The question of Arkansas truck accident liability is one of the primary reasons that truck accident injury claims are so much more complicated than those involving passenger vehicles. The number of potential parties that could be responsible for the wreck, the laws that apply specifically to truck drivers and trucking companies, and the evidence needed to prove negligence while avoiding undue liability placed on your own shoulders are more than most people can handle after a wreck with a big truck. The injuries, property damage, and emotional suffering experienced after an accident are enough to come to terms without adding the stress of navigating a legal claim on your own.
At The Niblock Law Firm, we work hard to not only be legal allies to truck accident victims in Arkansas but to arm our neighbors with knowledge about truck accident injury claims. Read on to learn more about the factors that affect truck accident liability, and schedule a free consultation for legal advice and guidance. Our lawyers work on contingency, so we never charge an upfront fee to take your case.
How Is Liability Determined in a Truck Accident Injury Claim?
On the most basic level, determining liability in a truck accident injury claim involves proving negligence on the part of those responsible for the collision. In order to prove negligence, you and your lawyer must establish the following:
- Duty of Care—This is the legal obligation that every individual, including truck drivers and others on the road, has to exercise reasonable care and caution to avoid causing harm to others. In a truck accident case, establishing duty of care means demonstrating that the responsible party had a duty to act in a way that would prevent harm to others on the road.
- Breach—Breach refers to the failure of the responsible party to meet the standard of care expected under the circumstances. In the context of your truck accident claim, it involves showing that the responsible party’s actions or omissions fell short of what a reasonably prudent person or truck driver would have done, thereby violating their duty of care. This breach could be as simple as speeding or as reckless as driving under the influence.
- Causation—Causation is the crucial link between the breach of duty and the resulting harm or injury. To prove causation in a truck accident case, it must be established that the breach of duty directly contributed to the accident and your injuries. In other words, it demonstrates that the negligence of the responsible party caused the harm suffered.
Once negligence has been successfully demonstrated, all that remains is showing the losses you incurred because of the accident. Those losses can then be attributed to the fault of the negligent party, and you can be paid out by their insurance company.
Unfortunately, this is very rarely a simple, three-step process. Our attorneys do our own investigation into your claim to make sure we see all of the underlying factors that could have contributed to your accident. Below are examples of evidence we look into to help us understand who was negligent in a truck accident and how their negligence contributed to our client’s injuries:
- Police reports
- Expert testimony
- Witness statements
- Pictures from the scene of the accident
- Training the trucking company requires for its drivers
- Background checks the trucking company conducts before hiring drivers
- Black box data, i.e., the onboard device in nearly every large truck that records data such as speed, drive time, brake usage, and more
Depending on the circumstances of your unique situation, there may be more avenues of evidence to explore. Having an experienced truck accident lawyer comb through the details of your case and hunt down the right documents can make a world of difference when proving liability.
Laws Specific to Truck Drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) are a collection of standards that apply to anyone in the United States who operates a commercial motor vehicle. Routine inspections by law enforcement ensure that these are adhered to, but there are still situations in which a truck driver could be in violation of the regulations. The FMCSR addresses a variety of different rules related to tractor-trailers, with the following being just a few that could have an impact on your claim for compensation:
- Licensing—The FMCSR sets requirements for the commercial driver’s license (CDL) that truck drivers must possess, including specific endorsements for certain types of cargo or vehicles.
- Hours of Service (HOS) Restrictions—These rules dictate the amount of time a truck driver can spend behind the wheel before taking a required break or rest period. HOS regulations help prevent fatigue-related accidents.
- Size and Weight Limits—The FMCSR sets limits on the maximum size and weight of commercial vehicles, ensuring compliance with road safety standards and preventing excessive strain on infrastructure.
- Drug and Alcohol Testing—Truck drivers are subject to regular drug and alcohol testing to promote safe driving practices and maintain a drug-free work environment.
- Maintenance Requirements—The FMCSR mandates regular inspections and maintenance of commercial vehicles to ensure they are in proper working condition, reducing the risk of mechanical failures that can lead to accidents.
Violation of any of these regulations could indicate particularly reckless action on behalf of the trucker or the trucking company and could lead to a substantial increase in the value of a truck accident settlement.
Parties That Could Be Held Liable for a Truck Accident
The process of proving liability after a collision with a big truck is further complicated by the possible contribution of multiple different parties, such as:
- The Truck Driver: Negligence by the truck driver can include actions such as speeding, distracted driving, driving while fatigued, or driving under the influence. Any failure to adhere to traffic laws or safety regulations can make the driver liable for the accident.
- The Trucking Company: If the trucking company is aware of safety concerns and doesn’t take corrective actions, they may be held accountable for accidents caused by their negligence. This includes not only the hiring and management of drivers, but also the upkeep of their vehicles.
- Mechanics: Mechanics responsible for inspecting and maintaining the truck may be liable if they negligently perform repairs or fail to identify and address mechanical issues that later lead to an accident.
- The Company That Loaded or Secured Cargo: If the cargo is not loaded or secured properly, it can shift during transit, leading to accidents. The company responsible for loading and securing the cargo could be held liable for negligence in securing the load.
- Manufacturers: If a defect in the truck or its components contributed to the accident, the manufacturer of those parts could be held liable for product liability, especially if they were aware of the defect or failed to issue a recall.
- The Company That Owns the Truck: The company that owns the cab and/or trailer may be a separate entity from the one employing the driver. In cases where different entities own and operate the truck and trailer, both may share liability. The owner of the equipment could be held liable if they failed to properly maintain it and this led to mechanical failures or unsafe conditions.
Without the assistance of an attorney who is knowledgeable about truck accidents, you could miss out on some or all of the compensation you’re owed for your injuries. It is crucial that any and every party who contributed to your injuries is held responsible.
Can I Still Recover Compensation If I’m Partially Responsible?
If you’re partially responsible for an Arkansas truck accident, you should be aware of the modified comparative negligence rule that applies to all personal injury claims in this state: an injured person can only recover compensation if they hold less than half of the blame for their accident. If it is proven that you share equal responsibility or your fault is greater than that of the truck driver, you will not receive any payment for your accident-related expenses. If you do hold some of the blame but not enough to be barred from compensation altogether, your settlement will be reduced by the percentage of liability you hold.
So for example, a settlement worth $50,000 for an injured person who is found to be 10% responsible for the accident will be reduced by 10% for a total of $45,000.
If there is even a chance that you may be partially responsible, you need solid legal representation. The insurance company working for the truck driver’s employer will likely do anything in its power to use your share of the fault to its advantage. Likely, the insurance company will try to exacerbate the role you played in the accident and avoid paying out the full value of your damages.
A Truck Accident Lawyer in Arkansas Can Help Prove Liability
Our legal team is well-versed in the intricacies of Arkansas truck accident liability and can specifically help with the following factors that have been discussed in this article:
- Investigation and Gathering Evidence: Proving negligence often requires a meticulous investigation. Our lawyers dig deep to uncover all relevant evidence and scrutinize critical data. This thorough approach gives you confidence that all factors contributing to the accident are considered.
- Understanding Arkansas Laws and FMCSR: Arkansas has its own specific laws and regulations governing truck accidents, but it’s also subject to federal standards like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). Our attorneys are well-versed in these laws and regulations, always being sure to accurately assess whether any violations occurred. Violations of these regulations can significantly impact the value of a truck accident settlement, and we work diligently to identify them.
- Identifying Liable Parties: Truck accidents often involve multiple potentially liable parties. Our attorneys are skilled at identifying and holding all responsible parties accountable, whether it’s the truck driver, the trucking company, mechanics, cargo-loading companies, or manufacturers. We ensure that every party contributing to your injuries is held responsible for their negligence.
Our legal team will advocate for your rights, working to secure the maximum compensation possible, even if you bear partial responsibility.
At The Niblock Law Firm, we’re dedicated to helping truck accident victims in Arkansas navigate the legal process and secure the compensation they deserve. You don’t pay us unless we win your case, so schedule a free consultation today to discuss your truck accident claim and let us help you protect your rights.