Without question, big rig accidents are one of the most dangerous types of vehicle accidents. In California, big rig accidents resulted in 398 deaths in 2020–the second highest among all states in the country. Any time a regular passenger vehicle collides with a big-rig truck, the result can be devastating. Unfortunately, big rig accidents in Los Angeles are more common than most people believe. With two major ports (Long Beach and San Pedro), there is a continuous flow of big rigs on freeways and highways across Los Angeles. No matter the time of day, it is common to see a big rig driving on any of the city's many freeways.
If you are ever involved in a big rig accident in Los Angeles, understanding what to do afterward is key. As a law firm in Los Angeles with numerous years of experience with big rig accident lawsuits, our attorneys at Forward Law Group have tremendous experience around large truck accidents. In this article, our team provides a simple and straightforward list of what to do after an 18-wheeler accident in Los Angeles. Prior to that, however, we begin by providing some background information about big rig accidents that are important to know and understand.
Car accidents in Los Angeles are far from uncommon. As mentioned in a blog post about car accident statistics in California, Los Angeles County had the most car crashes that caused fatalities and serious injuries of any county across California in 2021. Accidents involving big rigs–which are also referred to as semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, or large trucks–are also quite common. A 2015 report by the Southern California Association of Governments detailed the four freeway sections in LA County and the Inland Empire with the highest concentrations of truck crashes per mile annually, which included:
While there are an infinite number of causes that can ultimately result in a big rig accident, a few causes are more common than others. Below, we highlight some of the most common causes of big rig accidents in Los Angeles and provide a detailed description.
Being a truck driver is undoubtedly a difficult job with serious responsibilities, especially considering that truckers are in charge of operating extremely large and heavy vehicles that can cause serious damage and injury. Every minute behind the wheel requires the utmost concentration and focus, which means that truck drivers must be well-rested before beginning to drive. When truck drivers are fatigued or tired, they are more likely to cause an accident. In fact, California has laws that prevent truck drivers from driving more than a certain amount of hours. As stated in California Vehicle Code Section 21702:
No person shall drive upon any highway any vehicle designed or used for transporting merchandise, freight, materials or other property for more than 12 consecutive hours nor for more than 12 hours spread over a total of 15 consecutive hours. Thereafter, such person shall not drive any such vehicle until eight consecutive hours have elapsed.
It is not uncommon to hear about regular car accidents caused by a driver who was, for example, texting and driving. Truck drivers, similar to other drivers, are just as likely to use their phones while behind the wheel. Because truckers are on the road for extended periods of time, they commonly have many different gadgets and electronics to keep them entertained. Unfortunately, the use of these electronics while driving has a high likelihood of causing a car accident.
Any time you combine the sheer mass of something as large as a big rig with excessive speed, something disastrous is likely to happen. To obtain a commercial driver’s license in California, truck drivers must pass a rigorous knowledge test and skill test that ensures drivers have a deep understanding of the laws, including speed laws. It is safe to say that most truck drivers know that they should never go faster than what is safe for road conditions. However, the reality is that many truckers have to get to a location by a specific day and time. If they are late, it could have a negative impact on their job. As a result, it is not uncommon for some truck drivers to try to meet a delivery time by picking up the speed. Unfortunately, with more speed, there is a higher risk of an accident.
California has strict regulations in terms of how much weight can be loaded onto a big-rig trailer. However, to earn more money, some trucking companies sometimes break the law and load more than the maximum allowable weight. This, however, comes at the expense of safety. Whenever a truck is overloaded, it becomes difficult for the driver to safely operate the vehicle and can lead to an accident that could have been completely avoided if the law was followed.
In California, big rig accident injury victims generally have two years after an accident to file a claim in civil court. For big rig accident lawsuits, a victim can sue for compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages that a victim can sue for include:
Non-economic damages can include:
While the lists above cover some of the main examples of economic and non-economic damages, they are not exhaustive lists that cover all damages that a victim can get compensation for. For more details, contact Forward Law Group in Los Angeles today.
Now that we have provided some essential information about big rig accidents, we move on to the main topic of this article–what to do if you are ever involved in a big rig accident in Los Angeles. Getting into an accident with a big rig can, at a minimum, be extremely stressful, but by having this information you will be more prepared to handle the process effectively. Before describing each item individually, here is the full list:
If you have any serious injuries, call 911 immediately without any hesitation. Even at slow speeds, any impact from a big rig can cause serious injuries because of the truck’s large volume and weight. It is common to feel adrenaline immediately after a car accident and not notice injuries right away, so make sure to do a quick self-assessment to check whether or not you have sustained injuries that require immediate attention.
Even if you do not require the assistance of paramedics, calling the police to ensure they draft a police report can be crucial to your case. The police report may be key to recovering compensation for your injuries and other damages, as the other driver may attempt to switch up their story in an attempt to avoid fault. A police report will have a description of how the accident occurred and may show that the other party is lying.
Immediately following an accident it is common to be extremely distraught. Nevertheless, it is crucial to not make statements admitting fault. You may be mistaken and the accident may have been caused by the other driver. Do not make any statements about fault - even if that means not apologizing or saying sorry! Apologizing can be seen as an admission of fault and impact your case negatively if you decide to file a lawsuit against the truck driver for your injuries. Instead, you can ask the other driver if they are alright and if they require medical assistance.
Similarly, do not make any statements about not having injuries. Even in situations where someone does not feel injured right away, it is common to start feeling injuries after a couple of days, once your body has completely absorbed the impacts of the crash. Immediately saying that you do not have any injuries can be detrimental to your case and the other driver’s insurance company can potentially use it against you.
Take as many pictures as possible of the accident scene, including pictures of all vehicles involved in the crash (from various angles), images of nearby traffic signs, images of tire marks on the road, and damages caused to both vehicles. It is also useful to take videos where you narrate what the video is showing as you record. Simply put, the more visual evidence, the better it is.
Be sure to share to exchange the following information with the other driver:
In addition, if there are any witnesses who observed the accident (including other drivers or pedestrians), make sure to get their contact information as well. These witnesses can play a pivotal role in your case down the line.
As soon as you are able to, write down key details on a piece of paper or on your phone. Some details that are important to record include the location of the accident, the time and date, road conditions, what led to the accident, and the estimated speed that the vehicles were traveling. Making note of these details while the accident is still fresh in your mind can pay major dividends later on when you are filing a claim.
At some point in the process, it is worth considering whether getting the assistance of an experienced team of lawyers such as Forward Law Group is the right decision for you. Because big rigs are not considered regular passenger vehicles, big rig accident cases can be complex and tricky to navigate. In most cases, big rig truck insurance companies are adept at finding a way to get their covered driver off the hook. Even in situations where they acknowledge their driver was at fault, they will try to offer victims low and unfair settlement amounts. A skilled lawyer will handle all communication and negotiation with both your insurance company, as well as the other driver’s. Furthermore, an attorney can ensure that you get the medical treatment you need, and more importantly, that you are fully compensated for all of your injuries and other damages. By having a dedicated professional by your side throughout the process, you will eliminate the stress, time, and energy of trying to do it by yourself.
A big rig accident is something no one ever imagines being involved in, but the reality is that it can happen at any moment when driving in Los Angeles. At Forward Law Group, we have helped people throughout LA get the justice and compensation they deserve after a big rig accident. Our attorneys possess deep knowledge of the rules, laws, and regulations of big rigs and the trucking sector. If you or a family member have been involved in a big rig accident in Los Angeles, give our trusted team a call today at (818) 471-8389. We are committed to helping our clients get through difficult situations, and simultaneously, helping them achieve the outcome they deserve.