Los Angeles County vehicles play an integral role in maintaining local services and infrastructure. They range from buses that transport residents to maintenance vehicles that ensure the upkeep of public facilities. Despite rigorous safety protocols, these county vehicles sometimes get into accidents which can impact public safety, financial stability, and public trust in county services.
Overview of County Vehicles in Los Angeles
Los Angeles County Department of Public Works vehicles help meet the transportation, environmental, utility and infrastructure needs of Angelenos. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes:
- Compact passenger vehicles
- Pick-up trucks
- Street sweepers
- Construction dump trucks
- Sewer jetting trucks
The vast number of county vehicles in operation and Los Angeles traffic increases the likelihood of accidents. In 2019 alone, there were over 300 reported accidents involving county vehicles. While this may seem relatively small compared to the total number of vehicles in operation, any county vehicle accident can have significant consequences for anyone in a passenger vehicle.
Common Causes of Accidents
County vehicles are responsible for keeping us safe, clean, and protected. However, these vehicles can also pose a significant risk to motorists and pedestrians if proper maintenance, driver training, or awareness of road conditions is lacking.
1. Driver errors: One of the most common causes of accidents with county vehicles is driver error. There are many reasons why a driver may make an error, such as fatigue, distraction, or speeding. County vehicle operators have a demanding job that requires them to be alert and focused at all times. However, it is not uncommon for drivers to experience fatigue due to long hours or shift work. Distractions like cell phones, GPS systems, or even fellow passengers can also take a driver’s attention away from the road.
2. Mechanical failures or lack of vehicle maintenance: Another frequent cause of accidents with county vehicles is mechanical failure or lack of vehicle maintenance. County vehicles require regular maintenance to function correctly and safely, like any machinery. A broken brake or a malfunctioning engine can result in a driver losing control of their vehicle. If the county neglects the upkeep of its fleet, it can endanger drivers, passengers, and pedestrians on the road. Ensuring every vehicle undergoes thorough maintenance checks before and after every shift is essential to avoid mechanical failures.
3. Challenges associated with larger vehicles: Larger vehicles like buses or trucks face specific challenges when navigating LA traffic. These vehicles require more space to maneuver and have a more prominent blind spot for the driver to account for. Buses, too, are often subject to frequent stops, increasing the likelihood of accidents with pedestrians and other motorists. One possible solution to these challenges is to install more advanced safety technology in these municipal vehicles, like backup cameras and proximity sensors, to keep drivers aware of their surroundings.
4. Lack of proper driver training: Alongside regular driver education, many drivers of the county’s vehicles would benefit from specific training. For example, bus drivers may need additional assistance practicing turning and backing up the vehicle. Drivers of trucks may require specialized training on handling the car in high winds or rain.
5. Poor visibility: A final cause of accidents with county vehicles is poor visibility on the driver’s part. Pedestrians and motorists can only see what is right in front of them, but drivers of larger vehicles have to account for their blind spots, especially in certain driving conditions, such as rain or fog; a driver’s vision can become obscured, increasing the likelihood of an accident. Installing high-quality visibility-assisting technology like cameras or signal-enhancing headlights can ensure drivers see what is happening more clearly, reducing the risk of accidents.
Various preventive measures have been implemented to combat accidents involving county vehicles. These include regular maintenance checks and repairs, driver safety training programs, and enforcing strict protocols for safe driving practices.
In addition to these measures, technology has also been implemented in some county vehicles. This includes using GPS tracking systems to monitor driver behavior and ensure compliance with traffic laws and emergency braking systems to prevent collisions.
Moreover, there have been efforts to improve road conditions and implement better signage and markings on county roads to help reduce accidents caused by external factors.
LA County Vehicle Policies and Training
Los Angeles has an extensive network of public employees who provide public transportation and services to a multitude of people on a daily basis. County vehicle operators undergo rigorous training and maintenance to ensure consistent safety and reliable transportation.
Current Training Standards for County Vehicle Operators
LA County’s training program for vehicle operators is extensive and comprehensive. The training covers basic and advanced driving and in-depth vehicle operation and maintenance instruction. All county vehicle operators must have a valid driver’s license and pass both written and behind-the-wheel tests before they are allowed to operate county vehicles.
Moreover, all county vehicle operators must undergo annual re-certification training. This program includes updates on new laws, regulations, and other important information regarding all types of county vehicles. Training sessions are available in both online and in-person formats.
Maintenance and Inspection Schedules for County Vehicles
LA County has strict maintenance and inspection schedules for all county vehicles. All passenger vehicles must be serviced every 5,000 miles, and all heavy-duty vehicles must be serviced every 3,000 miles, including checks for fluid levels, brakes, tires, and other vital parts. Mandatory inspections include emissions inspections for all vehicles and safety inspections for heavy-duty vehicles.
Safety Protocols and Guidelines
LA County has implemented several safety protocols and guidelines to ensure the safety of county vehicle operators and members of the public who may be affected by the operation of county vehicles. These include guidelines for driver behavior, such as stopping at all red lights, keeping a safe distance from other cars, and always using seat belts.
Additionally, all county vehicles require GPS tracking systems and onboard video cameras. These devices help monitor driver behavior and provide valuable data that can be used to improve training programs.
Environmental Safety Measures
Finally, LA County has implemented stringent environmental safety measures for all county vehicles. They must meet strict emissions standards, and the county encourages fuel-efficient cars. The county also has policies to reduce the use of single-occupancy vehicles and promote public transportation, biking, and walking.
Why Accidents With County Vehicles Are Different
Getting into a car accident is always stressful, but when it involves a government vehicle, like a utility truck or a bus, the process can be very different and more complex. Here’s what you need to know if you find yourself in this situation.
Shorter Statute of Limitations
In California, when you’re injured in a car accident with another private vehicle, you generally have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, when a government vehicle is involved, the clock is ticking much faster. You only have six months to file a claim against the government agency responsible for the vehicle. This is a crucial step, and missing the deadline could prevent you from seeking compensation for your injuries.
Accidents with government vehicles can also raise issues related to immunity and require more paperwork than usual.
One of the most significant differences in accidents involving government vehicles is the concept of government immunity. This means that government agencies and their employees may have certain legal protections, making it harder for injured parties to seek compensation. It can be a more challenging process, which is why it’s so important to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your claim.
When you’re in an accident with a government vehicle, you must file an administrative claim with the government agency within six months, as mentioned earlier. This involves filling out specific forms and providing detailed information about the accident, your injuries, and the damages you’ve incurred. The paperwork can be quite extensive. By having a personal injury lawyer handle your claim, you can ensure you don’t miss any important details.
Negotiating with Government Entities
Experienced attorneys can also negotiate with the attorneys for the government agency involved to reach a settlement that is fair and adequate to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Government entities have their own legal teams, and having a skilled lawyer on your side levels the playing field.
Going to Court if Needed
In some cases, negotiations may not lead to a fair resolution. If that happens, your accident attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf and represent you in court. This is where their expertise can make a significant difference in your ability to recover compensation for your injuries.
The importance of working with a personal injury lawyer experienced in government vehicle accident cases cannot be overstated. They can help you navigate the complexities, ensure your rights are protected, and maximize your chances of receiving fair compensation for your injuries.
The Compensation You Could be Entitled to
The amount of compensation you could receive varies depending on the severity of your injuries and whether you share any responsibility for their accident. The greater your injuries, the higher the compensation will most likely be.
If you share any blame for the accident, you can still file a claim against the LA County department in question. A court will decide your percentage of blame and reduce their final settlement or verdict accordingly. For example, if you were found to be 20% responsible for your traffic accident and were awarded $500,000, you would receive $400,000 ($500,000 – $100,000).
One of the most significant legal challenges when filing a claim against Los Angeles County is proving the county is liable. Attorneys for the county will most likely try and argue you share some blame for your accident. The process can be daunting and confusing, so hiring an experienced personal injury attorney is important. Choose someone who is well-versed in countering county defense attorney tactics.
Examples of Economic Damages
Your damages (the legal term for the compensation you would be entitled to) is broken down into economic and non-economic damages.
Examples of economic damages that someone seriously injured in a car accident with a government vehicle may be entitled to include:
- Medical expenses, including:
- Consultations with doctors and specialists
- Physical therapy
- Mental health counseling
- Prescription drugs
- Lost wages, including past and future lost earnings due to time away from work due to the accident
- Property damage, including the cost to repair or replace the damaged vehicle
- Other out-of-pocket expenses, such as the cost of transportation, childcare, and home modifications
Non-economic damages are meant to reimburse you for your emotional losses. Examples of non-economic damages for someone seriously injured in a car accident with a government vehicle may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Permanent disability
- Loss of consortium
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
It is important to note that the above lists are not exhaustive. There may be other economic and non-economic damages that someone seriously injured in a car accident with a government vehicle may be entitled to, depending on the specific facts of their case.
Call The Dominguez Firm Today
If you were seriously injured in a car accident with a government vehicle in California, call The Dominguez Firm to discuss your legal rights and options today. We offer free consultations at (800)818-1818. With over 30 years of experience, a 96%* success rate, and a dedicated legal team, The Dominguez Firm has the expertise and resources to assist you in these challenging times. Let us fight for your rights!
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