The short answer is that the truck does not have to physically hit you to be liable for an accident. Generally, negligence is any action or inaction that injures another person, an in/action that a reasonable person would have either done or not. Many actions fit under that definition including tailgating and unsafe lane changes. If the trucker’s negligence forces you off the road and you strike a fixed object, he or she may still be responsible even if his truck never makes contact with your vehicle.
How do insurance companies treat run-off-the-road accidents?
Whether the truck makes contact with your vehicle is not necessarily the final determinant if you’re trying to hold the trucker (or employer) liable for your accident. Fault for the accident is the issue in question. The trucker’s fault, in this case, would be tied to his negligent actions that ran you off the road.
If a trucker drifted into your lane because he was getting drowsy behind the wheel – perhaps because he did not follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hours-of-service rules – that behavior is considered negligence. If that negligence forces you off the road to avoid the collision, then the trucker is liable for the accident if you strike a fixed object or simply wreck on the side of the road.
How is fault established in a traffic accident?
After many Trenton accidents, a police report is filed detailing the accident and possibly assigning blame to one party. What makes police reports important is not so much the fault that the reports assign to parties but the details the document.
Police reports might include:
- evidence of accident;
- location of accident;
- type of accident;
- names, addresses; and insurance policies of parties involved;
- witness accounts; and
- vehicle information.
All of these details can be instrumental in determining liability during an insurance claim or lawsuit. Other evidence, such as that in the trucking company’s possession, may also prove vital to establishing liability. Your attorney may send a spoliation letter to preserve the evidence.
This evidence should establish that the trucker acted negligently and is at fault for the accident. But even if the plaintiff is partially to blame, he or she may still recover damages. New Jersey is a modified comparative fault state which means that a plaintiff must hold less than 51 percent of fault for an accident in order to recover damages.
What legal options do accident victims have?
Victims who suffer serious injuries can file personal injury lawsuits against any party that contributed to the accident, and in the unfortunate event of a death, surviving family members can file wrongful death claims.
For both personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death claims the plaintiffs can seek damages for:
- loss of wages;
- medical expenses;
- property damage;
- pain and suffering; and
- emotional distress.
The law firm of Cordisco & Saile LLC is prepared to handle the complexity of trucking accidents for victims in Trenton. Contact our offices today at 215-642-2335 or use our contact form to set up a consultation.