How Do Attorneys Prove Negligence In a Truck Accident?
When it comes to succeeding in a truck accident case, evidence of negligence is essential. Negligence is defined as the failure to provide a standard of care owed to another, resulting in injury or losses. It is often one of the most difficult and complex components to prove.
Elements of Negligence
Whether it was the truck driver or a third party who exhibited negligence leading up to an accident, there are four main elements an attorney must prove to hold them accountable:
- Duty of Care: First, the plaintiff (victim) must establish that the defendant (at-fault party) owed them a duty of care. For example, a truck driver has a duty to other vehicles on the road to follow traffic laws.
- Breach of Duty: The defendant did not act reasonably, therefore, breaching their duty of care—for example, texting while driving or operating a truck while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Causation: The defendant’s actions directly caused harm to the plaintiff. For instance, if a truck driver was paying attention and had not run a red light, the plaintiff would not have suffered injuries.
- Threshold: Minnesota is a No-Fault state, which means plaintiffs file a claim with their own insurer then must establish that they have reached a “tort threshold” before they can recover additional money from the defendant. This threshold is met if one of the following applies:
- The existence of a permanent scar or disfigurement;
- Sixty (60) days or more of disability (meaning you cannot engage in your usual daily activities, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be 60 days in a row);
- $4,000 or more in medical expenses; or,
- You suffered a permanent injury.
- Damages: The plaintiff experienced injuries and financial damages due to the defendant’s negligence. (e.g., medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, etc.)
Evidence of Negligence
Proving the elements of negligence will require substantial evidence. A Minneapolis truck accident attorney will conduct an investigation independent from law enforcement and the insurance companies to establish the cause of the collision. That may include:
- Determining the location of the accident, the time it took place, weather conditions, and what the visibility was like.
- Finding out who notified the police and how.
- Interviewing eyewitnesses.
- Examining the point of impact on the vehicles and their final resting positions.
- Taking photos of the scene and measurements between objects involved, such as the vehicles and any debris.
- Taking photos of skid marks—evidence of tires sliding.
- Reviewing the police report and whether the truck driver was cited for violating a traffic law.
- The point of impact and level of damage can reveal how fast the vehicles were traveling, how hard each driver hit their brakes, and more.
- Whether mechanical issues or defects could have contributed to the collision.
- Most trucks have an event data recorder (EDR), also called a “black box.” These devices may hold information on the truck’s speed at the of the accident, whether there was sudden acceleration or deceleration, if the brakes were applied, if the truck was in cruise control, if the seatbelts were used, the steering angle, whether the vehicle was skidding, and more.
Other critical evidence to gather includes information on the truck’s cargo, maintenance reports, inspection records, repair records, the qualifications of the driver, permit or license information, personnel records, and sometimes phone records.
Hiring an accident reconstruction expert is the next step if necessary. An expert will be able to create a visual analysis of the crash scene to determine precisely how and why it occurred, as well as the speeds of the vehicles involved.
Is Minnesota a Comparative Negligence State?
Minnesota uses a modified comparative negligence law with a 51% rule. Under this system, a plaintiff’s awarded damages or compensation will be reduced proportionally to their share of fault. For instance, if a jury awards a victim $100,000 but finds they were 30 percent at fault for the truck accident, they would only receive 70 percent of the award or $70,000. However, if a victim is 51% or more at fault, they cannot recover any compensation.
How Can a Minneapolis Truck Accident Attorney Help?
Determining fault and proving negligence can be incredibly challenging in a truck accident case, and many parties may be liable. An attorney will help you figure out who to file a claim against and handle every aspect of your case. To ensure you recover maximum compensation, your attorney will:
- Gather critical evidence to build a solid claim, including sending a spoliation letter to the trucking company, notifying them to preserve evidence, such as the truck’s EDR.
- Ensure you are evaluated by a trusted medical professional who can assess the full extent of your injuries.
- Negotiate with the insurance companies to reach a settlement that fully covers all your accident-related expenses.
While you focus on recovering, you can have peace of mind knowing someone is in your corner advocating for you and protecting your rights.