Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

semi-truckMotorists have a responsibility to drive carefully, and also to respond to dangerous situations in a reasonable manner. In a recent California personal injury case, the court explained what the “sudden emergency doctrine” is and how it may be applied to excuse a motorist’s reaction to a sudden, unexpected event.

In that case, a man was injured when his car was rear-ended by the defendant’s tractor-trailer. The tractor-trailer had been in the far-right lane when three cars were using a ramp to enter the freeway in front of the tractor-trailer. A car in front of the plaintiff’s car reported that another black car was tailgating her and driving recklessly and passed her on the ramp while making an obscene gesture. The black car then suddenly braked, the cars behind it to slam on the brakes. The tractor-trailer saw the cars stop but could not stop or get around them before hitting the plaintiff’s car.

The plaintiff sued the tractor-trailer driver and his employer for negligence. The trial court found the defendants were not liable due to the sudden emergency doctrine, and the plaintiff appealed.

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In California personal injury cases, there are two types of damages awards. The first type, compensatory damages, attempts to put the plaintiff in the position in which they were prior to being involved in the accident. The second type, punitive damages, is less common and focuses on deterring especially bad conduct by the defendant.

Legal News GavelWhen it comes to determining compensatory damages, a jury will review the evidence and make the final decision. However, a jury’s damages award must comply with the law. When it comes to determining the type and amount of damages that a personal injury victim is entitled to receive, courts often have to deal with the issue of insurance.

Insurance can complicate the damages calculation process because in many cases an injured plaintiff’s insurance company – or the insurance company of the at-fault driver – will reimburse the plaintiff for the costs of the medical expenses. Further complicating the matter is the fact that insurance companies have often negotiated discounted rates, such that the book value of the services provided is far greater than the amount actually paid out by the insurance company.

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When an individual files a California personal injury claim, one of the most important issues is understanding which types of financial compensation the individual may able to recover, which can vary depending on the type of claim. One type of damages award an individual may be able to recover is called “compensatory” damages.

Legal News GavelThe purpose of compensatory damages is to justly compensate the plaintiff for the loss or injury sustained, and to restore the plaintiff to his or her previous position, insofar as it is possible. Compensatory damages can include any financial compensation for “loss” or “detriment.” A plaintiff must prove that the damages were caused by the defendant’s actions and show the extent of the harm caused. Even if a plaintiff is determined to be entitled to compensatory damages, a plaintiff still has a responsibility to mitigate his or her damages to the extent possible. That means that a plaintiff will not be compensated for damages that the plaintiff could have avoided through reasonable effort or expenditure.

Another type of damages is called “exemplary” or “punitive” damages. According to California law, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and to set an example for others. In California, a plaintiff can only recover punitive damages in a tort claim and only if the plaintiff suffers an actual injury. To recover punitive damages, a plaintiff must prove “by clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant is guilty of “oppression, fraud or malice.” The idea is that in those cases, since the defendants’ actions were so reprehensible, those defendants should be punished, and others may be deterred from engaging in similar conduct in the future.

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Semi-trucks are some of the largest vehicles on the road, weighing up to 80,000 pounds once fully loaded with cargo. Needless to say, given the size and weight of these trucks when loaded with cargo, semi-trucks pose a major danger to all motorists. Indeed, according to the California Highway Patrol, there are over 5,000 California truck accidents each year. Of those, about 270 resulted in at least one fatality.

Legal News GavelWhile there are many causes of California truck accidents, one of the significant causes is equipment failure. An equipment failure may result due to the mechanics of the semi-truck, to the hardware used to connect the truck to the trailer, or to the trailer itself. A few of the systems that are frequently involved in an equipment failure are:

  • The truck’s braking system;

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California work injury case involving the enforceability of an arbitration agreement that was signed by the plaintiff’s employer and the defendant, but not the plaintiff. Ultimately, the court concluded that while the accident would otherwise have fallen under the arbitration agreement, since the plaintiff was not a party to the contract, he could not be forced to submit his claim to arbitration and was entitled to use the court system.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident when a tire on the U-Haul truck that his employer had rented blew out. The employer had rented the truck and instructed the plaintiff to deliver massage chairs to the state fairgrounds. This was the first time the plaintiff, who was normally a warehouse worker, was asked to deliver merchandise.

Prior to taking possession of the truck, the plaintiff’s employer signed the U-Haul rental agreement, which contained an agreement to arbitrate any claims arising from the use of the truck. The rental agreement specified that it applied to “agents and employees” of the party signing the contract.

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Back in 2016, a fatal accident between a semi-truck and a charter bus claimed the lives of 13 people and injured 31 others. At the time of the accident, the reason why the two vehicles collided was unknown, but authorities could tell that the charter bus crashed into the rear of the semi-truck and that there was a large speed differential between the two vehicles. Due to the high death toll, an in-depth investigation was conducted, the results of which have recently been released.

Legal News GavelAccording to a recent news report, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office has announced that the driver of the semi-truck involved in the accident will face a number of criminal charges for his role in the fatal California bus accident. The charges will include 13 counts of vehicular homicide and additional counts of reckless driving.

The charges were announced after the investigation into the accident was recently concluded. Evidently, the semi-truck driver was driving westbound on Interstate 10 when California Highway Patrol conducted a routine closure of all lanes for construction-related reasons. The semi-truck driver put the vehicle in park and fell asleep. Once CHP reopened the lanes of traffic, the driver remained asleep as surrounding traffic resumed.

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The California Court of Appeal recently held, in an unpublished opinion, that a company that failed to intervene when a truck driver may have appeared drunk while loading their cargo was not liable for the resulting injuries caused by that driver.  This opinion focused on the fact that since no special relationship had been alleged,Legal News Gavel the company could not be liable for its omission (failing to act).  In stating that they found no duty on the part of the company, the court noted that it was a harsh rule, the rule of non-liability for nonfeasance.

After a fatal truck accident, surviving family members brought a lawsuit against the truck driver, his employer, and the onion company where the driver loaded his truck.  At issue on appeal was whether the lower court had properly found that the onion company was not liable under an entrustment allegation, denying the plaintiffs’ request to amend and allege misfeasance, since the driver had appeared drunk, and the company had not refused to load the truck.  In their appeal, the plaintiffs contended that they should have been able to amend their complaint.

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big rigAn appeal involving allegations of juror misconduct came before the California Court of Appeal for the Second District. In an unpublished opinion, the court focused on the presumption of prejudice upon a showing of juror misconduct and the fact it can be overcome by evidence. The court stated that juror misconduct is one ground for granting a new trial, and a three-step process is required to assess whether a new trial is appropriate.  First, the court determines whether the affidavits supporting the motion are admissible. Next, the court assesses whether the facts establish juror misconduct. Finally, if there was misconduct, the trial court must determine whether prejudice resulted from the misconduct.

In the underlying incident, the plaintiff suffered injuries in a truck collision when the defendant’s semi-truck rear-ended the plaintiff’s semi-truck.  Liability was not disputed, but the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries were at issue.  After a jury trial, a verdict awarded the plaintiff $241,473 in damages.  The defendant argued that there was juror misconduct and that as a result he had been denied a fair trial. He contended that there was insufficient evidence to support the damages award.

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Legal News GavelIn a personal injury lawsuit stemming from a rear-end motor vehicle accident, the California Court of Appeal addressed the type of evidence that can be used to prove the value of medical services received. A trucker and his passenger were injured in a collision, and the court held that their doctors’ testimony could be used to establish the value of medical services received, but their unpaid medical bills could not.  The court stated that a billed amount is not necessarily representative of the true value of the service.

Joaquin Ochoa, a trucker, was driving his semi-truck without a trailer when a tractor-trailer driven by Jesus Felipe Dorado rear-ended his vehicle.  Mr. Ochoa had been stopped in traffic, and Mr. Dorada allegedly did not see Mr. Ochoa until it was too late for him to stop in time.  Mr. Ochoa and his passenger, Imelda Moreno, suffered back injuries as a result of the crash, and both underwent surgery.

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In a case before the California Court of Appeal, the court addressed whether a teenager was at fault for an accident involving a truck parked illegally along a Southern California highway. The trucker had violated the Vehicle Code by parking illegally, although the trial court had ruled that the trucker’s actions were not the substantial cause of the accident.Legal News Gavel

In this case, an experienced truck driver, David Hernandez, pulled his truck, consisting of a tractor and flatbed trailer, to the side of the Pacific Coast Highway to rest. Because of the narrow shoulder on the right side of the northbound lane, Mr. Hernandez decided to park in an area next to the southbound lane.  He positioned his truck headed north, toward oncoming traffic.

After taking a nap, at around 8:39 p.m. Mr. Hernandez crossed both the southbound and northbound lanes to reenter the highway. During this maneuver, a southbound vehicle struck Mr. Hernandez’s trailer. Eighteen-year-old Joshua David was driving the vehicle, and 18-year-old Natalie Pierson was in the passenger seat. There was no evidence that Mr. David applied the brakes before the collision.

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