A recent report released by the California Highway Patrol concludes that a big rig driver traveling at an unsafe rate of speed caused the fiery, catastrophic multi-vehicle crash in October 12, 2007. The accident had involved two dozen vehicles including several large trucks in a tunnel on the 5 Freeway in Santa Clarita and left three people dead and many others injured. The collision closed the busy highway for two days and cost Caltrans $17 million in cleanup and repairs. The truck driver, Jose Reyes, who was at fault for this major accident, suffered injuries but survived. Our source for this blog is this Associated Press news report.
CHP’s report concluded that the double-trailer truck with a faulty brake was traveling more than 65 mph when it jackknifed shortly after passing through a curving, dimly-lit bypass tunnel. Officials say although the trucks brakes failed, this fatal big rig accident could have been prevented had the truck driver slowed down given the wet weather and slick road conditions.
The company that owned Reyes’ truck, Saia Inc., is arguing that the CHP’s report is unfair because it failed to give appropriate consideration to a number of critically important factors including a poorly designed and maintained tunnel. A company spokeswoman said that at least 13 drivers in the tunnel were speeding, failing to maintain the legally required following distances. She also stated that four of the big rig drivers who were in the tunnel at the time of the fatal crash were operating in violation of truck drivers hours-of-service regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the number of hours truck drivers can operate their big rigs without taking a break.
I trust that the victims who were injured or lost loved ones in this horrible crash have already consulted a reputed Los Angeles personal injury attorney, who is experienced in handling big rig or large commercial truck accidents. In this case, this report makes it clear that the truck driver’s negligence and the lack of proper maintenance of his truck were contributing factors. Brake failures in big rig accidents are also caused by truckers overloading their vehicles. And in those cases the trucking company could be held liable.
On the other hand, facts have also surfaced about Caltrans’ failure to properly repair and maintain that tunnel, which made it a dangerous roadway. In such cases, some of the best personal injury lawyer would be able to look into whether a dangerous condition on the roadway caused an accident. However, in the state of California, claims against governmental agencies must be filed within six months of an accident.