Driving next to a big rig truck makes many apprehensive, as colliding with one can cause devastating results. This happened to a 37-year-old Florida man in 2014, when a tractor-trailer crashed into him and caused a broken right hip and knee. The defendant driver was working at the time of the collision, and the wreck occurred as the trucker pulled out of a private driveway and crashed into the victim. His case recently went to trial.
The trial lasted two weeks, and the victim testified that he was still experiencing pain and expected to require $500,000 in future surgical costs. Further, liability was hotly contested. Both sides vigorously argued that the other was responsible for the accident. Ultimately, the jury assessed 70% fault against the trucker and 30% against the victim. Based on comparative fault rules, the jury’s award of $3 million was reduced to $2.1 million.
This case highlighted certain issues that can arise in truck accident cases:
- Comparative fault – each state has its own rules regarding comparative fault, also known as comparative negligence. In most states, fault can be assessed against each vehicle involved in a collision, based on the facts. In Tennessee, for example, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving the defendant’s negligence by a preponderance of the evidence, and if the plaintiff is deemed more at fault, the plaintiff may recover nothing. If the defendant is more at fault but the plaintiff is still found to be a portion at fault, the plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced accordingly. Many big trucking companies dispute liability, especially when the injuries are severe and stakes are high. To prove liability, it is important to ensure critical evidence is preserved, including black box data, truck maintenance records, and driver logs.
- Damages – damages must also be proven before a jury can award them. Common elements of compensation include medical bills, lost wages, car repairs, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress. Future losses can apply if the victim suffers catastrophic injuries, like broken bones, paralysis, brain damage, or worse. A victim may require future medical treatment including surgery, physical therapy, and other rehabilitative courses of action. To establish future medicals, expert testimony is normally required. It may be necessary to call on the victim’s treating physician to testify that such treatment is reasonable and necessary.
- Vicarious liability –also known as respondeat superior, this covers employer liability when an employee acts negligently while on the clock. Under this theory, the mere existence an employee/employer relationship is not enough. Instead, the employee must have been acting within the course and scope of employment and acting for the employer’s benefit. For instance, if a delivery truck driver was in the process of dropping off a package to a customer while traveling on an authorized route, vicarious liability will likely apply. On the other hand, if the wreck occurred after the driver had taken a detour to run a personal errand, it likely will not.
Call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz if you have been injured in an automobile accident at the hands of a negligent or careless driver. We represent injured auto and truck wreck victims in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kentucky, among other areas of the South. Our attorneys are ready to take your call and evaluate your situation. In a trucking accident case, multiple parties may have contributed to the accident in one way or another, including the truck driver, trucking company, the party responsible for truck maintenance, and more. Our firm investigates all potential theories of recovery. That’s AUTO-Matic. To schedule a free consultation with NST, contact us online or call 800-529-4004.