How Can You Prove Who is Responsible For a Truck Accident?
How Difficult is It to Determine Fault in a Trucking Accident?
In some cases, determining fault in a car accident is fairly straightforward. There’s a clear party at fault, and a clear victim. But far more often that not, determining fault in truck accidents is a highly complex process. There are a great deal of potentially liable parties, and a huge amount of evidence that must be reviewed in order to correctly determine fault. What’s more, there is an inherent level of complication when a commercial truck is involved; this means that rather than navigating amongst passenger vehicles and their individual drivers, you must also navigate with a large company, which likely has extensive legal resources.
At Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, our truck accident lawyers believe that all truck accident victims deserve justice. We also understand that the legal system can feel overwhelming, especially in the wake of something as traumatizing as a truck accident. Let us bear the brunt of your truck accident claim and help you hold the right people accountable, so that you can focus on recovering and getting back to the things you love.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, and are interested in filing a personal injury claim, our personal injury lawyer is here to help. Read below to learn more about determining truck accident liability, and remember, you can call us any time for a free consultation.
How is Fault Determined in a Truck Crash?
In order for anyone to be found liable and legally responsible for an accident, a victim must prove a few key pieces of information:
- Firstly, they must prove that the at fault party owed them a duty of care. In the case of a car or truck accident, all vehicles and drivers owe each other a duty of care, or a responsibility to make safe and responsible decisions while on the road.
- Two, it must be proven that this duty of care was broken. If a driver gets behind the wheel while drunk and causes an accident, they have certainly broken the duty iof care. They failed to act in reasonable a way that would keep themselves and other drivers free from harm.
- Lastly, it must be proven that this breach of the duty of care resulted in damages. In other words, did the accident directly cause the victim to lose money? Or did it cause a more abstract loss, such as loss of enjoyment of life or loss of mobility? This step can be executed by providing things like medical bills, evidence of lost wages, or other evidence that the accident directly resulted in a calculable loss.
Who Could Be Held Liable for a Truck Accident?
There are several parties who may potentially be held liable for a truck accident. Part of what a personal injury lawyer can do is examine your truck accident case in great detail and ensure all liable parties are being held accountable.
Some of the potentially liable parties include:
The Truck Driver
Of course, it’s entirely possible that fault for a truck accident lies with the truck driver. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that as much as 87 percent of all truck accidents are caused by or involve the driver in some way. The ways in which drivers can be responsible for trucking accidents, according to the FMCSA include: Non-Performance, Recognition, Decision, and Performance. If truck drivers fail to act safely and responsibly, they could be at fault.
The Trucking Company
A commercial truck is generally operating under the jurisdiction of a trucking company. Oftentimes, a company will lease trucks from a trucking company in order to execute their transportation and deliveries. The truck company has a legal responsibility to ensure all of their drivers are properly background-checked and trained, and that all of their vehicles have been examined and are up to standard. If trucking companies put an inexperienced driver or faulty truck on the road and an accident ensues, they may be held liable.
The Truck Manufacturer
If the truck was manufactured improperly, meaning there was either a design flaw or a production flaw, this could easily lead to an accident. A manufacturing error could lead to a mechanical failure; this is particularly dangerous if the error includes something like faulty brakes. If this is the case, the truck manufacturer could certainly be held liable in a truck accident claim.
The Loading Company
The loading company is the company responsible for safely filling the truck with whatever materials it’s carrying. Safety regulations within the trucking industry require different supplies to be loaded in certain ways, with various forms of securing devices. There are also limitations around weight. Failure to comply with these federal regulations could cause a cargo shift, meaning that cargo comes loose and causes an accident.
The Maintenance Company
Most trucking companies work with truck maintenance companies, who are responsible with examining each commercial truck in a fleet to ensure it’s safe to use. They’re also responsible for repairing anything on the truck that needs to be repaired. Proper maintenance is absolutely key to ensuring the safety of all people. particularly when the vehicle in question is something as large and powerful as a semi truck. A company that fails to correctly do any of this could be liable for an accident if one ensues.
The City or State Government
Sometimes, a truck accident can be caused by environmental factors like improper signage or poorly maintained roadways. In a case like this, those responsible for maintaining such things — likely the city — could be held liable in trucking accident cases.
In some truck accident cases, fault may lay with a driver who is not the truck driver. It’s entirely possible for a passenger vehicle, or any other kind of vehicle and driver, to cause an accident.
Other Third Parties
There’s a long list of additional third parties that could be at fault. This includes the truck driver’s employer, an independent contractor working with the trucking company, and more.
How Do You Determine Liability in Truck Accidents?
Determining liability is a complex process, and this reality is one of the key reasons that working with an accident lawyer can help to ensure success. An experienced truck accident lawyer will be able to help you identify all parties that may bear legal responsibility in your accident. This is important, as all of these parties can be a source of compensation.
Some of the elements in a truck accident that can help to determine liability include:
- The police report: After a truck accident, it’s always advised to call the police. Once they arrive at the accident scene, they will survey the scene in great detail, and write up an official report. This report is not required to include the police’s assessment of who is at fault, but it may. Regardless, the police report can be a crucial piece of evidence that helps to build a solid case. The police will gather witness statements, examine all the vehicles involved, and more.
- The truck driver’s driving record: Some pieces of evidence, like the truck driver’s driving record, can be difficult to access without the aid of a legal team. An accident lawyer can help access access these crucial pieces of evidence. Company records can show if that driver has a history of accidents or DUIs; even a history of multiple minor collisions can show that this truck driver historically fails to exercise an appropriate level of caution on the road.
- The truck’s black box: Many people are familiar with the fact that airplanes contain a black box, which, in the event of a crash, contains crucial details about the moments leading up to the event. However, many may not be aware that commercial trucks also contain black boxes. This will have a great deal of information about the moments leading up to the truck accident; things like, how fast was the truck going? When did the truck driver hit the brakes? Was the truck swerving in and out of lanes? Again, this is a piece of evidence that may be difficult to access without a truck accident lawyer. Time is also of the evidence where the black box is concerned, as they often erase information or re-record over themselves within a short period of time.
- Vehicle maintenance records: Another element that may be examined is a vehicle’s maintenance history. If a truck has a history of brake failure or other kinds of mechanical failure, or if it was not checked when it last should have been, that could help to build your case.
- Witness reports: Of course, as in all accidents and crimes, witness reports can be key in determining liability in an accident. These may be taken by the police at the crash scene, but the injured victim may also ask witnesses at the scene if they are willing to share any information. Your truck accident lawyer may also follow up with any witnesses to gain additional accounts that can help with your trucking accident claim.
All of this will be taken into account when making an assessment of who is at fault. Ultimately, the insurance company will assign an insurance adjustor to review the case and offer their assessment of who is liable. However, it’s important to remember that the insurance company’s word on the subject is not the end all, be all. If you and your lawyer disagree with the insurance company’s findings, you absolutely have the right to dispute the claim.
Can Fault be Shared by Multiple People?
An additional complicating factor is that fault may be shared by multiple parties. If multiple parties caused an accident, or contributed to it in some way, it’s possible for them to all be liable.
The details of how this plays out vary from state to state, so it’s important to talk with an attorney in your region to get information about your particular case. For example, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania operates under a system where the portion of damages you are liable for is directly correlated to how at fault you were in the accident. In other words, if an insurance company determines that you were 30 percent at fault for a truck accident, and the trucking company, or some other driver, was 70 percent responsible, you would owe the plaintiff 30 percent of the total damages. The other 70 percent would be owed by the other entity.
Again, this system varies across jurisdictions. Contact an auto accident attorney at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys today to discuss your case. Remember: you are always entitled to a free consultation, and if you work with us, we don’t make a penny unless we win for you.
Why Choose Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys?
Being a victim of any kind of accident is undoubtedly overwhelming, and it’s even more so when the question of fault is unclear. If you or a loved one is the victim of an accident, you have rights, and we are here to help you fight to protect them.
Our law firm is dedicated to bringing you top of the line legal services and ensuring that you receive the justice you are owed. Having a truck accident attorney on your side will help ensure you receive your damages, and are not lowballed by a powerful insurance company. Our team of highly experienced lawyers and excellent legal support staff will work tirelessly for you, and we do not get paid unless you win. When you work with Munley, you have a legal team that truly cares about protecting your best interests.
At Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, the personal injury lawyers working on your case have over a decade of experience, as well as hands-on trial and courtroom experience. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys to discuss your car accident case and how we can be of service. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation and learn how we can help protect your interests.
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