a red semi truck and trailer driving down a rural California road

Who is liable after a truck accident – the driver or the truck company?

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

In the aftermath of a truck accident, determining liability can be complex and depends on various factors. Both the truck driver and the trucking company can be held liable, depending on the circumstances of the accident. Here are some key considerations:

1. Truck Driver’s Liability: If the accident was caused due to the truck driver’s negligence, such as speeding, driving under the influence, fatigue, or violation of traffic laws, the driver can be held liable. However, if the driver is an employee of a trucking company and was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident, the employer might also be liable due to the legal doctrine of “respondeat superior” (let the superior answer).

2. Trucking Company’s Liability: The trucking company can be held liable for accidents caused by their failure to maintain vehicles, improper loading of cargo, inadequate driver training, or non-compliance with safety regulations. Additionally, if the trucking company encouraged or did not prevent unsafe practices like overloading or violating hours-of-service regulations, they could be held responsible.

3. Leased Vehicles and Independent Contractors: If the truck driver is an independent contractor or the truck is leased, liability can become more complicated. The specifics of the contract and the degree of control the company has over the driver and vehicle can influence liability.

4. Third-Party Liability: Sometimes, parties other than the driver or trucking company might be liable. For example, a manufacturer might be responsible if a vehicle defect caused the accident, or a maintenance company might be liable for failing to properly maintain the truck.

5. Comparative and Contributory Negligence: In some jurisdictions, the concept of comparative or contributory negligence might apply, where liability can be shared among multiple parties, including the truck driver, trucking company, and possibly the other involved parties, based on their respective contributions to the accident.

6. Insurance Companies: Often, insurance companies play a significant role in determining liability and settling claims related to truck accidents.

To establish liability accurately, it typically involves an investigation which can include examining the accident scene, vehicle conditions, driver’s records, company’s compliance with regulations, and witness statements. Legal advice from attorneys specialized in truck accidents is often necessary to navigate these complexities.

What helps the truck driver after getting in an accident?

After being involved in an accident, there are several measures and resources that can help protect a truck driver, both physically and legally:

1. Safety Equipment: The use of safety equipment like seat belts, airbags, and, in some cases, crash helmets, can significantly reduce the risk of injury in the event of an accident.

2. Truck Maintenance and Safety Features: Regular maintenance of the truck and ensuring that it is equipped with safety features like anti-lock brakes, stability control, and proper lighting can help prevent accidents or minimize their severity.

3. Insurance: Having comprehensive insurance coverage is crucial. This includes liability insurance, which covers damages to others caused by the truck driver, and possibly additional coverage for the driver’s personal injuries and vehicle damage.

4. Legal Representation: In the event of an accident, especially if there are legal proceedings or disputes over liability, having legal representation is important. A lawyer specialized in trucking accidents can help navigate the legal system, protect the driver’s rights, and work towards a fair outcome.

5. Union or Association Support: If the driver is a member of a truckers’ union or professional association, they may provide support, legal advice, or advocacy.

6. Dash Cameras: Many trucks are equipped with dash cameras, which can provide crucial evidence about the circumstances leading up to an accident. This footage can be pivotal in establishing the facts of the case.

7. Training and Preparedness: Proper training in defensive driving and accident response can help drivers react effectively in a crisis to minimize harm and follow the correct procedures after an accident.

8. Documentation: After an accident, it’s important for the driver to document everything related to the incident (photos of the scene, a written account of what happened, witness information, etc.). This documentation can be vital in any legal or insurance proceedings.

9. Compliance with Post-Accident Procedures: Truck drivers should follow the appropriate post-accident procedures, which may include reporting the accident to the police and their employer, undergoing drug and alcohol testing (if required), and completing any necessary reports.

10. Support Services: Access to mental health support or counseling services can be important, as accidents can be traumatic experiences.

It’s crucial for truck drivers to be aware of their rights and responsibilities, and to have access to the necessary resources to protect themselves in the aftermath of an accident.

What protects a truck driver from losing their CDL in the state of California?

In California, maintaining a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) requires adherence to specific legal and safety standards. To protect their CDL from suspension, revocation, or disqualification, truck drivers should be mindful of the following:

1. Adhere to Traffic Laws: Obeying all traffic laws is crucial. Violations like speeding, reckless driving, or driving under the influence (DUI) can lead to points on the driver’s license, and accumulating too many points can result in the loss of the CDL.

2. Avoid DUI Offenses: DUI offenses are taken very seriously for CDL holders. The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for CDL drivers is lower than for regular drivers (0.04% compared to 0.08%). A DUI conviction can lead to the suspension or revocation of a CDL.

3. Regular Medical Examinations: CDL holders are required to pass regular medical exams to ensure they are physically qualified to drive commercial vehicles. Failing to maintain current medical certification can result in CDL disqualification.

4. Log Hours Accurately: California adheres to federal Hours of Service regulations. Falsifying log books or exceeding allowed driving hours can lead to penalties, including CDL suspension.

5. Complete Required Training: CDL holders may be required to complete periodic training or refresher courses, especially when new regulations are implemented.

6. Report Traffic Violations: CDL holders must report any traffic violations (excluding parking violations) to their employer and the California DMV, typically within a certain timeframe (usually within 30 days).

7. Maintain a Good Driving Record: A clean driving record is important. Serious traffic violations, especially those involving commercial vehicles, can lead to the suspension or revocation of a CDL.

8. Respond to Traffic Citations: If a driver receives a traffic citation, they should address it promptly. Ignoring citations can lead to additional penalties and jeopardize their CDL.

9. Understand Disqualifying Offenses: Certain offenses, like using a vehicle to commit a felony, vehicular manslaughter, or operating a commercial vehicle with a revoked, suspended, or canceled CDL, can lead to permanent disqualification.

10. Stay Informed: Regulations and requirements can change. Staying informed about current laws and requirements for CDL holders in California is crucial for compliance.

It’s important for CDL holders to understand that while their employer may provide support and information, the ultimate responsibility for maintaining the validity of their CDL lies with them as individuals. Regularly reviewing state and federal guidelines and seeking legal advice when necessary can help in protecting their CDL status.

Knowing you have been in a trucking accident can be daunting and full of uncertainty. At J&Y Law Firm, we recommend seeking professional legal advice to help you navigate through these times of uncertainty and get you back on the road. If you have been involved in a trucking accident please give us a call for further guidance, contact J&Y Law Firm at (877) 426-6580, and our team of experienced attorneys will be happy to assist you.

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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.