The statute of limitations for any auto accident case is two years. If you suffered severe injuries, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. If you lost a loved one, you also have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party, but the clock starts on the date your loved one died, which is not always the same as the accident. To better understand your legal options, you can schedule a free consultation with a truck accident lawyer.
Do You Need To File a Lawsuit for a Truck Accident Case?
Filing a lawsuit is not always the only option available following a truck accident. However, it is sometimes the best option. You can start by filing a claim with the at-fault party's insurance provider to claim your losses and request compensation. California is not a no-fault state, meaning licensed drivers with a registered vehicle are not required to carry personal injury protection insurance in case of bodily harm during an accident. Instead, they must seek payment from the other party and prove claims of negligence and for damages to receive compensation. Unfortunately, sometimes insurance companies try to create holes in your claim or even practice bad-faith tactics, such as denying a valid claim, ignoring your attempts to communicate, making unreasonable requests for documentation, or even using harsh, accusatory language to frustrate you. When all else fails, you can file a lawsuit in a civil court under personal injury law, but the first step to do either is to determine who is at fault.
How Do You Know Who Is Liable for Your Truck Accident?
Part of what makes truck accident cases unique is the nuances of liability. Truck accidents can have more than one liable party, and under certain circumstances, there could be more than one type of truck accident case. To know where to file your claim, look at the possible liable parties.
Truck Driver Liability
Truck drivers generally come in two varieties: contracted independent drivers and drivers working directly for a company while driving a company-owned truck. Any time a truck driver is negligent and causes an accident, they can be held accountable for the resulting damages. For example, speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or driving while distracted are common causes of truck accidents. If the driver is a self-employed independent contractor, they are likely liable for the accident and damages alone. However, if the driver has a direct employer, you should look into any other parties that could be potentially liable.
Driver's Employer Liability
According to the theory of respondeat superior, an employer can be held responsible for the misconduct or mistakes of an employee as long as the employee acted within the scope of their job and worked for the company's benefit at the time of the accident. A common rebuttal from the employer is that the driver was operating outside the scope of their job, but this is typically easy to combat with evidence from logbooks. Other examples of an employer's liability include:
- Accidents caused by drivers who did not receive proper training or had a history of road violations
- Accidents caused because of missed inspections
- Accidents caused by poorly maintained trucks
Sometimes the at-fault party is not someone so closely related to the truck's operation.
Cargo Loader Liability
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration defines rules that regulate the weight and security of cargo. When an accident occurs because of mishandled cargo, the party responsible for loading it would be liable. Sometimes that is someone other than the trucking company or the driver. An overloaded truck can make it difficult to brake and put undue strain on the tires and undercarriage. Additionally, poorly secured cargo can shift, causing the truck's center of gravity to change and making it more difficult to control. On an open trailer, unsecured cargo could spill out onto the road, causing a severe accident.
Other Third-Party Liability
Sometimes companies outsource their inspection and maintenance duties, especially when they own a large fleet of trucks. In this case, if an accident occurs because the third-party mechanic did not conduct an adequate inspection or failed to fix a problem during routine maintenance, they could be liable for damages if the issues caused an accident.
The same is true for companies that manufacture commercial trucks. For example, the manufacturer could be liable for damages if the truck malfunctions because of a defective part or mechanical system. In this case, you would file a product liability claim, which can be complex and more challenging. These may turn into a class action suit with multiple plaintiffs involved, but the settlement is often substantial when won.
How Does Shared Fault Affect Your Right to Compensation in California?
You can still recover damages in California even if you are partially liable for the accident. The court will apply the pure comparative negligence rule and assign a percentage of fault to each party. Then, they deduct your share from the total damages before you receive an award. For example, if you are 50% liable, you are only entitled to 50% of the damages. A truck accident attorney can help you understand the value of your claim and get the compensation you deserve.
Can a Truck Accident Attorney Help Your Case?
If you still have questions about how a truck accident lawyer can benefit you in a personal injury case, consider some of the tasks they perform while you heal from your injuries:
- Filing all the paperwork for your claim or lawsuit
- Handling all conversations with the insurance provider to protect you from bad faith tactics and ensure no one violates your rights
- Investigate your accident, using relative experts when necessary, to identify the at-fault party and any damages available for recovery
- Preparing your case for trial if the insurance company does not offer a settlement that adequately affects your losses
- Evaluating all the evidence, representing you during depositions, and conducting the defendant's testimony during the discovery phase
With a truck accident lawyer on your side, you can rest easier and focus on healing your body and emotional state while a legal expert fights for you. You do not need to face a big trucking company or a combative insurer on your own.
When Should You Schedule Your Free Case Review?
When you decide to talk to a truck accident lawyer about your case, you can call right away and schedule your free consultation. This is a no-obligation discussion about the details of your case and the legal options available to you. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. Therefore, they typically do not require any upfront fees for the consultation or to take your case. Whether you suffered severe injuries or lost a beloved family member, you have the right to seek compensation for the losses incurred due to someone else's negligent actions. At Johnson Attorneys Group, we offer 24-hour access to our legal team so you can feel comfortable knowing someone is always available to answer your questions. When we take over your case, we conduct a thorough investigation and determine who is at fault and what damages they owe you. Contact us at (800) 208-3538 to schedule your free case review. It is never too soon to speak with an experienced California personal injury attorney.