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Who is Liable in a Semi-Truck Accident?

Many people who are injured in semi-truck accidents or who lose a loved one in a crash want to know: who is liable in a semi-truck accident? After a trucking crash in Butler County or elsewhere in Ohio, it is critical to consider liability. Determining who is liable in a semi-truck accident is essential to obtaining compensation in many cases. When a severe collision occurs, an injured person can sustain significant losses. A very high number of trucking crashes result in fatalities. Indeed, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), there were more than 4,800 fatal large truck collisions in 2020. The overall rate of deadly large truck crashes has risen by 18% in the last decade. Data from the NSC suggests that semi-trucks are disproportionately involved in deadly accidents. In other words, the rate of fatal injuries is higher in large truck crashes than in collisions involving other types of vehicles. Whether a person sustains nonfatal or deadly injuries in a semi-truck accident, determining liability is essential.

It is important to understand how liability works in semi-truck crashes in Ohio. Next, it is essential to learn more about liability and why it matters for your claim. Then, you can learn more about determining liability and who may be responsible. Understanding liability also means identifying the best options for seeking compensation and understanding how your case can change when more than one party may be liable. After you determine liability, it will be critical to make a decision about seeking compensation before the statute of limitations runs out. For many people, truck accident cases involve the loss of a loved one. As such, it is critical to be clear about how liability impacts wrongful death cases. Consider the following information about liability in a semi-truck accident in Ohio.

Understanding How Liability Works in a Semi-Truck Accident in Ohio

What is a liability in a semi-truck crash? Liability is a term that refers to responsibility for injuries in a collision. In other words, liability means that a party is legally responsible. When a party is liable, they can also be responsible for paying damages to an injured person. Liability is a term used in civil lawsuits. When a party is liable in a semi-truck accident, they will not face criminal consequences. To be sure, no liable party will go to jail or pay criminal fines because of civil liability. Rather, civil liability means that the defendant in a lawsuit can be responsible for monetary costs incurred by the plaintiff.

A party can be liable for a semi-truck crash in multiple different types of situations. In some cases, a party may be liable because they directly caused the truck crash. In other circumstances, a party might be liable because they had some connection to the truck driver or the truck. Many liable parties in semi-truck accidents are not even at the scene of or involved in the crash. Depending upon the circumstances, more than one party can be liable and can be sued.

Liability attaches after a person is found liable through a civil lawsuit. To be clear, the injured person must file a lawsuit against the party they believe to be liable. That party who is believed to be liable is the defendant in a civil lawsuit. Then, by agreeing to settle the lawsuit or by the court determining liability and awarding damages, the defendant can be legally responsible — or liable — for the injuries resulting from the crash.

Why Does Semi-Truck Accident Liability Matter?

Why does semi-truck liability matter in Ohio? Liability is critical to determine because it is often how an injured person can obtain compensation. Once a party is determined to be liable, they can be responsible for paying damages to the plaintiff.

Proving Liability in a Semi-Truck Crash in Hamilton

Proving liability gives the injured person an opportunity to seek various forms of compensation after the truck crash. It is usually the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove that the defendant is liable. Most truck accident lawsuits are brought on a theory of negligence. In a negligence claim, the plaintiff must usually prove the following elements:

  • Defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
  • Defendant breached the duty of care by behaving negligently;
  • Plaintiff suffered harm; and
  • Plaintiff’s harm was caused by the defendant’s breach of the duty of care.

There are multiple ways in which different parties associated with truck crashes may owe a plaintiff a duty of care. On the road, truck drivers owe all other motorists a duty of care. That duty of care requires the truck driver to behave in a way that a reasonable person would consider to be reasonably safe. Accordingly, the truck driver must obey road rules and must avoid certain behaviors like distracted driving, aggressive driving, fatigued driving, or aggressive driving. At the same time, other parties can also owe injury victims a duty of care. Usually, proving that a duty of care was owed is relatively straightforward. It may be more difficult to prove that the defendant breached the duty of care by acting negligently.

Negligence can include many types of acts or omissions in a truck crash. Examples include careless driving, improper trailer loading, or poor maintenance of the truck.

Liability and Damages in a Butler County Semi-Truck Crash Claim

What is the relationship between liability and damages in a semi-truck accident? As noted above, proving liability often means that an injured person can be eligible for damages. Damages are awarded in civil lawsuits when a defendant is determined to be liable. In general, damages in an Ohio semi-truck crash can include compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages take two different types of forms under Ohio law:

  • Economic or pecuniary damages, which refer to any type of pecuniary harm such as lost wages, costs of medical care and treatment, and costs of rehabilitative care; and
  • Noneconomic damages, which refer to any type of nonpecuniary loss, such as “pain and suffering, loss of society, consortium companionship, care, assistance, attention, protection, advice, guidance, counsel, instruction, training, or education, disfigurement, mental anguish, and any other intangible loss.”

Sometimes an injured person in a semi-truck crash may also be able to seek punitive damages by proving the defendant’s liability. Ordinary liability in a negligence case is insufficient for a court to award punitive damages. Generally speaking, for punitive damages to be awarded, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant’s behavior showed malice or egregious recklessness. Punitive damages are not particularly common in semi-truck accidents. These types of damages are also known as exemplary damages.

Who Can Be Liable for a Semi-Truck Crash?

Many different parties could be liable for a semi-truck crash. In some cases, multiple parties are liable. The party or parties liable for your injuries in a semi-truck crash will depend on the specific facts of your case. Common examples of liable parties in semi-truck collisions include:

  • Negligent truck driver;
  • Employer of the truck driver;
  • Loader of the trailer on the tractor-trailer;
  • Employer of the party who loaded the trailer;
  • Mechanic who serviced the truck;
  • Owner of the truck;
  • Party who owns the premises where the truck accident happened;
  • Designer of a defective truck part;
  • Manufacturer of a defective truck part;
  • Company that sold a defective vehicle part or a defective vehicle; and/or
  • Negligent driver of another vehicle, such as a car or SUV.

Can I File a Claim Against More Than One Party When Multiple People are Liable?

Many people want to know: can I file a claim against more than one party if multiple parties are liable? In short, you can often file a claim against more than one party after determining liability. If a court determines that multiple parties are liable, those parties can share in paying you damages.

Courts can apportion amounts of liability in a civil truck accident lawsuit. As such, each liable party will usually be responsible for paying a portion of the damages awarded that corresponds to their portion of fault. For example, if you sue two parties and both are determined to be liable, the court will determine each party’s portion of the liability. Party A might be determined to be 60 percent liable. Then, Party B might be determined to be 40% liable. If the court awards $100,000, Party A would typically be responsible for paying 60 percent of that damages award, or $60,000. Then, Party B would typically be responsible for paying 40 percent of that damages award, or $40,000.

Can My Own Liability Affect My Semi-Truck Accident Case?

People who are injured in large truck crashes are often worried about how their own liability can affect their case. Can you still receive damages if you are partially liable? In short, yes, you may be able to receive damages.

Ohio uses a modified comparative fault, or comparative negligence, rule. What this means is that a plaintiff can be partially liable and still recover damages as long as that plaintiff is not 51% or more at fault. If the plaintiff is less than 51% liable, the plaintiff will recover damages. However, that damages award will be diminished by the plaintiff’s percentage of liability. If a plaintiff is 51% or more liable, then the plaintiff will be barred from recovery.

How Can I Determine Liability for a Trucking Accident in Ohio?

 Determining liability is done on a case-by-case basis that requires a detailed examination of the facts. The specific facts of your case — including how and where the semi-truck crash happened — will determine liability.

What Should I Do After I Determine Liability?

 After you determine liability, you can file a truck accident lawsuit. Sometimes you do not need to determine liability to file an insurance claim. You could be eligible to seek compensation by filing a claim through your own insurer. Or, if you suspect another party is liable, you could file a claim through their insurance. Otherwise, to win damages in a lawsuit, you will need to gather evidence to prove liability.

Does Liability Change for a Wrongful Death Claim After a Semi-Truck Crash?

Proving liability is similar in a personal injury or a wrongful death lawsuit. Plaintiffs will often use the same evidence to prove that the defendant was liable. The key difference is the party who files the lawsuit and proves liability. In a personal injury lawsuit where a person is injured (but not killed) in a large truck crash, the injured person will file a claim and prove liability. Differently, when a person is killed in a semi-truck crash, they cannot file a lawsuit. Instead, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate will file the lawsuit and seek to prove the defendant’s liability.

How Much Time Do I Have to Hold the Liable Parties Accountable? 

The Ohio personal injury statute of limitations requires most parties to file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the truck accident to prove the defendant liable and to seek damages. Accordingly, you will typically have two years to begin the process of holding the liable party accountable.

Contact a Trucking Accident Lawyer in Butler County, Ohio

 Were you injured in a truck crash in Butler County? Did you recently lose a loved one in a semi-truck crash in Hamilton? Whether you or a loved one sustained injuries in a semi-truck accident, it is critical to determine liability. Determining liability in a semi-truck crash is essential for a variety of reasons. You can identify the party or parties to sue. In addition, determining liability can help you to understand causation and to gather the necessary evidence for your case. Given that large truck and semi-truck crashes can be extremely complicated, it is essential to determine liability with assistance from an experienced Butler County truck accident lawyer.

At the law firm of Kruger & Hodges, we have years of experience representing injury victims and their families in a wide range of personal injury cases, including semi-truck collisions. Whether you need help with a personal injury or wrongful death claim, we can assist you. Do not hesitate to contact our experienced Ohio lawyers to learn more about moving forward with a truck accident case. Contact the law firm of Kruger & Hodges today for more information and to get started on your claim.

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