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Negligence Per Se and Trucking Liability

The failure to comply with ordinances, statutes and regulations could find a driver liable for the harm to person or property even if the truck driver was safe to the best of his ability, and otherwise did not proximately cause the accident, and even if the truck was parked and turned off.

In California, the negligence per se doctrine places liability on a person or company if (1) the Defendant, in this case a trucking company, is found to have violated a statute, ordinance, or regulation; (2) the violation proximately caused death or injury to person or property; (3) the death or injury resulted from an occurrence the nature of which the statute, ordinance or regulation was designed to prevent; and (4) the person suffering the death or injury to his person or property was one of the class of persons for whose protection the statute, ordinance or regulation was designed to protect. In these trucking incidents, the laws would be related to where a truck can park, how far off the road the truck must park, and those laws related to the rest and management of the drivers themselves.

In Wood v. Moore, the Court found negligence per se where a loaded tractor truck weighing 25,000 pounds or more traveling at a speed greater than 40 miles per hour, despite the accident having been a result of multiple occurrences.

In Silvey v. Harm the court found negligence per se where a truck was parked on the side of the freeway, on a paved road, avoiding the soft road due to inclement weather where another driver collided with the truck from the rear, resulting in the second driver’s death.

The Courts in Armenta v. Churchill considered whether the lack of a horn, bell or whistle for trucks who are in reverse, and collide with a pedestrian, would amount to liability under the negligence per se doctrine.

The Court in Lua v. Southern Pacific Transportation Co. initially found liability under the negligence per se doctrine when a public crossing was blocked for longer than the allotted time per the Public Utilities Commission and the pedestrian attempted to climb over the vehicle and injured themselves. The case has been remanded for a third trial.

When inclement weather forces a truck driver to park his car to “wait out the storm,” a truck driver can be found liable for an accident even if the truck was struck from behind and the driver themselves were not even in the truck and it was completely turned off. In 2019, the California Courts heard Taulbee v. EJ Distribution Corp. where the Court took into consideration whether a collision in a gore point was itself negligence per se. The Court ultimately found the Defendant was not the proximate cause of the accident and that both drivers having driven in the gore point could result in negligence per se.

The list of cases goes on for various violations under the negligence per se theory. If you are facing legal action under a negligence per se action, it is important to retain counsel fluent in transportation law to determine whether the accident was in actuality proximately caused by these violations, or if other factors caused the accident despite the truck driver’s violation of law, as they did in Taulbee.