How is Fault in a Truck Accident Determined?
Truck accidents can be a uniquely horrible experience. When an 80,000 pound semi truck collides with a passenger vehicle 1/16th of its size, there’s sure to be a great deal of damage. If you or a loved one has experienced a truck accident, we are so deeply sorry for your suffering.
There are many aspects of truck accident cases that make them challenging and complicated, but one of the most complex areas is determining fault. Unlike an accident between two passenger vehicles, there is a lengthy list of possibly liable parties, and in some cases, fault may be shared amongst multiple of them. So how exactly is fault in a truck accident determined?
Who Can Be At Fault in a Truck Accident?
The first step in determining fault in a truck accident is identifying the possibly liable parties. In a truck accident, these parties include:
- The driver. In many cases, fault lies with the driver. If the driver was texting or otherwise distracted while driving, or if they were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, most likely, the fault rests with them. A driver may also be at fault if they were driving recklessly, which includes behavior such as tailgating, speeding, and unsafe lane changing.
- The trucking company. Trucking companies bear responsibility for the safe and responsible operation of their trucks while on the road. If they fail to meet this responsibility, they may be at fault. Imagine, for instance, that a trucking company agrees to put an inexperienced and undertrained driver on the road, which is a fairly common occurrence due to the nationwide trucker shortage. If this untrained driver causes an accident, the company as a whole may bear some responsibility. The same is true if the company failed to keep its trucks properly and safely maintained.
- The truck owner. Sometimes, the truck owner is a separate party from the trucking company. In certain cases, the truck owner themself could be at fault.
- Truck manufacturer or auto parts retailer. If the accident was due to a mechanical failure of any kind, it’s possible that the truck manufacturer or auto parts retailer is liable. One example of this is if a truck manufacturer designed a product that is unsafe or doesn’t work properly. This is a design flaw for which they may be at fault. Another type of case is if an auto parts retailer knowingly sold a part that was damaged.
- The cargo loader. Sometimes, truck accidents are caused by improperly loaded cargo. This is particularly likely with a flatbed truck, the bed of which has no top and somewhat open sides. If the cargo of a flatbed truck is loaded improperly, and something flies out of the truck and onto the highway, causing an accident, the cargo loader could be at fault.
- A mechanic. Sometimes, trucking companies outsource the maintenance of their vehicles to a third party mechanic. If this mechanic overlooks a dangerous issue with the truck, or does not perform due diligence when working on the truck, they could be at fault.
- Other parties. There are even more parties that could potentially be at fault in a truck accident. If the accident is caused by a pothole or damaged roadway, perhaps the city could be held liable.
Who Ultimately Determines Fault?
Fault is initially determined by insurance companies. Sometimes, the answer is fairly clear. If you are sitting at a legal stop at a red light, and a car slams into the back of your car and rear-ends you, they are at fault. But there are also cases in which the question of who is at fault is a little more complicated.
In order to make their assessment of fault, insurance adjusters will review a great deal of evidence. They will look at the police report of the truck accident, which sometimes includes the police’s assessment of fault. They will examine the location in which the accident occurred, as the specific layout of lights, stop signs, bike lanes, and more can shed light onto how the accident occurred and who was in the wrong. They’ll look into whether any of the drivers involved were breaking a law. Was someone speeding? Was someone drunk driving? Was someone texting? All of this plays into determining fault.
However, there’s no need to worry if you believe the insurance adjuster’s assessment to be incorrect. When you work with an experienced truck accident attorney, you have someone advocating for you every step of the way. Your lawyer can help you dispute the claim, ensuring you don’t get assigned a higher percentage of fault than you deserve.
What’s more, if you file a personal injury suit, your Giddens Law attorney will negotiate on your behalf to make sure you receive a settlement that adequately compensates you for your pain and suffering. Unlike many other personal injury law firms, all of our lawyers have hands on trial experience, meaning we can continue fighting for you in the courtroom if that proves necessary for your case.
What if You Are Partially At Fault for the Accident?
Your ability to seek compensation even if you are at fault is determined by what state you live in.
- Contributory negligence. In a handful of states, you are barred from seeking any kind of damages if you bear even 1% of fault for the accident. This means that if you are distracted, or speeding, or exhibiting any kind of negligence while driving, however minor, and you are T-Boned by a truck running a red light, you would not be able to seek damages. This leads to incredibly harsh rulings, and for this reason, many states have moved away from contributory negligence rules. The states and territories still using this method are Alabama, Maryland, North Caroline, Virginia, and Washington D.C.
- Pure comparative negligence. In states that use pure comparative negligence, all parties are capable of seeking damages, no matter how much they are at fault. However, the plaintiff’s damages are reduced by the percentage of fault they bear. For instance, if a plaintiff’s total damages amount to $100,000, but it’s determined the plaintiff is 30% at fault, those damages are reduced by 30%. The plaintiff would then be able to recover a maximum of $70,000.
- Modified comparative negligence. In states with modified comparative negligence rules, the same rules apply regarding damages being reduced by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. However, the caveat is that you may only seek damages if you are 50% or less at fault. If you are 51% or more at fault for the accident, you are barred from seeking any damages.
How Can Giddens Law Firm Help?
If you’ve been in a truck accident, your surest path to justice and compensation is to work with one of Giddens Law’s experienced truck accident lawyers. We have a stellar track record when it comes to settling these kinds of cases for our clients, and we have the resources to protect you along the way. When you work with Giddens Law Firm, you don’t pay a penny unless we win your case for you. Contact us today to schedule a free initial case review and to learn how we can protect your interests.
Related Practice Areas