Truck Train Crash Injury In California
In Seimon v. Southern Pacific Transportation Co. (1977) an injured motorist sued a railroad company for personal injuries he sustained when the delivery truck he was driving was struck by an oncoming train.
The evidence established the railroad had known for decades the railroad crossing was particularly dangerous because trains were difficult to see as they approached the intersection at an angle and because there were no warning signals or crossing gates at the intersection.
Over the years several accidents had occurred at the crossing.
The appellate court found the record "replete with evidence pointing to the peculiarly dangerous character of the Nevin Avenue crossing to southbound motorists." (67 Cal. App. 3d at p. 607.)
The court further found sufficient evidence of malice or "a conscious and callous indifference to, or disregard of, probable harm to motorists" to justify the award of punitive damages against the railroad. (67 Cal. App. 3d at p. 609.)
Civil Code section 3333.4 was enacted as part of the Personal Responsibility Act of 1996, or Proposition 213, approved by the voters in November 1996.
As relevant here it provides: "(a) . . . In any action to recover damages arising out of the operation or use of a motor vehicle, a person shall not recover non-economic losses to compensate for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other nonpecuniary damages if any of the following applies:
". . .
"(2) the injured person was the owner of a vehicle involved in the accident and the vehicle was not insured as required by the financial responsibility laws of this state.
"(3) the injured person was the operator of a vehicle involved in the accident and the operator can not establish his or her financial responsibility as required by the financial responsibility laws of this state."
Civil Code section 3333.4 also bars recovery of noneconomic losses to compensate for pain, suffering and other nonpecuniary damages if the injured person was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and was convicted of the offense. (Id., subd. (a)(1).)
This section provides an exception to the bar against recovery of noneconomic losses when the owner of an uninsured vehicle is injured by a motorist driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. (Id., subd. (c).)