Suffering from a truck accident may yield catastrophic results, particularly for victims who sustain severe injuries. On top of this, property damage and other financial constraints arising from the truck accident are prevalent. As an aggrieved party, you are entitled to receiving compensation for the harm done. However, convincing the judge of your rights in claiming monetary compensation is an uphill task that begins with determining the liable parties.
Although your case may seem quite straightforward, working with a personal injury attorney is advisable for the best chances of achieving a positive outcome. Normally, the defendant will be prepared to contradict and undermine your justifications. Their tactics may come as a surprise to throw you off, giving them the upper hand in influencing the judge’s decision.
You can prevent this outcome by working with a personal injury attorney, as they are prepared to handle the matter accordingly. Furthermore, a well-experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to source relevant evidence and witnesses. Overall, your case is stronger when working with the attorney than when representing yourself.
How to Determine Liability in a Truck Accident
Upon deciding on legal avenues to use when chasing compensation for a truck accident, your attorney will guide you through the technical approaches. Next, they provide a brief to help you create reasonable expectations on the outcome. On top of this, the attorney working on your case may require your input and participation to help you access reliable details. Upon consultation, the initial meeting paves the way for additional sessions for further discussions. Your attorney will then inform you of when to provide the extra details for the trial preparation.
Most truck accidents are attributed to negligence in the respondent's actions. As a result, your personal injury attorney relies on the law of Torts to build a case and prove that the respondent is liable. Owing to technicalities and requirements to fulfill before the judge renders a verdict, the legal team conducts in-depth research. When all issues are adequately addressed and backed by evidence, you will be ready to file and eventually appear in court.
Elements of Negligence that You Must Prove to Determine Liability
While in court, the judge is keen to depict evidence of the defendant's negligence through your personal injury attorney's presentation. Under the established rules governing torts in negligence, the judge expects your case to bring out the following elements:
The Defendant Had a Duty of Care
Normally, a legal directive to act in a particular way forms a basis for suing a person. Typically, you present a matter in court because the respondent contravenes laws. Subsequently, any claims in negligence must first show that the defendant is rightly involved in the case because they were under a duty of care.
Specific to traffic regulations, truck drivers and other motorists should operate their vehicles as the California Vehicle Code directs. This means that each truck driver should comply with pre-qualification orders and road regulations to ensure the safety of all other road users.
For example, commercial drivers must not exceed a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.04%. Exceeding this BAC limit would endanger them and other motorists by increasing the possibility of an accident. Thus, if you were involved in an accident where a truck driver was found guilty of a DUI, your claim is substantial.
The imposition of a duty of care may also arise from subsidiary influences apart from the written law. For example, company policies regulating truck drivers may direct them to work for a specific duration to avoid fatigue. Thus, when a registered truck driver exceeds the working hour limits, they will have contravened the duty of care owed to other road users.
Similarly, company policies may direct truck drivers to conduct a routine check on the truck before making a trip. This is often applied as a safety check to minimize the risk of breakdowns or mechanical malfunctions resulting in collisions. If your attorney can prove that the defendant was aware of his/her duty of care, the first element is established.
Sometimes, the truck driver may be the victim in the accident owing to another motorist's recklessness. In this case, traffic regulation from the Vehicle Code will be the main evidential source to prove that a duty of care extends to regular drivers.
A Breach of Duty Occurred
Once your personal injury attorney concludes the presentation on establishing a duty of care, they should then show how the defendant breached it. As the trial continues, you should note that the defendant's side will have a chance to respond to your claims. Therefore, your attorney should be ready to support the presented claims to maintain the judge's attention.
When proving that a breach occurred, the focus should be on the specific actions that the respondent engaged in. On top of this, your lawyer should show that each action contravened a specific law or policy that imposes a duty of care. In truck accident cases, lawyers can distinguish routine activities from actions with detrimental consequences. Therefore, they will raise these issues and provide proof in court to show that the breach occurred.
Common elements amounting to a breach of duty among road users include:
Your case may arise from a driver's recklessness while on the road, resulting in a truck accident. The occurrence is common in open highways based on the light traffic and straight lanes with few intersections. Reckless driving may involve numerous activities. For example, exceeding the speed limit is prevalent among road users depending on speed monitors and traffic officers.
If the defendant deliberately exceeded the set speed limit for trucks on a highway, your attorney can provide proof of the breach. In doing so, they should also link the driver's actions to the collision and derive a plausible course of events.
Texting or calling while driving is another common distraction that results in multiple truck accidents per year. Using a phone demands cognitive and physical engagement from a driver, making them prone to instantaneous disasters. Furthermore, visual concentration on the road is limited, causing an increased risk of collision. If your attorney can prove that the defendant's distraction led to the truck accident, your case will have valid grounds to proceed.
Driving Under the Influence
Section 23152 of the California Vehicle Code prohibits all motorists from driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. So naturally, using these substances reduces a driver's cognitive and physical ability to drive safely. Unfortunately, however, DUI violations are among the most common truck accident causes, among others.
Failure to Observe Traffic Signs
Traffic signs play a significant role in controlling vehicle movements and preventing accidents. They are essential at intersections based on the multiple lane changes that occur. Unfortunately, while most traffic signs are functional, motorists may ignore them out of ignorance or recklessness.
When a truck driver runs a red light, they may cause a T-bone accident at intersections involving unsuspecting motorists. Alternatively, ignoring a traffic sign may lead to a truck/pedestrian accident based on unforeseen traffic movement. You should note that these collisions are often fatal or result in severe outcomes for the victims. Seeking compensation by determining liability should therefore be your priority.
Operating a Vehicle Under Extreme Fatigue
As discussed, truck drivers should operate the vehicles within the stipulated time frame. Apart from internal company policies, legal guidelines also provide schedules that truck drivers should follow when completing a shift. They are set to prevent extreme fatigue while on the road, leading to a possible accident.
When a truck driver exceeds their time-shift behind the wheel, it may amount to a breach of duty of care. Your personal injury attorney must prove that the breach was intentional and that the defendant knew they would inevitably endanger other road users by driving when exhausted. This may include examination and cross-examination to derive the information from the defendant. In doing so, your attorney will have attempted to prove the defendant's liability.
Overall, proving that a breach of duty occurred relies on the availability of sufficient proof. Your personal injury attorney must source relevant and credible evidential sources. With sufficient proof, he/she will have a better chance of persuading the judge to find the defendant liable on a balance of probabilities.
The Defendant's Actions Directly Caused the Accident
Any claimant filing a negligent claim must also establish the defendant's causation before successfully proving liability. This important element links the imposition of duty and its breach to the consequences, helping you identify the liable party easily. Usually, proving causation is easier after establishing that the defendant breached a duty of care. Again, this is because your lawyer will only have to show the direct link between the defendant's actions and their consequences.
However, some cases may involve multiple causation elements, making it difficult to place liability on one party. For example, a traffic accident occurred after a reckless driver speeded into the intersection. At the same time, the truck experienced brake failure and ended up hitting your vehicle. In this case, the outcome is prompted by two causative factors, reckless driving, and poor vehicle maintenance.
When presenting information during trial, your attorney should assess whether each causation element is related to a breach. Usually, the judge may accept more than one liable party in a personal injury claim, provided all four negligence factors are proved. Despite this, determining liability for more than one party may be more complicated than sticking to one defendant. Therefore, your attorney will gauge the validity of evidence to determine the best parties involved in this claim.
You Suffered Damages From the Truck Accident
Finally, determining liability through negligence requires you to demonstrate the effects you faced after the accident. This satisfies the requirement needed to justify your claim, compared to incidents where no serious harm occurred. Proving that you suffered damages is relatively straightforward, as long as you present truthful claims in court.
Your personal injury attorney will be instrumental in guiding you through the types of documents to present. The weight of each evidential source will depend on the type of claim presented. Further, the judge will need to verify that each source is original and fits within a reasonable timeframe from the accident.
The most important documents to preserve for court presentation include medical reports and receipts. Typically, the effects of a truck accident are quite significant on the victim, meaning that you will require immediate medical attention. Once in the hospital, your doctor determines the best course of treatment to help you survive and manage the injuries. Thus, you will undergo multiple tests, procedures, and imaging. Cumulatively, your medical expenses may be difficult to clear, particularly if your medical insurance provider only covers part of it.
Presenting the medical receipts, prescription forms, and reports in court is crucial in proving your damages. Often, the judge requests to see original documents for better credibility. However, your attorney can present certified copies of the original document. Once the judge receives all the relevant documents, he/she will then assess the total losses incurred and compare the amount to your monetary claim.
If all details point directly to the truck accident, and the amount you claim is within a reasonable financial bracket, you have better chances of a positive outcome. Nonetheless, you should remember that the defendant's attorney will try to challenge the validity or relevance of your evidential statements. He/she may also downplay the severity of your injuries to reduce your chances of receiving monetary compensation. However, with a well-experienced attorney, you will bypass these challenges and present your position in the best way possible.
Apart from documentary evidence, witnesses’ statements can also help explain the effects you faced since the accident. For example, your caregiver may provide details regarding your newly adopted life that involves dependency on third parties. Your attorney can then contract this with your life previously, where you were independent and healthy enough to move around without using wheelchairs or crutches.
Despite the established rules of negligence, arguing out cases in court can be a long and hectic process. As mentioned, the defendant's attorney will have prepared a counter-argument to question the credibility of your claims. Consequently, the judge will rarely issue a verdict within one or two sittings. This calls for patience on the claimant's side as you await the outcome because court processes have various delays.
Possible Liable Parties in a Truck Accident
While most truck accidents involve the driver operating the vehicle, additional parties may be held liable. Each case presents different circumstances leading up to the accident, so learning of the potentially liable parties is important. This breaks the common misconception that only drivers who were in the truck should be liable at all times. Additional liable parties may include:
Truck Driver Employers
Sometimes, truck accidents occur because of mismanagement by the driving companies. For example, pushing a truck driver to work beyond the recommended hours may drain him/her physically. Subsequently, the motorist becomes prone to dozing off or losing concentration. Additionally, some truck company employers are known to recruit inexperienced drivers who lack basic skills in handling large vehicles. They do this to access cheap labor at the expense of upholding road safety.
Cargo Loading Personnel
Not all truck accidents involve collisions between two or more vehicles. Sometimes, cargo trucks may be wrongly loaded, making the bulky shipments fall on the roads and cause accidents. In this case, liability should fall on the cargo loaders, who must ensure each shipment is securely held in the truck.
Truck Part Manufacturers
If a truck accident occurred after mechanical malfunctions, the defendant in your case could be the truck manufacturer and maintenance team. They have a duty to ensure that the truck runs efficiently without risks. Subsequently, they should be liable for any negligent actions that cause a truck accident.
Tips to Increase Your Chances of Success in Determining Liability
While nobody can predict being involved in a truck accident, you can perform several actions immediately after the accident. They will help you increase your chances of determining fault and sourcing reliable evidence for your case. They include:
- Call your personal injury lawyer immediately after the accident
- Seek medical attention to remedy your injuries
- Take photographs of the accident scene if possible
- Avoid arguing or apologizing to the other party before your attorney arrives
- Note the other party's contact details for future communication