Who is Liable for a Truck Accident?
According to the National Safety Council, the number of injuries in large truck accidents increased by 5% in 2021. Approximately, 155,000 people are injured in truck accidents every year.
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, you likely have to pay expensive medical and rehabilitation bills. That’s also including the pain and suffering resulting from your injuries.
Determining fault in your truck accident is key to fighting for the fair compensation you deserve. In this guide, we’ll explain how fault is determined for truck accidents in Southern California. A Orange County Truck accident lawyer will investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident, gather evidence, and work to establish liability.
Is California a Fault State?
California is a fault state. This means that drivers who are at fault will be required to pay damages to the plaintiff for their injuries and associated expenses that are caused by a truck accident.
If you were injured in a truck accident to no fault of your own, the liable party may be responsible to cover damages relating to:
- Property Damage: If your vehicle or surrounding property is damaged because of a truck driver’s negligence, their insurance company will have to cover the damages.
- Medical Bills: Medical bills can pile up if you have severe or life-threatening injuries. The at-fault party will be required to repay you for your hospital bills since they caused the accident.
- Lost Wages: If you missed time from work because of a truck accident, you can be reimbursed for lost wages, either by a court verdict or settlement offer.
- Rehabilitation Costs: If you’ve suffered significant or life-altering injuries, you may need to spend extended time at a rehab facility. The at-fault party may be responsible for covering these expenses.
- Pain and Suffering: This is a vague term that explains the trauma you endure because of a truck accident. Whether you suffered a very painful injury, lifelong complication, or mental disorder (depression, paranoia, etc.), the at-fault party will have to pay reasonable damages to you.
Insurance companies and attorneys play an integral role in determining fault in truck accidents. Both will assess witness statements, police reports, medical reports, and other evidence to support their claims.
Are There Different Types of Fault?
In California, several kinds of faults can occur in a truck accident. These types include:
- Negligence: This refers to a driver failing to exercise a reasonable duty of care when driving. For example, if a driver is texting while switching lanes and hits another driver, this is considered to be negligence on their part.
- Recklessness: This is the intentional disregard for the safety of other drivers. Racing on the highway is one of the most common examples of recklessness in truck accidents.
- Intentional Misconduct: Intentional misconduct happens when a driver deliberately causes an accident. For example, if a truck driver intentionally runs a red light and collides with another vehicle, this may count as intentional misconduct.
- Strict Liability: This is a basic form of liability that is assigned to a driver whether they were negligent or not. For example, if a truck driver strikes a pedestrian, they may automatically fall under this category.
Finding out who is at fault in a truck accident isn’t a straightforward process. Sometimes, insurance companies and lawyers have to examine a wide range of factors that could have caused a truck accident.
For example, both drivers can share liability if they are both speeding or not paying attention while on the road. This is where California’s comparative fault system comes in.
This system is used to assign a degree of fault to both drivers. It’s used if both drivers contributed to an accident. For example, if a truck driver ran a red light and collided with another driver, they may receive 70% of liability.
On the other hand, if the other driver was racing down the highway, they may be assigned 30% of the liability since they could’ve prevented the accident.
How Do Insurance Companies Determine Fault?
Insurance companies are heavily invested in determining fault in a truck accident, mainly because they may be responsible for covering the damages.
With that said an insurance company will assess the facts of the accident from police reports, physical evidence, traffic laws, and witness statements. Based on this information, they will conclude who is at fault.
It’s important to mention that both insurance companies may not agree on who is at fault. When this happens, a court will be appointed to determine liability. This is usually how insurance companies deal with liability.
However, if you’ve been injured in a truck accident, you may have to deal with two different insurance companies. That includes your insurer and the other driver’s insurance company.
Here is how you can manage communications with both of them.
How to Talk to Your Insurance Company
Most drivers are required to contact their insurance company immediately after a truck accident. When you speak to your insurance company, you should be mindful of one glaring misconception.
While your insurance company represents you, their greatest interest lies in paying as little of your claim as possible. Typically, they’re not completely on your side. With that said, you should only tell your insurance company the basic facts of your accident.
You shouldn’t volunteer any additional information that can be used against you later. For example, you don’t need to go into detail about your injuries. You can simply notify them that you’re receiving medical treatment.
How to Talk to the Other Insurance Company
After exchanging information with the truck driver, their insurance company may reach out to you. If this happens, you don’t have to talk to them, especially if you don’t already have a lawyer.
You should take any statement from an insurance company with a grain of salt. If an insurance company asks you for a statement, decline immediately. If they want you to sign a release or offer a settlement, review these documents over with your attorney.
Be mindful that if you accept a settlement from an insurance company, the agreement is final. You can’t sue them for more damages if you feel entitled to more compensation.
If another insurance company reaches out, you’ll likely speak to an insurance adjuster. This person is responsible for scrutinizing insurance claims. If you reveal too much information to them, they can use it against you in court and at the settlement table.
For example, if an insurance adjuster asks how you’re feeling and you respond with “I’m feeling fine.”, this statement can be used against you. As innocent as this phrase may be, you should refrain from speaking to an insurance adjuster without a lawyer present.
If you decline to speak to an insurance company, they’ll usually leave you alone. If not, inform them that you won’t speak to them without a lawyer.
How to Prove Fault in a Truck Accident Claim
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident that you didn’t cause, you may be interested in receiving damages for your expenses and injuries. To accomplish this, you will need to prove that the other driver was at fault.
Here are some ways to prove fault in a truck accident claim:
Hire an Attorney
The first step to collecting damages for your injuries is to hire a lawyer. Insurance companies have professional lawyers on retainer to deal with legal disputes. If you take them to court alone, they’ll likely win.
If you try to negotiate a settlement with a lawyer, they’ll do their best to undermine your claim and pay nuisance value. Hiring an attorney can level the playing field against powerful insurance companies.
With a trusted lawyer by your side, you may not need to go to court. The best lawyers know when to settle and when to take the fight to court.
Seek Medical Attention
It’s not enough to get preliminary treatment after your truck accident. You should visit your doctor for follow-up treatment and follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.
This will help you build a medical report that’s indicative of the injuries you’ve sustained in a truck accident. Not only is seeking medical attention necessary for your health, but it’ll also help bolster your claim when you hire a lawyer.
Don’t Talk to the Other Insurance Company
The other driver’s insurance company has no reason to talk to you. They will have already talked with their policyholder and know the circumstances of the truck accident.
Often, insurance companies will contact you for you to self-incriminate yourself. Everything you say on a call will be recorded for later use. Therefore, if you receive a call from another insurance company, you’re within your right to hang up.
This is the most critical aspect of determining fault in a truck accident. Attorneys spend most of their time collecting and evaluating evidence that will help them in court and through settlement talks.
When you hire a lawyer, they’ll use their resources to collect evidence on your behalf. Here are the most common items of evidence you can expect:
- Photos and Videos: This evidence can show what happened leading up to and during a truck accident. Lawyers can gain video feed from traffic cameras and photos from the police department and your smartphone.
- Witness Testimony: If anyone was around to see the accident, your lawyer can speak to them and obtain their accounts of what happened.
- Police Reports: Police officers will observe the scene of the accident and interview you and surrounding witnesses. As such, police reports can be valuable evidence to support your claims.
- Medical Reports: Your doctor will assemble a medical report that explains the extent of your injuries, prescribed drugs, and levels of care. Your medical report can prove the severity of your injuries if the insurance company denies your claim.
- Expert Testimony: If an insurance company refuses your claim, your lawyer can call for an expert to confirm your claim. For example, your doctor could be called into question to verify the extent of your injuries.
The evidence available in your case will impact your lawyer’s strategy for pursuing a fair settlement for your injuries.
Observe Road and Weather Conditions
There may be a chance that the other driver wasn’t completely responsible for your injuries. Experienced lawyers will perform their due diligence and check weather reports and road conditions to see if either affected your ability to drive safely.
If a truck driver collided with your car because of road conditions, your lawyer may decide to file suit against the city, county, or state responsible for road maintenance.
It’s important to remember that these suits are significant undertakings. Your lawyer will need to prove that either of these agencies knew about their decrepit roads and did nothing about it.
Hire Bentley & More LLP for Your Truck Accident Claim
If you have been injured in a truck accident claim, you deserve to receive fair compensation as payment for your injuries and medical expenses.
The top-rated, Orange County personal injury attorneys at Bentley & More LLP can help you recover damages in the aftermath of a deadly truck accident. We have handled hundreds of successful cases since 2015 and have built a strong reputation for fighting tirelessly for our clients.