a semi truck after an accident with debris in front and on the side of the vehicle

Can I receive compensation if I was at fault (or partially at fault) for a truck accident?

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Whether you can receive compensation if you were at fault or partially at fault in a truck accident depends on the specific laws of the jurisdiction where the accident occurred. The principles of fault and compensation in vehicular accidents vary significantly from one region to another. Here are two common legal doctrines that may apply:

1. Comparative Negligence: Many states in the U.S. follow a comparative negligence system. Under this system, you can still receive compensation even if you were partially at fault. However, your compensation may be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to you. For instance, if you are found to be 30% at fault for an accident, your total compensation would be reduced by 30%.

2. Contributory Negligence: A few jurisdictions still use a more strict contributory negligence rule. In these areas, if you are found to be even slightly at fault for the accident, you may be barred from receiving any compensation. However, this is a less common approach and is considered quite stringent.

In either case, here are some steps you should consider:

Legal Consultation: It’s important to consult with a personal injury attorney or a lawyer who specializes in truck accidents. They can provide advice based on the specific laws in your jurisdiction and the details of your case.

Insurance Claim: Report the accident to your insurance company. Depending on your coverage and the specifics of the accident, you may be entitled to compensation through your own insurance policy.

Documentation: Gather and preserve all evidence related to the accident, such as photos of the scene, medical reports if you were injured, and any witness statements. This documentation can be crucial in establishing the details of the accident and determining fault.

Partial Fault: Be prepared for the possibility that compensation might be reduced according to your degree of fault. An attorney can help negotiate and advocate on your behalf.

Remember, the laws regarding fault and compensation can be complex, and they vary widely. Professional legal advice is essential to navigate these issues effectively.

What exactly is “comparative negligence” regarding truck accidents?

Comparative negligence is a legal principle used in personal injury law, including in cases involving truck accidents, to determine the extent to which each party involved in an accident may be responsible for their own injuries and damages. Under this doctrine, the fault is apportioned among all parties involved, and the amount of compensation a plaintiff can receive is reduced by their own percentage of fault. Here’s a closer look at how it works:

1. Allocation of Fault: In a truck accident, if both the truck driver and the other party (for example, a car driver) are found to have contributed to the accident, comparative negligence comes into play. The fault is allocated between them based on their respective contributions to the accident.

2. Reduction in Compensation: The compensation that a plaintiff (the party seeking damages) can receive is reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to them. For instance, if a plaintiff is found to be 20% at fault for the accident and the total damages amount to $100,000, their compensation would be reduced by 20%, so they would receive $80,000.

3. Variants of Comparative Negligence: There are two main types:

   – Pure Comparative Negligence: Under this system, a plaintiff can recover damages even if they are found to be more at fault than the other party. The recovery is simply reduced by their percentage of fault, regardless of its size.

   – Modified Comparative Negligence: In this approach, the plaintiff can only recover damages if their level of fault does not exceed a certain threshold (commonly 50% or 51%). If their fault is above this threshold, they cannot recover any damages.

4. Evidence and Argumentation: In cases involving comparative negligence, evidence and legal argumentation are crucial to establish the degree of fault. This can include accident reconstruction, witness testimony, vehicle damage reports, and other relevant evidence.

5. State Laws: The application of comparative negligence varies by state in the U.S. Some states follow the pure comparative negligence rule, while others follow the modified version. A few states still adhere to the traditional contributory negligence rule, which bars recovery if the plaintiff has any degree of fault.

6. Role of Legal Representation: Having legal representation is important in cases involving comparative negligence. An attorney can help in presenting evidence and arguments to minimize the fault attributed to their client and maximize the potential compensation.

Comparative negligence provides a more nuanced approach to dealing with accidents where multiple parties share responsibility, ensuring that compensation is allocated in a manner that reflects each party’s contribution to the accident.

Specific laws for the jurisdiction of California regarding truck accidents

Truck accidents in California are subject to a combination of federal and state laws and regulations, which govern various aspects of trucking operations, safety, and liability. Here are some specific laws and regulations relevant to truck accidents in California:

1. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs): The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets regulations that apply to commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) operating in interstate commerce. These regulations cover various aspects of trucking, including driver qualifications, hours of service, vehicle maintenance, and safety equipment.

2. Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations: HOS regulations limit the number of hours a truck driver can operate their vehicle without taking mandatory rest breaks. These regulations are designed to prevent driver fatigue, a leading cause of truck accidents.

3. Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Requirements: Truck drivers in California must obtain a CDL to operate commercial vehicles. CDL requirements include written and skills tests, as well as medical examinations to ensure drivers are physically fit to operate a CMV.

4. Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance: Trucking companies and drivers are required to perform regular inspections and maintenance on their vehicles to ensure they are safe for operation. This includes pre-trip and post-trip inspections.

5. Weight and Size Limits: California has specific weight and size limits for commercial vehicles to prevent overloading and maintain road safety. Violating these limits can lead to fines and accidents.

6. Drug and Alcohol Testing: Federal regulations require trucking companies to conduct drug and alcohol testing for their drivers, both pre-employment and randomly. A positive test result can lead to disqualification from driving.

7. California Vehicle Code: State laws in California, as outlined in the California Vehicle Code, also govern various aspects of trucking, including speed limits, traffic rules, and liability for accidents.

8. California Trucking Association (CTA): The CTA is a trade association that represents trucking companies in California and helps establish industry standards and practices.

9. California Department of Transportation (Caltrans): Caltrans manages and maintains the state’s highways and roads, including setting and enforcing regulations related to road safety and maintenance.

10. Liability and Insurance: Trucking companies and their drivers are required to maintain sufficient insurance coverage to cover potential accidents. California law may dictate minimum insurance requirements for commercial vehicles.

When a truck accident occurs, it’s essential to consider these federal and state regulations when assessing liability and pursuing legal action. If you are involved in a truck accident in California, consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney who specializes in truck accident cases is highly recommended. They can help you navigate the complex legal landscape and pursue compensation for your injuries and damages.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.