Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident?
A commercial truck accident is a harrowing experience. The size of a truck versus a passenger vehicle is significant and often the cause of extensive injury and damage. The accident scene is chaotic, and the last thing on an injured victim’s mind is who was at fault.
Unfortunately, the location of the accident is a critical area full of evidence. Truck accident victims believe the other driver will do the right thing; after all, the truck company has a significant insurance policy to cover all damages. While the truck company does have a substantial insurance policy, they do not want to dish out money from their policy.
Instead, an insurance company
will try to settle as soon as possible. Their intention is not to help the accident victim get on their feet but to remove liability from themselves. You will need to call a lawyer after a truck accident to ensure you do not settle for less than what your truck accident case is worth.
The main goal of a truck accident lawyer
is to determine who is liable for an accident so they can recover damages for the injured individual. Trucking accidents are particularly complex since there are multiple parties involved and can be held responsible.
How does a lawyer determine liability?
There are various ways that a truck accident lawyer can determine who is liable for an accident. First, a lawyer will investigate the cause of the accident. Next, a lawyer will consider state and federal regulations. These regulations can affect how much compensation you can obtain and what laws apply to your claim. Another step is to prove fault.
Once a lawyer has established those elements, they will demand compensation for your injuries and damages. If the liable party is unwilling to settle the case, the lawyer will advise you to go to trial.
The key to determining liability is thoroughly investigating your claim and how the accident occurred. Without the basis of liability, it is impossible to obtain compensation for your accident appropriately. When a person places liability on the wrong party, they can lose their claim entirely. Even if you believe liability is apparent, you must allow a lawyer to investigate further.
What makes a commercial truck accident different from other car accidents?
The many differences between commercial truck and passenger vehicle accidents
include trucking regulations, the extent of damages, and liability.
- Damages: All truck accident claims will have significant injuries because of the size difference between the truck and other vehicles they hit. The average tractor-trailer weighs 80,000 pounds compared to the 4,000 pounds of a passenger vehicle. The damage from a commercial truck accident is substantial. Accident victims will not only face property damage but physical harm as well. All of this damage will lead to financial and emotional strain.
- Truck regulations: Trucking regulations differentiate truck and other motor vehicle accidents. There are state and federal regulations that a truck driver, the trucking company, and other parties must follow to stay safe on the road. An example is a truck's cargo cannot exceed a certain amount. A truck driver cannot work more than a specific number of hours. There are many other regulations that a truck accident attorney is aware of and must investigate for your claim. Some laws are specific to your state, and there are rules on a federal level to consider.
- Liability: Since many parties work on a singular truck, many potentially liable parties are also involved. The laws regarding truck liability vary by state. It is a very complex topic, and you must call a lawyer who knows how to decipher who the liable party is. While you may think the responsible party is the truck driver, through an investigation, you will find that it was a manufacturing defect that led to the accident and not the driver’s error.
Speaking with a local truck accident lawyer immediately is imperative as evidence can quickly disappear. A lawyer will act rapidly to preserve the scene, the truck, and any other crucial evidence for your case. Once evidence is gone, there is no way to get it back. Evidence will make or break your claim, and without it, you leave money on the floor.
Possible responsible parties
As mentioned, multiple parties can be liable for a truck accident.
Possible responsible parties include:
- Truck driver: There are many errors a truck driver will make to cause a collision. Common driver errors include driver fatigue, inattention, intoxication, etc. When their careless actions lead to an accident, they are the liable party and will be held responsible.
- Manufacturers: Different manufacturers create the various parts a truck needs to operate. When one defective part is present, the driver can lose control of the truck and cause an accident with no way to prevent it. Truck part manufacturers must ensure any parts they put into a truck work properly. Common part defects include faulty brakes, defective tires, and more.
- Truck company: One party with a lot of responsibility is the truck company. They must ensure their drivers receive proper training, meet all regulations, and trucks are in working order. When the trucking company does not adhere to its responsibilities, it can cause an accident. A standard trucking company error is disregarding federal regulations and causing a dangerous situation for truck drivers. Trucking companies often pressure drivers to work past the legally allowed time or skip mandatory rest breaks to meet tight deadlines. When the truck company is negligent, everyone is in danger.
- Maintenance company: Companies must keep trucks in proper working order. Like taking your car to the mechanic for an oil change and tune-up, companies must tune up a commercial truck. Typically it will be a third-party company hired by the trucking company to ensure the safety of the truck, driver, and others on the road. When a maintenance company overlooks a critical mechanical issue, the truck can veer off the road and cause an accident.
- Vendors: Commercial trucks carry heavy loads across the state and country. The crew must secure the cargo so it won’t move around or fall off the truck. Since vendors are in a rush to get their product to its destination, they may not secure the cargo or will overload the truck unbeknownst to the driver. Trucks can only hold a certain amount of weight, and when there is extra weight, the truck will begin to sway and cause the truck to tip over. As a driver on the road, you do not understand why the truck is rocking and will assume the truck driver is causing the sway.
As you can see, liability is not simple. Many parties work on commercial trucks. The involvement of so many parties leads to confusion among drivers and insurance companies. The parties often attempt to shift the blame amongst themselves, leaving accident victims in constant limbo, awaiting answers. Do not be in limbo; instead, speak with a truck accident attorney who can work to determine who is liable for your accident.
What elements do you need to prove fault in a truck accident?
A truck accident case must have a thorough investigation to determine liability. The investigation can take substantial time, but your claim must get the time and attention it deserves. At the scene, responding officers will conduct a preliminary investigation. Police officers will use their experience to determine who they believe is responsible for the accident. They may find evidence that the driver was reckless or under the influence.
However, a police investigation will not show whether other elements at play led to the accident. Police will not have access to know whether the driver has proper training or the cargo was not secure. For a full investigation, you will need a lawyer. An attorney can determine whether the driver had training and adhered to all regulations.
Some common causes of a truck accident are:
- Defective equipment
- Reckless driving
- Disregard traffic laws
- Driver fatigue
- Lack of driver training
- Maintenance concerns
- Driving too fast for weather conditions
These are a few examples, and a truck accident can happen for many other reasons. The only way to know the underlying cause is to speak with a lawyer after an accident.
Why you need a truck accident lawyer
There are many reasons you will need to hire a truck accident lawyer. Many accident victims choose to go it alone and work independently with insurance companies. Negotiating with a truck company and their insurance company is complex. These parties have years of experience finding loopholes and denying claims. Do not allow the truck company and their insurer to take advantage of you in your vulnerable state.
A truck accident lawyer can help in various ways:
There are many ways a local truck accident lawyer will help you win your truck accident claim and garner the compensation you deserve for your damage. Do not hesitate to call a lawyer after an accident.
- Investigation: Liability is the key to obtaining compensation, and your lawyer must tackle this issue head-on. Deciphering who the negligent party is challenging and requires a full investigation. Upon investigating the cause of the accident, a lawyer will then take the necessary legal steps.
- State laws: Your state will have specific rules that truck drivers and truck companies must adhere to. There are also state-specific laws regarding compensation and negligence for truck accidents.
- Federal regulations: Truck drivers have federal laws they must follow across the country. Your truck accident claim will rely on these laws and regulations. Many truck accident cases will require your lawyer to look at federal laws and regulations.
- Proving fault: While lawyers must determine liability, they must also prove who was at fault for the accident. Proving fault will require expert witnesses and an accident reconstructionist. You will need a truck accident lawyer with the resources to hire these individuals.
- Collecting evidence: The most crucial aspect of any truck accident claim is collecting evidence. It is difficult for accident victims to gather evidence since they suffer substantial injuries and are not in the position to do so. A truck accident lawyer is in the position to collect evidence and build a solid case.
- Negotiating for you: Since truck accidents cause substantial injury to victims, you may have extensive medical bills. Victims might not return to work because they are facing life-altering injuries. Your truck accident-related injuries will prevent you from returning to work which spirals into you being unable to contribute financially to your household and pay for essential expenses. Someone must pay for costs you incur from a truck accident. A local truck accident lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company to ensure you get the maximum compensation for your accident claim. When you need future medical treatment due to a debilitating injury, a lawyer will also include these in settlement negotiations.
- Go to trial when necessary: If the insurance company does not want to settle your truck accident claim pre-litigation, then a lawyer will take the case to trial. While the goal is to settle before trial, that is not always the case. It is crucial to prepare for trial from the beginning of your claim. Many individuals make the mistake of thinking the case will not go to trial and will therefore not prepare or take the necessary steps for trial. A truck accident lawyer with experience will prepare your case for trial from the very beginning. Many accident victims fear the case will go to trial due to these preparations, but your lawyer is simply preparing for all possible outcomes. It is best to prepare for trial and not need it than to scramble about at the last second trying to prepare. Evidence will quickly vanish, and a lawyer must work fast to collect it and prepare your case for all possible outcomes.