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Who Is at Fault for Truck Accident Damages in a Truck Stop?

When two cars get into an accident, the parties may have little trouble determining the at-fault party. Truck accidents often involve more nuance for tracking the negligent individual or entity. It takes a team to prepare trucks for the road, which means several parties could have a hand in causing a truck accident at a truck stop. Fielding Law has the resources and experience you deserve to pinpoint the at-fault party.

At-Fault Parties in Truck Collisions

To stand the most favorable chance of collecting damages, truck accident victims must determine who bears liability for their physical injuries and car damage. To narrow their options, harmed parties may shuffle potentially liable parties into specific categories:

Driver Employment

The company that hired the truck driver and the driver’s freedom on the job help identify at-fault parties. Self-employed drivers operate commercial vehicles they own, which means they may bear liability in an accident. Truck operators also work as traditional employees for truck companies, independent contractors hired by trucking employers and independent agency employees leased to various trucking companies.

Even if driver error triggered the accident, the fault may lie with the employer who hired the driver. Trucking companies must make sure truck operators get sufficient rest while on the road, do not work long shifts without a break and take plenty of rest stops. Employers could also become responsible parties when truck drivers consume drugs or drink on the job.

Vehicle Maintenance

Truck drivers, trucking companies and truck mechanics must keep commercial vehicles in tiptop shape to avoid unnecessary accidents caused by maintenance issues. When truck collisions happen because of maintenance problems someone should have known about, it could increase liability.

The company or individual who leases or owns the truck bears responsibility for the vehicle’s upkeep. The cargo shipper and truck owner could have a contract that explains which party must maintain the vehicle, so accident victims and their legal teams may need to request the contract as evidence.

Truck and truck part manufacturers must ensure all vehicles and parts they release pass safety checks. Defective parts may cause avoidable accidents, which could make manufacturers liable for a victim’s injuries.

Cargo Issues

Commercial vehicle cargo requires deliberate loading and securing to reach the final destination safely. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has cargo weight restrictions, cargo material restrictions and specific processes for transporting cargo. Examples of dangerous materials trucks often haul range from consumer electronics containing lithium batteries, dry ice and fuel-powered equipment to ammonium nitrate fertilizers and refrigerant gases.

Poorly secured or loaded cargo could move around during a run, which may trigger a collision. The truck could roll over, jackknife or have trouble stopping. Issues with dangerous cargo may trigger a fire that spreads to other cars or release harmful vapors that endanger those in the immediate vicinity and people who live near the scene. Parties responsible for cargo include the trucking employer, the shipper and the truck driver.

Comparative and Contributory Negligence in Truck Collisions

The harmed driver could bear the blame for a truck collision at a truck stop. States follow either comparative negligence or contributory negligence laws to account for accidents in which the at-fault party caused her or his own injuries and other damage.

Contributory Negligence

Under contributory negligence rules, a plaintiff could bear full or partial responsibility for injuries sustained in a personal injury accident, even if the situation involves another responsible individual or entity. For instance, while Grace, a truck driver, ran a red light and T-boned Matt in his car, Matt had a few too many drinks before heading home for the night. Grace could respond to Matt’s negligence claim with a contributory negligence counterclaim. If Grace wins her claim, Matt may recover only partial damages for his injuries, or a judge or jury may decide he does not receive damages at all.

Comparative Negligence

States that follow comparative negligence laws weigh each party’s liability while calculating damages. The negligence regulations break down into pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence. Under pure comparative negligence, the court reduces the injured party’s total damages according to her or his contribution to the incident. For instance, if the accident victim qualifies for $100,000 in damages but the court finds her or him responsible for 20% of the fallout, the plaintiff only receives $80,000.

Most states subscribe to modified comparative negligence rules, which state that personal injury victims found equally or more responsible than the plaintiff for resulting harm do not qualify for damages. So, the plaintiff cannot bear over 50% of the fault to receive compensation.

Damages in Truck Collisions

Once truck stop accident victims determine which individual or entity caused them harm, they may wonder how much to seek in damages. Understanding compensation categories helps to restore injured parties to their pre-accident standing.

Medical Damages

Truck stop accident victims may incur thousands of dollars in medical bills from emergency medical services, injury rehabilitation, assistive medical equipment and hospital stays. For a full account of all sustained injuries, plaintiffs deserve to receive prompt medical attention from experienced health care professionals. Some harm does not appear immediately because of delayed injury symptoms and hormones that mask injuries. Truck accident victims must also include future medical damages for injuries and medical conditions connected to the collision that take time to heal fully.

Lost Wages

Being in a truck accident could force a person to take time off work to recover. Lost wages damages cover lost days of work, personal days and vacation time harmed parties use to protect their financial health while healing from another’s negligent actions.

Loss of Earning Capacity

Severe injuries may prevent a person from returning to work in the same capacity; victims could also lose the ability to work at all after a serious truck accident. Loss of earning capacity damages cover future missed income the injured person stands to earn. For instance, someone could become severely burned in a truck accident and sustain permanent injuries. If those injuries keep the person from carrying out her or his job duties in the future, she or he could qualify for loss of earning capacity compensation.

Pain and Suffering

Injuries and injury treatments may leave patients in persistent pain and suffering. Aside from physical suffering and chronic pain, victims could also experience psychological anguish. For example, living in a world of hurt may trigger anxious thoughts, bouts of stress and lingering depression. Truck accident victims may want to include a mental health professional as part of their medical team, so they receive an accurate mental health diagnosis and have the tools to identify mental health conditions.

Punitive Damages

Responsible parties guilty of gross carelessness and intentional harm could pay punitive damages. These damages also act as a punishment for the at-fault individual or entity and a warning for others who could engage in similar acts. Courts award punitive damages on top of actual damages, but the plaintiff must have sufficient evidence that proves the defendant acted with malicious intent. Personal injury victims only receive punitive damages if they collect actual damages.

Let Us Hear Your Case

If you sustained injuries at a truck stop, you could have a viable personal injury case. To speak with a Fielding Law attorney, call our law offices at 877-880-4090 or submit a Contact Us form.