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Who’s Fault is it in a Truck Accident? Comparative Negligence, Explained by the Top Commercial Truck Accident Injury Attorneys

Below, our experienced truck accident attorneys will discuss one of the most important considerations after a trucking accident: comparative negligence. If you or a loved one was injured in a trucking accident in Los Angeles, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

The experienced team of Los Angeles truck accident lawyers at 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 most about.

Liability In Trucking Accidents

California is a comparative liability state. This means an at fault driver may still be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit in order to recover some damages, regardless of whether or not he or she contributed a degree of negligence that directly caused a trucking accident

On the same note, it is important to recognize that an injured driver can share some degree of responsibility for causing a truck accident. However, as mentioned, an injured driver who is found partly responsible for causing a trucking accident may still be able to recover some damages.

Damages of course will be determined by individual degree of fault. The greater the degree of negligence the more liability will be assigned to that individual, and the lesser the damages he or she is entitled to will be.

Numerous parties can all potentially be held liable for a trucking accident, but proving liability will typically involve one (or both) of two legal theories: negligence and strict liability.

Negligence And Trucking Accidents

According to California negligence law, a truck driver who is found guilty of negligence can be held liable for causing injuries and damages to a motorist. A driver who was injured by a negligent truck driver is entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, the aggrieved individual has to prove the truck driver’s negligence was the primary factor that caused the accident.

There are three (3) elements for demonstrating negligence in a California trucking accident:

  • 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 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

On the other hand, all drivers also have a duty of care to a truck driver. This means that a driver is expected to drive in a reasonable manner and not for example, drive while under the influence or fail to follow traffic laws. Any acts of negligence on the driver’s part will incur liability on his or her part and will also reduce the amount of recoverable damages.

Strict Liability

According to California strict liability law, the designers, manufacturers and companies that play a role in a product’s chain of distribution can all be held liable if a defective product causes a trucking accident.

In a strict liability case, negligence is not a factor when determining liability. Strict liability claims can be based on:

  1. Faulty accelerator pedals 
  2. Faulty engine/transmission parts
  3. Faulty tires
  4. Faulty brakes
  5. Faulty cargo ties or straps

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

At Fault Truck Driver

All commercial trucking companies and drivers are subject to state and federal laws and regulations to minimize the risk of injury and harm. However, not all truck drivers and commercial trucking companies will follow these important safety laws. It is very common for trucking companies to poorly follow or ignore safety regulations in order to meet deadlines and maximize their profits.

Due to the immense pressure a truck driver is under, the potential for mistakes and negligent driving exponentially increases. According to Vehicle Code 21702 VC, it is a misdemeanor for a truck driver in the state of California to spend over twelve consecutive hours on the road in any 24-hour period.

A truck driver who is found in violation of safety regulations and causes an accident may be held liable for an injured driver’s losses. The reality is that most 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 includes:

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

Again, it’s important to understand that a negligent truck driver and a negligent motorist can both share a degree of liability for causing an accident.

At Fault Trucking Company

A commercial trucking company can also be found guilty of negligence for causing a trucking accident. Trucking companies may intentionally or recklessly violate transportation regulations and safety requirements to increase their profit margins. When negligence and safety violations contribute to causing a trucking accident, a company may be held liable for any injuries or damages caused.

Examples of trucking company negligence include:

  • Overloaded trailers
  • Allowing overweight vehicles 
  • Encouraging drivers to forego sleep and hour restrictions
  • Allowing trucks to carry unbalanced cargo
  • Not properly maintaining trucks
  • Poor driver hiring and training practices 
  • Negligent retention of underqualified or underperforming employees
  • Allowing and encouraging drivers to operate their trucks in violation of safety laws

California and federal regulations limit truck size, weight, and route designations for trucks. As mentioned, it is not uncommon for commercial trucking companies to violate safety regulations. Unfortunately, some companies may falsify their documentation process to hide incriminating evidence of their negligence. This is extremely reckless and can subject a trucking company to punitive damages.

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
  • Other Non-Economic Damanges

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 are only incorporated in 5% 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 us to find out how we can help

If you have sustained injuries in the city of Los Angeles as a result of a trucking accident, an attorney at our firm can help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call West Coast Trial Lawyers 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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