California Truck Accident

California Truck Accident

The sheer size and weight of commercial trucks can cause far more devastation in an accident than any other vehicle on the road, which is why anyone involved in a truck accident is likely to suffer severe injuries, or even death. If you have been injured in a big rig crash, it is in your best interest to speak with a California truck accident lawyer about your claim. Experienced legal representation can help you navigate the circumstances surrounding a devastating truck crash, and ensure that your rights are protected should you decide to file a truck accident lawsuit.

Truck Accidents Likely to Cause Serious Injury or Wrongful Death

Commercial trucks account for roughly four percent of all registered vehicles and nine percent of all miles traveled in the United States, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The volume of commercial vehicles can present a problem for motorists who must share roadways with those trucks, which are often referred to as big rigs, semis, semi-trailer trucks, tractor trailers or 18-wheelers.

The threat of death or injury posed by trucking accidents is staggering, especially in states like California, which sees hundreds of fatal big rig accidents on an annual basis. According to the California Vehicle Code, big rigs traveling on California roads can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, while the average passenger vehicle weighs only 4,000 pounds. Trucks are also taller and have greater ground clearance than passenger vehicles, which can result in smaller passenger vehicles being involved in truck underride accidents. This disparity in weight and size causes a significant safety concern for California motorists.

Occupants of passenger vehicles are especially vulnerable to fatal injury in semi truck accidents. On average, passenger vehicle occupants account for a shocking 97 percent of all deaths in accidents involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck on U.S. roads, according to data from IIHS.

California Truck Crashes

Due to its heavy trade profile and the staggering number of commercial trucks moving tons of cargo within the state’s many highways, California is home to a high number of the nation’s fatal commercial tractor trailer accidents with an average of 276 fatal truck crashes per year. Unfortunately, some California truck companies tend to prioritize profits over safety. Improper maintenance or poor repair work, and careless and reckless driving, including truck driver fatigue, are just some of the many causes of fatal California truck crashes.

On average, Texas is the only state in the country that sees more fatal truck accidents than California, with an average of 415 fatal truck crashes per year. Each year, big rig accidents account for roughly nine percent of all vehicle crashes in California.*

This data parallels national statistics. According to a study conducted by Kansas State University civil engineers, one in 10 traffic fatalities in the U.S. was a result from collisions involving a large truck. “When you consider that between 30,000 to 35,000 people die each year in all motor vehicle crashes, it’s a pretty significant issue,” said researchers involved with the study.

*data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, aggregated over five years

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Southern California Big Rig Crashes

California is home to a very large and complex market for freight movement, which consists of large commercial big rigs traversing the many highways as they transport goods.

Southern California has the second largest metropolitan area in the country. This area, called the Los Angeles Metropolitan region, consists of six counties (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial and Ventura counties) and is home to roughly 16.5 million people.

The nation’s largest container port complex lies within the Los Angeles Metropolitan region, as well as an important cargo center and numerous major regional distribution centers. The highways in this region, particularly Interstate 5 and Interstate 710, are incredibly busy and dangerous for motorists when it comes to 18-wheeler accidents.

Southern California also shares a border with Mexico, making it a very important gateway for international trade (with more than 37 percent of the nation’s import duties being collected in the region). The city of San Diego, which is home to 1.3 million people and 23 state routes, is a hub for commercial truck travel.

Unfortunately, due to the large number of trucks traveling through Southern California, it is the most dangerous region for truck accidents in the state. According to California truck accident statistics, Southern California has averages of 113 fatal truck accidents each year as well as 2,978 truck crashes resulting in injuries.

Central California Truck Crashes

Much of California’s agriculture and livestock cultivation is based in the central part of the state, which is why Central California sees a high concentration of commercial truck traffic each day. The Central Valley, and in particular the cities of Bakersfield and Fresno, are heavily traveled by truckers transporting goods.

Highway 99 and Interstate 5, which traverse through the Central Valley, are among the most dangerous routes in California. According to a report issued by Value Penguin, a stretch of Highway 99 that goes through Fresno is considered one of the most dangerous roads in America.

Northern California Truck Accidents

Northern California sees less fatal truck crashes on average than Central California or Southern California. However, parts of Northern California are considered treacherous due to the high volume of trucks sharing the road with commuters.

The Bay Area, for example, sees a lot of truck traffic on a daily basis. Interstate 80, which connects cities in the East Bay (Oakland, Hayward, Fremont, Berkeley and Richmond), is widely considered to be one of the most dangerous highways in the state.

The greater Sacramento area also sees a fair amount of big rig accidents. A stretch of Interstate 5 that connects the cities of Redding and Sacramento has a fatal accident per mile rate of .85, making it one of the more dangerous roadways in the state.

Causes of Truck Accidents

Large trucks can pose numerous hazards as they operate on California’s many roads. Due to their weight and size, trucks take significantly longer to stop than a passenger vehicle (up to 40 percent more distance is needed for a large truck to stop than a small passenger vehicle). This handicap has led to many catastrophic rear-end accidents, especially if the commercial truck is speeding or following a smaller vehicle too closely (“tailgating”).

Large trucks also have substantial blind spots called “no zones” located to the rear, sides, and front of the semi, where a truck driver can be completely unaware of a car traveling mere feet from its tractor or trailer. When a big rig makes an improper lane change, for example, and fails to see a car due to a blind spot, a fatal crash can occur.

According to the NHTSA, the following categories of moving violations committed by drivers of commercial motor vehicles are the leading causes of potentially deadly truck accidents:

  • Reckless Driving and Speeding (combined with heavy cargo)
  • Improper Turning
  • Driving While Impaired (DWI)
  • Parking on the Shoulder
  • Violating Other Commercial Motor Vehicle Laws
  • Stopping at Railroad Grade Crossings
  • Overloading/Improper Loading of Cargo (this can cause semis to roll over or jackknife)

Another cause of deadly big rig crashes is driver fatigue. Although there are legal limits related to the number of hours a commercial driver may operate without rest, some drivers feel intense pressure from their employers to move cargo to its destination while under tight deadlines. Also, most truck drivers are paid by the mile, not by the hour, so in some cases, drivers push themselves beyond their physical and mental limits, which can put themselves and other motorists at risk. When truck drivers and trucking companies bypass driver fatigue regulations in order to make more money, it is an accident waiting to happen.

California Truck Accident Lawyer

If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed in a big rig crash in California, it is important to contact an experienced California truck accident attorney to represent your best interests and seek justice on your behalf.

Litigating against trucking companies and their insurance carriers can be complex. It is imperative that you choose legal counsel wisely, as a truck accident lawsuit can involve multiple jurisdictions and choice of law issues. Headquartered in Los Angeles and with additional locations in Bakersfield, Ontario, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Francisco, the California truck accident lawyers at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman are here to help you navigate the legal process and to obtain justice and to maximize compensation for you and your family.