Proving Your Case Against a Drunk Truck Driver in California: Explained by Our Los Angeles Trucking Accident Lawyers
Drunk driving is a huge problem in the United States. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveal that over 10,100 people are killed each year due to a drunk driver. Approximately 1,300 of those drunk driving fatalities occur in California, meaning that the Golden State disproportionally accounts for almost 13% of all drunk driving fatalities in the United States. Unfortunately, some of these drunk driving fatalities are caused by professional drivers operating large commercial vehicles. Indeed, drunk truck drivers are a common cause of fatal accidents in California due to alcohol use.
Although most drunk driving cases are a clear case of liability, unfortunately truck insurance carriers vigorously contest drunk driving lawsuits involving commercial vehicles. Insurance adjusters tend to hide behind jurisdictional issues such as that the truck or truck driver were no from California, going to California, or otherwise associated with California except for driving through it. Other times the defense for a drunk truck driver will blame a “bad apple” or rogue driver in an effort to exculpate the trucking company from liability. These are horrible defenses that unfortunately victims trying to handle a claim themselves or less-experienced lawyers will fall for.
But not here at the Broadway Law Firm, where our experienced Los Angeles trucking accident lawyers know how to handle a drunk truck driver case. We know that not only does California law prohibit drunk drivers, but federal regulations place even stricter standards on the drivers of commercial vehicles and trucking companies. In fact, some regulations apply to trucking companies when it comes to drunk truck drivers and testing, training, and prohibiting problem drivers from operating their vehicles. If you or a loved one were seriously injured in a drunk trucking accident learn how we can protect your rights to compensation during a FREE consultation by dialing 213.344.0067.
Proving Liability in a Drunk Truck Driving Accident in California
There are two main ways to prove liability in any drunk driving accident, including with a truck driver. Experienced lawyers know to plead both in a lawsuit, and usually can prove both to allow a victim many options to recover compensation while also making it harder for a defense lawyer to defend the lawsuit.
Common Law Negligence
Every state has common law, or judge-made law that has evolved over decades of judicial decision writing. One of the most important common law principles is negligence. Under California common law, negligence is when a party unnecessarily exposes another to a foreseeable risk of harm that was avoidable.
In order to prove a cause of action (or claim) for negligence, a party must establish the following:
- There was a duty of care
- That duty of care was breached
- The victim was harmed or suffered damages, and
- The breach of that duty was a substantial factor in causing the victim’s harm or damages.
All of these elements must be proven.
The duty of care element is an important one but easily established in a drunk trucking accident case. This is because the duty of care for all motorists is to use reasonable care in the use or operation of a motor vehicle. Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol is not reasonable. A trucking accident resulting from a drunk driver is the breach of that duty, and it usually is a substantial factor to any damages sustained by a victim.
Common law negligence is the most common way to establish liability by a drunk truck driver, and is used in virtually any other type of accident, medical malpractice, dog bite, or any other personal injury claim.
Negligence Per Se
In addition to negligence and the common law, there is an alternative way to prove liability. That is through using the statutory law made by the Legislature. All motorists, whether they are from California or not, must follow the statutory law. When the statutory law is not followed, it could result in a motor vehicle accident.
California law provides for the doctrine of negligence per se, which allows a victim to automatically establish liability for the violation of a statute when this elements are met:
- The defendant violated a statute
- The plaintiff was a class of persons sought to be protected from the statute, and
- The plaintiff suffered a harm that was sought to be prevented by the statute.
The relevant statute in California is Vehicle Code section 23152 which prohibits a motorist from operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. A motorist is automatically considered intoxicated when above .08. A motorist has a rebuttal presumption that he or she may be intoxicated if he or she has a .04 or higher. A drunk truck driver who has a BAC above .08 or fails to rebut intoxicated at .04 could be found automatically liable under the doctrine of negligence per se for a California trucking accident.
In addition to California law, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has promulgated rules and regulations that apply to all commercial truck drivers in the United States no matter where they are from, going to, or traveling through. These regulations are the minimum requirements that must be complied with.
Under 49 CFR section 392.5, a truck driver is prohibited from having a BAC over 0.00 and cannot consume any alcohol within four hours of starting a shift or beginning work. That means a truck driver could be found in violation of this regulation with even just a .01 BAC. If a truck driver causes a trucking accident and has a BAC which violates this FMCSA regulation, that can be used by the victim as evidence of negligence. It is not, however, automatic like a statutory violation. But it is still a very strong showing of liability.
Were You Injured to a Drunk Truck Driver in California? Call Us for Help
Although victims of drunk truck driving cases have to ways to prove liability, that does not meant that a truck driver’s insurance adjuster or defense lawyer will make it easy. And it will only be much harder if you hire a lawyer who does not know how the FMCSA regulations work and can be used to establish liability against a defendant.
This is why victims need to hire an experienced trucking accident lawyer who knows how to handle a drunk truck driver accident case like ours at the Broadway Law Firm in Los Angeles, California. Learn how we can protect your rights to compensation during a FREE consultation by dialing 213.344.0067.