Motor vehicle accidents and fatalities in the Unites States are a common occurrence that is seen on a daily basis. But no accident have can be more tragic or traumatic than one involving a truck whether it is a light truck or a large commercial trailer. A large commercial tractor trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds while a typical motor car may weigh 7000 pounds; hence, the image of an eighty thousand pound truck colliding into a motor car or worse a pedestrian and the unimaginable damage that can be caused.
According to the Department of Transportation about 500,000 accidents involving trucks are witnessed every year which often results in a high number of fatalities. In 2009 for example 74,000 people were injured in accidents involving trucks and 3,380 were killed. The injuries suffered by victims can range from emotional such as mental anxiety to physical injuries such as burns. The physical injuries are almost always severe due to the size of the trucks. The most common injuries suffered include spinal cord injuries, brain trauma, broken bones, and disfigurement.
The astounding figures of fatalities and injuries may leave the impression that the truck drivers are at fault however 75 per cent of all accidents are caused as a result of errors made on the part of the driver of the smaller car. As a result of this statistic, and the rules of civil law, the victim has a legal obligation to prove a greater number of probabilities the accident happened because of the fault of the truck driver before they can receive compensation.
The first step in seeking compensation is hiring legal representation and the first task of an attorney after consultation with the victim is to file a claim in court for compensation. The claim can be against the employer, the driver, and other parties that may have contributed to the accident. The other party (or parties) is then served a summons with notice of the suit and the complaints made; they then have a chance to file answer to the complaints received. The parties then exchange information about the suit and the process of investigation begins which includes checking police reports, witness statements, and background details of the parties (examine previous driving and criminal history) to determine who is responsible for the accident.
Generally, a victim can only be successful in his or her claim if the truck driver or his employer is at fault where the accident is caused by some aspect of negligence. Negligence is the term used where someone has breached their legal duty of care which resulted in damaged caused to the victim. The victim must prove the following:
- The driver had a duty of care towards him or her
- The driver breached that duty by not exercising reasonable care
- The injury caused was because of the breach of that duty and the injury caused was foreseeable.
So to prove fault one has to investigate the cause of the accident which normally includes fatigue caused from long journeys, drugs, careless driving, speeding, or not maintaining the vehicle properly. Where one can successfully establish causation, it means they have showed that the driver owed a duty to the other road users which was breached if the accident was caused by recklessness such as the use of drugs.
The cause of the accident can be a difficult and lengthy process whereby having a knowledgeable attorney representation is key. The cause of an accident is determined through a series of investigations such as police reports, drug/alcohol tests, inspections and taking statements from the parties involved regarding the accident. If successful in proving negligence the employer along with the insurance company is normally responsible to pay the compensation since the accident took place while the driver was acting within the scope of his employment.