How Is Fault Determined in a Truck Accident?

Truck accidents are devastating and complex, often resulting in catastrophic consequences. After all, even an average large SUV weighing 6,000 pounds is no match for a massive 80,000-pound tractor-trailer. When a large truck is involved in a crash, occupants of vehicles traveling nearby are often severely injured or even killed.

But the law is on your side. Truck accident victims can and should hold negligent parties liable for the injuries they cause. However, to hold other parties liable and qualify for compensation, you must first determine and prove to insurance companies, a jury, or a judge that the other party was actually responsible for the accident.

Determining fault in a truck accident is easier said than done. Unlike a typical car accident, several parties may share liability in 18-wheeler wrecks. Here’s where things can get tricky. You will need to thoroughly investigate the accident and gather crucial evidence to uncover who is responsible and prove fault in court.

Truck accident victims and their families need skilled and experienced truck accident attorneys on their side to take care of such investigations on their behalf. Your lawyer can protect your rights and interests from the very start and assist with proving fault. Nix Patterson can help. Our truck accident lawyers can offer you a helpful and confidential consultation 100% free of charge so you know and understand your rights.

What Determines Fault in a Truck Accident?

After you or a loved one is involved in a truck accident, you’ll probably wonder who is to blame for the accident. It’s only natural to wonder who may have played a part in your or your loved one’s injuries. To determine the at-fault party, you must first understand the question: “How is fault determined?”

There are several ways of determining fault in a truck accident, including:

Common Law Negligence

Most truck accident cases revolve around the legal concept of “negligence.” Negligence occurs when a party does not act with the level of reasonable care that is legally expected of them under specific circumstances.

To establish a party’s negligence, you must prove the following elements:

  • Duty of care. The other party had a duty to meet the proper standards of care.
  • Breach of duty. The defendant failed to act with the degree of reasonable care expected of them.
  • Causation. The other party’s failure to meet the required level of proper standards of care was the direct cause of the truck accident.
  • Damages. The truck accident caused physical or mental injuries or financial loss.

Negligence Per Se

Another way to determine fault in a truck accident is to show that the other party violated a regulation, rule, or statute of public safety. While a jury will still determine whether the defendant’s actions or omissions violated public safety laws, the standard of care is assumed. If a party is found to be negligent per se in a truck accident case, they bear the burden of proof, which means it is on them to prove they weren’t negligent.

Vicarious Negligence

Vicarious negligence is used to hold a defendant at fault for the actions of another. In truck accident cases in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, the legal doctrine of respondeat superior can place vicarious liability on trucking companies and other employers for negligent employee actions.

Strict Liability

Another way of determining fault in a truck accident is to show strict liability. Strict liability is a tort doctrine that holds a person or entity responsible for their products or actions regardless of their intent. Here, it does not matter if the defendant was careless or negligent. Even a party that exercised their duty of care, followed safety requirements, and took the necessary precautions could still be held responsible in strict liability cases.

If a defective product caused your truck accident, you could use several legal theories, including strict liability, to institute a claim against the vehicle manufacturer.

Who Are the Potentially Liable Parties in a Truck Accident?

Operating a fully loaded 18-wheeler is a complicated task requiring skill and precision. Truckers must be adequately and appropriately trained and apply for their commercial driver’s license (CDL) to drive these huge commercial vehicles safely. When they are careless, deadly crashes can occur.

Still, there can be other parties to blame after a truck accident, including:

The Trucking Company

Under the respondeat superior legal theory, a trucking company may be liable after a truck accident in several instances, including if they:

  • Enforced policies that encouraged their truck drivers to violate safety regulations.
  • Failed to properly do background checks before hiring their drivers.
  • Failed to maintain the truck in good condition.
  • Failed to properly train their drivers.

The Truck Driver

Driver error is the leading cause of truck accidents, and this definition can range from driver fatigue to distracted driving and many other factors. Truck drivers are required to follow specific rules and regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). If their conduct violates these rules, they may be found liable for a truck accident.

A Third-Party Driver

If another driver’s actions affect a truck driver and force them into a crash, they could be found accountable for resulting damages. Such actions may include distracted driving, drunk driving, and speeding.

The Truck Manufacturer

Truck manufacturers may be found responsible for a crash and liable for damages if they made and sold a defective part or truck design that ultimately caused the accident.

The Truck Maintenance Company

Maintenance companies that are responsible for inspecting the truck and ensuring it operates safely may be held liable if they fail to fix defective or damaged parts.

The Loading or Shipping Company

Cargo loading and shipping companies are responsible for safely securing cargo and avoiding overloaded or incorrectly loaded trucks. If unbalanced cargo that wasn’t correctly secured caused a crash, then the loading company could be liable.

Who Is at Fault for a Truck Accident?

When several parties may be potentially liable for a truck accident, it can be challenging to determine who is at fault for the crash. Doing so often requires collecting crucial evidence to help the court determine who is at fault. In determining fault, the courts may consider the following pieces of evidence:

  • Police reports
  • Police testimony
  • Witness statements
  • Accident scene photos
  • Vehicle computer data
  • Traffic or security camera footage

To successfully identify all at-fault parties after a truck accident, working with experienced personal injury attorneys well-versed in negligence laws who have the resources to investigate the crash, gather vital evidence, and aggressively pursue your claim is essential.

What If I Was Partially at Fault for the Accident?

While there are cases where the truck driver is wholly responsible for a crash and the other driver is blameless, that is not always the case. So, what happens when you bear some of the responsibility for the truck accident? Do you lose your right to recover?

When you share fault in a truck accident, whether or not you can still recover compensation will depend on where the crash happened, which state you reside in, and your degree of fault.

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is a tort principle frequently used in personal injury claims to reduce the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover based on their degree of fault in the accident.

Pure Comparative Negligence

In states where the pure comparative negligence rule applies, such as New Mexico, you can collect damages after a truck accident even if you’re 99% at fault. You may be able to recover 1% of the damages in such a scenario.

Modified Comparative Negligence

In states such as Texas and Oklahoma, where a modified form of the comparative negligence rule applies, you can collect damages after a truck accident if the defendant is at least 50% or more at fault.

Contact Our Experienced Truck Accident Lawyers Today

At Nix Patterson, our legal team has the necessary resources to fully investigate the truck accident. We have a wide network of experts who can go out independently and look for skid marks, reconstruct the accident, determine the cause of the crash, and interview officers and witnesses at the scene to determine who was at fault.

Our truck accident lawyers stand up to aggressive insurance and trucking companies and fight every step to achieve the best possible outcome for our clients. We are a contingency fee legal team, which means you don’t pay anything unless we recover. Contact Nix Patterson’s skilled team today. We welcome your questions.

Call 512-328-5333 or fill out our free online contact form to tell us your story. We are here to help.


Nix Patterson only works on a contingency fee basis. Our clients pay us nothing unless we win. Schedule a free consultation today. Call 512.328.5333 or complete the form below. 

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