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Multi-Vehicle Semi-Truck Accident Liability

Who’s Liable in a Multi-Vehicle Commercial Truck Accident?

Multi-vehicle accidents typically happen on fast-moving highways that are filled with every type of vehicle imaginable. The unfortunate reality is that when a large, heavy commercial truck is involved in a highway accident, it also has the potential of affecting several passenger vehicles around it. The resulting damages of this type of collision are not only disastrous, but determining liability is a logistical nightmare.
If you have suffered injuries as a result of a truck crash in California, the experienced team of truck accident attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers are always here to answer any questions you may have about truck accident claims and damages.

Danger of Pileup Accidents

Highway accidents involving multiple passenger vehicles and commercial trucks are very difficult to assess. There are so many reasons why a multi-car pileup can occur. For example, anytime a truck jackknifes or rolls over, it is almost inevitable that it will damage other cars within its radius.

In the previous example, the truck that caused the pileup would likely be held liable for the collision because the surrounding vehicles don’t really have a way of preventing or avoiding impact. Please read below, as our truck accident attorneys will discuss liability and negligence as it relates to multi-vehicle semi-truck accidents.

Determining Liability in Multi-Vehicle Truck Accidents

Determining liability after a truck accident, especially when multiple vehicles are involved, is a nightmare. Not only are commercial truck accidents catastrophic from an injury perspective, but they are also complex from a legal standpoint since multiple parties can all be held liable. Commercial truck accidents can be caused by many circumstances. Depending on the situation, either the truck driver, truck company, truck manufacturer, and other drivers can all be held liable for the accident.

It is important to note that a driver, or multiple drivers, can also share some degree of responsibility for causing a collision. However, an injured driver who is found partly responsible for an accident may still be able to recover some damages. California is a comparative negligence state, which means that an at-fault driver may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit for damages, even if they were partially at-fault for contributing to the crash.

Negligence or Strict Liability?

Pedestrian Deaths in Los Angeles

While numerous parties can potentially be held liable for a truck accident, proving liability will typically involve one, and possibly both, of two legal theories: negligence and strict liability.

Let’s examine negligence as it relates to a truck accident. According to California negligence law, any driver found guilty of negligence can be held liable for injuries and damages done to another. A driver who was injured by a negligent truck driver is entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit, and vice versa. However, the aggrieved party must prove that negligence was the primary cause of the collision.

There are 3 elements for demonstrating negligence in a California commercial truck accident. Let’s pretend that a truck driver caused a pileup. In that scenario, the following will be assessed:

  • The truck driver owed the accident victim a duty of care.
  • The truck driver breached their duty of care through negligence.
  • The truck driver’s breach was the significant factor in causing a victim’s losses.

A duty of care is a basic legal requirement for drivers to watch out for other drivers and use reasonable caution while behind the wheel.
For example, a duty of care for a truck driver would require that driver to:

  • Watch for pedestrians, other vehicles, and obstacles
  • Control the movement and speed of their truck
  • Use reasonable care while operating their truck

According to California strict liability law, designers, manufacturers, and even any companies involved in a product’s chain of distribution can all be held liable if one of their defective products contributes towards causing a multi-vehicle truck accident. In strict liability cases, negligence will not factor when determining liability because any of these companies can be found liable whether or not they made any mistakes that resulted in injuries or death.

Strict liability claims can be based on faulty:

  1. Accelerator pedals
  2. Engine/transmission parts
  3. Tires
  4. Brakes
  5. Cargo ties or straps

In summary, if a defective part causes — or contributes to causing — a truck accident, an injured victim may have a number of possible sources to seek compensation from.

In essence, anyone who contributes some degree of negligence towards causing a multi-vehicle truck accident will be held liable.

For example, a scenario may exist where faulty truck brakes caused a pileup. In that case, any trucks or vehicles affected will be able to recover damages from the product manufacturer. Or, let’s say that a truck driver was under the influence. In that case, the truck driver would be held accountable.

Available Damages

Accidents happen. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Below is a brief explanation of damages. Damages are a type of monetary award that is determined by a court of law to help compensate an aggrieved individual for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligence.

Economic Damages
Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out-of-pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries.

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out-of-pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Punitive Damages
The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact were only incorporated in 5 percent of all verdicts.

Furthermore, there is no real set standard for calculating and awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded at the court’s discretion and will vary depending on the specific circumstances of a case.

Contact a Los Angeles Truck Accident Lawyer

If you have sustained injuries in the city of Los Angeles as a result of a truck accident, our skilled truck accident attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers can help you recover compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call us today at (213) 927-3700 or email [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring, and compassionate legal team.


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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