How Negligence Is Established in a Truck Accident?

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Because of their size, truck accidents are often far more deadly than car accidents. Medical bills and property damage tend to be higher to say nothing of the sheer trauma of the experience. More than one in three long-haul truck drivers have been in at least one major crash. If you’re involved in a truck accident, you might be wondering if the other driver was negligent. This article will explain the details of negligence and how it’s established.

How Is Negligence Established in a Truck Accident?

For a party to be negligent they must have done or failed to do something that resulted in the accident. This can include a variety of things such as driving while under the influence, texting while driving, driving while fatigued, failing to obey traffic signs, driving a vehicle the driver knows is unsafe, or speeding. Generally, the party that committed one or more of these acts that the court determined resulted in the accident would be considered negligent and at fault for the accident.

The legal theory of negligence does not vary from state to state so proving negligence is a similar process across the U.S. The following factors determine negligence:

  • The defendant did or did not do something that was a violation of the law
  • The action or inaction was directly responsible for the accident as well as the plaintiff’s injuries (e.g., failing to stop at a stop sign was the direct cause of the accident and resulted in injury)
  • The plaintiff legally owes the defendant a specific amount of money for the damages

The key term when proving negligence is “reasonable.” This means that a reasonable person would drive with reasonable caution. It’s necessarily a vague term because the court determines what is or isn’t negligence on a case-by-case basis.

Why Does Negligence Happen?

While trucking companies train their drivers so they can safely operate their vehicles, the nature of the trucking industry is such that drivers are often put on tight schedules and pressured to meet strict deadlines. Many things can delay a truck driver’s delivery schedule including inclement weather, road work, or other unexpected events. While truck drivers have mandatory limits to how long they can drive before requiring rest, they do not always follow these rules. As a consequence, driving for too long or driving in an unsafe manner may result when a truck driver is trying to make their deadline.

Negligence is not always a matter of driver error. Sometimes, the employer is at fault for failing to properly maintain their vehicles. Trucks are composed of a wide variety and a large number of parts and all of them must be kept in working order to ensure safety on the road. If an employer doesn’t make sure their trucks are safe, a court may deem them negligent.

Who Can Be Guilty of Negligence?

In many cases, negligence is not a single act, but a result of a combination of factors that can combine to result in an accident. Accordingly, a court may decide that more than one party is guilty of negligence. The trucking company and the manufacturer can both be negligent in addition to or instead of the truck driver.

While an employer can be guilty of failing to maintain their vehicles properly, this is not the only way an employer can be negligent. For example, if he or she allows a driver to operate a vehicle while knowledgeable of the fact that the driver is not up to the task, the employer may be guilty of negligence. It’s also up to the trucking company to train their drivers; a court might consider the failure to do so negligence.

As mentioned before, truck drivers have legal limits regarding how long they can drive without rest, but there’s no guarantee an employer is complying with these laws. If an employer is forcing its drivers to drive for longer periods than they’re legally allowed to, the employer may be guilty of negligence.

The manufacturer of a part on the truck can also be a guilty party if the defective part resulted in an accident. If a truck is unknowingly using defective tires, brakes, airbags, headlights, or horns, an investigation may conclude that the manufacturer has been negligent.

How Can a Court Know If Driving Regulations Were Broken?

Trucks usually contain a “black box,” or event data recorder, that keeps track of how much distance a truck has traveled and how long it’s been in use. An event data recorder keeps track of all kinds of useful information including communications that may contain proof that the driver or employer knew about the truck being unsafe or the driver being unfit to drive. GPS information is also commonly a part of the data, as are details such as the tire pressure of the truck, when an airbag deployed, if the driver was wearing a seatbelt, when the brakes were applied, or sudden starts or stops.

This makes it difficult for employers or drivers to falsify whether a regulation has been broken, as a court can request these event data recorders as evidence.

Preserving the information in an event data recorder can sometimes be difficult. While most event data recorders keep information for up to 30 days before it’s overwritten with new events, older models can have far less capacity to retain information. It’s also possible that someone may try to intentionally destroy the data on an event data recorder. For these reasons, it’s important to retrieve the data quickly. An attorney is capable of submitting a request for the information and filing an order preventing someone from tampering with it.

What Should I Do If My Vehicle Is Hit by a Truck?

Call 911 as soon as you’re able and avoid speaking with the truck driver beyond making sure they’re physically okay. Anything beyond that is best discussed with the police who arrive at the scene.

Check yourself for injuries. Take photos if any injuries are visible. If medics arrive and offer you a ride in an ambulance, take it, as adrenaline and shock can mask the pain of injuries that you might not realize you have. If medics do not offer you a ride, document the scene. Get the truck’s license plate number, insurance information, details about the truck such as make and model, and the truck’s VIN if possible. Get photos of the scene of the accident as well as any landmarks or traffic signs nearby.

Get the names and contact information of both the truck driver and any witnesses. The more details of the scene and anyone present, the better.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for a Truck Accident Claim?

While you can go it alone when filing a claim with your insurance company, accidents involving trucks tend to be far more complicated than those involving other vehicles. Stakes are often higher with the trucking company wanting to protect its interests and usually have the resources to defend them with exceptionally-qualified professional help.

If you’re looking for legal assistance after being the victim of a truck accident, contact us at Mike Morse Law Firm. We’ll help you navigate through the complex process of an insurance claim involving a truck accident and explore what options are available to you.

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