Texting and Driving Truck Accidents in Rancho Mirage

Distracted driving is extremely dangerous—a danger greatly compounded when a truck is involved. Every second a truck driver’s eyes are off the road a massive vehicle careens down the road unattended. Federal regulators have responded by prohibiting truck drivers from texting while driving, and many states—including California—have similar laws on the books. But texting while driving truck accidents in Rancho Mirage continue—with devastating consequences.

When you are injured by a texting truck driver, you may be suffering from your injuries and angry they were caused by such carelessness. The good news is the law could be on your side when it comes to securing a settlement or damages award. Call our firm today to speak with a knowledgeable 18-wheeler crash attorney about your case.

Negligence Per Se in Texting-and-Driving Cases

To collect damages after an auto accident, the injured person must establish the other driver was negligent, which usually involves proving they breached their duty of care. But suppose the other driver is found negligent per se, that is, their conduct violated a law intended to prevent auto accident injuries. In that case, this analysis becomes unnecessary under California Evidence Code § 669. When negligence per se is established, the defendant—and their insurer—know they will be liable for damages, and the only question is the amount. A strong negligence per se argument can significantly increase the value of a claim.

Negligence per se can be useful in texting and driving cases because both federal and California state laws prohibit the conduct. The Federal Motion Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) prohibits truck drivers and other motor carriers from texting while driving under 49 C.F.R. § 392.80 (2011). California law prohibits all drivers from manually manipulating mobile devices while driving per Cal. Veh. Code § 23123.

These are public safety laws intended to prevent accidents and injuries. As such, a truck driver in Rancho Mirage who causes an accident while texting and driving can likely be found negligent per se.

Damages Available in Texting and Driving Accidents

Someone injured by a texting and driving trucker in Rancho Mirage may be entitled to compensatory damages, which include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover quantifiable costs and expenses, such as medical bills, while non-economic damages cover subjective costs, such as pain and suffering. They are usually awarded together; the non-economic damage award is often much higher.

Under California Prop 213, an injured party—even one not at fault—cannot recover non-economic damages if they were not covered by auto insurance at the time of the accident, according to Cal. Civ. Code § 3333.4. Because non-economic damages may be the more meaningful payout, this can represent a major loss. Should this situation arise, a skilled attorney could carefully review the circumstances and exceptions to the rule.

Employer Liability for Texting and Driving Truck Crashes

In California, employers can be held liable for the negligence of their employees when the negligent act was committed during their employment. As such, texting and driving truck collisions in Rancho Mirage often result in damage payouts from the trucking company. This is crucial because the trucking company will almost always have both greater reserves and higher policy limits than the driver.

Sometimes, however, the company cannot be held liable. At least one California court has concluded a company was not vicariously liable for the negligence of its independent contractor when that driver was a “private carrier” hired to carry the company’s own merchandise, as opposed to a “for-hire” highway carrier. Hill Brothers Chemical Company v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, 123 Cal.App.4th 1001 (2004).

So, if a person is injured by an independent contractor who is a private carrier, recovery may be limited to the driver’s assets and insurance. In the best case, the injured person has uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, but the insurance company is always looking out for its bottom line, so an offer for a payout should be reviewed by a seasoned lawyer.

Call a Rancho Mirage Texting and Driving Truck Accident Attorney

Texting and driving truck accidents in Rancho Mirage can be devastating, but you should not have to bear the burden of another’s careless choices. When you are injured by a texting truck driver, you deserve compensation. Call Walter Clark Legal Group today for a free case review.

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