In California, a commercial vehicle is defined as any vehicle utilized or maintained to transport people or property for compensation or profit. A commercial vehicle is defined by its use and when hired, for compensation, not by the size of the truck or the profitability of the company. Therefore, a commercial vehicle can range from a small pick-up to an 18-wheeler.
Drivers of privately-owned vehicles share the road with commercial trucks. Too often, accidents involving commercial trucks even at low speeds end in catastrophic injuries due to the differential in weight, mass, and size.
Identifying the responsible parties in these accidents is not as straightforward as accidents between private vehicles. This determination takes the experience of an attorney specific to truck accidents in the Los Angeles.
These accidents are a specialized area of personal injury law, and the injured parties need an attorney with this specialty to properly represent their interests.
Types of Commercial Trucks Accidents
Injuries and losses resulting from truck accidents are exacerbated by their seriousness and the length of time it takes to identify the responsible parties.
In accidents between two private vehicles, the drivers own, insure, and remain responsible for any injuries resulting from the accident.
In commercial truck accidents, it is rare that the drivers own the vehicle. Furthermore, the owner of the truck may not employ the driver or own the hauled cargo, nor be responsible for loading the cargo onto the truck. Thus, there may be a third party responsible for maintaining the vehicle.
The Responsible Parties
To work within the layers of potential responsible parties, the attorney for the injured parties will need to review the contracts between the driver, truck owner, product manufacturers, and any other third party responsible for all parts of the haul.
Most often, truck drivers fall within three categories:
- company driver, or
- independent operator.
Each of these categories will have a different level of responsibility in an accident.
Drivers who own their trucks may lease the vehicles to trucking companies. These companies may employ their drivers, or the owner can drive their truck as an independent contractor. In any of these instances, the owner/operator will be held responsible separate from the trucking company.
These drivers are employed directly with the trucking company and drive company-owned trucks. In most cases, the trucking company will be named as a responsible party. The employed driver can also be responsible if their negligent act caused the accident.
These drivers neither own the truck nor are employed by the trucking company. Independent operators can be identified as a responsible party if their negligent act contributed to the accident. The terms of the contract between the truck owner and the driver will be the determining factor of responsibility.
The Third Parties
Absent a negligent act, the driver can be far removed from the cause. Accidents involving commercial trucks can result from poor vehicle maintenance or an unbalanced load.
There are also instances where the cause of an accident is a defective part or component. Unlike cars where one manufacturer bears the responsibility for safe operation, a truck manufacturer will not bear any responsibility for parts built by other manufacturers. To add another layer, the truck’s systems for brakes, suspension, and other mechanics are rarely an original install.
The chances for a product liability suit are prevalent in commercial trucking accidents.
Drivers, truck owners, cargo loaders, and maintenance companies have hands-on responsibilities for the operation and the function of the hauler. Inspectors, although further removed, could bear some responsibility if a misleading inspection report can be proven.
In California, the Basic Inspection of Terminals (BIT) Program requires all commercial vehicles operating in state, or intrastate, that weighs more than 10,000lbs. must undergo a bumper-to-bumper inspection every 90 days.
During this BIT inspection, a CHP Motor Carrier Specialist will also inspect a sample of vehicles to inspect driver and maintenance records to ensure compliance with safety statutes and regulations.
The results of these inspections could also be the basis of a product liability and/or a personal injury suit. Including, the layer of separate insurance policies the potential responsible parties carry under divergent limits and coverages. The technicalities for your Los Angeles truck accident lawyer to allocate responsibility are in the review of the contracts between the parties, the insurance policies in place, and the circumstances surrounding each accident.
Hence, it is imperative to retain an experienced and reputable truck accident attorney in Los Angeles to aggressively and properly defend the positions of the injured parties to seek the highest award for damages caused.
Have You or a Loved One Suffered Injuries Resulting from a Commercial Vehicle Accident in the Greater Los Angeles Area? Take Action and Contact The Sadighim Law Firm Today
Our highly experienced legal team at Sadighim Law Firm are ready and able to help you through the investigation process and work on your behalf to ensure maximum financial compensation for the injuries and losses. Our team of expert solutions-focused professionals understand the hardships an accident can cause, and we are here to help. For further information or to schedule a consultation please contact The Law Offices of Ramtin Sadighim at 888.999.8744 or visit www.CalAccidentAttorney.com to learn more.