In short, determining liability after a trucking accident tends to become a logistical nightmare. Trucking accidents are typically catastrophic from an injury perspective and they are highly complex from a legal standpoint. Further complicating matters is that multiple parties can be held liable.
Depending on the circumstances of your particular accident, the truck driver, the trucking company, and the truck manufacturer can all be held liable for an accident.
An injured driver can also share some degree of responsibility for causing a truck accident. It is important to recognize that an injured driver who is found partly responsible for causing a trucking accident may still recover some damages.
California is a comparative liability state. Even an at fault driver may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit for some damages, regardless of whether or not he or she was partially at fault for causing the trucking accident.
- Negligence Or Strict Liability?
Several parties can all potentially share a degree of liability for causing a trucking accident victims’ injuries and losses. However, proving liability will involve one (and maybe both) of two legal theories: negligence and strict liability.
California negligence law states that any truck driver who is found guilty of negligence can be held liable for causing injuries and damages to another motorist. Any driver who was injured by a truck driver’s negligence is entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, the injured driver needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the truck driver who hit him or her was negligent in causing the accident.
In the state of California, there are three (3) elements for demonstrating negligence in a trucking accident:
- The truck driver owed the accident victim a duty of care
- The truck driver breached his or her 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 every truck driver 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 any companies involved in a product’s chain of distribution can be held liable if a defective product causes a trucking accident. In strict liability cases, negligence is not a factor when determining liability. Any of the above mentioned entities can all be held liable, whether or not they made any mistakes that caused the trucking accident.
Strict liability claims can be based on:
- Faulty accelerator pedals
- Faulty engine/transmission parts
- Faulty tires
- Faulty brakes
- Faulty cargo ties or straps
- At Fault Truck Driver
All trucks are subject to state and federal laws and regulations. However, some truck drivers and commercial trucking companies deliberately ignore safety laws to meet their deadlines and maximize profits. Due to the immense pressure a truck driver is under, the potential for mistakes and negligent driving can exponentially increase.
For example, according to Vehicle Code 21702 VC, it is a misdemeanor for a truck driver in the state of California to spend more than twelve consecutive hours on the road in a 24-hour period.
A truck driver who is found in violation of California’s safety regulations and causes an accident, may be liable to an injured driver for their losses. The majority of all truck accidents are caused by a truck driver who was not using reasonable care while driving or who was in violation of safety regulations.
Truck driver negligence may include:
- Distracted driving
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Not abiding by safety regulations
- Not following traffic signals
- Unsafe lane changes
- Not yielding the right-of-way
- Texting and driving