There would not be much trade in California without trucks, which brings goods and services to all areas of the state and often do it exclusively far from trains and shores. Perhaps this, along with the Golden State’s tightly packed roads in every imaginable setting, is why the state sees one of the nation’s highest rates in truck accidents every year.

Truck drivers have to be well-educated and professionally licensed to operate most heavy vehicles. And this is a good thing, since the sheer weight and force of a speeding truck can cause extreme damage and severe injury if it jackknifes, sideswipes or collides head-on with another vehicle.

A trucker who fell asleep at the wheel of a truck on Interstate 10 near Palm Springs recently pleaded guilty on all criminal counts in Riverside County. The man dozed off when utility work stopped traffic, and a tour bus struck his vehicle after the highway began moving again. The bus driver and 12 others died when the bus struck the semitruck stopped in the roadway.

The accident included 13 fatalities and 29 injuries. The prosecutor alleged that the driver did not have adequate sleep and attempted to falsify his log book to hide that fact. He faced nearly 33 years in prison for reckless driving and vehicular manslaughter. He was sentenced to four years in state prison.

Victims of truck crashes and the survivors of people killed by trucks hve the right to claim financial damages in civil court whether or not prosecutors are treating a collision as a crime. An attorney is often the best person to spell out these rights and plan the strategy for filing claims in a civil court, moving towards settlement or a jury verdict.