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How Is Fault in a Truck Accident Determined?

Though tractor-trailers account for only an estimated 2 million of the approximately 276 million registered vehicles in the U.S. today, truck accidents cause a high rate of injuries and fatalities. In 2019, 5,237 large trucks were involved in collisions that led to deaths, and most of those injured or killed in truck accidents were passenger vehicle occupants.

While it’s typical to blame the accident on the trucker, determining fault in truck accidents is a complex matter. Multiple parties are responsible for ensuring a semi is safe on the road. Establishing liability requires understanding the trucking industry and its regulations, relevant state laws, and how to utilize evidence to build a strong case.

Understanding Potential Trucking Industry Liability

In 2019, trucks moved nearly 12 billion tons of freight across the U.S. Getting this cargo to its destination safely involves a network of individuals and companies, each of which could potentially be at fault in a collision involving a tractor-trailer. When any node in the network fails to uphold its responsibilities, it risks the safety of other drivers on the road. Parties that are potentially liable include:

  • Truck operator: The individuals operating the semi often are at least partly at fault. When they fail to perform safety checks or follow the road rules, their actions or inactions may directly contribute to an accident. Distracted, fatigued, aggressive and impaired driving are all common truck collision causes.
  • Motor carrier: The trucking company may bear responsibility in an accident if they employ the trucker, as employers can be held accountable for the actions of their workers. They may also be liable if they do not adhere to federal laws that govern their roles in maintaining safe truck operations.
  • Cargo loaders: The individuals who put the cargo on the truck must load it according to standards set for weight distribution and cargo securing. If they don’t, the freight can shift or fall off the truck, causing an accident. Though the truckers must check their loads before and during each trip, the cargo loaders may also be liable for the accident.
  • Maintenance companies: Motor carriers and owner-operators must carry out routine maintenance on their trucks and make necessary repairs, but they often hire other parties to do the work. If the company fails to do its jobs correctly and it results in a truck accident, it may be at fault.
  • Manufacturers: Truck and part manufacturers must ensure that the parts and vehicles they put out meet quality and safety standards. When a faulty component fails, the manufacturer could be liable for the collision.

Determining responsibility in a truck accident requires the ability to analyze the evidence for linkages between all potentially responsible parties in the trucking industry.

Understanding Who Else May Be Liable

It’s easy to understand why most people look to truckers and the trucking industry to collect damages in a tractor-trailer collision. However, other parties may share some of the blame. When determining fault in a truck accident, it’s necessary to look at the evidence from every angle to discover all potentially responsible parties, which may include:

  • Government entities: Poor road conditions sometimes lead to accidents involving semis. Local, county, state or federal agencies are responsible for maintaining these roads. If the entity neglected its duty to ensure safe road conditions, the government might hold some liability in the case.
  • Road construction contractors: Road construction contractors who perform road construction, maintenance and repairs are potentially responsible if their work is not up to set standards.
  • Passenger vehicle drivers: Other drivers on the road often contribute to truck accidents. Distracted driving (which caused 424,000 injuries and 3,142 fatalities in 2019) and driver error are often the culprits in these cases. The injured party seeking a claim may have also contributed to the accident.

Even when fault seems obvious, it rarely is as straightforward as it appears. If you sustained injuries in a truck accident, you want to ensure a fair settlement. Hiring an experienced and knowledgeable truck accident lawyer may improve your chances of receiving compensation from all at-fault parties.

Understanding How an Attorney Can Help

Dealing with a truck accident claim is time-consuming. It can also be stressful, especially when trying to recover from your injuries. An attorney can reduce your burdens while possibly improving your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve. At Fielding Law, you get personalized support from the moment you sit down for your case review until your claim is settled.

Provides Legal Counsel for Your Case

An experienced truck accident lawyer knows how to navigate the insurance and legal landscape in these cases. They differ significantly from typical traffic accident claims and require a wider range of experience and legal knowledge.

An attorney can review the evidence in your case to determine its merit, providing you with a review of your options and the benefits and risks for each. At Fielding Law, we are up-front with our clients, informing them of the strengths and weaknesses in their cases. Once you have all the information, you can decide how you want to proceed.

Conducts Case Investigations

If you decide to hire attorneys to handle your case, they investigate the accident to uncover the evidence. They may draw on any of the following in their investigations:

  • Police reports
  • Photos and videos from the accident site
  • Interviews with witnesses
  • Interviews with accident investigators
  • Medical reports
  • Federal and state laws

Through their investigations, they work to build evidence of liability to construct a solid case for your claim.

Calculates Damage Amounts

The lawyers calculate your damages. They determine what the amount is by considering both economic and non-economic losses. Your damages may include your current and future medical expenses, lost wages, reduced work capacity, rehabilitation and emotional and physical therapy costs, and pain and suffering.

Negotiates With Insurance Companies

Insurance companies often attempt to offer a quick settlement that is unlikely to cover all your losses. They hope to entice you with the fast cash. If you accept the offer, you lose your ability to recover any more damages in the future. Truck accident attorneys know how to negotiate with the insurance companies, regardless of who they represent.

You may find that your own insurance company does not want to provide you with sufficient compensation for your losses or that the at-fault party’s insurer tries to deny your claim. Insurance companies don’t part with their money easily. An experienced lawyer understands their tactics and isn’t afraid to engage in negotiations to achieve a fair settlement.

Represents You in a Legal Claim

When the insurance companies don’t agree on a sufficient settlement, you may need to file a lawsuit to seek the compensation you deserve. Truck accident attorneys represent you in a legal claim. They work with the defendant’s representatives to come to an agreement. Most of these lawsuits never see the inside of the courtroom because they settle out of court. However, should the case proceed all the way to the courts, your attorney represents you there as well.

Finding an Attorney You Can Trust To Handle Your Truck Accident Case

At Fielding Law, we work hard to ensure you receive fair compensation for your truck accident injuries. We provide personalized assistance from your initial consultation until your case is closed. You can count on us to walk with you every step of the way. Get in touch with us to schedule a free case review.

Sources:

https://www.truckinfo.net/research/trucking-statistics

https://www.statista.com/statistics/183505/number-of-vehicles-in-the-united-states-since-1990/

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2019

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1140181/volume-freight-trucks-united-states/

https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813111

https://insurance.utah.gov/consumer/legal-resources/rules/current-rules