What to Do After a Truck Accident in California

With the second highest number of roadway miles in the U.S. and with by far the most registered vehicles (nearly 30 million in 2013), California's roads carry their fair share of traffic. Being close to the Pacific Ocean and two neighboring countries, also makes California a major gateway for international trade, adding thousands of trucks to its roadways every day.

This large scale movement of goods can create additional hazards on the road. Unlike regular car crashes, accidents involving heavy freight-bearing trucks can prove disastrous, like when a big rig jackknifed on the San Francisco Bay Bridge, spilling gallons of fuel. It's important to know what to do after a truck accident in California, especially if you need compensation for your losses.

Immediate Actions on the Scene

California law reflects the initial instincts of many drivers after an accident -- to help the injured. Specifically, state law requires the rendering of "reasonable assistance" to anyone injured in an accident which may require help getting them to medical providers. In the midst of the chaos that can follow a serious accident, California law also requires motorists to provide information such as:

  • Their name/address;
  • The names/addresses of any vehicle occupants or the owner of the vehicle (if different from the driver);
  • The vehicle registration and insurance; and
  • Their driver's license (if requested).

Reporting the Accident and Preserving Evidence

Depending on whether there were any injuries California law may also require motorists to report truck accidents to law enforcement. However, since these accidents usually involve injuries and significant property damage, you're probably better off just calling law enforcement at the scene, after which the officers involved will file a report. The police are interested in preparing a report because California law also holds drivers liable for damage to roads or bridges.

An accident report could prove invaluable in helping to establish the liability of drivers or their employers. You might also seek to recover from trucking companies if they were negligent in hiring their drivers or failed to follow the many federal and state regulations that apply to commercial trucking.

California Truck Accident Laws: An Overview

The chart below contains more information about specific California truck accident laws.

Statutes

California Vehicle Code Section 17150 (vehicle owners, including businesses, are liable for damages caused by anyone operating their vehicle)

California Vehicle Code Section 17300 (liability for roadway damage or clean up)

California Vehicle Code Section 17301 (liability for damage to bridges)

California Vehicle Code Section 20001 (penalties for drivers failing to stop immediately after an accident)

California Vehicle Code Section 20003 (describing additional information to be provided after an accident as well as the duty to render aid to those injured)

California Vehicle Code Section 20004 (requiring the filing of accident reports)

California Vehicle Code Section 34620 (required permits for commercial trucking)

California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1 (statute of limitations for personal injuries)

California Code of Civil Procedure Section 338 (statute of limitations for damage to personal property)

Statute of Limitations

Personal Injury: 2 years from the date of the accident

Property Damage: 3 years from the date of the accident

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources for California Truck Accident Laws

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