CA Vehicle Code Sections 23114 and 23115 – Debris Falling from Vehicle
California law sets certain requirements for waste transport vehicles and other vehicles hauling goods. Vehicles must be covered and vehicle loads secured to avoid dropping debris. Debris that spills from a large truck, rubbish vehicle, or even a passenger vehicle can create significant hazards on the road, elevating the risk of a serious accident. If debris spilled from a garbage truck or other vehicle leads to an accident, the owner or operator of the vehicle could be liable for any injuries or other damage caused. Continue reading for a discussion of the California Vehicle Code sections pertaining to loose debris, and call a dedicated Palmdale car accident lawyer if you or someone you care about has been hurt in a traffic accident in the Antelope Valley.
California Law Requires Trucks to Properly Secure Their Cargo
California Vehicle Code Sections 23114 and 23115 specifically address cargo carried on commercial vehicles. Under the code sections, vehicles transporting goods on California roads must ensure that their loads are “constructed, covered, or loaded” well enough to “prevent any of its contents or load . . . from dropping, sifting, leaking, blowing, spilling, or otherwise escaping from the vehicle.” The code sections go on to specify certain requirements for vehicles transporting certain types of materials such as rocks, pebbles, asphalt, dirt, and other similar materials.
Rubbish vehicles, in particular, must ensure that their “load is totally covered in a manner that will prevent the load or any part of the load from spilling or falling from the vehicle” before driving on any highway. Vehicle Code Section 24002 also states that it is “unlawful to operate any vehicle or combination of vehicles which is in an unsafe condition, or which is not safely loaded, and which presents an immediate safety hazard.”
What Happens if a Truck Spills Cargo?
Trucks that spill debris from their vehicles are responsible for cleaning up the material. Truck drivers and/or their employers may be fined for any cleanup costs that result from the debris spill.
What if Spilled Debris Causes an Accident?
Any driver who, through their negligence, causes an accident, can be held liable for any damages that result. Drivers can be held liable for property damage, personal injuries, and related damages. Violating a safety regulation is very strong evidence of negligence.
Individual truck drivers are not the only parties liable for a spill-related accident. According to Section 2338 of the California Civil Code (the doctrine of “respondeat superior”), employers are liable for the actions of employees performed during the course of their work. That means that the freight company or waste management company that employs the truck driver responsible for the accident may also be liable for the debris-related crash.
Freight companies are responsible for the trucks in their fleet. They must ensure that their drivers are trained properly, that their vehicles include all appropriate safety equipment and functionality, and that their trucks are properly loaded before they set out. If a company employs a pattern and practice of reckless behavior, such as regularly sending out trucks that are overloaded, improperly secured, uncovered, or loaded off-balance, then accident victims may even be able to pursue punitive damages. Punitive damages can be awarded on top of the compensation intended to compensate an accident victim for the harm they incurred, and are meant to punish a willful or especially reckless wrongdoer.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed due to loose debris spilled by a truck in California, talk to a seasoned and effective car accident attorney about pursuing a claim for damages by calling the Kistler Law Firm at 661-206-6990.