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California Truck Crash Liability

How to Determine Liability After a California Truck Accident

Truck accidents are not the same as other car accidents. Truck accidents will involve several factors that are not common to car accidents, such as trucking industry laws, commercial trucking insurance coverage, special accident investigations, and the increased severity of injuries and fatalities.


Below, our skilled truck accident attorneys will discuss one of the most important considerations after a truck accident: liability. If you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident in Los Angeles, you may be entitled to financial compensation. West Coast Trial Lawyers will recover all the compensation you are entitled to so that you can focus on your recovery and on the ones you care about most.

Determining Liability After a Truck Accident

In short, determining liability after a truck accident tends to become a logistical nightmare. Truck 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, trucking company, and 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 truck 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 the collision.

Negligence or Strict Liability?

Several parties can all potentially share a degree of liability for a truck accident resulting in 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 injuries and damages done 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 the state of California, there are 3 elements for demonstrating negligence in a truck 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’s 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 truck 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 contributed to the crash.

Strict liability claims can be based on faulty:

  1. Accelerator pedals
  2. Engine/transmission parts
  3. Tires
  4. Brakes
  5. 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 12 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 held 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:

Pedestrian Deaths in Los Angeles

  1. Distracted driving
  2. Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  3. Not abiding by safety regulations
  4. Speeding
  5. Not following traffic signals
  6. Unsafe lane changes
  7. Not yielding the right-of-way

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.

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help

If you have sustained injuries in the city of Los Angeles as a result of a truck accident, an experienced truck accident attorney 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 knowledgeable, 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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