Comparative Fault in Fatal Truck Accidents: Understanding Its Role in Compensation Claims

Many truckers and trucking companies faithfully adhere to strict safety standards. Unfortunately, however, not all of these individuals and companies are careful all the time. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nearly 5,000 people were killed in United States truck accidents in 2021. The majority of these deaths were occupants of passenger vehicles who were hit by a commercial truck. In addition to fatalities, more than 150,000 people were also injured, many of them seriously.

Perhaps the most critical legal principle in a truck accident is the concept of negligence. Under the law, the negligence standard holds individuals accountable for the actions of a reasonable person under the same or similar circumstances. For example, if a truck driver was speeding on wet roads and caused a crash, their negligence in that case could lead to liability.

The laws surrounding negligence and how it is applied can be complicated. Making sure that the proper amount of fault is allocated to the responsible parties is very important and could determine how much compensation is received by injured victims. Following a truck accident, you should reach out to a national truck crash attorney who can guide you through your case and the laws that apply to your situation. Here at Burg Simpson, we seek justice for injured victims following commercial vehicle accidents across the country.

Types of Negligence  Comparative Fault in Fatal Truck Accidents: Understanding Its Role in Compensation Claims

In the United States, there are generally two types of negligence, comparative and contributory. Contributory negligence, as its name suggests, is a doctrine that looks to see if the other party was at all responsible for the accident. Any level of responsibility on the part of the other driver will prohibit recovery. As an example, suppose that a truck accident occurs. It is determined that the truck driver is 99% responsible for the crash but that the driver of the other vehicle is 1% at fault. Under a contributory negligence scheme, the driver who was 1% at fault will recover nothing for their injuries.

Contributory negligence is a very harsh doctrine that has been eliminated in most of the United States. Only four states, Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia follow the contributory negligence rule. The District of Columbia also utilizes contributory negligence with exceptions for certain types of accidents.

The other 46 states in the United States use a rule known as comparative negligence. Under the comparative negligence rule, a person who is less than 50% at fault will generally be allowed to recover for their injuries in every comparative negligence state in the country. There are variations in comparative negligence laws that will be explored below in greater detail.

Pure Comparative Negligence

One comparative negligence scheme is known as pure comparative negligence. Under a pure comparative negligence rule, a victim can recover something as long as they were 99% or less at fault for the accident. So, hypothetically, a victim who was responsible for all but 1% of the crash could still receive compensation. Generally, however, the victim’s compensation is lowered for each percent that they are at fault.

Suppose for instance that a victim has $1,000 worth of damages but was 99% at fault for the accident. Under a pure comparative negligence law, the victim would be entitled to recover 1% or $100 as damages. Pure comparative negligence is generally seen as the most favorable type of negligence law for accident victims. Currently, there are 13 states in the country that follow a pure comparative negligence model:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington

Modified Comparative Negligence

The remaining 33 states in the country follow a rule known as modified comparative negligence. Under the modified rule, a victim can typically recover for any percentage at fault up to 50%. For instance, if the victim was 49% at fault and the other driver was 51% at fault, then the 49% at fault injured victim would still receive compensation. Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, and Texas are among the states that follow the comparative negligence rule.

Why is Fault So Important?

In a truck accident case, establishing fault is the single most important element for the claims of most victims. In a comparative negligence case, the level of fault determines how much you can recover for your injuries. In some states, it determines whether you can even recover at all.

Insurance and trucking companies are usually looking to blame someone else for the crash. The more they can prove you were at fault, the less you will be able to recover. Insurance adjusters know the laws in the states that they cover, and they will try to use this to their advantage.

How a Lawyer Can Help

An experienced national truck accident attorney works with serious truck crash cases every day. Your attorney will stand up for your legal rights. Not only that, they will conduct an investigation into all of the circumstances surrounding the crash. This investigation is crucial for the argument that you were not at fault or that you played only a minimal role in causing the crash.

Here at Burg Simpson, our lawyers work closely with clients who have cases in comparative fault states. We use the laws of your state to your advantage. Our attorneys strongly believe that negligent truck drivers and truck companies should be held fully accountable according to their actions.

Hire a National Truck Accident Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one were injured in a truck crash, you need an attorney who is ready to be aggressive on your behalf. These crashes often result in devastating and long-lasting injuries, leaving victims in need of serious compensation. Our attorneys will ensure that your rights are protected and that the negligent party pays you for all of your damages.

Our firm is standing by now to speak with you. We provide free consultations and case evaluations for all potential and prospective clients. There are no legal fees unless we win your case. To schedule your appointment to speak with a nationwide truck accident lawyer, please contact us using our online intake form or give us a call at (866) 695-2112.

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