If you or a loved one are ever in an accident in which a big-rig truck is involved in California, you should know the facts about how trucking companies and their drivers, through substantial mandatory insurance can be held liable. Big-rigoperators have to provide valid proof to the state that they have a minimum of

$750,000.00 in liability insurance in order to receive a necessary Motor Carrier Permit (“CA number”) allowing them to legally operate on California highways. California Vehicle Code §§34620, 34630.

The state also requires all big-rig insurers to provide 30 days notice to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if they ever intend to cancel a liability policy, regardless of the reason. The insurer fulfills its obligation under the law by submitting an executed form “DMV 66 MCP.” Having received notice from the insurer, the DMV can then force the operator to immediately cease business in California until and unless proof of a new insurance policy is provided.

If an insurer cancels a policy  without submitting proper notification to the DMV, it is still legally bound to continue to indemnify (pay awards against) the big-rig operator for damages caused by the negligent operation of that vehicle until   it complies with the DMV’s 30-day notice requirement. Calif. Code of Regs. §220.06(c). This law prevents unscrupulous big-rig operators from maintaining liability insurance only until they get their Motor Carrier Permit, and then canceling it, and it also holds the insurer directly accountable for its failure to notify the DMV of cancellation of the insurance policy as legally required.  Transamerica Insurance Co. v. TAB Transportation, Inc., 12 Cal. 4th 389 (1995).

In addition, California  law in  does not allow a hauler of goods to hire a big-rig operator as a supposed  “independent contractor” (instead of an employee) in order to avoid liability for  accidents. In California, the person or company hiring thebig-rig is considered the “employer” of the big-rig operator, so  that they are liable for any injuries or damages caused by the negligence of the operator. “…Highway common carriers may not…insulate themselves from liability for negligence occurring in the conduct of their business by engaging independent contractors to transport freight for them…” Serna v. Pettey Leach Trucking, Inc., 110 Cal. App. 4th1475 (2003).

Lastly, California Vehicle Code §34620(b) makes it a criminal offense for any person or company to hire any big-rig operator who does not have a valid “motor carrier permit.” Each of these laws reflect California’s strong public policy of ensuring that there is financial responsibility to compensate any person injured by the negligent operation of a big-rig on California’s highways.

The Law Offices of Edward C. Casey Jr. has substantial experience in handling claims arising out of big-rig accidents, and is knowledgeable about the details of California laws that place the burden of deaths, injuries, and property damages on the trucking firms rather than the innocent accident victims. If you or someone you know has been seriously injured in a big-rig collision, please do not hesitate to call us for a free consultation.