in Central California, Fresno County is the only metropolitan hub in the state that is located between three national parks. Fresno produce is shipped all across the country, and Fresno exports goods to nearly 100 countries around the globe. If you are involved in a truck collision in or around Fresno, there are things you must do, including reporting the accident to the police. This can be done on the Police Online Reporting System. You should also visit the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office for more information. Learn about the Fresno Police Department here.
Contact Kuzyk Law. The Experienced Truck Accident Lawyers in Fresno, California
For more than 40 years, Kuzyk Law has been fighting for injured victims in California. Whether you have sustained injuries because of any type of motor vehicle accident, slip-and-fall incident, or dog bite, our personal injury specialists are ready to fight for you — even if you are a David being bullied by a Goliath of an insurance company, or facing expensive, hotshot lawyers for the person or company that caused your injuries. Don’t just search for “truck accident lawyer near me.” Call us now (we answer 24 hours a day) so we can help you with your truck accident claim. Get the compensation you deserve and take back your life.