Imagine a scenario in which you’re driving along a highway in inclement weather. Suddenly, a large commercial truck ahead of you pulling multiple trailers loses control on the wet roadway. The rear trailer slips to the left and the truck collides with the divider.
The rear trailer overturns, causing a massive roadblock across all lanes and the shoulder. More vehicles—commercial and passenger—continue on the road but are unable to stop because of the rain and the wet roadways.
As a result, you and over 30 other vehicles in total collide, resulting in numerous injuries and property damage.
Unfortunately, this isn’t just a scenario. It is something that can happen at any given time— in fact, it happened to a past client of ours, and officers determined that nearly half of the drivers involved in the accident were not traveling with the road conditions in mind.
What Happened During the 2007 Case?
Our very own Tim Tietjen represented a plaintiff in the case stemming from a crash occurring on October 12, 2007, at roughly 10:40 P.M. The filings state that the main defendant was exiting a large tunnel when rainy conditions caused the defendant to lose control of their tractor, which was pulling two trailers.
The first trailer remained upright throughout the crash. However, the rear trailer overturned and blocked the road. The tractor itself breached the median and traveled atop the barrier until it reached its stopping point.
A total of 33 commercial vehicles and one passenger vehicle continued to exit the tunnel, but the road conditions and the speed at which the vehicles were traveling caused a series of pileups at the southern end of the tunnel.
The California Highway Patrol investigated the accident and determined that 14 of the 34 drivers involved in the collisions were traveling at rates of speed unsafe for the given conditions, in violation of California Vehicle Code § 22350.
One of the vehicles ruptured its fuel tank in the collisions which had catastrophic effects. A fire ensued and quickly spread through the tunnel. As a result, a 39-year-old man sustained fatal injuries in the tunnel fire, and multiple individuals suffered serious injuries arising from the incident.
There were 24 commercial vehicles destroyed in the fire, and the tunnel itself was substantially damaged requiring expensive repairs paid for by the state.
Regulations In the Trucking Industry and Why They Exist
Truck drivers and other commercial vehicle operators are professionals. They’re paid to do a job, and as such, they are and should be held to a higher standard.
They are required to follow both state and federal regulations to keep themselves and all other drivers on the road safe.
Some of California’s regulations for the trucking industry are as follows:
- Legal size and weight –
- No vehicle combinations longer than 65 feet allowed on California interstates
- No combination of vehicles consisting of tractor, semitrailer, and semitrailer or trailer longer than 75 feet in total allowed on California interstates
- Maximum vehicle unit cannot exceed 80,000 pounds
- Truck routes –
- Specific roads and highways throughout the state dictate the maximum weight, length, and height for allowed commercial vehicles. Truck drivers must adhere to these restrictions and plan routes ahead of time.
Some federal regulations detail other rules that must be followed and are extremely important to understand, including the Hours of Service regulations and the requirement for regular inspections and maintenance.
The Hours of Service regulations dictate how long a truck driver may operate his or her vehicle before taking a required break period. It also identifies the number of consecutive days allowed to work, how long break periods must last, and sleeper berth provisions. The specific hours allowed are dependent on whether the driver is passenger-carrying or property-carrying.
All trucks should also be appropriately inspected to ensure any problems identified are fixed and the truck is safe for operation. For instance, if brakes are not properly aligned, they may overheat, causing the brakes to fail and the truck may not be able to stop, resulting in a catastrophic collision.
Why a Truck Accident Lawyer Is Necessary Following a Collision
Because of the size of a truck and the forces involved, a trucking accident has a higher probability to result in severe injuries. As such, there are certain obstacles individuals may encounter in the process.
The trucking industry has plenty of intricacies that make legal action challenging to take on your own. In many truck accident cases, multiple parties may be considered liable when you determine the cause of the accident. Liable parties may include the driver, the company responsible for the driver and/or truck, the manufacturer, and even someone responsible for loading the truck.
Negligence exists in several forms in the trucking industry, and it’s nearly impossible for an average driver to recognize it. The complexities of the law make it imperative to have a legal professional on your side who knows what to look for and how to prove liability.
Our truck accident attorneys know how to recognize problems with a driver’s electronic log, issues with the parts of a truck, and whether or not the size and weight limits exceed the allowable amounts on a given interstate. This knowledge can help provide injured victims and their families a firm understanding of what to expect.
At Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn, we have the experience and skill you need to feel confident in a truck accident case. We have proven liability before, and we know how to protect your rights throughout these complex matters.
Call our firm today at (415) 940-7176 and discover what legal options you have to move forward after a truck accident.