The Doan Law Firm of Sacramento represents the victims, and families of truck accident injuries. Most of the time, big trucks and other vehicles manage to share the highway without incident. If this is not the case and an accident occurs, that accident is often the result of negligence on the part of the trucking company, the truck driver, or both the company and the driver.
The “Rules of the Road” are the same for both cars and trucks
The State of California defines a commercial vehicle to be any vehicle that is … “used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit … [or] designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property…” By these definitions, commercial vehicles can range from a minivan used by a local florist to deliver flowers to large tractor-trailer trucks that deliver freight to and from the Ports of San Francisco and Oakland.
Any operator (driver or owner) of a vehicle that uses the highways of California is expected to follow the same set of traffic laws as any other driver. These rules include the posted speed limits, proper lane usage, obeying traffic signals and, of course, not driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Commercial vehicles must also obey additional rules that, among other things, limit the number of hours a driver can work or the type and frequency of vehicle safety inspections. In many cases, there are separate rules that may be enforced by either the state or federal Departments of Transportation. If a truck is involved in an accident and is found to be in violation of either state or federal law, it usually means that the truck driver and/or the driver’s employer will be held responsible for that accident and will held liable for any resulting damages.
Time limits and California truck accidents
The California Code of Civil Procedure requires that anyone who was the victim of an accidental injury, or the legal representative of a victim who is unable to file a lawsuit because of age or catastrophic injury, must file such a lawsuit within two years of the date on which the injury occurred. If this two-year deadline has expired, and no lawsuit has been filed, the accident victim will be forever barred from pursuing an injury claim in a California court.
Accidents involving a government-owned truck in California
While most truck accidents will involve privately-owned (non-government) vehicles, there are times when an injury is due to an accident involving a truck or some other vehicle that is owned and operated by the State of California or by a local government agency. If this is indeed the case with your injury, you must keep in mind that the process of recovering damages if a state or local government agency is radically different from the process involving a private business.
Under the provisions of the California Tort Claims Act, anyone who suffers an injury where a government agency or an employee of such an agency may be at fault must first file a claim for damages with the California’s Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board. In this claim you will be required to submit essentially all the information that would be necessary to file a lawsuit against any private citizen or business. However, state law requires that you submit your claim within six months of the date of your accident. If you miss this deadline, even if only by one day, you will lose the right to later file a lawsuit against the government agency involved.
Once the Government Claims Board has all its required information, it has 45 days in which to approve (which is unlikely) or deny (which is more likely) your claim. If you feel that their settlement offer is unfair, or if they reject your claim, only then are you allowed to file a civil lawsuit.