Vehicle accidents can be extremely complicated, as well as frightening and dangerous. Often in the case of a vehicular accident, one party is not entirely to blame, and it can be difficult to determine the level of fault that lies with each party. In these cases, it may eventually be up to the courts to determine where blame should lie.
Determining who is at fault and to what degree is extremely important to the outcome of your personal injury case. States have different laws about liability, and it is vital to be aware of how contributory negligence is viewed in your state before pursuing your personal injury claim to avoid wasting your time on a lawsuit that will not recover any compensation.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, contact Zinda Law Group at (888) 653-1650 for a free case consultation.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE PARTIALLY AT FAULT?
In any accident, harm is caused from one party to the other. The most straightforward example is a car that collides with another car, causing damage to the vehicle and/or injury to the passengers. However, it is not always the case that the car that collided with the damaged car is automatically fully at fault for the accident—for example, the damaged car could have ignored a red light and pulled into the path of the oncoming vehicle, and the fault might lay with the damaged car instead.
Most vehicle accidents are not as straightforward as one car hitting the other, or one car pulling out in front of the other. They might involve mistakes on both sides. In the previous example, the damaged car might have run a red light and pulled directly in front of the colliding car, but the colliding car could have been speeding, which is what caused him to be unable to stop before hitting the damaged car.
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HOW TO DETERMINE FAULT FOR A TRUCK ACCIDENT
Determining fault in a truck accident can be difficult because short of the accident being caught on film from all possible angles, it is not possible to determine with 100 percent certainty what each individual was doing at the moment of the accident. However, it is possible to uncover information to assist with a personal injury claim.
Most truck accidents are negligence cases. A negligence case involves a defendant with a duty of care to the plaintiff who was harmed. It must be demonstrated in court that the defendant breached his duty of care to the plaintiff, and that this breach caused the harm that the plaintiff suffered.
The duty of care that all truck drivers owe to other people on the road is to drive as safely as reasonably possible. Truck drivers do not always do this, which can cause accidents.
The most difficult part of a negligence claim to prove can sometimes be that the harm the plaintiff suffered was caused by the action of the plaintiff. It is not just enough to prove that the defendant was acting negligently, because even if he was acting negligently his negligence may not have been the cause of the accident.
For example, if a truck driver is not paying attention to the road conditions, which could be negligence, but his brakes go out, then while he might have been negligent in not paying attention to the road, his negligent action did not lead to the collision and thus he isn’t liable.
Of course, in many accidents with multiple causes, it isn’t always possible to tell what was and was not a cause with certainty, and there is a lot of room for argument. Your lawyer will be able to evaluate the circumstances of your case and decide how best to present your theory of the case in a persuasive way.
In some cases, negligence means looking at the actions of an individual and evaluating them by the standard of what a reasonable person would do in that same situation. In other truck accident cases, the action taken by a driver is automatically negligent just by virtue of doing something that violated a statute—if they have violated a statute, no further evaluation of their action is needed. This is called per se negligence.
Traffic violations such as driving on the wrong side of the road, not obeying traffic lights and road signs, and speeding all could constitute negligence per se in the case of a car accident because the harm that occurs in a car accident is the harm that these regulations are in place to prevent.
Evidence is crucial in pursuing a personal injury claim for reasons listed above—in order to prevail, the plaintiff has to demonstrate that the negligent action of the defendant caused his injury. Police reports, documentation at the scene, reconstruction of the accident sites, and expert testimony can all constitute evidence.
If there were witnesses to your truck accident, they could be a valuable resource for your personal injury claim. It is difficult to perfectly recall an event that is jarring and serious, like an auto accident, but if there are witnesses they may have a clearer memory of what happened.
AM I STILL ENTITLED TO COMPENSATION IF I’M PARTIALLY AT FAULT?
Your ability to recover damages if you were partially at fault for a truck accident will depend on the laws in the state you live in. It will also be impacted by the degree to which you are found to be at fault; this is usually expressed as a percentage.
The percentage of fault is not calculated by any one formula or test. In a settlement situation, fault calculations will likely not enter into the discussion. If fault is calculated in a case, it will probably be by a judge or a jury.
FAULT STATES VS. NO-FAULT RULE
Some states have fault-based insurance laws, meaning that if an individual has been injured and wants to recover, they must seek recovery from the individual at-fault in the accident. Other states have no-fault insurance rules, in which an individual who has been injured must seek recovery from their own insurance company and not the insurer of the at-fault party.
There are some exceptions to no-fault insurance laws, usually concerning serious injuries requiring a high amount of compensation.
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MODIFIED JOINT AND SEVERAL LIABILITY
Some states use a system of modified joint and several liability to regulate recovery in personal injury cases where multiple parties are at fault. In many states, if a party is found to be over 50 percent responsible for the damages sought, that party will be obligated to pay the entire amount, not just the 51 percent.
But what about an example where Defendant A is responsible for 30 percent of the injury, Defendant B is responsible for 40 percent of the injury, and the plaintiff is found to be responsible for the other 30 percent? The plaintiff will of course not recover for the 30 percent that he is responsible for, and A and B can pay their percentages of the damages sought.
What if A is insolvent, or moves their assets around so that they cannot comply with the order to pay? Under this system, the plaintiff can seek both A’s 30 percent and B’s 40 percent from B if A is unable to pay, or vice versa. B would then have to pay 70 percent, and would have the option to then bring an action against A for the 30 percent B had to pay that he was not responsible for.
GET HELP FROM AN EXPERIENCED TRUCK ACCIDENT LAWYER
The personal injury legal system is extremely complicated, and the complexity only increases when there are multiple parties at fault. It’s extremely important to have an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side to help you navigate these complexities.
At Zinda Law Group, our truck accident attorneys have secured compensation for numerous clients, and our No-Win, No-Fee Guarantee means that you don’t pay anything unless you receive a favorable verdict.