Who pays for the damage from the I-5 and 2 Freeway tanker crash in Los Angeles? Taxpayers, for now

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Caltrans isn’t giving an estimate yet of how much damage that tanker truck fire on Saturday caused to the freeway, but it’s likely to be expensive. The destruction was so severe that some of the freeway’s support structures may have been compromised, and the repairs could take months to complete.

For the time being, taxpayers will be on the hook. Why not go straight to the trucking company?

“Because that is a legal proceeding that can take a long time,” explained Caltrans spokeswoman Kelly Markham.

RELATED: MAP: NB I-5 may be fully open Tuesday; 2 Freeway tunnel interchange may be closed for weeks

She says right now her agency is focused on getting the freeway fixed, not on who pays for it.

“Ultimately what we do is try to get reimbursed by the Feds," said Markham. “Then if there’s a determination of fault, Caltrans would seek funds from the insurance company that represented the trucking company.”

The agency isn’t naming the company involved in Saturday’s crash. Figuring that out can be difficult, according to L.A.-based attorney Vibhu Talwar.

“The trickiest part is finding all the different insurance policies that may cover the claim,” said Talwar.

The lawyer has experience suing trucking companies. He says it involves a lot of work because they sometimes hide behind complicated corporate structures in order to shield their assets.

There can also be other entities at fault. For instance, if the accident was caused by a truck’s cargo shifting, he can sue the company that loaded the truck. And that’s not all.

“Often times if you have defects in the vehicle itself, the manufacturer can also be responsible,” said Talwar. “If there’s a brake issue, and the maintenance didn’t take it up, you have a maintenance company getting involved in a case like that.”

Truck drivers are only required to carry $750,000 in liability insurance. But that goes up to $5 million for a commercial truck carrying hazardous materials.

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