The foundation of most personal injury claims is negligence, and truck accident cases can be particularly challenging. As the plaintiff or person filing an insurance claim, you are responsible for proving that the other party in your case is liable for the accident and your injuries. Not everyone needs legal assistance to prove negligence. However, if you have questions about liability in your case, a truck accident lawyer can help you understand the evidence you need and where to find it.
Required Components of a Negligence Claim
To prove the other party was negligent, you must supply evidence supporting three essential components:
- They owed you a duty of care.
- They breached that duty of care.
- Their failure to uphold their duty resulted in the accident that caused your injuries.
Duty of care refers to the defendant’s responsibility to ensure their actions meet the standard of reasonable safety. In a truck accident case, this could mean abiding by traffic laws or following industry regulations. Breaching that duty of care could mean driving recklessly, skipping routine truck maintenance, or overloading cargo in the truck trailer. If those actions result in an accident that causes your injuries, you have the third component to prove negligence.
Sources of Information
Investigating negligence in a truck accident case can be a lengthy process. Some information an attorney would access includes the trucking company’s maintenance logs and records of driver training. You would also want to see the driver’s log books or data from the vehicle’s electronic tracking system to search for any violations of FMCSA safety regulations regarding Hours of Service or cargo securement. Looking at a driver’s shift length can tell you whether they were possibly driving with fatigue, which is a violation of their duty of care. A police report should tell you if the truck driver was cited for a traffic violation following the crash. However, these sources of information only consider the driver and the trucking company as potentially liable parties. In some cases, there are others whose negligence may have contributed to your accident.
Potentially Liable Parties and Their Possible Errors
Multiple third parties could be liable for an accident in a truck collision case, including manufacturers, mechanics, and cargo loaders. Each requires different types of evidentiary support and is subject to varying laws regarding personal injury cases. Therefore, consider all potentially liable parties and the errors they could make that may result in a truck accident.
You already know truck drivers are responsible for abiding by traffic laws, truck licensing requirements, and industry safety standards for shift lengths. However, there are different types of truck drivers with varying degrees of liability. For example, an independent driver is self-employed and responsible for their own trucks and actions. Most own the truck, so they must conduct the required inspections and ensure it is always safe for work. On the other hand, truck drivers who work directly for a company and drive a company-owned vehicle are primarily liable for road law violations or operating the vehicle outside the scope of their jobs.
The legal concept of product liability holds manufacturers and distributors accountable for defective products that cause consumer injuries. Some common truck part errors that could be the responsibility of the manufacturer include the following:
- Blown-out or defective tires
- Problems with the braking system
- Mechanical issues with the motor or other parts
- Problems with parts in the steering system
- Failing restraints on trailer loads
Any of these errors could cause the driver to lose control of the truck and result in a devastating accident. Defects in truck parts could be in design or assembly, and pinpointing the exact process where the flaw occurred is sometimes challenging. However, an experienced truck accident lawyer understands the nuances of that argument and will guide you through the legal process.
As previously mentioned, trucking companies are responsible for adequately vetting and training drivers and maintaining their trucks in safe working conditions. Other errors a trucking company may commit that could render them accountable for an accident include:
- Overloading trucks to increase profit
- Not keeping thorough reports of inspections and maintenance
- Failing to carefully regulate driver shifts to ensure no one exceeds the FMCSA’s standards
- Illegally altering logbooks to divert liability away from the company
During the investigation, your attorney will immediately request all company documentation and comb through it to search for evidence of these errors.
In addition to the truck manufacturer, other potential third parties could be liable for a truck accident. For example, some companies outsource truck maintenance when they have larger fleets. In that case, any issues with the truck’s condition would fall under the responsibility of the third-party mechanic.
Similarly, issues with the truck cargo would fall under the responsibility of the party that loaded the truck. For example, if a driver stops to pick up a load from another company, and that company overloads the trailer or does not properly secure the load, they would be liable for damages should the accident cause trace back to issues with the cargo. On the other hand, if the driver or the trucking company loaded the trailer, liability would fall back on them.
Shared Fault in Truck Accident Cases
Sometimes negligence is not one-sided in auto accidents. Should the defense effectively argue that you are at least partially responsible for the accident, you could still recover compensation under the comparative negligence rule. For a valid shared fault claim, the court determines a final value for damages and assigns percentages of liability to each party. In a modified comparative negligence state, such as Utah, you are still eligible for a share of compensation equal to the defendant’s percentage of liability. However, you cannot be more than 49% responsible.
For example, if you are 30% responsible, you can receive 70% of the damages in a modified state. However, if you are 50% responsible, you cannot recover any damages. A handful of states follow the pure comparative negligence rule, where you can receive an award for damages even if you carry the most responsibility for the accident.
Advantages of Hiring a Truck Accident Lawyer
Proving negligence in a truck accident case is uniquely challenging under personal injury law because the trucking industry’s scope is so vast, creating the possibility of multiple liable parties. You may even have numerous types of civil lawsuits at once, and the stakes are high. A truck accident lawyer not only provides the professional legal experience you need to help build a strong case but also offers compassion to help you navigate an emotionally charged time. With representation, you can focus on healing. At the same time, your attorney negotiates with the insurance companies, combats the trucking company, investigates the accident, collects crucial evidence, and protects your right to fair compensation.
At Siegfried and Jensen, we understand what is at stake for our clients and will access every available resource to help them rebuild their lives. You should not suffer the financial consequences of another party’s negligence, and we dedicate our expertise to protecting you from companies trying to skirt responsibility. Contact us at (801) 845-9000 for a free case evaluation. We will answer your questions and get you on the path to physical, emotional, and financial security.