Trucking accidents have been on a steady rise over the past five to ten years. In Wisconsin, there are an average of 68.4 fatalities in trucking accidents per year – meaning roughly one person will die from a truck accident every five days.
When a trucking accident happens, determining liability is not always clear.
In fact, it’s usually the most complicated part of the truck accident lawsuit. Wisconsin laws have several nuances that inform the process of attributing fault and building a personal injury case. In this post, we’re going to explain the state’s negligence laws, the factors that influence liability, gathering evidence, and the importance of legal counsel in seeking compensation.
Let’s dive in.
The law states that every driver on the road (including truck drivers) has a “duty of care” to drive safely and not put other drivers in danger.
On a fundamental level, this includes obeying traffic laws, staying alert, maintaining their vehicles, and not driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If a truck driver breaches this duty of care and causes an accident that results in injuries, this is considered negligence. In these situations, the injured party(s) may file a truck accident lawsuit against the negligent driver or their employer to cover medical bills, loss of income, property damage, and other related expenses.
Liability in truck accident cases does not always come down to one at-fault party. It’s relatively common for liability to be divided among multiple parties. These scenarios refer to comparative negligence.
For example, let’s say a driver operating a passenger vehicle made an illegal U-turn and forced a truck driver to make a maneuver that resulted in an accident – injuring another driver. An investigation found that the truck driver had exceeded the number of driving hours allowed in a 24-hour period – and was suffering from fatigue.
Comparative negligence laws would hold both the truck driver and the driver that made the illegal U-turn liable. The investigation may find the truck driver was 40% liable for the accident and the driver making the U-turn was 60% liable.
The total settlement for the victim would be paid out with these respective percentages.
In some cases, the victim may share some percentage of the liability. For instance, if the victim in this scenario forgot to turn their headlights on, the investigation might rule they are 10% liable for the accident – which would impact their compensation in the truck accident lawsuit.
There are many, many factors that can influence liability in a truck accident lawsuit. Some of the most common factors we see involve:
Just like a car accident involving passenger vehicles, the behavior of the liable truck driver typically plays a primary role in determining liability.
If the truck driver was speeding, failing to obey traffic signals, driving recklessly, distracted, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, these actions could contribute significantly to attributing liability.
One of the most common liability factors in Wisconsin trucking accidents involves the duration the driver has been on the road. Under federal law, truck drivers may not exceed 14 consecutive driving hours – following 10 consecutive off-duty hours.
Trucking deadlines can be extremely tight – and sometimes drivers exceed their allotted hours to meet them. If a truck driver is suffering from fatigue due to extended driving hours, it may play a factor in the truck accident lawsuit.
The condition of the truck can also impact liability in a truck accident lawsuit. Trucking companies are expected to keep their vehicles in good, working order.
If the truck wasn’t properly maintained – and mechanical failures caused an accident – the trucking company could be held liable.
Trucking companies are required by law to perform regular inspections and maintenance. If they fail to do this, it could be seen as negligence by the courts.
Weather and road conditions are typically out of a driver’s control. However, drivers are still expected to adjust their driving to compensate for the conditions.
For example, if roads are slick from rain or snow, drivers are expected to slow down and take precautions. If they fail to do so and this leads to an accident, they could be found partially or fully liable.
If the road conditions are unsafe due to a lack of maintenance by a government agency or property owner, that entity could potentially be held liable for the accident.
Gathering evidence is critical in determining the liability – and forming a truck accident lawsuit.
The evidence is what formulates the nature of the incident, the degrees of negligence, and the damages incurred by the victim. Without this evidence, the victim will struggle to prove liability, potentially leading to a reduced settlement – or even dismissal of the claim.
Evidence takes many forms in a trucking accident. The most common types of evidence include:
In most trucking accident cases, an accident recreationist will be brought in to replicate the conditions. Their job is to analyze the accident details to create a precise, detailed account of the event.
They use evidence including vehicle damage, skid marks, eyewitness testimony, photos of the scene, and data from the truck’s black boxes to determine factors like speed, vehicle positions, force of impact, and sequence of events. The findings in this recreation play a large role in determining liability during settlement negotiations – and the outcome of the truck accident lawsuit.
There can be many different angles to a trucking accident – and liability can potentially fall on many different parties. The most common parties involved in Wisconsin truck accident cases include:
Should an accident be caused by a truck driver, the trucking company is often the first entity held accountable.
The inquiry will investigate if the company hired an insufficiently skilled driver, neglected appropriate truck maintenance, or encouraged the driver to breach regulations – which may include surpassing the mandated driving hours.
Truck drivers may be liable for the accident if they were driving recklessly, violating mandated driving hours, driving under the influence, or any other behavior that resulted in a crash.
The truck owner may be different than the trucking company – and the owner is responsible for making sure the truck is properly maintained. If the truck accident was caused by insufficient maintenance, the owner may be held liable.
If there was a mechanical failure – which is traced back to a manufacturing defect – the auto brand that built the truck may be accountable.
Government entities are required to provide proper signage and make sure the roads are adequately maintained. If they fail to do this, they may be held liable in the truck accident lawsuit.
If another driver makes a mistake that caused the trucking accident, they may be held liable as well.
Truck accident cases can get extremely complicated – regardless of how much evidence you have. Trucking companies have specialized truck liability insurance to protect them if an accident occurs. To win a truck accident claim, you need an experienced attorney to build the case.
To do this, they will help in determining liability, gathering/presenting evidence, and (most importantly) negotiating with insurance companies for fair compensation.
If a settlement cannot be reached between the parties involved, the truck accident injury attorney will represent the victim in court.
Plain and simple, victims that try to represent themselves in truck accident cases almost always end up getting short-changed in negotiations.
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, your primary focus should be on your recovery – leave the negotiations to the experts.
There are a lot more factors to a truck accident lawsuit than what meets the eye. The good news is you are not alone after an injury. You deserve a fair, speedy resolution to earn compensation for your injuries and damages.
At Mahony Law, we work closely with victims of Wisconsin trucking accidents to help them earn justice from the at-fault party(s). Our firm operates on a contingency fee agreement – meaning our fees are paid in the form of a percentage of the total settlement AFTER we win.
You pay nothing out of pocket to hire us – and you pay nothing if we lose.
We also offer FREE consultations to determine the validity of your case and the path to earning compensation. If you’ve been involved in a trucking accident, you shouldn’t wait for another second to talk to a professional truck accident attorney. Call our office at 262-331-3553, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out an online form to get started.
Abby is the founder of Mahony Law and devotes her time to representing people who have been seriously hurt due to the negligence of others. Abby has handled injury cases of all types, including birth injury, wrongful death, automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and truck accidents.
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