In many rear-end collisions, the vehicle in the rear is the one most at fault, but not always. If a commercial truck runs into the back of your car, can you still sue? The answer is yes if the circumstances are right and you have the help of a truck accident attorney.
There is a legal concept called comparative fault that will determine if you can sue for damages after a rear-end truck accident. It’s an important part of any personal injury case, and you should know about it in case you’re ever in an accident.
Comparative Fault in Texas
Comparative fault, also known as comparative negligence, is one way of answering the question of who is responsible for an accident when both sides may share the blame for the damages. Let’s say you had to stop suddenly and a truck hit your vehicle from behind. Let’s also say you weren’t wearing your seatbelt.
Comparative fault laws fall into two categories, pure and modified, and they vary by state. Texas uses a modified comparative fault system. As long as you are less than 51% responsible for the accident, you can sue. If you’re over that line, you cannot. Some states use an under 50% rule.
You would have been injured less if you were wearing your seatbelt, so your negligence contributed to your injuries. Insurers and truck accident lawyers argue hard to push the percentage up and down so that their clients are the ones who get compensation.
How Does My Fault Percentage Change My Compensation?
The total amount of compensation you get from a rear-end truck accident gets reduced by the percentage of fault you have in the accident. If a judge ruled you were 20% responsible because you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, you’d lose 20% of whatever you received in your judgment.
When both sides are negotiating a settlement before trial, they can claim that one side or the other carries more fault. This lets them adjust settlement amounts. If you accept a settlement where you share fault in a truck accident, the percentage lost is considered already.
The most important thing you need your lawyer to do is to get your percentage of fault below 51%. They will give you advice on how to avoid incriminating yourself and also investigate the truth of accident reports and eyewitness testimony to see if there are any errors that could be used against you.
How Do Other States Handle Fault?
If you wreck in another state, you’ll be under their fault laws. So, it’s good to know the two other kinds of fault. Pure comparative fault states remove the 50%-51% limit. You could be 99% at fault and still make a claim. You wouldn’t get much, but you’re allowed to do it.
Five states and Washington D.C. use a much harsher version of fault law called contributory fault. Under this standard, you must have no responsibility for the accident to collect damages. If you got a citation for not wearing a seatbelt after an accident in those states, you could be stuck with the entire bill.
How Might Fault Get Determined in a Rear-End Truck Accident Case?
If you’re the vehicle in the front, people will question why you were slowing down or stopped. If you were waiting at a red light and got hit, you’d probably have no fault. However, if you had to brake suddenly because of a road obstacle, or because you had road rage and “brake checked” someone, there could be some debate.
If you’re the vehicle in the rear, the big question is if you were following too closely. You might even get a citation for this just as a matter of course for being the rear vehicle in this kind of accident. Vehicles are expected to leave space for stopping distance, so they could blame you for following too closely.
On the other hand, one counter might be to point out a flaw in the front vehicle’s brake lights. If those were broken, it’s hard to tell if a car is slowing or stopping. That could shift the fault back toward the front driver. There are no hard and fast rules for assigning a percentage of fault in a rear-end truck collision. It’s a matter of judgment and negotiation.
A Truck Insurance Company Has Blamed Me for My Accident. What Do I Do?
If you’ve received any communication saying you’re at fault for a rear-end truck accident, you need legal representation from a truck accident lawyer. The insurance company is trying to lower your compensation and you need to fight back. One call to The Buzbee Law Firm is all it takes to fight back against such accusations. Contact us today.