Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

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.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.

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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A 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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In a  recent California Court of Appeals decision, Trapasso v. Romero, Cal. Ct. App. (2014), the court had to rule on the issue of alleged jury misconduct according to allegations the plaintiff made that jurors engaged in misconduct by making calculations related to potential speed as related to a motorcycle and truck accident.

In the case, several motorcyclists were attempting to pass a truck that was pulling a trailer at a low rate of speed, when one of the motorcyclists collided with the vehicle as it turned left.

At trial, the main sources of contention were how fast the motorcyclists were travelling, in what formation, and whether the truck had used its turn signal prior to beginning its turn. There was conflicting expert witness testimony regarding the speed allegations, and conflicting witness testimony was presented regarding the truck’s use of a left hand turn signal and the speed of the motorcyclists.

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The California Court of Appeals recently reached a decision regarding the application of various insurance policies in the incident of a trucking accident.

In the case, Scottsdale Indemnity Co. v. National Continental Ins. Co., 229 Cal. App. 4th 1166 (2014), a truck driver had contracted with a company to drive goods that the company arranged for him. However, the driver remained self employed, as the owner of both his truck, and a separate California trucking company, for which he carried a $1 million insurance liability policy (with Scottsdale), covering his truck. As a condition of his employment as an independent contractor with the company, he agreed to maintain his own insurance for liability purposes. The company (Western Transport) also secured an additional policy (with National Continental Inc. (NCI)), for excess liability purposes.

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The California Court of Appeals (4th District, Division 2) recently rendered an opinion that is instructive on the matter of non-economic damage awards in car accident personal injury cases.

The case, Onley v. Schneider Nat. Carriers, Inc., Cal. Ct. App., 4th Dist. (2014), arose out of a multi-car accident, in which car A was traveling in the far right lane. A tractor-trailer being driven by the defendant tried to pass, side swiping the vehicle, which then spun to the left, crossed in front of the truck, and hit the center divider. A minivan in the far left lane, being driven by Onley, then hit car A.

At trial, a jury found the truck driver liable for the accident, and it also found the driver of car A not liable. The jury designated awards for the occupants of car A and awarded $1,363,579.70 to Onley, and the trial court entered judgment according to those amounts.

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