Side-Impact Truck Accidents & VIctims' Legal Rights
When the front of a truck strikes the side of a passenger car, people in the car may suffer devastating injuries. This is partly because the side of a car offers fewer structural protections for occupants than the front and rear. Most side-impact accidents happen when a driver commits a right-of-way violation at an intersection. Some truckers may not come to a complete stop, or they may not wait to make a turn until it is legal and safe. In other cases, a driver may be distracted or drowsy while operating a truck, or they may drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Problems with the brakes or steering system in a truck also can cause a side-impact crash. If a truck is not maintained regularly and competently, its components may wear down and eventually fail as the truck travels through an intersection. When a manufacturer produces defective parts, this also can cause an accident.
Adjusting to Weather Conditions
Rain, snow, or other forms of poor weather can impair the visibility of a driver and the stopping ability of a truck. However, drivers are expected to account for these conditions when operating their vehicles. They may need to drive more slowly and scan their surroundings more frequently.
In less common cases, the front of a car may strike the side of a truck. This can lead to an underride accident, when the car slides under the truck. The roof and upper sides of the car may be sheared off, and the car may be crushed. More often than not, underride accidents at intersections involve a collision with the left side of the truck. The driver of the car may have committed the right-of-way violation in this situation, but this does not always mean that they were entirely at fault. For example, perhaps faulty brakes in the car prevented it from stopping, or perhaps a defective road design prevented the driver from seeing a stop sign.
Legal Rights Following a Side-Impact Truck Accident
If a truck driver, trucking company, or truck manufacturer caused a side-impact crash, a victim can sue them for compensation. This may include both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover medical expenses, lost income, vocational rehabilitation, property damage, and any other out-of-pocket expenses, in addition to future treatment costs in many cases. Non-economic damages are less easily documented and quantified. These cover intangible forms of harm, such as the pain and suffering of the victim and the loss of enjoyment of life caused by their injuries.
A victim who was partly at fault for a collision will not receive a full damages award. States take three different approaches to these cases:
Pure comparative negligence: damages are reduced in proportion to the fault of the victim
Modified comparative negligence: damages are reduced in proportion to the fault of the victim, but barred if their fault reaches a certain percentage (usually 50 or 51 percent)
Contributory negligence: damages are barred if the victim was at fault in any way
Many truck accident lawsuits name the trucking company as a defendant even if the company was not directly at fault. This is because the principle of vicarious liability allows a victim to hold an employer liable for the careless actions of an employee. The victim would need to show that an employee driver was acting in the course and scope of the employment relationship when their actions caused the accident.
Trucking companies and their insurers sometimes try to make a case go away quickly by offering a modest settlement to a victim. If they accept the settlement, they likely will waive their right to bring further claims related to the accident against that defendant. Injuries in truck accidents may be multifaceted and life-altering, and their full scope may not be known immediately. A victim should consult an experienced truck accident lawyer before accepting a settlement offer. Most of these attorneys provide free consultations at which they can review the facts surrounding an accident before offering an opinion on the strength and value of a claim.