Determining Fault in a Trucking Accident
If you’ve been injured in a trucking accident in Arkansas, your life may never be the same.
Trucking accidents are serious and complex – and they’re often life-changing. Trucking accident victims often face a long road to recovery, and many are left with permanent disabilities. But, the law is on your side. Negligent truckers, trucking companies and manufacturers can – and should – be held liable for your injuries and for the damages they caused.
However, determining liability in a truck accident case is not as straightforward as it might first seem. Unlike a simple traffic accident, more players are involved including the driver, the owner of the truck, the entity that leased the truck from the owner, as well as many others.
Sadly, due to the sheer size and weight discrepancy between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles, these accidents are often fatal. When an 80,000-pound commercial big rig collides with a 3,000-pound passenger vehicle, the results can be deadly. Commercial accident victims and their families need an experienced and compassionate trucking accident lawyer on their side from the very start. Your lawyer can protect your rights throughout the legal process, no matter how serious the accident and injuries may be.
Who is At Fault in a Truck and Car Accident?
Driving a fully loaded big rig is a complicated occupation and one that requires precision and skill. Driver’s must be fully licensed and trained properly in order to drive these large commercial vehicles safely. When they fail to do so, deadly accidents can occur. Statistically, truck drivers are to blame for many of the trucking accidents that occur on the road. However, there can also be multiple parties to blame after a crash, including:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The truck maintenance company
- The truck manufacturer
- The shipping or loading company
- The passenger vehicle driver
State and federal laws regulate truck accidents. In addition to each individual state’s department of transportation, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration determine and enforce trucking laws and regulations.
Several federal regulations exist to aid in determining liability. Any company that owns a trucking permit is responsible for all accidents involving a truck that has its name displayed on the vehicle. Prior to this regulation, trucking companies would attempt to avoid liability by pinning it on the driver or other parties.
Additional federal and state laws mandate proper rest for the driver, maximum weight permissions, quality control of trucks and safely transporting hazardous waste. If these laws are broken, it can prove negligence, therefore determining liability.
In Arkansas, truck drivers are required to follow specific rules and regulations. This includes following the federal rules and regulations outlined by the FMCSA. If they break these rules, they will typically be found liable for the crash. These rules include, but are not limited to:
- No driving under the influence of alcohol
- No driving under the influence of drugs – including prescription or OTC meds
- Following all sleep requirements
- Following all necessary rest-break requirements
- Not driving over the allowed driving time
- Keeping detailed and accurate log books
- Having valid commercial driver’s license
- No driving distracted or using handheld devices
- Obeying all posted signs and rules of the road
What if I Was Partially At Fault for the Accident?
If a truck driver fails to follow specific Arkansas and federal rules and regulations, they may be responsible for the accident. However, there are times when both the truck driver and the passenger vehicle driver are both considered “at fault.” For example; the truck driver was going 15 mph over the posted speed limit on the freeway when they sideswiped a car in the next lane. The passenger car driver, however, was texting and driving at the time of the crash. In this scenario, both drivers would bear some responsibility for the accident.
When you bear some of the responsibility for the trucking accident, you may be held liable for your “percentage” of fault. This is known as comparative negligence. In Arkansas, an injured accident victim will be awarded damages minus the percentage they’re deemed to be at fault. For example: in the previous example, suppose the texting driver was found to be 20% responsible for the crash. Damages of $10,000 were awarded to the injured passenger vehicle driver. However, because they were found to be 20% responsible for the accident, they would only receive $8,000 in total.
Do I Bring a Suit Against the Driver or the Trucking Company?
To win a truck accident case, you need to prove that the driver, truck company or others were at fault and are responsible for your injuries. To prove fault, you’ll need to prove one of the entities involved broke the law, causing the accident and showing negligence – for example, that the truck driver ran a red light, or that the truck company hired an unqualified driver.
To make things even more complicated, trucking companies often do not own the trucks they use and hire drivers as independent contractors. In the past, this was one way that trucking companies would try to avoid liability in accidents, causing all parties involved to point fingers at one another.
If the trucking company is negligent, i.e they failed to inspect their vehicle or properly maintain their vehicles, then they can be held liable for the accident and the injuries. If they violated FMCSA rules and regulations or encouraged their drivers to break them, they can also be found liable. In general, trucking companies have deeper pockets than truck drivers themselves. They often have large insurance policies protecting themselves from lawsuits and liability. Establishing the trucking company as a possible defendant can be beneficial to your case and to obtaining the money you need to recover.
However, going up against a trucking company in court isn’t easy and they often fight these cases vigorously. Insurance companies typically have a considerable amount of resources available to them and they often use these resources to fight lawsuits and injury claims.
Truck drivers, on the other hand, don’t have large insurance policies. While the truck driver may be to blame for the crash, they may not be fully responsible for 100% of the accident. Your attorney will need to investigate all angles of your case to determine who is ultimately to blame for your accident and your injuries. A thorough investigation will help establish the best course of legal action.
We’re There When You Need Us
Trucking accidents are often catastrophic and complex. From the moment you are injured, insurance companies will begin pressuring you to sign a quick and easy settlement. Why? Because they don’t want you to fully realize the extent of your injuries. By signing a settlement quickly, they’re often able to save hundreds of thousands of dollars. Never sign anything without first speaking to an experienced Arkansas trucking accident attorney. From the moment you are injured, your lawyer can help protect your rights to compensation and ensure that you are not taken advantage of during this difficult time.
We’ll Help You Weather the Storm
With seven offices in Little Rock, Springdale, Conway, Bryant, Hot Springs, Jacksonville, and Memphis—our Arkansas and Tennessee trucking accident lawyers are easily accessible from the moment you are injured. Contact Rainwater, Holt & Sexton Injury Lawyers today. Fill out a free contact request form, which only takes a minute, or simply dial (800) 767-4815 and tell us your story.