Victims of collisions with a truck have the right to seek compensation. To recover compensation, however, they must prove that the truck driver was more at fault for the collision than the victim.
In some cases, fault is easy to prove. If a truck rear-ends a car that is stopped at a red light, the injured car occupants will usually have no trouble proving that the truck driver was at fault.
In some cases, however, fault is disputed. Even when the truck driver’s fault is obvious, the apportionment of fault between the driver and the injury victim may be disputed. When disputes exist, truck accident lawyers search for evidence to establish fault.
Defining Fault in a Truck Accident
In truck accident cases, a driver is at fault if the driver’s negligence caused the accident. Negligence means carelessness.
Violating a traffic safety law, including speeding or running a red light, is almost always negligent. Not paying attention to the road (including looking at a smartphone while driving) is another common example of negligence.
To apportion fault, the truck driver’s share of responsibility for an accident is compared to the accident victim’s. If the driver was more than 50% but less than 100% at fault, the victim’s compensation is reduced in proportion to the victim’s share of fault. If the victim was 25% at fault, the victim will receive 75% of full compensation.
Police Investigation to Determine Fault in a Truck Accident Case
Drivers who are involved in traffic accidents that cause injury or property damage have a duty to contact the police. The officer who arrives at the scene will begin to gather evidence.
At a minimum, the officer should talk to each driver to compare their accounts of how the accident happened. If the drivers disagree about the circumstances of the accident, the officer may talk to other witnesses, including other occupants of the vehicles that collided.
The officer will typically draw a diagram of the accident scene. In some cases, the officer will take measurements and photographs. When a death or potentially fatal injury occurs, an officer who is trained in accident reconstruction might visit the scene.
An officer might make a judgment about fault that will inform the officer’s decision to write one or more tickets. The police do not make formal assessments of comparative fault. That is the function of a jury if lawyers cannot agree on how fault should be allocated.
Steps to Take That Will Help the Legal System Determine Fault for a Truck Accident
In addition to notifying the police about an accident, accident victims who are capable to doing so can take certain steps to preserve evidence of fault. It is important not to move vehicles until the police arrive. It is also important to preserve the victim’s vehicle so that “black box” evidence can be downloaded.
Victims should try to get the names and contact numbers of witnesses, particularly if they might leave before the police arrive. Taking pictures of the accident scene can preserve vital evidence. Even pictures from a smartphone camera can be important.
Victims should take several photos of each vehicle, concentrating on areas that were damaged by the crash. If the vehicles are still in contact with each other, photos should show where the truck is touching the victim’s vehicle. Photos of debris, gouges in the road, and road conditions can also be helpful.
Contacting a lawyer right away will allow the lawyer to investigate further while the details of the accident are still fresh. In some cases, a lawyer may want a professional investigator to take photographs and interview witnesses. Involving a truck accident attorney quickly is the key to proving fault.