Article Updated: August 4, 2021


Garbage Truck Accident Attorney


Below, we provide free answers to many questions regarding garbage truck accident claims, including investigation, settlement, and liability issues.

Garbage trucks or trash trucks present special dangers due the combination of their size and where and how they operate.  No other truck as large as a garbage truck travels down neighborhood streets as often as garbage trucks do.

Consequently, one of the most dangerous trucks presents a hazard to one of the most vulnerable populations, children.

If you are from Los Angeles, you understand this from the 1995 garbage truck crash that killed two children.  In that accident, a garbage truck ran through a school bus.  Two children died, which is called a wrongful death claim.  Several others were injured.  Mechanical defects were to blame for that accident.  This article outlines mechanical related liability, as well as liability related to bad driving, and negligent corporate hiring and supervision.

We encourage you to learn more about trash truck accidents by reviewing the topics below.  When you are ready, we are available 24/7 to help you get the justice you deserve.


Table of Contents


Liability & Claim Issues

Settlement Information

Get Help

Article Resources


Is Garbage Truck at Fault for My Accident?


In every automobile case, the person injured must prove that the driver of the vehicle that injured that person did something wrong.

In trash and recycling truck accident cases, these are some common errors that we see from the truck and trash truck company that causes accidents to happen:

   Unqualified truck driver

   Overworked truck driver

   Dangerous route-mapping

   Overstuffed routes causing rushed pickups

   Debris falling off the truck

   Malfunctioning truck

   Large blind spots with small side-view mirrors

   Inadequately truck maintenance

Those are garbage truck specific accident causes.

We’ve handled garbage truck litigation where the cause was something traditional, including inadequate head checks, poor judgment and maneuvering, and failure to see and account for other motorists in the trash truck’s blind spots.


How to Prove Liability in Garbage Truck Accidents


Two Categories of Whom to Sue

There are two common groups possible defendants in a garbage truck accident case.

The first group are the people staffing the truck, including the driver and “hoppers” who do the pickup.  “Hoppers” is the term commonly used to identify the staff who hop off and on the back of the trucks to pick up trash.  Liability against truck staff is premised on traditional automobile accident negligence rules, in addition to negligent hand signals, warnings, and behavior by the hoppers.

The second group of possible defendants are the corporate agents involved in the ownership and operation of the truck.  These could include CEOs, safety officers, parent companies, subsidiaries, and any management companies delegated with operational control of the garbage truck companies day to day operations.

Complex Discovery = Bigger Settlements

The low bearing fruit is to only pursue a claim against the people staffing the truck.  The more complex and difficult work is litigating claims against the corporate agents.

This form of liability requires investigation and discovery of corporate practices, hiring practices, training requirements and, as a result, an attorneys’ knowledge about standards, rules, and regulations regarding all of those topics.  For this reason, proving corporate wrongdoing is more challenging and time consuming.

However, although more difficult, pursuing a case under a corporate malfeasance theory of liability in a garbage truck accident presents a greater opportunity of achieving better financial results for the injured victims.

How do we know?  Because we have pursued that theory of liability in garbage truck litigation, and it helped our client more than double the insurance company’s offer.

This liability is based on inadequate training, supervision, management, hiring, retention, and other corporate conduct.  An experienced garbage truck accident attorney knows where to dig to find this evidence, and it’s the best way to increase your settlement amount.

Los Angeles Trash Truck Liability Investigation

For garbage truck accidents in Los Angeles, Los Angeles has made this process a little easier for attorneys.  Los Angeles’ public waste website provides an organizational chart.  This is a good place to start when noting corporate depositions to find out where in the hierarchy the negligent acts began which allowed your injury to happen.


Garbage Truck Accident Claim Deadlines


Garbage trucks are unique, and different from many other large trucks, because they are often owned or operated by a local government, county, or municipality.  This means local government claims statutes, including specific notice requirements, come into play.

Depending on which garbage truck hit you, you may have as little as 12 months to formally file a claim or you lose the ability to do so.  This is shorter than the traditional deadline for vehicle accidents in California, which is two years.

You need a qualified attorney who can jump in immediately, give the statutorily prescribed notices to the correct entities to preserve your claim, send evidence preservation notices to all possible entities and persons, and negotiate aggressively with the wrongdoers to get you a fair recovery.  Contact us and see what we can do to help fight for you and your family.


Must I Sue Los Angeles for a Garbage Truck Accident?


No-Cookie Cutter Approach to Garbage Truck Litigation

No, if you were in a garbage truck accident in Los Angeles, you do not necessarily have to sue the city or county of Los Angeles.  Los Angeles garbage trucks are operated by private trucking companies and by government owned trucks.  You need a lawyer to investigate your claim to find out who the potentially responsible entity is for your accident.

In some instances, it is possible that both Los Angeles City or County and a privately contracted trucking company can be held responsible for your garbage truck accident.

Even when that is true, a skilled garbage truck accident attorney familiar with commercial vehicle litigation should analyze your case to determine, strategically, which targets will maximize your potential recovery.

Hypothetical Scenario

Here’s one example to illustrate the point:

What if the insurance carrier for the private garbage truck company is willing to offer its $1,000,000 policy to settle your claim, but Los Angeles City digs in and wants to fight the case, which means you can accept the $1,000,000 and end the case or proceed with 2 or more years of litigation simply for the opportunity to get more than $1,000,000. 

Do you accept the $1,000,000 or wait 2 years for a trial and try to squeeze more money from the City on top of the $1,000,000?

How much more above the $1,000,000 is your case worth, and does that additional money justify waiting an extra 2 years to resolve your case?

How much money would you earn from interest or savings on interest by receiving $1,000,000 now versus receiving, for example, $1,100,000 2 years from now?

This example and related questions demonstrate that, against who you make your claim, when you file suit, which discovery you pursue in litigation, and how and for how much you settle with a particular defendant in a potentially multi-defendant scenario is not a simple if X then Y discussion.

There are strategic aspects of managing the litigation and its resolution that extend far beyond the simple value of the case, all of which impact what is in your best interest, financially and otherwise.


Investigating Garbage Truck Accidents


wide left turn trash truck accident

At IAG, we have a system in place for investigating garbage truck accidents which ensures no stone is left unturned to find out what happened, why it happened, and how we can prevent it from happening again to anyone else.

This includes written discovery, structured corporate deposition strategy, and third-party discovery to flush out what we know the garbage truck company’s may try to hide from us in productions and disclosures they make during the litigation.

Our internal roadmap to success for these cases ensures that whenever possible and practical, we research and record data from the truck’s black box, the trucking company’s federally reported safety data, video footage from inside and outside the truck, employment records, and the truck’s maintenance and operational records to ensure it was in compliance with California law concerning garbage trucks, including specifically placed and operating signal lamps and alarms.

We have discovery requests, deposition outlines, and checklists that make sure the trucking company does not play hide the ball with important evidence.  If there is any evidence out there that can be used to reveal the full value of your case, we will fully investigate its existence and use the findings to help you get a fair recovery.

For example, we know that Los Angeles has been upgrading its trash truck fleet.  New vehicles will have newer technology.  This often includes better ride tracking, Smartdrive software, and video cameras recording the trash truck’s negligence.  This is welcome news, as it can lead to greater accountability for a trash truck’s negligent driving.

That technology, and what it records about the trash truck’s movement before an accident, can often debunk a driver’s story as to why the accident happened.

For example, if a truck flips over, Smartdrive data can show the driver tried to take a left turn at too high a speed, and cast doubt on the truck driver’s alternate excuses for the truck flipping over.


Garbage Truck Accident Settlement Amounts


If you are wondering how much is an average garbage truck accident settlement is worth, it may help to know prior claim amounts for trash trucks, list below.

The average garbage truck accident settlement is over $1,000,000.  Here are some case results with related injuries to put that in perspective:

$1,750,000 – Rear-end accident with neck injuries

$6,500,000 – Head-on accident with brain injury

$4,750,000 – Lane-change with arm injury

$5,000,000 – Wrongful death accident

$1,500,000 – Wrongful death accident

$1,100,000 – Lane-change accident with shoulder and lower back injuries

$750,000 – Lane-change accident with shoulder injury

Very rarely does a garbage truck accident involve nominal injuries.  They are, more often than not, catastrophic.

These cases deserve large settlement recoveries.  Your lawyer should be fighting for every dollar of available insurance money.  This includes working to uncover all additional layers of insurance coverage, such as umbrella policies.


Garbage Truck Accident Q&A


Who is liable for my garbage truck settlement?

Who is liable for your garbage truck accident will depend on how the accident happened and who owns and operates the garbage truck involved in your collision.  There is no general answer to this, and it requires case specific investigation.

Who should I file a claim against in my garbage truck settlement case?

The claim can be against the operators of the trucks, which can have a lower settlement amount or the owners which can have a higher settlement amount.  This is something discussed in the article above, with explanation as to why.  You may also have a claim against the city or county, if either had a role in operating the garbage truck.

How soon after the accident should I file my claim.

This should be done ASAP because these trucks are often linked to local government that has rules dictating procedures for filing claims and some limits are as low as 12 months.  When you file your claim with the government does not have to be the same day you file a formal lawsuit.  Speak with an attorney about how to strategically meet both those claim deadlines without losing any tactical advantages.

Do I need an attorney to represent me in my case?

Garbage truck cases are more complex than many other cases and, therefore, it is advisable that you retain an attorney to help protect you from the insurance adjuster and defense lawyers.

What are the average settlements for garbage truck accidents?

Average settlements for garbage truck accidents, based on the sample results above, are over $1,000,000.  However, that is because the average injury in these accidents is catastrophic. If your injuries are minor, then your result will be substantially less.

Someone from the city has contacted me about the accident, should I talk to them?

No, you should not speak to the other side, or anyone else, about your potential claim until you have spoken with a lawyer.  As the saying goes, anything you say can and will be used against you.  Don’t lose your claim before it has a chance to bring you justice.


Los Angeles Garbage Truck Accident Lawyers


Garbage truck accidents are complicated, and the defendants litigate these cases aggressively in an attempt to protect their reputation.

At the Injury Advocates Group, our Los Angeles based personal injury lawyers know how to fight back.  Our legal team has experience litigating this accident type, and has handled a garbage truck case where an accident happened in a residential neighborhood during morning trash pickup.

Having handled trash truck accident litigation, we understand how to manage the intricate corporate depositions to expose dangerous conduct all the way up the food chain that allowed you or your loved one to be injured by these dangerous trucks.

Our results speak for themselves.  We invite you to review those results, and call, email, or message us using the contact form below to let us fight for you.

Lawyer Experienced in Herniated Disc Injuries & Steroid Injection Settlements

Government Fleet (2020). Los Angeles Commits to 100% Electric Refuse Fleet

City of Los Angeles (2021). LA Sanitation Organizational Chart.

Simon, R. & Mohan, G. (1995). 2 Children Die as Trash Truck Rod Rips School Bus: Accident: Vehicle had a known mechanical problem but was mistakenly let onto road, officials say. Two other students are hurt in the incident near downtown. LA Times.

Czeisler, C. A. (2015). Duration, timing and quality of sleep are each vital for health, performance and safety. Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep Foundation1(1), 5-8.

Johannsen, H., Otte, D., & Urban, M. (2015, September). Pre-crash analysis of accidents involving turning trucks and bicyclists. In Proceedings of the IRCOBI Conference.

About the Author

Article Author:  This law article was written by attorney Ray Benyamin, Esquire.  Mr. Benyamin received his Juris Doctor degree from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and his license to practice law from the State Bar of California.  His law license number is 277263.  He has been practicing law for 10 years.  Mr. Benyamin is a registered member of the following legal organizations: Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA), the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA), the State Bar of California, the American Bar Association (ABA), and the American Association for Justice (AAJ).  Mr. Benyamin has personally helped his clients recover over $10,000,000 in vehicle accident insurance claims in the State of California.

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