Determining truck accident liability is more complex than car accidents involving personal vehicles. Often many parties share responsibility and all parties should be held accountable. If you were involved in a truck accident—whether in your personal vehicle or while driving a truck—you should immediately hire an experienced truck accident attorney to ensure that you are not held liable for factors that are not your fault. An experienced lawyer will help you navigate the process and maximize the amount you recover from the responsible parties.
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Responsibility for a truck accident is determined by thorough investigation, including witness interviews and police reports. A full accounting of facts and details helps to ensure the liable party is held accountable. Liability factors include the root cause of the accident and adherence to road laws by all involved drivers.
In the aftermath of a trucking accident, it’s common for no one to want to take responsibility. The trucking company might insist that the accident resulted purely from driver error, but a thorough investigation may reveal shared liability. The responsibility for a truck accident could lie with:
Although there may be tendency to blame the truck driver for any trucking accident, plenty of accidents are the result of passenger vehicle drivers’ ignorance and/or disregard for caution and safety around trucks. Driving in truck blind spots, executing turns or lane changes that require trucks to brake or maneuver quickly, or failing to adjust speed when around a truck that is merging or changing lanes are examples of some of the ways passenger vehicles cause or contribute to truck accidents. In some cases, the person responsible for the accident may not sustain any damage or injury.
Truck drivers are expected to exercise reasonable care in the course of their duties. Given the size and weight of trucks and commercial vehicles, drivers need to operate the vehicle with the safety of others in mind.
Truck drivers need to refrain from driving while fatigued, under the influence, or distracted. Additionally, they are expected to adjust driving habits to account for adverse weather conditions and avoid driving aggressively or carelessly.
Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring that schedules, company vehicles, and employees are fit to complete the job safely. Many factors go into ensuring that a truck can be safely driven, meaning responsibility can be shared among multiple parties.
Anyone who carries some responsibility for the truck accident can be sued. A truck accident attorney will help you by investigating the accident and determining which party or parties were negligent. Further, your lawyer will help you determine who you can seek compensation from, whether one claim or multiple.
In many truck accident cases, liable parties will include the involved drivers and the trucking company. However, trucking companies may not be liable for accidents involving contracted owner-operators. If you were involved in a multi-truck accident while driving your own truck, you will need to be aware of both your own employment status and the employment status of the other driver in order to file the right claims and suits.
Your ability to file a personal suit will largely depend on your state’s negligence standards and where the fault for the accident lies. Additionally, state insurance requirements can also factor into personal injury claims against another driver. Some states require no-fault policies which means your insurance covers medical bills and you file third-party for other damages. In these states, your ability to personally sue another driver will depend on the severity of injuries or property damage.
At-fault states—the more common system— require investigations into negligence and liability so that the at-fault driver pays the damages a victim suffered. These states, which include Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, allow victims to file a personal suit to seek additional compensation if the amount provided by insurance is insufficient or otherwise disagreeable.
Though no-fault or at-fault insurance systems can determine whether you can personally sue for compensation, fault also factors into claiming compensation through insurance. Most states use a variation of comparative negligence. This means that even if you are partially responsible for the accident, you can claim compensation from other responsible parties through their insurance. Many states use modified comparative negligence, meaning if a driver is responsible for most of the accident (some states use 50 percent responsibility, others use 51 percent), that driver is unable to claim compensation.
A few states, however, use variations of contributory negligence, meaning that any driver who carries any liability for the accident is excluded from claiming compensation. Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, DC, adhere to contributory negligence standards.
Proving negligence requires establishing that the responsible driver breached the duty of exercising reasonable care while driving and directly caused specific damages or losses through injury. Reasonable care for truck drivers means meeting federal and local CDL regulations, as well as common-sense practicalities including road safety and observing rules of the road, vehicle maintenance, and avoiding drowsy or distracted driving.
All drivers are expected to exercise diligence and reasonable care on the road. Whether an accident occurred while you were driving a truck or a passenger vehicle, if you were driving safely you should be protected from liability. Regan Zambri Long’s experienced attorneys will defend you against unjust accusations and help you claim any compensation you are entitled to.
Trying to navigate a case without legal counsel is rarely a good option. Whether you are up against an individual or a company, you must assume that the other party or parties will have legal counsel to help them pay as little as possible and/or recover as much as possible.
To give yourself the best chance at getting the compensation you deserve and to avoid taking more than your share of responsibility, you should consult legal counsel immediately.
It is important to be careful when speaking about the accident in the immediate aftermath. While you should be honest about the facts, claiming any responsibility could have serious consequences in your claim for compensation. As soon as possible, you should consult with a truck accident lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected.
An experienced attorney will help you process the accident, financially account for your injuries and other damages, and guide you in the process of discussing the accident with authorities and insurance companies.
You should never accept responsibility for an accident when you know that other parties contributed. Even if your accident occurred in a contributory state, to accept full responsibility when another person contributed could result in you financially compensating others when you shouldn’t.
Determining truck accident liability is complicated. Our experienced truck accident lawyers can help maximize the amount you recover. Call today for a free initial consultation to discuss your legal options.