What if I am partly to blame for the trucking accident?

June 30, 2024 | Jarrett Blakeley
What if I am partly to blame for the trucking accident?

If you've been in a trucking accident, you may be worried that you were partly at fault. Perhaps the truck driver or their insurance company has accused you of being to blame, and these parties can be quite intimidating.

This can be a very stressful and confusing situation. You may be questioning yourself and wondering if you have any legal recourse for your losses. 

Never assume you were partly to blame without allowing a truck accident lawyer to evaluate what happened. In most situations, accusations of blame are an attempt by the other party to avoid liability. Unfortunately, without legal representation, these tactics commonly work on victims.

Always seek a free consultation with a truck accident attorney. These meetings cost nothing, so you have nothing to lose by exploring liability for your crash and your legal options.

First, Seek Medical Treatment

After any vehicle accident, your priority should be your health and well-being. Even if you feel okay in the immediate aftermath, getting checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible is crucial.

Some serious injuries, like concussions and internal bleeding, may not show symptoms right away. Seeing a doctor will ensure any injuries are identified and treated. It will also create official medical records that link your injuries to the accident.

Be careful what you say to the insurance companies or other parties after an accident. Anything you say, even if well-intentioned, can potentially be twisted and used against you later to claim you admitted fault. Avoid making statements about the accident, apologizing, or speculating about what happened. Simply stick to the basic facts, like exchanging insurance and contact information.

Contact a Truck Accident Attorney

Contact a Truck Accident Attorney

One of the smartest things you can do after a trucking accident is to contact an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Trucking accident cases are often very complex, with multiple potentially liable parties and aggressive insurance companies. An attorney can handle your case's legal aspects and fight to protect your rights.

Look for an attorney who handles trucking accidents and injury law. They will have in-depth knowledge of the nuances of these cases and the most effective strategies to pursue maximum compensation on your behalf. Most reputable truck accident lawyers offer free initial consultations, so you can get trusted advice with no financial risk.

Liability Isn't Always Clear Cut

Determining fault in trucking accidents is rarely simple or straightforward. These wrecks often happen very quickly and chaotically, and each party usually has their own version of events. The trucking company and its insurers may be quick to point the finger at the other driver, but it's important to remember that you should never take their word as automatic truth.

Just because you are being blamed doesn't necessarily mean you were at fault. Even if you make a minor mistake or commit some traffic infraction, that doesn't automatically let the truck driver or trucking company off the hook. Accidents usually happen due to a combination of factors. An experienced attorney can investigate to determine the full picture of liability.

Common Causes of Trucking Accidents

To understand liability in trucking accidents, it helps to know some of the most frequent causes of these crashes. They include:

  • Truck driver fatigue due to long shifts and demanding schedules
  • Distracted driving, including texting or eating while driving
  • Speeding, tailgating, and other aggressive driving maneuvers
  • Impaired driving due to drugs, alcohol, or certain medications
  • Inadequate truck maintenance leading to equipment failure
  • Improperly loaded or overloaded cargo
  • Failure to follow traffic laws or adjust driving for weather conditions

Many of these causes come down to negligence by the truck driver or trucking company. For example, maybe the trucker was sleep-deprived because their employer required them to work an illegal shift. Or perhaps worn brakes caused the crash because the company skipped maintenance to save money. A good truck accident attorney will know how to uncover evidence of negligence.

There are a few key legal doctrines that often come into play in trucking accident cases:

Negligence

Negligence

Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care in a way that causes harm to someone else. All drivers have a duty to drive carefully, and trucking companies have a duty to hire qualified drivers, maintain their equipment, and follow industry regulations. Breaching these duties can constitute negligence.

Vicarious Liability

Trucking companies can often be vicariously liable for their drivers' negligent actions. So, even if the trucker's mistake caused the crash, their employer may share legal responsibility.

Negligent Hiring, Training, and Supervision

Trucking companies are responsible for properly vetting their drivers and ensuring they are qualified and trained to handle a big rig safely. Failure to do so can be negligent hiring. And if they fail to appropriately oversee and manage drivers, leading to crashes, that may constitute negligent supervision.

Wrongful Accusations of Blame

As mentioned earlier, trucking companies and their insurers often try to shift blame onto the other driver after an accident. This is a tactic to try to limit their financial liability. They may make accusations that you did something to cause the truck crash, even if it's untrue or a gross exaggeration.

Some examples of wrongful accusations truck accident victims sometimes face include:

  • Claiming you made an improper lane change or turn
  • Accusing you of driving in the truck's blind spots
  • Saying you stopped short or slammed on your brakes
  • Alleging you were speeding or driving recklessly
  • Claiming you were distracted by your phone or something else

These accusations can be infuriating, especially when you know they are untrue or unfair. It may feel like it's your word against the trucker's. But don't get discouraged or bullied into accepting blame that isn't warranted.

A truck accident attorney can fight back against false accusations. An attorney can gather evidence to support your side of the story and punch holes in the other side's claims. This may include:

  • Witness statements that corroborate your version of events
  • Video footage from traffic cameras or the truck's dashcam
  • The truck's "black box" data recorder
  • Accident reconstruction by experts
  • Phone records disproving distracted driving claims
  • Trucking company records showing negligent practices
  • Past safety violations by the driver or carrier

With a strong advocate, you can challenge wrongful accusations and set the record straight. You can demonstrate that the trucker or trucking company was actually at fault, even if they are trying to blame you.

Countering the Trucking Company's Tactics

When trucking companies and insurers are trying to pin blame on accident victims, they may use several strategies to further their narrative. Some common tactics to watch out for include:

Pushy Insurance Adjusters

Dealing with insurance companies after an accident can be extremely stressful. The trucking company's insurance adjuster may pressure you to give a recorded statement, accept a lowball settlement, or sign away your rights.

Remember, the insurance adjuster works for the trucking company, not for you. Their goal is to limit payouts and resolve cases quickly and cheaply. No matter how friendly they may seem, they do not have your best interests in mind.

That's why it's so important to have your own advocate. Your truck accident attorney can handle all interactions with the insurance company, so you don't have to. An attorney can firmly insist that the insurer work through them. They can review any documents or offers to ensure you aren't being taken advantage of.

Shifting Versions of Events

Trucking companies know what's at stake after a serious accident. They may shift their story over time to avoid liability in response to evidence. For example, video footage surfaces showing the truck driver swerving. The company may suddenly start emphasizing your actions rather than denying that the swerving occurred.

These shifting stories can be extremely frustrating. But they can also work to your advantage. Changing narratives tend to undermine the trucking company's credibility. Your lawyer can use this to punch holes in their defenses and show that their accusations against you are suspect.

"Blame the Empty Chair" Defense

Another tactic trucking companies sometimes use is what's known as the "empty chair" defense. Rather than accepting responsibility, they may point the finger at some absent third party. For example, they may claim a vehicle defect or poor road maintenance caused the accident.

These claims may or may not have merit. It is important not to let them distract from the trucking company's fault. An experienced attorney will know how to keep the focus on the key liable parties and persuasively counter empty chair defenses.

Low Settlement Offers

Finally, trucking companies often make lowball settlement offers to accident victims, hoping they will simply go away for a small payout. This is especially likely if they are alleging you were partly at fault. They may claim your role in the accident means you are entitled to little or nothing.

Don't fall for it. Your claim can be worth far more. An attorney can accurately assess all your damages, including future medical needs and non-monetary losses like pain and suffering. They can handle settlement negotiations and drive a hard bargain. Your lawyer can take them to court if the trucking company doesn't make a fair offer.

The Value of Hiring a Truck Accident Attorney

As you can see, truck accident cases are rarely simple. You need an experienced professional to stand up to the trucking company and its tactics. An attorney can help in all the following key ways:

Proving Liability

One of the most important things your lawyer will do is thoroughly investigate the accident to determine fault. They will gather extensive evidence, poke holes in the trucking company's defenses, and craft the strongest case possible to show the trucker or carrier was to blame.

Identifying All Damages

Trucking accident injuries are often severe, with steep costs. However, many victims fail to account for the full extent of the damages they face. An attorney will identify all compensable losses, including:

  • Past and future medical bills
  • Lost income and job impacts
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

Accurately valuing these damages from the start will put you in the best position to pursue the maximum compensation you deserve. Your lawyer can also line up expert witnesses to testify to your injuries and damages.

Negotiating with the Insurance Company

Insurance claim form

Trying to handle trucking accident insurance claims on your own rarely ends well. The insurance giants have armies of adjusters and attorneys fighting to pay as little as possible. You need your own legal professional to advocate fiercely for your interests.

Your truck accident lawyer will handle all the back-and-forth negotiations with the insurance company. They know the tricks and tactics insurers use, and they won't be fooled or bullied. They can push back against any unfounded allegations that you were at fault.

Filing a Lawsuit if Needed

Ideally, your attorney can negotiate a fair out-of-court settlement with the insurance company. But if the insurer refuses to make an acceptable offer, your lawyer can file a truck accident lawsuit and take your case to trial. The threat of litigation alone can often spur insurers to increase their offers.

If your case does end up in court, you will be glad you have a seasoned litigator in your corner. Trucking accident trials can be lengthy and complicated. However, a skilled attorney can present a persuasive case to the judge and jury to secure the compensation you deserve.

Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today

Being blamed for a trucking accident that wasn't your fault is an awful situation. But don't despair. You have rights worth fighting for. And you don't have to fight alone.

If you're questioning what to do after a serious truck wreck, the most important step is to speak with an experienced truck accident attorney right away. A good lawyer can stand up to the trucking company, challenge any unwarranted blame, and advocate tirelessly for the compensation you deserve.

The sooner you have a personal injury attorney on your side, the better protected your legal rights and interests will be. Look for a reputable truck accident law firm that offers free consultations. That way, you can get the legal advice you need without upfront costs. Contact a truck accident attorney today to discuss your case and start your path to justice.

Jarrett Blakeley

Firm founder Jarrett Blakeley fights to get maximum compensation for all of Blakeley Law Firm’s clients. He has been practicing law since 2006 and takes great pride in representing the rights of injured individuals against the insurance companies and the law firms that represent them. He has successfully represented thousands of clients and recovered tens of millions of dollars on their behalf. Mr. Blakeley strives to give all of his clients personal attention and maximum effort and seeks to instill a firm culture that prioritizes customer service and compassion for the injured over all else. Fighting for the injured is Jarrett Blakeley’s greatest passion and he looks forward to fighting for the injured for the rest of his career.

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