If you have ever tried to make an interstate road trip in a single day, you have probably experienced firsthand how difficult and dangerous it is to drive when you are tired. If it is difficult for a road-weary and sleep-deprived driver to operate a vehicle that is carrying just a few people and perhaps some suitcases, imagine how hard is to drive safely after seven or more hours on the road when the vehicle subject to your bleary-eyed decision-making skills weighs numerous tons and is carrying enough food to feed an entire city. All states, including California, have laws limiting how long truck drivers can drive without taking a break, but California has some of the strictest rules about trucking safety. The most recent version of the Federal Aviation Association reauthorization bill has upheld California’s right to impose its rules, which are stricter than federal regulations.
In the world of personal injury law, this means that trucking companies could be leaving themselves open totruck accident lawsuits if truck drivers who cause accidents turn out to have been driving in California for more than five hours without a break.
What the New Bill Means for California Trucking Safety Rules
The federal bill,House Bill 302, contains provisions to determine how often truck drivers must stop to rest, among other provisions. Currently, federal law states that the longest a driver can go without a 30-minute break is eight hours, while in California, the limit is five hours. Since the maximum length for a workday for a truck driver is 11 hours, it means that in California, truck drivers must take at least two breaks during each eleven-hour shift. FAA regulations must be revised every five years, so HB 302 will determine the rules that will be in place for the next five years.
Legal Controversies Surrounding Mandatory Rest Periods for Truck Drivers
California’s five-hour limit on driving without rest helps prevent truck accidents, but the discrepancy between the federal laws and the state laws causes confusion and sometimes lawsuits. When truck drivers from out of state reach California during their interstate trips, are they required to stop after five hours, or can they keep driving until they reach eight hours? Currently, states can override the federal rules. Truckers from other states have followed California law, taking a break after five hours, causing them to be late for deadlines set by employers in their home states. The truckers have filed class action lawsuits against the trucking companies that employ them, demanding their right to the breaks mandated by California law.
Contact Case Barnett Law About Commercial Vehicle Accident Cases
Regardless of their state of origin, truck drivers in California must take breaks every five hours. If you were injured in an accident caused by a truck that had been on the road in California for more than five hours, you almost certainly have grounds for a lawsuit. Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California if you have been seriously injured in an accident involving a commercial vehicle.
Look carefully at your driver’s license; it has an alphabetic code referring to what kinds of vehicles you are licensed to drive. Most drivers in California have abasic class C license, which allows you to drive a car, van, pickup truck, or small farm vehicle such as a tractor. Class A and class B licenses are for bigger, heavier vehicles; it requires a much greater level of skill to drive them, and thus, the licensing requirements are much stricter. Huge vehicles like trucks and buses can do a lot of damage in a collision, and thus,commercial vehicle accidents are at least as likely to cause serious injuries than traffic accidents involving simple two-axle cars. This week, both a semi-truck and a bus were involved in a multi-vehicle collision on I-880 in California, leading to two fatalities.
Tour Bus Collides with Two Cars and a Truck on I-880
On the evening of Tuesday, October 30, 2018, a tour bus traveling on I-880 near the border of Hayward and Union City, failed to slow down in time when it ran into stop and go traffic, and it rear-ended the car in front of it. This led to amulti-vehicle collision, in which the bus also hit another car, causing it to collide with a nearby semi-truck. The drivers of both cars were killed, and the driver of the truck was taken to the hospital to be treated for neck pain. The bus driver was not injured, and there were no passengers in the bus at the time of the accident.
Legal Issues That Arise from Multi-Vehicle Accidents
News outlets have not reported on any legal actions arising from the collision. Based on published descriptions of the accident, it sounds like most of the fault for the accident belongs to the driver of the tour bus. Thus, the families of the drivers killed in the accident may have a case for a wrongful death claim against the bus company. If it is determined that the condition of the roads made it impossible for the bus driver to stop in time to avoid hitting the cars, there could be grounds for a premises liability suit against the county or state. News reports have not provided information on the severity of the truck driver’s injuries, but he might also have a claim against the bus company. The trucking company is legally required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, which will likely bear the cost of treatment for the truck driver’s injuries and for compensating him for any time that he must miss work because of the accident.
Contact Case Barnett Law About Commercial Vehicle Accident Cases
Failure to observe the highest safety standards when operating a commercial vehicle such as a bus or truck can have disastrous results. People injured in commercial vehicle accidents are often entitled to compensation. Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California if you have been seriously injured in an accident involving a commercial vehicle.
In a car accident involving two personal vehicles, insurance companies assign fault to the driver of one of the vehicles. If someone in the other vehicle was injured, and the settlement amount offered by the insurance company is not sufficient to pay the injured party’s medical expenses, the injured person can file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who was at fault. The plaintiff can recover damages in the legal case if the court determines that the plaintiff’s injuries are the direct result of negligence on the part of the defendant. When the driver at fault was driving a commercial vehicle, however, the defendant named in the lawsuit is often the company that owns the vehicle. Of course, it is possible that the true cause of the accident was something other than a driver’s negligence, for example, an unsafe road or one with inadequate signage to warn drivers of hazards. If you have been injured in a commercial vehicle accident, the best thing to do is to contact a personal injury attorney who deals withcommercial vehicle accident lawsuits.
California Trucking Company Named as Defendant in Lawsuit After Highway Accident
On August 31, 2018, asemi truck on the interstate near Albuquerque, New Mexico experienced a tire failure and collided with a Greyhound bus, killing eight of the 49 people on the bus, including the driver. The truck was transporting produce from Fresno, California to Memphis, Tennessee, while the bus had stopped in Albuquerque on its way from St. Louis to Los Angeles. One of the surviving passengersgave birth to twins the day after the accident.
The families of two of the victims, one from Arizona and the other from Ohio, sued the California-based company that owns the semi truck whose faulty tires caused the accident. In order to determine the details of what went wrong with the truck in the moments before its tire blew out, officials are trying to find a recording device in the truck that might give some indication. While airplanes have a “black box” for just this purpose, commercial trucks usually do not.
Failure to Maintain a Safe Vehicle Constitutes Negligence
It is likely that the plaintiffs have a strong case against the trucking company. Federal and state regulations have strict safety requirements for trucks and truck drivers. They limit truck drivers’ daily and weekly work hours and require drivers to take breaks during the workday. They also require frequent inspections of various parts of the truck, including its tires. If it is determined that the driver did not inspect his tires when required, or that he inspected them but failed to repair the unsafe tire, the trucking company will be required to pay damages to the plaintiffs’ families.
In California, personal injury attorneys see a number of bus accident types, including:
School bus accidents. These accidents are one of the most difficult types of bus accident cases that attorneys handle, as they often involve young children who were injured or killed.
Municipal transit bus accidents. Public transportation is an inexpensive way to get around, but when cities fail to maintain their buses or employ poorly trained drivers, accidents and injuries can be the result.
Freight bus accidents. These commercial vehicles are designed to carry cargo but, when overloaded, they have the potential to become unpredictable and dangerous.
Private, commercial, or charter bus accidents. Buses hired for tours, parties, and other excursions can be just as dangerous as public buses when improperly maintained or operated.
When passengers step onto a bus, they have every right to assume that it is being maintained and operated in accordance with federal safety regulation—regardless of whether the bus in question is a school bus, city bus, freight bus, or party bus.
Other common bus accident case types include:
Bus breakdown injuries
Common Causes of Bus Accidents
Thanks to human error and poor driving practices, when buses and other vehicles share the road, accidents are bound to happen. Unfortunately, many bus accidents could have been avoided had the bus’s owner or driver taken the proper safety or maintenance precautions. Some of the most common bus accident causes related to bus owner or driver error include:
Drunk or drugged driving. Operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can slow a driver’s reaction time and put everyone on the road at risk.
Drowsy driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits commercial drivers to 11 hours of driving time per day to prevent fatigue, which can be as impairing as consuming alcohol.
Distracted driving. Bus drivers may drive for a living, but they are just as susceptible to distractions like talking or texting on their cell phone, eating or drinking, or using a navigational system as the average motorist.
Inadequate bus maintenance. Even though the FMCSA requires commercial bus drivers to inspect the vehicle regularly and make repairs in a timely fashion, it does not always happen.
Operating the bus during dangerous weather conditions. Even well-trained and experienced commercial bus drivers are wise to wait for severely inclement weather to pass.
Injuries Associated With Bus Accidents
Buses lack many of the safety features—such as seat belts and airbags—found in personal passenger vehicles. When a bus accident does occur—the injuries can be potentially devastating. Common injuries associated with bus accidents include:
Bus accident victims who were injured through no fault of their own can pursue compensation for a wide variety of economic and non-economic damages related to the crash. Available damages may include compensation for:
Medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident
Ongoing medical treatment for accident-related injuries
Wages lost while recovering from injuries
Loss of earning potential if the injuries are permanently disabling
Physical pain and suffering
Mental and emotional distress
Scarring or disfigurement
Diminished quality of life
Loss of enjoyment of life
Criteria for Hiring an Attorney
It is wise to consult an attorney after being injured in an accident involving large commercial vehicles, such as a bus. This is because these types of accidents have the potential to cause extensive physical injuries and property damage. If the following statements apply to your case, it might be time to talk with an attorney:
The bus accident happened less than 18 months ago.
Medical expenses, property damage costs, and lost wages total more than $2,000.
Another person’s negligence caused the accident.
If you were driving a vehicle (rather than riding on the bus), it sustained notable damage in the accident.
You went to the hospital or saw a doctor immediately following the bus accident.
You have seen your doctor regularly since the accident and followed all of his recommendations for treatment.
Your injuries included broken bones or required surgery.
The at-fault party has insurance.
Understanding Your Options: Settlement Versus Courtroom Trial
If you were injured in a bus accident that wasn’t your fault, Case Barnett Law is prepared to do whatever is needed to ensure you receive the largest settlement possible—regardless of whether that is achieved during a vigorous negotiations process or by taking your case all the way to court. A courtroom trial can be lengthy, expensive, and stressful, but sometimes it is the only way to get victims the justice—and the compensation—they deserve. Here at Case Barnett, we will never push you to accept a settlement that isn’t in your best interest to avoid going to trial.
Do you have questions about your bus accident case? Contact Case Barnett Law to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.
Contact Case Barnett Law About Commercial Vehicle Accident Cases
Commercial vehicle companies are required by law to uphold high standards of safety for their vehicles; to do otherwise is negligence.Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California if you have been seriously injured in an accident involving a commercial vehicle.