After a bad truck accident in Florida, one of your first questions is probably, “Who is at fault?” Determining fault and liability for a truck crash is one of the most important steps in pursuing financial recovery.
Although Florida is a no-fault insurance state, if your crash caused serious or permanent injuries, or more than $10,000 in damages, you will need to determine who caused the accident. A truck accident attorney can help you name defendants in a personal injury claim after a thorough investigation.
How to Prove Fault for a Truck Accident
Proving fault means showing the defendant more likely than not caused the incident in question. It is the claimant’s burden to prove the defendant’s fault, not the defendant’s burden to prove innocence.
It’s important to retain a truck accident attorney to help you with the burden of proof. Proving fault can come down to a number of factors, pieces of evidence, and common or state laws. Common law recognizes four main types of fault:
Florida law’s definition of negligence is a “failure to exercise the degree of reasonable care one can expect in order to minimize the risk of harm to others.” Negligence can be any action or failure to act a reasonable person would not have done in similar circumstances, resulting in injury to others. Negligence is the basis of most personal injury claims.
A party might be guilty of recklessness if it exhibited a “wanton disregard for the safety of others,” resulting in an accident. For example, a truck driver having five alcoholic drinks and then getting behind the wheel is an example of reckless driving. A party guilty of recklessness may face criminal charges as well as civil penalties and liability for a crash.
- INTENTIONAL MISCONDUCT.
Intentional misconduct or lawlessness can come in the form of criminal acts such as vehicular manslaughter, or in any situation where the defendant knew or should have known there was a high probability of injury or damage, yet intentionally committed the act anyway. Intentional torts typically result in criminal convictions and punitive damages to the claimant.
- STRICT LIABILITY.
Strict liability holds the defendant liable for damages, regardless of whether he or she was negligent. These laws only come into play in specific personal injury claims, such as those involving product liability. If a truck accident occurred due to a defective vehicle part, for example, the manufacturer would be strictly liable, with or without proof of negligence.
One of the most importance pieces of advice you’ll hear from a truck accident attorney is to preserve the evidence found in the truck’s black box. The black box, or electronic logging device, captures critical information from the seconds leading up to the crash, such as the driver’s speed and braking.
Data in the black box can often help a claimant prove fault and liability.
Who Is Liable for Your Truck Accident?
Who is at fault for causing your crash, and who is liable or legally responsible for the crash, are not always the same entity. Truck accident claims can be complex, and often involve more than one defendant.
Understanding truck accident liability comes down to knowing how the law works in Florida.
A truck accident attorney is always a good ally to have during the process of assigning fault and proving liability. Liability for a truck crash can come down to one or more of the following parties:
- TRUCK DRIVER
Driver error is a main cause of truck accidents in Florida. Truck driver distraction, drowsiness, incompetence, recklessness, carelessness, and intoxication can all cause serious collisions. You may be able to sue the individual driver as well as the trucking company, if the driver is at fault for the crash.
- TRUCKING COMPANY
The company could be legally responsible if it was negligent in some way, such as failing to train its drivers, or pressuring them to meet deadlines through unsafe means, such as speeding or driving past hours of service regulations. In most cases, employers are also vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. While most truckers are technically independent contractors, truck companies are still liable for their actions.
- OWNER OF TRUCK OR TRAILER
Truck companies often do not own the tractor-trailers their drivers use. The driver might own the vehicle, or the company might lease a fleet from a separate company. The registered owner of the truck could face liability if he or she was negligent in maintaining, inspecting, or repairing the vehicle, resulting in an accident.
- A VEHICLE PART MANUFACTURER
If the big rig or your vehicle experienced part malfunction due to a defective or dangerous product, you could have a claim against the manufacturer or distributor for the crash. A manufacturer could also share fault if a defective car part, such as a seatbelt or airbag, worsened your injuries.
- A THIRD PARTY
Another driver on the road, a roadway maintenance team, the company that performs truck maintenance, the cargo loaders, or other parties could have caused or contributed to your crash. You could have several defendants in your case who share fault. A lawyer can identify each party to increase your odds of receiving maximum compensation.
The easiest way to assign fault and liability is to hire an experienced truck accident attorney. A lawyer will preserve important evidence, gather accident information, reconstruct how the crash happened, interview eyewitnesses, and take other actions to identify the defendant(s) and prove fault in front of a judge or jury.
Letting a lawyer handle the legwork of your case allows you to focus on your own well-being instead of legal matters.
To learn more about truck accidents, read our A Comprehensive Guide for Truck Accident Victims.