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California Truck Accident Laws

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California Truck Accident Laws

Learn how California's laws may impact the ultimate value and success of your truck accident case

The State of California boasts 14.7 million registered trucks. Between those vehicles and large commercial trucks traveling the length of California from out of state, it is perhaps unsurprising that thousands of people are injured in California truck accidents every year. If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, it’s important to understand how the nuances of California’s truck laws may impact the outcome of any lawsuit you might choose to file. 

The State’s Statute of Limitations

After a truck accident occurs in the Golden State, motorists and truck operators involved in the crash are granted a two-year window of time during which they can choose to file a lawsuit. If they attempt to file legal action after this statute of limitations period has run its course, the judge assigned to their case will almost certainly dismiss it. 

If you’ve recently been injured in a truck accident, it’s important to avoid resting on the idea that you have “loads of time” before you need to think about exploring your legal options. While it is true that state law affords you a lengthy period to contemplate your legal options before committing to a plan of action, failing to act quickly can harm the value and the strength of any lawsuit you may ultimately file. 

Allowing an experienced personal injury attorney to get to work promptly on your behalf can help to ensure that evidence in your case is preserved, your rights are protected, and insurance claims adjusters don’t try to take advantage of a lack of legal representation. 

Pure Comparative Negligence: Why It Matters

California is only one of a small number of states that honors a legal theory referred to as “pure comparative negligence.” This is great news for any accident injury victims who may be hesitating to explore their legal options because they are concerned that they may have contributed to the cause(s) of their crash. 

In contributory negligence states, accident injury victims are barred from pursuing compensation from others who were involved in their crash if they were – to any degree whatsoever – partially to blame for their own injurious circumstances. 

Thankfully, there are only a handful of contributory negligence states. Far more common are states that honor a modified version of comparative negligence theory. In this significant majority of states, accident injury victims can pursue compensation from others if they themselves are less than 49 or 50 percent (depending on the state) responsible for their own harm. 

By contrast, California’s pure contributory negligence approach allows accident injury victims to file legal action against other parties regardless of the percentage of fault assigned to each party. Meaning, even if you are deemed to be 80 percent of responsible for your own harm, for example, you’ll remain empowered to seek damages against others who also contributed to the cause(s) of your harm. 

California Truck Accident Case Valuation

Unlike many other states, California does not impose a cap on any kind of damages that a truck accident injury victim may pursue as a result of their harm. As a result, a successful plaintiff in a truck accident case may potentially be awarded economic damages, non-economic damages, and/or punitive damages in whatever amount reflects the value of that plaintiff’s case. 

Economic damages cover objective costs that stem directly from the harm that a plaintiff has suffered. Common economic damage awards include compensation for past and future medical costs, loss of earning potential, lost wages, and any accommodations that must be made to a plaintiff’s home or vehicle in the event of disability. 

Non-economic damages cannot be calculated objectively because they address subjective losses. For example, a pain and suffering award may be included as part of a plaintiff’s non-economic damages. There is no question that pain and suffering come at a cost, this cost simply can’t be calculated in the ways in which medical bills can. 

Punitive damages aren’t awarded very often in personal injury cases, as they aren’t intended specifically to compensate a victim. Instead, these damages are awarded to deter egregious behavior moving forward and/or to punish the defendant for engaging in egregious conduct in the first place. 

The value of each individual plaintiff’s case is based on the value of their unique economic and non-economic losses. An attorney can advise you regarding the estimated value of your case, based on the nature of your injuries and how they’ve impacted your life. 

Compensation Awards When the Victim Is Partially to Blame

Under California law, a plaintiff who has been assigned a percentage of the blame for their own harm will have their compensation award reduced in direct proportion to that fault percentage. Meaning, if you’re assigned some of the blame for your collision, you won’t be able to collect damages in the amount that you would had you been blameless. 

For example, if your harm is valued at $400,000 and you’re assigned 25 percent of the fault for your harm, you’ll “only” be able to collect $300,000 in damages from other responsible parties. It’s often still worthwhile for a partially-responsible victim to pursue damages but it’s also important to set expectations based on the nature of the law. 

Legal Assistance Is Available 

If you’ve recently been injured in a collision involving a large commercial truck, it is well worth your time and energy to explore your legal options. Unlike contributory negligence states including Virginia, California doesn’t bar injury victims from pursuing damages against parties responsible for their harm simply because they may also have contributed in some way – however slight – to the causes of that harm. And unlike states such as Texas, California doesn’t make the process of filing a lawsuit against a trucking company particularly arduous. If you choose to file a truck accident lawsuit in California, your chances of receiving significant compensation are greater than they are virtually anywhere else in the U.S. 

For more information about California’s truck accident laws and how they may apply to your case specifically, connect with Truck Law today. No two truck accident cases are ever quite the same, so it’s important to have a skilled lawyer in your corner, assessing your case’s strength and weaknesses and doing their best to maximize its value.