California drivers have to deal with the constant threat of careless and reckless drivers. Motorists in cars and SUVs distracted by their cellphones are bad enough, but the freeways and boulevards are also lined with large, heavy commercial vans and big rigs.
These “on the clock” drivers can take their eyes off the road to check a route notification or a personal text and put every other motorist and pedestrian in the lane at extreme risk.
Once a powerful impact has occurred and you or a loved one are injured, you’ll have some important questions to answer. For starters, can the truck driver be held responsible for your medical costs? And when you are still left with hospital bills unpaid, you’ll also have to consider if the driver’s employer should share in the blame.
What is Considered a Commercial Vehicle in California
A loose definition of a “commercial vehicle” can include just about any vehicle carrying anyone who is working from behind the wheel. In the case of rideshare vehicles, drivers aren’t always considered full employees of Lyft or Uber, and the company doesn’t own the cars used. However, rideshare companies can still be held responsible for accidents in some instances.
California vehicle code CVC §260 defines a “commercial vehicle” as such:
“A ‘commercial vehicle’ is a motor vehicle of a type required to be registered under this code used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit or designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.”
The federal definition of a commercial motor vehicle includes vehicles over 10,000lbs. The label also applies to vehicles designed to transport more than 8 passengers including the driver for compensation. When compensation is not involved, a vehicle is considered a “commercial vehicle” if it carries more than 15 passengers, including the driver.
Commercial Vehicle Accident Texting Dangers in California
Commercial drivers face a double dose of risk of cellphone and texting-related accidents. They are often bound to those phones or devices to help them do their jobs.
Rideshare drivers get ride notifications on their phones. Delivery drivers for companies like UPS or FEDEX get route changes and package updates on their devices. A truck driver may also be looking over a text or email from a family member or significant other.
Looking over a year of accident data, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) determined that 71% of accidents involving large trucks occurred when the driver was doing something besides driving the truck.
The problem is that when drivers take their eyes off the vehicles around them, they are often allowing a several-ton vehicle to sail through the lanes unattended. It’s added danger on already hazardous California roads.
The consequences of a crash are also often many times more devastating than in a collision involving smaller vehicles. These box trucks, big rigs, and vans are often loaded down and any impact they cause will have the forces involved multiplied by speed and weight. The injuries can be that much more devastating and affect the lives of victims for much longer.
Commercial Vehicle Driver Federal and California Texting Laws
Federally, the FMCSA restricts the use of hand-held mobile devices by drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Drivers cannot hold a mobile device to make a call. Commercial drivers who use a mobile phone can only use a hands-free phone located in close proximity. They are also prohibited from dialing if it requires hitting more than one button.
Of course, California’s own cellphone ban for all motorists applies to any truck driver operating in the state. Drivers are only allowed to use hands-free phones while behind the wheel. These drivers can use a Bluetooth or other earpieces, but cannot cover both ears. They can also use the speakerphone setting. Texting is covered under a separate safety code. You can’t engage in any texting, even while stopped at a stoplight. A swipe on a GPS device is all that’s allowed.
What to Do After You’ve Been Struck by a Texting Commercial Driver
You may have watched as a texting driver lost control and hit your vehicle or struck you while you were walking or cycling. Proving that negligence will be a different matter.
The best evidence to demonstrate what happened will be found on the scene of the accident. So, if you are feeling up to it, you should try to gather as many details as possible in the moments after a collision.
- Give a full report to the investigating officers. Tell them if you saw the driver using a cellphone before the accident.
- Allow paramedics to check out every pain you’re experiencing. Go to the hospital if you need to.
- Capture photos and video of the scene. Take pictures of anything that pertains to the accident, such as the damage to vehicles, traffic signs, and skid-marks in lanes. Show any logos that identify the company the driver works for.
- Get contact information from witnesses and find out if they observed the at-fault driver proceeding while distracted.
- Scan the scene for any security cameras on nearby businesses or homes that may have recorded the driver’s negligence before the accident. Find out if witnesses in other vehicles had dashcams rolling.
- Make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible. Point out the pain that arises the day after an accident. Sometimes the shock of what’s happened masks injuries in the moments after a crash.
Who Can I Sue After a Commercial Vehicle Accident?
After an accident caused by a big rig driver’s negligence, you’ll want to ensure you don’t get stuck paying for your own medical bills. You should demand reimbursement for the lost time at work you’ve suffered too. It’s also critical that the physical pain and emotional trauma you’ve endured is factored into any insurance settlement.
Getting full compensation for your injury is key. This might mean filing claims against several individuals and companies.
These are just some of the parties that may be held responsible:
- Driver’s Auto Insurance – Big rig drivers working for themselves will have commercial liability insurance. Rideshare drivers are required to have personal auto insurance coverage. These policies may have very low limits and leave you to pay half or more of your recovery costs yourself.
- Employer’s Insurance – A local or national trucking company may provide insurance coverage to drivers. Companies like Amazon and Lyft do carry insurance for their employees, but they’ll make you jump through hoops to access it.
- The Agricultural Company’s Insurance – If your accident is with a piece of farm equipment, the local owner or the corporate owner of that farm should share in your injury recovery costs.
- Vehicle Manufacturer’s Insurance – Accidents with commercial vehicles can be caused by a malfunction of a part on the truck or van. The vehicle’s maker would be accountable. A recalled part would make it even easier to show that a manufacturer contributed to a terrible accident.
Contact a California Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyer
Traveling alongside a wall of 18-wheelers or transport vans, or even a careless Uber driver can leave anyone at risk of a serious collision.
After a serious accident caused by a driver on the clock, don’t sit around wondering if you have a case. Contact Maison Law to talk to a California Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyer.
Martin Gasparian, the founder of Maison Law, will listen to you and take a free look at your case. You’ll get an honest answer about what you could earn in an injury claim filed against a transportation company or corporation.