Semi-Truck Accident: The Role of Negligence
Trucking accident data shows that in 2021, more than 4,700 Americans died in large truck crashes, a 17% increase from 2020. With fatalities rising, truckers and ordinary drivers need to know how to stay safe on the road.
Still, even by following the best tips for passenger vehicle drivers, fatal accidents will occur from time to time. We’ll discuss the role of negligence in a semi-truck accident and the steps to take after a collision.
Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents
There are many causes of semi-truck accidents that drivers should be aware of. One of the most concerning is truck driver fatigue. Big rig and box truck drivers are especially susceptible to fatigue because they drive long hours. Despite federal limits on how much one can drive daily, fatigue is still an issue.
Additionally, because trucking companies pay by the mile, it encourages drivers to speed to accomplish more miles in less time. Federal data shows that speeding alone causes about a quarter of all truck accidents yearly.
Not to mention, many drivers don’t stop to eat and drink; they do so while driving, which increases distraction. Distracted driving is also a major cause of truck accidents and fatal crashes in general.
One last common cause of trucking accidents is when a truck “jackknifes.” Jackknifing is when the trailer of a large truck pushes the front towing vehicle to either one side or all the way around. For instance, if the truck travels eastbound, jackknifing could suddenly cause the front car to turn around and face west. This can severely harm the truck driver and any other drivers in the vicinity.
What Negligence Means in a Semi-Truck Accident
Florida Statute Chapter 768 defines negligence as when someone fails to exercise the level of reasonable care the law expects of them to minimize the risk of harm to others. The rule applies to any semi-accident.
The Four Elements of Negligence
The first element of negligence is Duty of Care. Duty of Care is when one has a legal obligation to do (or not do) something based on the relationship between the parties. For example, when on the road, all drivers must protect others from harm.
The second element is Breach of Duty. This is when the at-fault party doesn’t uphold their Duty of Care. Roadway Breaches of Duty can include:
- Distracted driving
- Drunk driving
- Failing to give the right of way
Since it can be challenging to prove a Breach of Duty, this is where evidence collection comes into play. The more evidence you have, the more favorable an outcome you’ll get in your case.
The third element is the Causation of Damages. You not only need to prove the driver broke their Duty of Care, but you must also show a clear link between their actions and the accident. Just because a truck driver is speeding doesn’t mean he is negligent or at fault for a crash. However, if the speed caused an accident, that could be grounds for negligence.
Finally, the fourth element is Damages, or how the accident harmed you. Typical damages include:
- Lost income
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage
- Wrongful death
In addition to discussing the four elements of negligence, the law also states the damages one can seek for various motor vehicle accidents.
Determining Fault for the Accident
Determining fault for trucking accidents is different than for other auto accidents. This includes accidents involving the following:
- Dump trucks
- Tanker trucks
- Other commercial trucks
While the semi-truck driver is often at fault, the trucking company, manufacturing company, or other driver may also be at fault for the crash. Sometimes, multiple parties are at fault.
An experienced semi-truck accident lawyer can help you determine fault in the accident.
Gathering Evidence for Your Negligence Claim
As mentioned, you need to collect evidence from the semi-truck crash to prove the second element of negligence, Breach of Duty.
Examples of evidence include:
- Dashcam footage from the truck
- Police accident report
- Testimony from an expert crash reconstruction specialist
- The truck’s onboard recorder or black box
- Traffic camera footage
- Witness statements
In addition to evidence from the accident, you should also document and keep all medical records stating your injuries and required treatments. This way, you can seek compensation for all your ailments caused by the crash.
For instance, if you suffered a serious injury, like a brain injury, or there was a death of a loved one from the accident, you likely want to seek maximum damages to cover all medical bills and related expenses.
Ultimately, the more evidence you can access, the better outcome you’ll likely receive from the court.
Pursuing a Semi-Truck Accident Settlement
If you want to pursue a settlement from the at-fault party’s insurance company, you still need to establish negligence.
You can accept a settlement from the insurance company anytime between the immediate aftermath of the truck collision and when the jury delivers a verdict in the case. However, if you accept a settlement, you waive your rights to bring a lawsuit.
If you decide to settle instead of going to trial, you should never negotiate with insurers yourself, as they will try to award you the least amount of compensation. A lawyer will speak on your behalf to ensure you receive the best settlement possible.
Why You Need a Semi-Truck Accident Lawyer
Having a personal injury attorney handle your truck accident case is vital. Without a lawyer, you’ll likely receive less compensation than you deserve. You’ll also have to go through the settlement or trial process alone, which can be daunting. A trucking company typically has access to legal representation, leaving you underrepresented if you don’t have a semi-truck accident lawyer.
Hiring a lawyer is the best way to minimize your involvement in legal proceedings while getting fair and just compensation.
Get Help Proving Negligence Today
If you’re involved in a semi-truck accident, you’ll need to prove negligence to receive compensation. And with the threshold high for proving negligence, you’ll want help with the process.
So whether you were in a truck or car accident, our law firm can help. Get a free consultation today from the truck accident attorneys at Burnett Law, P.A. Our personal injury lawyers will give you a case evaluation, assess how to best prove negligence, and fight for you to get the compensation you deserve.