Indiana drivers may take every precaution to drive safely around semi trucks but they could still find themselves involved in an accident. Anything from massive blind spots and braking distance to blasts of wind could trigger an accident. No matter the reason for the collision, drivers must understand how to establish negligence. That way, they protect their rights and know how much to seek in damages from the at-fault driver.
Negligence represents the legal theory that personal injury victims must prove to hold at-fault parties responsible for harm suffered. There are four elements of negligence: duty, causation, breach, and harm.
The first step in establishing negligence is proving the defendant owed the injured party a legal duty of care. Sometimes, the defendant’s and plaintiff’s relationship could show a legal duty. For instance, physicians owe their patients a duty to provide competent health care. Defendants, such as truck drivers, may owe motor vehicle drivers a duty to follow the rules of the road.
Breach of Duty
After identifying duty, the next step in establishing negligence is to prove the defendant failed to uphold her or his duty. Courts consider whether the defendant breached duty by taking (or not taking) action that a “reasonably prudent person” would in the same situation. A reasonably prudent person is a legal standard that identifies how the average person would act in specific circumstances. The legal system usually finds defendants negligent if the average person, who has the same facts the defendant had at the time, understands someone could endure harm because of their actions and would have made a different choice from the defendant.
With the element of causation, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s irresponsibility caused their harm directly. That means that even though the defendant acted negligently, the plaintiff may only recover damages by proving the negligence caused an injury. For instance, a court may not deem it fair to sue a truck driver for an unconnected accident that happened across the road just because the truck driver was distracted.
Causation also considers whether defendants can foresee whether their actions could harm others. If a truck driver’s actions harmed the plaintiff through a random series of events or an act of nature, the resulting harm could classify as unforeseeable. If so, the court may not find the truck driver responsible.
The last element of negligence is damages, which require the court to compensate the injured party through financial compensation for property repair, medical bills, and similar injuries.
Responsible Parties in Truck Accidents
Something unique about truck accidents is multiple parties could bear responsibility for the harm motor vehicle drivers suffer. Such parties include truck drivers, carriers, cargo loaders and shippers, truck manufacturers and parts makers, vendors, government agencies, and contractors.
Roughly 87 percent of truck accidents happen because of driver error. Truck drivers may bear fault for car accidents if they speed or drive while tired or distracted. Depending on the reasons for the accident, an at-fault driver may face criminal charges and conviction. Drivers should also properly inspect their rigs before hitting the road. If shifting cargo or improper maintenance contributed to the accident, the truck driver may bear a percentage of the blame.
Trucking companies bear responsibility for their drivers and trucks. Courts hold them accountable for the drivers they hire and how they train them. Trucking companies must vet employees for infractions and keep thorough training records. Carriers must not push employees to drive for more hours or miles than regulations allow. They must also adhere to safety maintenance and inspection requirements.
Cargo Loaders and Shippers
Some trucking companies ship cargo for other carriers as contractors. Individual parties in these arrangements include the cargo shipper, originator, loader, and transporter. Everyone must follow the latest federal and state laws. If anything causes an accident, each party’s records require careful examination.
Truck Manufacturers and Parts Makers
When truck parts or components fail, truck manufacturers or parts makers could bear the blame. Tires blow out, brakes fail, and coupling systems malfunction. No matter the issue, if the system or part failed because of a defect rather than a maintenance issue, the injured party could have a product liability claim. Under such circumstances, the distributor and manufacturer could become the responsible parties.
Trucking companies may outsource their workload to vendors. According to statistics in 2020, there were about 928,650 for-hire carriers. Vendors may tackle administrative tasks like handling background checks, conducting drug tests or recruiting drivers. They may also handle repairs, truck maintenance or tend to fleet operations. Third-party vendors could bear the blame for a truck accident if their negligence contributed to harm.
Government Agencies and Contractors
Shattered pavement, soft shoulders, and other roadway hazards may cause accidents. If a truck rolls over and harms a motorist, the state or local government responsible for maintaining that area of the road could bear liability for injuries suffered. Say the government hired a maintenance contractor who did a poor job. In that instance, the contractor could bear fault if the work done contributed to the accident.
Multiple Responsible Parties in Truck Accidents
Sometimes, a case investigation reveals evidence that multiple parties are at fault for a truck accident. If so, the injured party could receive maximum compensation through several claims. Responsible parties may do everything possible to pass the blame and distance themselves from the accident. If that happens, truck accident victims deserve an experienced legal representative to fight for them and their right to fair and full compensation.
Gathering Evidence To Prove Negligence
In truck accidents, injured victims bear the burden of proof. They may work with a legal representative to build a case and gather evidence. That could mean investigating the accident, examining driver logs, snapping images of the accident site, compiling witness statements, and gathering evidence of all damages suffered.
Just as accident victims seek to prove negligence, insurance and trucking companies seek to topple the victim’s case. For instance, an insurance company may try to prove the accident victim bears partial fault for what happened. The company may also do everything possible to avoid paying a fair claim amount.
Damages To Claim From Negligent Parties
Besides determining which party bears negligence for a truck accident, injured parties should consider which damages to seek. Common truck accident damages include doctor bills, medical treatment bills, future medical care, prescription medication, loss of earning capacity, lost wages, and vehicle replacement and repairs. Surviving relatives of those who died in a truck accident could have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Pain and suffering damages account for emotional and mental distress due to the accident. For example, severe injuries may make a person anxious or depressed. Injuries may also lead to a loss of enjoyment of life if truck accident victims cannot engage in activities that once brought them joy.
Contact Us Today
You deserve to navigate Indiana’s roads without fear of being in a truck accident. When the unthinkable happens, turn your case over to the dedicated and experienced legal team at Hensley Legal Group. To explore whether you may have a truck accident case, contact one of our representatives at 317-472-3333. If you prefer, fill out and submit an online form to schedule your free case review. We stand ready to make a difference in the lives of the injured and disabled.