Firm News & Events arrow Comparative Negligence in Truck Accident Cases

Paul M. D'Amore
Paul M. D'Amore

Founding Member, Trial Lawyer

Comparative Negligence in Truck Accident Cases

Accidents happen every day. Truck accidents are particularly dangerous and can result in catastrophic injuries or even death. A typical passenger vehicle is no match for a commercial truck weighing over 80,000 pounds.

Whenever a truck accident happens, one of the first questions that most people ask is: "Who is to blame?" This is a common thought for truck accident victims, mainly because fault in a crash influences the amount of compensation one receives for damages.

The subject of fault boils down to the concept of negligence. Insurance carriers and courts all over the U.S. use this principle to determine who is liable for a truck accident. There are two main types of negligence that influence fault in truck accidents — comparative and contributory negligence.

What is Negligence?

After a truck collision, your truck accident lawyer may suggest the need for further investigation to identify any form of negligence. Negligence is a term that is used to classify a road user's actions as unreasonable. When a driver's actions endanger the safety and wellbeing of other road users, their actions are considered negligent.

The majority of accidents on our roads happen because of someone's recklessness. If another person's actions fall below legally acceptable standards, they can be considered liable for damages that a victim or victims suffer in a truck accident. 

In other words, negligence is the failure of a party to exercise the appropriate level of care or the omission of some action that would be reasonable under their specific circumstances. 

To receive compensation after a truck collision, your truck accident attorney must help you — the plaintiff — establish negligence. For instance, a commercial truck driver who runs a red light or texts while driving their 18-wheeler may be considered negligent.

To prove negligence, you must establish these four elements:

  • Duty of care
  • • Breach of duty
  • • Causation
  • • Damages

What Is Gross Negligence?

Most states award punitive damages only when the plaintiff proves that the defendant acted with gross negligence. Gross negligence is considered more extreme when compared to ordinary negligence. For example, a drunk truck driver who speeds in an area with many pedestrians may be considered grossly negligent.

How is Fault Determined After a Truck Accident?

Liability after a trucking accident can span across numerous parties. Determining fault is often tricky, especially if more than two vehicles are involved in a crash. Every party in a truck accident will try to pin the blame on other involved parties.

Many states have adopted the comparative negligence approach to determine fault in auto accidents. Here, the contributions of all parties involved in a truck wreck are considered when determining fault.

Some of the evidence that a truck accident lawyer can use to convince a judge or jury that the defendant was at fault in a truck accident claim include:

  • • The police report
  • • Accident scene photos
  • • CCTV footage
  • • Toxicology reports
  • • Black box information
  • • Phone records
  • • Eyewitness statements

How Does Comparative Fault Apply?

The principle of comparative negligence in a truck accident weighs the contributions of all parties towards the occurrence of a crash. Comparative fault is usually assigned as a percentage. The actions and inactions of a truck driver and a passenger vehicle driver have to be considered when determining liability.

There are four approaches to comparative fault that help to assign blame to parties within different jurisdictions:

Pure Comparative Negligence

Under this rule, you may recover damages in a truck accident even if your fault for the crash is 99%. The pure comparative negligence principle lets you recover 1% of your damages in a commercial truck accident. For example, if you are awarded $10,000 in a truck accident lawsuit, but a judge rules that you were 15% at fault, you'll only be eligible to receive $8,500 of the compensation award.

Currently, there are 13 states that use the pure comparative negligence rule, including New York, Florida, and California.

Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule

The 50% rule is followed by 12 states, including Georgia, Colorado, and Maine. This doctrine can bar you from receiving any compensation if your fault for a truck accident is 50% or more. As a plaintiff, you need an experienced semi-truck accident lawyer to prove your fault is less than 50% for you to receive compensation for your damages.

Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule

The 51% rule is somewhat similar to the 50% rule. However, under this rule, you may not be eligible for any compensation in a truck accident claim if your fault for the crash is 51% or more. This rule prevents you from receiving any amount of compensation if your fault for a truck accident is more than that of all other involved parties.

If a court rules that the fault in your truck accident is 50/50, both you and the other party will be eligible for compensation. Twenty-one states follow the 51% rule when determining fault, including Illinois, Texas, and New Jersey.

Modified Comparative Negligence – Slight/Gross Rule

South Dakota is the only state that enforces a unique model of the principle of modified comparative negligence. In this system, fault isn't assigned as a percentage but rather in terms of "slight" or "gross" contributions. Under this approach, you may receive more compensation in a truck accident claim if your contribution to a crash is slight while that of the defendant is gross.

Gross contributions in this context are reckless actions and conscious disregard for the safety of other road users.

Have You Been Involved in a Truck Accident? Find Out if Comparative Negligence May Affect Your Case.

A truck accident is different from a regular passenger vehicle accident. Victims of truck accidents are more likely to suffer catastrophic injuries. You may sustain permanent injuries after a truck wreck.

If you or your loved one has been involved in a truck accident, you should contact a knowledgeable truck crash lawyer, who knows all about comparative negligence doctrines, to help you prove the other party's fault.

The truck accident lawyers at D'Amore Personal Injury Law can help you determine if you have a case after a truck accident. You'll discover how negligence laws may affect your case and the legal options that may be available for your claim. To get started, schedule your free case review now.

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