Truck Accident Liability:
Who Can Be at Fault?
Nov. 30, 2020
In 2019, semi-trucks were involved in 179,509 crashes. Because of their size and weight, semi-truck accidents can be some of the most severe accidents on the road. Nearly 5,000 people were killed in trucking-related crashes in 2019 and thousands more injured. Lives are lost and others are changed forever when someone is negligent while operating a 40-ton vehicle.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash involving a semi-truck, you may be eligible to pursue compensation that can cover your medical expenses and any other damages. At our firm, Marker & Crannell Attorneys at Law, our attorneys provide reliable legal services to clients in Naperville, Illinois, and the surrounding communities. Our top priority is to do everything that we can to help you get the compensation you deserve.
Illinois Is a Fault State
Illinois is considered a fault state for insurance purposes, meaning the person deemed at fault for the crash is liable for damages. There are three options for filing a claim to recover compensation and an injured person can pursue some or all of them. You can file:
A claim against your own insurance policy for medical payment benefits;
A claim against the liability insurance coverage of all negligent parties; or,
A civil suit against all negligent parties.
Illinois is also a comparative negligence state, which means damage awards are based on the percentage of fault assigned to each party. If a plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault, they will be unable to sue anyone else for damages. If a plaintiff is found to be less than 50% at fault, damages are awarded based on the percentage of fault assigned. For example, if you are found to be 10% at fault for an accident and the other driver is found to be 90% at fault, you would be eligible to receive 90% of the total damages.
Contributory negligence (comparative fault) calculations are used, and often misused, by insurance companies as settlement leverage during settlement negotiations and can play a role in the settlement value of a case. Ultimately, when entering a verdict after a trial, a jury or a judge is responsible for determining who is at fault and how much. So if a jury awards a plaintiff $100,000.00 but finds that she is 25% at fault for her own injuries, that award is reduced to $75,000.00.
In a Truck Accident
Liability or “fault” for an 18-wheeler accident can lie with more than one person or entity. You can sue any party whose negligence contributed to the crash, including:
The truck driver who failed to inspect the semi-truck properly, logged excessive hours on the road and was fatigued, or simply failed to pay attention.
The driver's employer, the trucking company, or "motor carrier," which failed to adequately train or supervise the driver, placed profit over safety, or put a driver with a poor safety record back on the road.
The manufacturer of the semi-truck or trailer if any failed or faulty parts contributed to the accident. Examples include any defective brakes or a compromised coupling mechanism.
Maintenance personnel who failed to inspect, repair, and maintain the vehicle.
Any persons who improperly loaded cargo that led to shifting or falling cargo that contributed to the crash.
Other Factors in Determining Liability
There are other factors considered when determining liability for a crash, including the potential for negligence or comparative fault on the part of the driver of any passenger vehicles involved, as well as road and weather conditions at the time of the crash. It is possible that a thorough investigation and aggressive discovery may result in allegations that one or more of the defendants were not just negligent, but that they were reckless which could subject them to punitive damages.
What Steps Should I Take Next?
If you’ve been involved in an accident, it’s important to remain calm and take the following actions:
Call the police
Seek medical treatment when first responders arrive
Never admit fault to anyone at the scene of the accident, don't apologize
Exchange information with any other drivers involved
Record the name and contact information of any witnesses involved
Take as many photos as you can of the scene of the accident, any vehicles involved, witnesses and their vehicles, the roadway, any cameras nearby, and any debris in the roadway.
After the Crash
Don’t post any photos or other information about the crash on social media
If anyone representing any potentially liable party attempts to contact you, be it an insurance adjuster or an attorney, do not speak to them without an attorney present.
Retain an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you pursue a personal injury claim.
If you have a loved one who was incapacitated or killed in a trucking crash, speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Preservation of evidence is critical to establishing liability, and a qualified attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to build a strong case.
Your Personal Injury
If you’ve been injured in a crash involving a semi-truck or other commercial vehicle, you don’t have to pursue an injury claim on your own. You need an experienced personal injury attorney on your side to tackle the complicated task of investigating the circumstances of the crash and proving liability. This might require a crash reconstruction specialist, interviews with any witnesses, detailed vehicle inspections, and a thorough investigation of any potentially liable parties involved.
The federal government requires the trucking industry to comply with very specific and rigorous safety standards. You will need an attorney who knows these regulations and how to determine if those standards were breached.
Trucking companies typically carry high limits on their liability insurance policies, which means there can be a lot of money at stake. It also means insurance companies will have significant legal resources on their side as well. This is why it is so important for you to have reliable legal representation on your side to negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf.
Above all, you need someone with extensive legal expertise and experience fighting for you to make sure all liable parties involved are held accountable. Marker & Crannell provides experienced, aggressive legal representation for victims of trucking accidents and their families in Naperville, Illinois, and the surrounding communities of Bolingbrook, Aurora, Romeoville, Joliet, Plainfield, Lisle, Wheaton, and Woodridge.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a trucking accident, don’t wait. Put our experience to work for you today. Consultations are free, and you pay us nothing unless you recover a settlement or judgment. Call our office today.