Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

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.

Highway at NightThe 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.

Dump TruckWhile 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.

ContractThe 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.

Truck on HighwayAccording 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,truck 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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Taken at Ross River Quarry Townsville Qld.© I retain Copyright.In 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.file141241007064

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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The California Court of Appeals addressed whether a motor carrier responsible for transporting goods across the country can be held liable for the negligence of an independent contractor driver.

The facts of this case center on an automobile accident involving a tractor-trailer.  Mr. Villalobos was driving the tractor-trailer, and Mr. Vargas was in the sleeper berth when the vehicle rolled over, injuring Mr. Vargas.  Mr. Vargas then filed a lawsuit against the motor carrier and trailer owner (FMI), the tractor owner (Eves Express, Inc.), and Mr. Villalobos. The trial court concluded that FMI and Eves were not vicariously liable for Mr. Villalobos’ alleged negligence.

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Mr. Vargas appealed the trial court’s granting of summary judgment.  He contends that FMI owed him a nondelegable duty of care, and they are vicariously liable for Mr. Villalobos’ negligence, and that Eves Express is also vicariously liable. In response, FMI argued that, since they hired independent contractors, they implicitly delegated to the independent contractor any tort law duty they may owe the contractor or the contractor’s employees to ensure workplace safety.

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truck drive sunsetA recent California Court of Appeals decision dealt with the issue of whether or not a trucking insurance policy precluded recovery for a driver who was injured during an on-duty accident.

In the case, Global Hawk Ins. Co. v. Le, 225 Cal.App.4th 593 (2014), a driver was sleeping in the truck when a second driver crashed it. The sleeping individual was severely injured, suffering a broken neck among other injuries, and he therefore sued the company for which he was working, and the company turned the case over to the insurance company to defend.

Prior to the accident, the company told the driver that he was not an employee, that he would not be eligible for workers’ compensation, that he would be paid a lump sum for the trip, and that no deductions would be made from his pay. They also claimed that he was not entitled to pay, since he did not “complete” the trip in its entirety.

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