Your Guide to Truck Accident Laws in California - Adamson Ahdoot

California Legal Blog

What To Do After a California Truck Accident

January 27, 2023 Alan Ahdoot
Home » Blog » What To Do After a California Truck Accident

Large truck accidents in California are on the rise. In 2020, a total of 107,000 large trucks were involved in crashes resulting in injury, while 4,695 people died in large truck crashes. In the same year, the National Safety Council reported that large trucks accounted for the following:

  • 9% of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes
  • 4% of all registered vehicles
  • 10% of total vehicle miles traveled

This means a crash between a semi-truck and another vehicle causing injuries or fatalities happens every 15 minutes, and 71% of deaths in these accidents are occupants of other vehicles.

While everyone knows that large truck accidents are dangerous, many don’t know what to do after getting into a large truck, big rig, or tractor-trailer accident. Read on to learn more about California truck accidents and answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding what to do if you’ve found yourself in this situation. 

What Should You Do After a Truck Accident?

Stop Your Vehicle at the Scene

After getting into a truck accident, both you and the other driver must stop your vehicle at the accident scene. If either of you leaves the scene and fails to stop, you and the other driver may be charged with hit-and-run.

Move Your Vehicle Out of Oncoming Traffic

If it’s safe to do so, you should move your vehicle out of the way of oncoming traffic, such as on the side of the road. Doing so helps keep you and other motorists safe.

Call the Police 

Once you’re in a safe area, contact the police, so they can dispatch officers to the scene. These officers will assess the situation and write up a police report if the accident was serious and someone was hurt, or if a property was significantly damaged. 

Seek Medical Assistance 

In the event of a serious accident, paramedics may arrive at the scene to treat your injuries. But even if you don’t think you were gravely injured, it’s still best to see a doctor as soon as you’re able to. Some issues may not immediately show symptoms, such as internal bleeding. 

Seeking medical assistance may also help you provide proof of your injuries to help build your personal injury case. Make sure to collect any receipts, prescriptions, and test results to create an accurate record of your injuries.

Obtain Contact Information From the Other Driver and Witnesses

Before you leave the accident scene, you should ask for the other driver’s contact and insurance information. 

If possible, you should also ask for the trucking company they work for, if applicable. You may also collect statements and contact information from witnesses to support your version of what happened. 

Take Photos of the Scene

You should also take some pictures of the accident scene before leaving. Ensure that you have photos of your vehicle, the other person’s truck, other vehicles involved in the accident, and the area where the accident happened. These will be useful for your personal injury case.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

If you were injured or if your car was damaged because of another motorist’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. For this reason, it’s best to speak with a truck accident lawyer to help you build a personal injury case and receive the appropriate damages for your suffering.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Considered a Truck?

Large trucks are defined as any medium or heavy vehicles, not including buses and motor homes, with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds.

What Are the Major Causes of Truck Accidents in California?

Truck accidents are most commonly caused by inattention to traffic and improper maneuvering of the truck. Below are more leading factors that contribute to truck collisions according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or FMCSA:

  • Speeding
  • Brake problems
  • An interruption in traffic flow, including congestion or a prior crash on the road ahead
  • The effects of prescription medications
  • Driving under the influence
  • Traveling too fast in relation to the road’s condition
  • Being unfamiliar with the road
  • Encountering problems with the roadway
  • Being required to stop – by a traffic control device or a crosswalk – before the crash
  • Taking over-the-counter medications
  • Implementing inadequate surveillance of the road and traffic
  • Driver fatigue

What Are the Most Common Types of Truck Accidents?

Road collisions involving trailers or large trucks come in many forms. Below are the main types of truck accidents in California:

a truck and a car hitting each other on a head-on collision
A premier truck accident lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve after a truck accident.


Jackknife accidents commonly occur across multiple highway lanes. This usually involves many vehicles as a truck’s trailer and cab collide and resemble the shape of a closing jackknife.

Some of the main causes of this type of road mishap are bad weather conditions and speeding tendencies. The truck driver is at fault if he’s proven to drive under the influence when the accident happened.

Truck Rollover

This happens when a truck rolls over due to an imbalance, an unsuccessful turn on curved roads, swerving too fast, or if the driver is too tired or distracted. A truck rollover can hit many smaller vehicles in its path all at once.

Excessive speeding also causes rollover accidents. A trucking company might be held responsible for the damage if enough evidence proves they improperly loaded a tanker truck and employed under-trained drivers.

Head-on Collision

As the name implies, a head-on collision occurs when two vehicles approaching from opposite directions crash into one another. It is also called a front-end crash, where the damages are heavy on the head part of both vehicles.

This type of accident is more dangerous between two large trucks. They can cause damage to other vehicles or spill hazardous chemicals on the road. With decreased visibility due to snow or rain, there is a much higher likelihood of a head-on collision.


Unlike a front-end crash, a T-bone occurs when a large truck crashes into the side of another vehicle. This commonly happens at intersections when the responsible driver fails to follow the traffic light while another vehicle traverses the road.

T-bone accidents can be fatal for those sitting in a motor vehicle on the side of the impact. Most of these collisions happen when the truck driver fails to access the ongoing traffic flow, resulting in a wrong turn.

Underride Collisions

An underride crash happens when a smaller vehicle slides underneath a large truck. There are two types of underride collisions: side underride and rear underride. The former usually occurs at night or during low sun-angle conditions when truck drivers attempt to take a U-turn without noticing on-coming vehicles.

Meanwhile, a rear underride crash occurs when a passenger vehicle runs under the rear of a straight truck or semi-trailer. It typically happens when a truck moves slowly to exit or cross railroad tracks.

How Big of a Factor Is Driver Error in Large Truck Accidents?

Driver fatigue is one of the major causes of large truck accidents. Long-haul drivers usually drive for long periods of time to meet time and fulfillment quotas. This results in drivers not resting enough or not sleeping as much as is actually mandated now by federal or state law.

Why Do Large Truck Accidents So Often Result in Devastating Injuries or Death?

The smaller the mass of the other vehicle, the less mass can absorb the large truck’s force. This results in more mass being transferred into the other vehicle in a process called passenger compartment intrusion. The more force there is, the more devastating the injuries will be.

What Is Passenger Compartment Intrusion (PCI)?

PCI occurs when the energy of a large truck crash exceeds the strength of the vehicle’s frame, causing the victim to take the entire force of the impact. Extremely common in a truck vs. auto accident, an accident that results in PCI usually causes injuries that are almost always fatal.

Does California Have Any Unique Laws Pertaining To Large Truck Accidents?

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, California ranks in the top 10 states with the highest average of fatal large truck accidents. For this reason, California has stricter or unique truck safety laws such as:

  • Truck Driver Logs: Truck drivers must keep electronic logs of their trucking patterns per FMCSA rules. They must keep track of where and when they stop, how often they’re taking rest breaks, and log the results of vehicle inspections and maintenance along their routes.
  • Inspection Requirements: Federal and California trucking laws require drivers to regularly inspect their vehicles for damaged or worn parts to avoid serious safety issues. 
  • Hours-of-Service Laws for Truck Drivers in California: Truck drivers in California must follow two different sets of regulations or “Hours-of-Service Laws.” Drivers must follow federal FMCSA rules and State of California regulations.

In California, drivers are not eligible to drive after being on duty for 80 hours in any given 8-day consecutive period. They must stop driving for at least 10 hours after 16 hours of work (driving or not) and cannot drive more than 12 hours after being off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours.

Under FMCSA rules, drivers can work up to 14 consecutive hours as long as they’ve been off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours. During that 14-hour span, however, drivers can only be behind the wheel for up to 11 hours. 

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Truck Accidents in California?

The deadline for filing a claim is two years from the date of the collision. However, if someone dies, the countdown starts on the date of the person’s death if it is different from the date of the accident. 

If you’re seeking compensation for damages, you have three years to file against the responsible party, according to the California Code of Civil Procedure section 338.

California is not a no-fault state. Instead, it follows a “pure comparative negligence” system. This means each party is accountable for their percentage of fault, and the court will deduct compensation accordingly.

How Is Liability Determined in a Truck Accident?

Proving liability involves two legal theories: negligence and strict liability. Any driver injured due to the recklessness of the other party is entitled to file a truck accident lawsuit. 

In California, there are three elements for demonstrating negligence in this type of collision if the truck driver:

  • breached his/her duty of care
  • caused vehicle damage, truck accident injuries, and other victim losses
  • owed the victim a duty of care 

As per California’s strict liability law, the claims must be based on the following defective parts:

  • Tires
  • Brakes
  • Cargo ties
  • Engine parts
  • Accelerator pedals

Consult With an Experienced Attorney at Adamson Ahdoot

If you have any further questions that were not covered here, contact an experienced truck accident lawyer in Los Angeles at Adamson Ahdoot for legal advice and assistance. Call us at (800) 310-1606 today to schedule your free consultation with a premier personal injury attorney.

Client-First Approach

Above all else, our clients come first. We go above and beyond to obtain the highest level of compensation possible.

Meet Our Attorneys

Multi-Focus Law Firm

Adamson Ahdoot has successfully executed a plethora of personal injury cases.

Cases We Handle

Get in touch with our firm

Our team can better advise you on your legal options once we receive any available evidence about the incident.

Take Action Now