Determining who was responsible for what happened is the cornerstone of any personal injury and property damage claim after a trucking accident. The party to blame for causing the accident is typically liable for the resulting damages and losses. In the case of a truck accident, a liable party may be the truck driver, trucking company, or other individuals or entities.
But what if you – as the driver of a passenger car in the crash – think you were partly to blame for the trucking accident? Could you recover compensation in the case of shared liability? This is a tricky question to answer as there are many factors to consider, including the laws in your state. Always consult a truck accident lawyer near you about your rights and options.
Comparative negligence is a legal principle that determines the degree of fault of each party involved in an accident. If the victim is partially at fault, their compensation gets reduced accordingly.
Note: Nevada is a comparative negligence state where injured victims are entitled to compensation if they are partly to blame as long as they are 50 percent or less responsible for their injuries (NRS 41.141).
Common Misconceptions About Partial Fault
After being a victim of a trucking accident where you may be partially at fault, it is easy to fall prey to various misconceptions surrounding fault and compensation. This can cause great stress and uncertainty and result in lost opportunities when obtaining compensation.
Misconception #1: “I cannot recover damages if I'm partly to blame.”
Even if you were partly responsible for the accident, you might still recover damages. This is because many states follow a system of comparative negligence, which means that a person can recover damages from the other party involved in the accident, even if they were partly responsible for the accident. However, the amount of damages a person can recover may be reduced by the percentage of fault they are responsible for.
Misconception #2: “The insurance company determined I was at fault, so it must be true.”
Insurance companies have vested interests in minimizing their losses. Often, they will try to settle the case as quickly as possible and offer low settlements to avoid potential legal battles. Just because an insurance company determines fault does not mean it is the final word. If you believe the insurance company’s assessment was incorrect, you should contact an experienced truck accident attorney who can challenge their findings.
Misconception #3: “Police reports are always accurate at determining fault.”
While police reports can be essential evidence in a trucking accident case, they are not always 100 percent accurate in determining fault. In most cases, police officers who arrive at the scene do not witness the accident itself and may not have all the necessary information to make an informed determination about the fault. That said, police officers may also be biased or make mistakes in their reports.
Misconception #4: “There’s no way an attorney can help me if I was at fault for a trucking accident.”
If you were partly at fault for a trucking accident, it does not mean that you cannot benefit from retaining the services of an attorney. Your truck accident lawyer can explain your legal options, negotiate with insurance companies, and maximize your compensation. They can also investigate the accident and gather evidence to challenge the other party’s findings of your fault or reduce your percentage of fault.
Potentially Liable Parties in Truck Accidents
If you or a loved one have been in a trucking accident, the question, “Who is responsible for the accident?” may arise soon after you get to safety and receive the medical attention you need. The answer to your question is not always as cut-and-dry as you might expect, as multiple parties can play a role in causing the crash. In most cases, at least one of the following parties is responsible for causing the accident involving a large truck:
- The truck driver. The truck driver is the first and most obvious party who might be at fault in a trucking accident. However, to establish the truck driver’s fault, you must prove that the trucker engaged in negligent behavior when operating the truck, such as making improper lane changes, not paying attention to the road (distracted driving), or drowsy driving (truck driver fatigue is associated with 13 percent of all crashes involving large trucks);
- The car driver. Contrary to popular belief, accidents involving passenger cars and trucks are not always the truck driver's fault. Statistically speaking, car drivers are principally at fault in up to 75 percent of all car-truck accidents involving fatalities.
- The trucking company. As employers, trucking companies are responsible for ensuring their drivers are properly trained, licensed, and supervised. If the company failed to follow proper safety procedures or knowingly allowed an unsafe driver on the road, they can be liable for any damages caused by their driver’s negligence. In some cases, the trucking company can be solely responsible if the driver acted within the scope of their employment during the accident under the doctrine of “respondeat superior.”
- Other drivers. While not as common, other drivers on the road can also be liable if they caused or contributed to an accident between a truck and another vehicle. For example, if a car driver suddenly cuts off the truck driver, causing them to swerve and hit another vehicle in an adjacent lane, the injured parties can hold that car driver responsible.
- The cargo shipper or loader. The individual or company responsible for shipping or loading cargo can also be liable if the accident was due to an unsecured or improperly loaded cargo. For example, if a truck carrying heavy equipment suddenly loses its load, causing an accident, the cargo shipper or loader can be responsible for the resulting damages.
- Truck or parts manufacturer. Some trucking accidents happen because of defects in the truck or its parts. The manufacturer can be liable for the accident if an investigation shows that a defect caused or contributed to the crash.
- Truck maintenance company or vehicle inspectors. If the company responsible for vehicle maintenance or vehicle inspectors fail to properly carry out their duties and inspect or maintain the vehicle in good condition, which becomes the cause of the accident, they can be partly or fully to blame for the accident.
In most cases, it is practically impossible to say who is responsible for a trucking accident without investigating all the factors behind the collision. A skilled attorney can investigate every aspect of the crash to identify liable parties and handle all other details of preparing and pursuing your legal claim.
How Can a Truck Accident Lawyer Help if You Think You Were Partly to Blame for the Trucking Accident?
With their legal knowledge and experience, an attorney can navigate the complexities of a trucking accident case and fight for the compensation you deserve, even if you have reason to believe that your negligence may have contributed to the accident. Once you hire an attorney, they can support you in the following ways:
- Help gather evidence to strengthen your claim for compensation. A knowledgeable truck accident lawyer can collect and preserve all available evidence supporting your claim, such as photos, witness statements, black box data, truck driver’s logbook, and medical records. They can also hire experts to reconstruct the accident and determine who was really at fault.
- Challenge the other party’s claim that you were partly to blame. If the other party is trying to shift the blame onto you, your attorney can work to discredit their claims and prove that you were not at fault or only partially at fault.
- Determine a fair percentage of fault. If you were partly to blame for the accident, your attorney will help determine a fair percentage of fault that should be assigned to you. This will ensure that you are not unfairly blamed for the entirety of the accident, as is common when a person does not have legal representation.
- Identify all potentially liable parties. Trucking accidents often involve multiple liable parties, such as the driver, the trucking company, the manufacturer, and the maintenance provider. An experienced attorney can investigate the accident to identify all liable parties and hold them accountable for their role in the accident.
- Calculate your recoverable damages. One study found that the estimated cost of an accident involving large trucks averages tens of thousands of dollars. An attorney can calculate the damages you are entitled to, such as medical expenses and lost income. They can also estimate the costs of future medical treatment that you may need and the long-term effects of your injuries on various areas of your life.
- Negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. Insurance companies often try to lowball you with a settlement offer to protect their bottom line. Your attorney will work diligently to protect your best interests at every step of the negotiation process and ensure you receive adequate compensation for your injuries and damages.
- Go to court if the insurance company fails to provide you with the compensation you need. If negotiations with the insurance company do not result in a fair settlement, your attorney can prepare your case for court proceedings and file a lawsuit against the at-fault party(s) and/or the insurance company. Your attorney will stand by your side, navigate the legal system, and fight for your rights in front of the judge or jury.
The decision to hire a personal injury lawyer after a trucking accident should be an easy one because of the many benefits of legal representation. An attorney’s experience and knowledge can be invaluable when seeking financial compensation for all your injuries and all the damages associated with your case. With an attorney, you may stand a better chance of receiving the compensation you deserve under the law.