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How Is Fault in a Truck Accident Determined?

Truck accidents often become more complicated than standard car crashes not only because of a commercial vehicle’s size, but also because truck accidents usually involve more parties who could bear responsibility for the victim’s financial, psychological and physical suffering. Companies and individuals connected to the truck, load and trailer could all play a part in the collision, making it that much more difficult to determine which party bears fault. The legal professionals of Jason Stone Injury Lawyers want to help clients understand how to determine negligence in truck accidents and protect their legal rights.

Common Reasons for Truck Accidents

Understanding why most truck accidents happen creates a foundation for establishing fault. While truck-driver error represents the most prevalent reason, other parties could display negligence.

Truck Driver Drug Use & Fatigue

When truck operators drive while fatigued or drowsy, they cannot control the truck well, and their judgment could become impaired. A lack of sleep also impairs reaction time and may keep the person behind the wheel from making sound decisions. Using drugs while driving has similar effects on truckers.

Truck Driver Error

Examples of truck driver errors include breaking the speed limit and taking turns too quickly. Some truck operators may neglect to monitor their blind spots, which could trigger accidents.

Trailer-Tractor Equipment Issues

Other than the driver, trucking equipment manufacturers may cause collisions when they sell defective products. Faulty tires and other manufacturing and design errors, such as neglecting to install object detection systems or backup warnings, may cause truck operators to lose control of their vehicles and harm others. Trucking companies and commercial truck owners must stay on top of regular maintenance. Examples of common equipment failures that could cause mechanical issues include:

  • Defective steering
  • Depowering or taking off the truck’s front brakes, to save on brake and tire wear and tear
  • Neglecting to take care of the truck’s brakes
  • Improperly securing or loading the truck’s cargo

When someone incorrectly attaches the trailer, it could cause the truck to jackknife.

Gathering Evidence To Determine Fault

Now that you have a better idea of the reasons truck accidents happen, you know where to focus your evidence-gathering efforts. While the pictures you take and the witnesses you talk to at the accident scene could help you understand what happened, you may need a legal representative’s resources.

Looking Over the Driving Log

Reviewing driving logs could help determine if the trucker followed federal and state laws regarding rest periods.

Checking Logging Devices

To preserve information on the truck and its operation, companies use event data recorders and electronic logging devices. Data recorded includes the truck’s mileage, route, speed, brake usage and hours of service. Truck companies may use supplemental devices, such as inclinometers, onboard computers and global positioning systems.

Gathering Reports from Government Agencies

According to state and federal law, a certified truck inspector must examine commercial vehicles involved in accidents before authorities tow the vehicle from the collision scene. The inspector’s report notes the condition of the trailer’s and truck’s essential mechanical parts. Police reports of the accident do not include the truck inspector’s findings. Instead, parties must request the report from the proper government agency.

Steps To Take After a Truck Accident

While you may not have access to the same resources as a legal advocate familiar with federal and state trucking laws and regulations, the steps you take immediately after a collision with a truck may help strengthen your legal case and determine fault. Truck accident victims must check themselves, their passengers and all other parties involved in the accident for harm, summoning paramedics to the scene for those with visible injuries. While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, the police should come to the scene to make an official report, which could help pinpoint the responsible party. Victims should get the truck driver’s name, contact information and insurance details and the name of the company the operator works for. It also makes sense to ask if the driver operates as an independent contractor, a trucking company employee or someone who drives the truck under a lease. Just like with a car accident, parties should take plenty of images of the scene, including the truck logo and signage and damage to all vehicles. Documenting the scene to paint a story of what happened involves taking pictures of the weather, road conditions, street signs, traffic signals, road construction and the direction of traffic.

Shared Fault and Comparative Negligence

While you focus on determining fault, the truck driver or trucking company could feel you bear part of the blame for the accident. To account for shared fault for personal injuries, the law created comparative negligence and contributory negligence laws.

Comparative Negligence

Under the comparative negligence system, defendants and plaintiffs divide fault between themselves. Defendants may raise a partial defense by claiming the plaintiff bears limited responsibility for the accident and resulting damages. For instance, for your truck accident case, even though the truck driver sped, she or he or the trucking company could gather evidence and claim you received and opened a text message right before the accident. Under comparative negligence laws, you could bear 20% of the fault for the collision. Say you sustain $100,000 in total damages. If the law agrees with the defendant’s partial defense, you may only recover $80,000 in damages rather than the full amount. Comparative negligence works differently in different states. In jurisdictions that subscribe to pure comparative negligence laws, no matter the plaintiff’s degree of negligence, accident victims may recover damages, even if they bear more fault than the defendant. In some modified comparative negligence states, plaintiffs may only receive compensation if they have less fault than the defendant. That means accident victims must bear less than 50% of the blame to recover damages.

Contributory Negligence

Washington, D.C., Alabama and Maryland are some of the few states with contributory negligence laws. In this system, truck accident victims do not recover any damages if the defendant successfully shows the plaintiff bears fault for the incident. No matter how slight the plaintiff’s degree of fault, contributory negligence laws do not allow for damages.

Let Us Help You

No matter if you have questions about fault, damages or anything else related to your truck accident, you deserve answers. Jason Stone Injury Lawyers wants to help you deal with insurance companies who prioritize their interests over your rights, trucking companies that break the law and truck operators who drive intoxicated or fatigued. For over a decade, we’ve made our client’s goals our goals, and we want to do the same for you. To build your case and understand your legal options, schedule a consultation. With our Stone Cold Guarantee, we do not charge up-front fees to start your case, and we do not get paid until you do. Our law firm adopts a client-focused and customer service approach. We want to know you and your case inside and out, so we have everything we need to help you feel at peace about your truck accident claim. If you want to learn more, call one of our representatives at 800-577-5188 or submit an online form today. Before dealing with insurance companies on your own, you better phone Stone.

Sources:

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/car-accident-defenses-contributory-comparative-30148.html

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/truck-accident-lawsuits.html

https://www.findlaw.com/injury/car-accidents/common-causes-of-commercial-truck-accidents.html