Each day, thousands of big-rig trucks travel through Pennsylvania. These trucks are a huge part of the country’s economy and necessary in so many ways.
Unfortunately, they also present unique risks and challenges for other drivers. The weight and size of these commercial trucks mean the likelihood of severe injuries and fatalities is high when an accident occurs.
If you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck, determining liability is one of the first things that must be done. Unfortunately, this is not always straightforward, and multiple parties share fault for the accident in many situations.
At Mooney & Associates, our truck accident attorneys understand the laws and regulations related to truck accident cases. We can review your case and take the steps needed to determine and prove liability. Learn more about this here.
Understanding the Basics of Truck Accidents in PA
Before diving into proving liability after a truck accident, it’s essential to understand the basics of truck accidents in Pennsylvania. These accidents often involve large commercial vehicles, such as tractor-trailers, delivery trucks, and other heavy-duty vehicles. Due to their size and weight, truck accidents can lead to catastrophic outcomes.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents in PA
Truck accidents can occur for various reasons, including:
Driver fatigue is a significant contributor to truck accidents in PA. It occurs when truck drivers spend extended hours on the road without adequate rest. Fatigue impairs their alertness and decision-making abilities, increasing the risk of accidents.
Long hauls and demanding schedules can lead to drowsiness and reduced concentration, making it difficult to react to sudden road hazards. Proving driver fatigue often involves examining logs, electronic records, and testimony to establish that the driver’s exhaustion played a role in the accident.
Distracted driving is a perilous behavior that affects truck drivers as well. It involves diverting one’s attention from the road to other activities like texting, using a smartphone, eating, or adjusting in-cab systems.
Distracted driving can lead to catastrophic consequences due to the size and weight of these vehicles. Proving distracted driving typically involves gathering evidence, such as phone records or eyewitness accounts, to demonstrate that the driver was distracted during the accident.
Truck drivers sometimes exceed speed limits or drive too fast for road conditions. The consequences of speeding in truck accidents can be devastating due to these vehicles’ immense weight and momentum.
Evidence such as witness statements, accident reconstruction, and electronic data from the truck’s onboard systems may be used to establish liability in such cases. Preventing speeding-related accidents involves stricter adherence to speed limits, particularly in adverse weather, and emphasizing driver education on safe driving speeds for large commercial vehicles.
Neglected maintenance, such as failing to replace worn-out brakes or tires, can result in mechanical failures on the road. These failures can lead to catastrophic accidents with severe injuries or fatalities.
Proving liability in such cases often requires inspecting maintenance records, conducting vehicle examinations, and consulting with experts. To prevent accidents related to improper maintenance, trucking companies must prioritize regular inspections and repairs to ensure the safety and roadworthiness of their fleet.
Proving Liability in a Pennsylvania Truck Accident
Now that you understand truck accidents and some of the common causes, you can learn more about what goes into proving liability.
The Burden of Proof
Proving liability means demonstrating that one party is legally responsible for the accident and the resulting damages. The burden of proof in a truck accident case rests on the shoulders of the injured party, often referred to as the plaintiff. To establish liability, certain elements must be established:
- Negligence: Negligence is fundamental in personal injury cases, including truck accidents. To prove negligence in a truck accident, you need to establish the following:
- Duty of Care: The truck driver had a duty to operate the vehicle safely and per traffic laws.
- Breach of Duty: The truck driver breached this duty through actions like speeding, reckless driving, or distracted driving.
- Causation: The breach of duty directly caused the accident and resulting injuries.
- Damages: The accident resulted in actual damages, such as medical expenses, property damage, and pain and suffering.
Strong evidence is essential to determine liability in a Pennsylvania truck accident case. This includes:
- Accident Reports: Obtain the official police report, which often contains crucial information about the accident.
- Eyewitness Statements: Eyewitnesses can provide valuable testimony regarding the events leading up to the accident.
- Expert Witnesses: Depending on the case’s complexity, expert witnesses, such as accident reconstruction specialists, can provide in-depth analysis and testimony.
- Electronic Logs: Commercial trucks are equipped with electronic logging devices (ELDs), which can provide data on a driver’s hours of service and speed at the time of the accident.
Preservation of Evidence
Preserving evidence is equally important. Trucking companies often have powerful legal teams and may attempt to destroy or manipulate evidence. To prevent this, you should:
- Send a Spoliation Letter: This legal document notifies the trucking company to preserve all relevant evidence, including maintenance records and driver logs.
- Photographs and Documentation: Take photos of the accident scene, vehicle damage, and any relevant road signs or conditions. Keep copies of all medical records and bills.
Expert Legal Assistance
Proving liability in a truck accident case can be challenging, especially when dealing with large trucking companies and their insurers. Seeking legal representation from experienced personal injury attorneys at Mooney & Associates in Pennsylvania can significantly enhance your chances of success.
Contact Us Today
Proving liability in a Pennsylvania truck accident case is a complex process that requires careful preparation, strong evidence, and expert legal guidance. Remember, if you’re involved in a truck accident, acting swiftly to protect your rights and secure the evidence needed to establish liability is crucial.
By following these steps and seeking the assistance of skilled attorneys, you can pursue the compensation you deserve after a devastating truck accident in Pennsylvania. Contact us today for help with your case.