Can I Sue for Being Hit By a Semi Truck in California?
Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA
Short answer: If you were hit by a semi truck in California and suffered injuries, you may have the right to sue via a personal injury lawsuit.
California operates under a fault-based system, meaning the at-fault party is responsible for damages. To build a successful case, you’ll generally need to demonstrate the truck driver’s negligence or the negligence of another party involved.
Consulting with a lawyer will help you understand your legal options, and the potential strength of your case.
When You Can & Can’t Sue for Being Hit By a Semi Truck in California
|Injuries Sustained from Accident
|Possibility of a Injury Lawsuit
*The information in this table is based on prior semi truck accidents. Each case is unique and only a personal injury lawyer can inform you if you have a valid case or not.
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Potential Compensation for Injured Victims
Use the table below to see what your potential semi truck accident settlement could be worth.
|Severity of Accident
|Average CA Semi Truck Accident Settlement
|Approximately: $25,000 – $100,000
|Approximately: $100,000 – $500,000
|Approximately: $500,000 – $1,000,000+
Estimate What Your Case Could Be Worth
Want to estimate what your case is worth? Use our online settlement estimator below to gauge what your compensation could be.
Liability in California Semi Truck Accident Cases
Liability of the Truck Driver
In a semi-truck accident, the driver may be liable if their actions contribute to the crash. Common causes include:
- Driver fatigue,
- Violating traffic rules, and
Proving negligence is essential to establish liability. Factors such as:
- Driver logs,
- Eyewitness accounts, and
- Surveillance footage can contribute to the case.
If the driver is an independent contractor, their liability might be more direct. However, if they’re an employee, the trucking company may share responsibility.
Liability of the Trucking Company
Trucking companies can be held liable for accidents due to factors like:
- Improper maintenance,
- Inadequate training,
- Pressuring drivers to exceed legal driving limits, and
If the company fails to ensure compliance with safety regulations, they may be liable for the collison.
Additionally, if the driver is an employee, the company can be vicariously liable for the driver’s actions. Investigations often scrutinize company policies, maintenance records, and training procedures to determine the extent of the trucking company’s responsibility.
Understanding these liabilities is crucial for pursuing compensation after a semi-truck accident in California.
How Fault Works in Big Rig Accidents
After a California semi-truck accident, fault determines responsibility for damages. The state follows a fault-based system, holding the party at fault accountable. Establishing fault involves proving negligence, such as driver error or inadequate maintenance. Comparative negligence may reduce compensation if the injured party shares some responsibility.
Factors That Can Help You Secure a Settlement
Several factors can potentially increase the settlement amount in a lawsuit resulting from a semi-truck accident:
- Severe Injuries: Extent and severity of injuries sustained, especially if they lead to long-term impairment or disability.
- Medical Expenses: High medical bills, including costs for surgeries, rehabilitation, medications, and ongoing treatment.
- Lost Wages: Significant income loss due to the inability to work during recovery or permanent disability.
- Pain and Suffering: Physical and emotional distress experienced by the injured party, impacting their quality of life.
- Property Damage: Extent of damage to the victim’s vehicle and other personal property.
- Liability and Negligence: Clear evidence proving the truck driver or company’s negligence and liability for the accident.
- Insurance Policy Limits: Adequate insurance coverage on the part of the trucking company or involved parties.
- Multiple Defendants: Involvement of multiple parties or entities contributing to the accident, potentially increasing the available sources of compensation.
- Legal Representation: Effective legal representation by an experienced personal injury attorney, maximizing the presentation of the case.
- Evidence Strength: Strong evidence, including eyewitness accounts, expert opinions, and documentation supporting the victim’s claims.
- Precedents and Case Law: Precedents or established case law that favors the injured party’s position.
- Negotiation Skills: Skillful negotiation by the attorney during settlement discussions.
*Each case is unique, and personal injury lawyers can provide tailored advice based on the circumstances.
Factors That Can Minimize Potential Settlement Amounts
Several factors could potentially minimize the settlement amount in a lawsuit following a semi-truck accident:
- Shared Fault: If the injured party is found partially responsible for the accident, it could reduce the settlement amount through comparative negligence.
- Pre-existing Injuries: If the injured person had pre-existing medical conditions, the settlement may be reduced to account for these prior health issues.
- Limited Insurance Coverage: If the at-fault party or their insurance has insufficient coverage, it may limit the available compensation.
- Lack of Clear Liability: If there’s ambiguity or insufficient evidence regarding the liability of the truck driver or company, it could impact the settlement amount.
- Inadequate Documentation: Insufficient documentation of medical expenses, property damage, or other losses may weaken the case.
- Quick Settlements: Accepting a quick settlement without fully assessing the long-term impact of injuries may result in a lower amount.
- Inadequate Legal Representation: Lack of experienced legal representation may lead to less effective negotiation and lower settlement offers.
- Limited Economic Damages: If the economic damages (medical expenses, lost wages) are relatively low, the overall settlement amount may be less.
- Policy Limits: If the at-fault party’s insurance policy has low coverage limits, it can restrict the maximum amount available for settlement.
- Acceptance of Fault: If the injured party admits fault or makes statements that can be interpreted as an admission, it may impact the settlement.
- Statute of Limitations: Filing a lawsuit after the expiration of the statute of limitations can severely limit the potential settlement amount.
- Unfavorable Jurisdiction: The jurisdiction in which the case is filed may have lower average settlements, affecting the outcome.
*Each case is unique, and professional advice is essential for assessing settlement potential.
What an Injury Lawsuit May Look Like if You Decide to Sue
If you decide to sue after being hit by a semi-truck, the process could involve the following steps:
- Consultation with an Attorney: Seek a consultation with a personal injury attorney to discuss the details of the case, assess its merits, and determine the legal options.
- Filing a Complaint: The attorney files a formal legal complaint against the at-fault party, outlining the allegations and the compensation sought.
- Service of Process: The complaint is served to the defendant, who has a specified period to respond.
- Discovery Phase: Both parties exchange information, evidence, and documents relevant to the case. This may include depositions, interrogatories, and document requests.
- Negotiation or Mediation: The parties may engage in negotiations or mediation to reach a settlement outside of court. Many cases are resolved at this stage.
- Trial Preparation: If a settlement is not reached, the case proceeds to trial preparation, involving further gathering of evidence and witness preparation.
- Trial: The case goes to trial, where both parties present their arguments, evidence, and witnesses. A judge or jury decides the outcome.
- Judgment and Appeals: If successful, the court issues a judgment determining the compensation. Either party may appeal the decision if they believe there are legal errors.
- Enforcement of Judgment: If the plaintiff wins, efforts are made to enforce the judgment and collect the awarded compensation.
*Throughout this process, lawyers can handle the complexities, ensuring adherence to deadlines and legal requirements.
Dangers of Deciding to Sue on Your Own
Deciding to sue without legal guidance poses significant risks. Without an attorney, navigating complex legal procedures, understanding evidence rules, and negotiating with insurance companies can become challenging.
The lack of expertise may lead to accepting inadequate settlements or overlooking key aspects of the case, jeopardizing the chances of fair compensation.
Attorneys provide essential guidance, ensuring proper documentation, strategic negotiation, and adherence to deadlines, maximizing the potential for a successful outcome in personal injury lawsuits involving a semi-truck accident in California.
Insurance Company Tactics to Try and Reduce or Eliminate the Possibility of Compensation
Trucking companies often employ tactics to minimize or eliminate compensation for accident victims. They may swiftly offer low settlements before the full extent of injuries is known, taking advantage of immediate financial needs.
Insurance adjusters might use recorded statements to extract statements that can be misconstrued or devalue the claim. Delaying the claims process, disputing liability, or shifting blame onto the victim are additional strategies.
It’s crucial for individuals to consult with an experienced attorney who can navigate these tactics, protect their rights, and ensure fair compensation after a semi-truck accident in California.
Considering a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If you’re still considering filing a lawsuit after being hit by a semi, we are happy to help. We work with some of the best truck accident attorneys in the state. Each one offers free initial consultations to help you decide if suing is worth it. Contact us today to see what your case could be worth.