How the Law Defines Negligence

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by Tyler Hall, Esq.

The Elements of Negligence in a Truck Accident Case

Each year, roughly 130,000 Americans are injured in truck accidents. These injuries are typically sustained by those driving or riding in passenger vehicles as they are much smaller than commercial vehicles.

What Should You Do If You’re Involved in a Truck Accident?

If you are involved in a truck accident, the first thing that you should do is call for help. The 911 dispatcher will send both the police and EMS to the scene. It’s critical that you and the other people involved in the accident be checked out by emergency medical professionals before anything else happens because it may be several hours before symptoms of a concussion, internal bleeding or other injuries will become apparent.

If you don’t consent to medical treatment right away, the defendant in your case may try to claim that your injuries weren’t caused by the crash itself. However, by seeking treatment right away, you can start a paper trail linking the two.

Finally, it may be a good idea to discuss your situation with a trucking accident lawyer. An attorney may be able to answer questions that you might have about whether or not a law suit would be appropriate or what your options are. Many accident cases are resolved through a negotiated settlement, and in some cases, a settlement comes after a trial date is set.

Did Any Party Have a Duty of Care Toward You?

To prove that the defendant acted in a negligent manner, you’ll first need to show that this party had a duty of care toward others at the time the accident occurred. As a general rule, everyone has a duty to act responsibly when out in public.

For instance, a truck driver would have a responsibility to drive at a speed that is safe for current road conditions. That person would also have a responsibility to drive a vehicle that is properly maintained and to operate it free from the influences of drugs, alcohol or fatigue.

If a driver did take a truck in for required service, any person responsible for maintaining the vehicle would have a duty of care to do so properly. Anyone who is responsible for the production or sale of any products used to maintain the truck would also need to do so in a responsible manner. Additionally, the parties who loaded the truck and secured the cargo are responsible for following doing so within the bounds of federal and state guidelines. If the cargo became loose in transport and caused the accident, they could be liable for breaching their duty of care.

Did Any Party Breach Their Duty of Care?

In addition to showing that the defendant had a duty of care to protect you, it must also be shown that this duty of care was breached. For instance, a truck driver who was under the influence of alcohol at the time of an accident likely breached that person’s duty. The same might be true of a mechanic who improperly installed a part or a retailer that sold a product that was defective.

It’s worth noting that a manufacturer, retailer or individual salesperson might be held liable for damages even if they weren’t aware of their error. However, if a part was recalled, it generally falls on the owner or operator of the truck to comply with the recall as quickly as possible.

Otherwise, that party may be responsible for an accident caused by a defective part. You may be able to use maintenance records, statements made by the driver or other evidence to show that a duty of care was breached in your case.

Was the Accident the Cause of Your Injuries?

The next step in proving that negligence occurred is to show that your injuries resulted from an accident that was caused by the defendant. This element is generally proven by presenting medical records obtained after it took place. These records may include medical bills incurred after you went to the hospital or notes written by the physician who examined you after the crash took place.

It may also be a good idea to keep an injury diary in the days and weeks following a truck crash. Ideally, the diary will serve as a record of how the accident impacted your life. For example, if you experienced back pain that made it difficult to sleep, you could include that in your journal.

Introducing a detailed record into evidence during settlement talks or at trial may make it easier to convince a mediator or judge that you should receive a financial settlement from the defendant. You may also want to consider adding statements from friends, family members or others who have seen you struggle to sleep, go back to work or otherwise live your life in the aftermath of the wreck.

Did You Incur Any Losses Because of Another Party’s Irresponsible Behavior?

If you didn’t incur any losses as the result of the defendant’s actions, the defendant cannot be found to have engaged in negligent behavior. This is true even if that person took actions that might have been reckless or otherwise irresponsible.

There are many ways to prove that you were negatively impacted from a financial standpoint. In most collisions between large trucks and passenger vehicles, the passenger vehicle is severely damaged. Therefore, it’s likely that you would have needed to pay to repair or replace your car.

An estimate or invoice from a repair shop may be used to show that you lost money as a result of the defendant’s actions. If items inside of the car were lost or damaged in a wreck, the cost of replacing or repairing them could also constitute a financial loss.

Medical bills are among the most common types of expenses following an accident involving a commercial vehicle. The cost of an ambulance ride to the hospital, diagnostic tests or surgery would likely qualify as a financial loss. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep copies of any invoices that you receive either after being discharged or in the days and weeks after this occurs.

What If You’re Partially Liable for the Crash?

There is a chance that you will be found partially responsible for an accident involving your car and a commercial vehicle. This may be true if you were driving too fast for road conditions at the time of the accident or failed to stop at a red light in the moments before the collision occurred.

If you are found to be partially liable for the crash, you will receive less from the defendant. For instance, if you are 10% liable for your injuries, you will receive 90% of any financial award given to you after a settlement or after a trial. Your trucking accident lawyer may be able to provide more details about how your actions may impact the outcome of a case.

At RAM Law, we are available today to help with your New Jersey truck accident case. Feel free to dial (732) 394-1549 to get in touch with a representative from the New Brunswick or Somerville offices. You can also email us using the secure online contact form.

Contact Our Office

To schedule a confidential consultation, contact us online or call our offices, in New Brunswick at (732) 247-3600, in Somerville at (908) 448-2560, or in Freehold at (732) 828-2234.

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