COMMON DEFENSES USED BY TRUCKING COMPANIES IN PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUITS
Personal injury lawsuits involving commercial trucks can be complex and challenging. These cases often have high stakes for both the injured parties seeking compensation and the trucking companies defending against potential liability. The following are the common defenses used by trucking companies facing personal injury lawsuits.
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One of the primary defenses employed by trucking companies is the argument of comparative negligence. This defense asserts that the injured party shares some responsibility for the accident that caused their injuries. The trucking company may try to demonstrate that the plaintiff's actions, such as speeding, distracted driving, or failure to obey traffic signals, contributed to the accident's occurrence or severity. If the court finds the plaintiff partially at fault, the compensation awarded may be reduced proportionately to the percentage of fault assigned to them.
Statute of Limitations
Trucking companies may also attempt to use the statute of limitations defense. This defense asserts that the injured party filed the lawsuit after the legal deadline for doing so had passed. Each jurisdiction has specific statutes of limitations governing personal injury claims, and missing the deadline can result in the case being dismissed entirely. Therefore, it is crucial for injured parties to seek legal counsel promptly after an accident to ensure compliance with the relevant time limits.
Independent Contractor Status
Trucking companies often hire truck drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. This distinction allows the company to avoid liability for the driver's actions under the doctrine of respondeat superior, which holds employers responsible for their employees' actions within the scope of employment. By arguing that the driver is an independent contractor, the trucking company may attempt to shield itself from liability, claiming that the driver's actions are not their responsibility.
Lack of Negligence
Trucking companies might dispute any claims of negligence on their part. They may argue that they have taken all reasonable measures to ensure their drivers' training, vehicle maintenance, and adherence to safety regulations. To back up this defense, they may present documentation of safety protocols, driver training records, and regular vehicle inspections to demonstrate their commitment to safety.
Sudden Emergency Doctrine
The sudden emergency doctrine is another defense used by trucking companies. It asserts that the truck driver faced an unexpected and unforeseeable emergency situation, leaving them with little time to react appropriately. In such cases, the driver may not be held liable for any resulting injuries if their actions, or lack thereof, were reasonable under the circumstances.
Trucking companies might scrutinize the plaintiff's medical history and assert that the injuries sustained in the accident were not entirely caused by the trucking accident but instead were exacerbated by pre-existing medical conditions. They may argue that the plaintiff's injuries were a result of a previous accident, degenerative condition, or unrelated medical issue.
Inadequate Proof of Damages
Trucking companies might challenge the plaintiff's evidence of damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. They may dispute the extent of the injuries or claim that some of the damages were not related to the accident. To counter this defense, it is essential for the injured party to gather thorough documentation and expert testimony to support their claims.
Lastly, trucking companies may use settlement offers as a defense strategy. They might make an early settlement offer to the injured party in hopes of avoiding lengthy litigation. In some cases, the offer may be tempting, but it is crucial for the injured party to consult with their attorney before accepting any settlement. Early settlement offers often do not fully account for the long-term consequences of the injuries and may not provide adequate compensation for future medical costs or lost earning potential.
Tips to Counter the Comparative Negligence Defense
1. Gather Strong Evidence:
To counter the comparative negligence defense, it is crucial to collect and preserve evidence that supports your claim of the trucking company's negligence. This may include photographs of the accident scene, eyewitness testimonies, medical records, and expert opinions.
2. Consult an Experienced Attorney:
Personal injury cases involving trucking companies can be complex. An experienced attorney specializing in trucking accidents can help assess the strength of your case, navigate legal complexities, and build a robust argument against the comparative negligence defense.
3. Prove the Trucking Company's Negligence:
To minimize the impact of the comparative negligence defense, it is essential to establish that the trucking company's negligence was the primary cause of the accident. This can be achieved by demonstrating violations of federal trucking regulations, inadequate driver training, improper maintenance, or failure to comply with industry safety standards.
4. Understand State Laws:
Comparative negligence laws vary from state to state. Familiarize yourself with the specific laws in your jurisdiction to understand how they may affect your case. Consulting with a knowledgeable attorney can provide you with valuable guidance tailored to your unique circumstances.
5. Preserve Your Credibility:
Your credibility as a plaintiff is crucial when defending against comparative negligence. Be honest and consistent in your statements, adhere to medical treatments, and avoid discussing the case on social media platforms.
At Davidoff Law, we understand the complexities involved in personal injury lawsuits against trucking companies. Our team of skilled attorneys has a proven track record of successfully countering the comparative negligence defense. We are committed to fighting for your rights and ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, don't hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. Our expertise and dedication will help you navigate through the legal process, protect your interests, and pursue the justice you deserve.