California Truck Accidents and Comparative Negligence
Finding Fault in a California Truck Accident
Truck drivers are required to provide a duty of care. If they breach their duty of care and cause an accident, they could be held accountable for damages. The victim of the accident will be required to show proof of the truck driver’s negligence and how it contributed to the crash. This process can be difficult to complete on your own, which is why it is encouraged to seek legal assistance from an expert truck accident attorney.
At West Coast Trial Lawyers, our truck accident attorneys have over 60 years of collective legal experience in handling personal injury cases. We have won more than 5,000 cases and recovered over $1 billion in settlements for our clients. Due to our achievements, we have been acknowledged as one of the top personal injury law firms in California.
Liability in Truck Accidents
California is a comparative liability state. This indicates that an at-fault driver may still be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit in order to recover some damages, regardless of whether he or she contributed a degree of negligence to the truck 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 the incident may still be able to recover some damages.
Damages 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 truck accident, but proving liability will typically involve one, or both, of two legal theories: negligence and strict liability.
Negligence and Truck 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 and how it was the primary factor that caused the accident.
There are three (3) elements for demonstrating negligence in a California truck 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 out 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 end and will also reduce the amount of recoverable damages.
According to California’s 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 truck accident.
In a strict liability case, negligence is not a factor when determining liability. Strict liability claims can be based on faulty:
- Accelerator pedals
- Engine/transmission parts
- 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.
At-Fault Truck Driver vs At-Fault Truck Company
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 12 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:
- Distracted driving, such as eating food, texting, or daydreaming
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Not following traffic signals
- Unsafe lane changes
- Not yielding the right-of-way
- Not abiding by safety regulations
Again, it’s important to understand that both a negligent truck driver and motorist can both share a degree of liability for causing an accident.
At-Fault Truck Company
A commercial trucking company can also be found guilty of negligence for causing a truck 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 a truck accident, a company may be held liable for injuries or damages.
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
- Hiring bad truck drivers
- Poorly conducted 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.
Contact Us to Find Out How We Can Help
If you have sustained injuries as a result of a truck accident, our expert truck accident attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers will help you recover compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
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