Every personal injury accident shares one element: negligence. Without negligence, the injured party may not have a case. So, it is fair to say that establishing negligence in a truck accident is necessary for the injured party to recover damages. The damages represent the financial loss the person experiences due to injuries suffered in the crash. Beyond this, monetary loss consists of both economic and noneconomic damages.

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Negligence is built on five main elements, and proof that all were involved in the accident is mandatory. Let’s look at the elements that constitute negligent actions. As the cornerstone of all personal injury lawsuits, it is necessary to obtain a firm understanding of negligence.

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Elements of Negligence

There are five elements in any negligence case. Each element builds upon the other and all must be satisfied before negligence can be proven. Let’s examine them one by one:

1. Duty

The defendant must have had a duty toward the plaintiff. This means the defendant had a relationship with the plaintiff and owed him or her a responsibility. That can range from the duty a doctor has towards their patients to the duty a driver has to everyone with whom they share the road. This is usually established by the judge in the case. Let’s say the defendant was unloading a truck and hit a woman who was nearby. Did the trucker have a responsibility toward the pedestrian?

More information is needed to answer the question. For instance, was the trucker parked on a public street where pedestrians walked? If so, the trucker had the duty to use care not to hit a pedestrian. What if the trucker was unpacking the cargo on a loading dock inside a private building where pedestrians were excluded? The pedestrian might have trespassed and entered the building unlawfully. In this case, the trucker did not have a responsibility to the pedestrian. The judge would most likely say there was no negligence because the trucker did not have a duty toward the pedestrian.

2. Breach of Duty

Establishing that the defendant has a duty to the plaintiff is the first step. The next is that he or she breached or broke that duty. To breach one’s duty to another person, the defendant must fail to exercise reasonable care in the performance of that duty. For this step, it is the jury that decides whether it was broken.

Conduct in a Personal Injury Case

Conduct represents acts or failure to act that cause injury to another person. There are three types:

  • Negligent conduct
  • Intentional conduct resulting in injury
  • Failure to act

Once the duty of the defendant is established and it is shown that reasonable care was not applied, it is now necessary to show that the breach of duty caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
Causation in a personal injury case represents a direct act or a series of events that lead to harm.

3. Cause In Fact of the Plaintiff’s Injury

Actual cause: This is a direct way of proving causation. For instance, a car sails through an intersection at 100 mph and does not stop for the red light. The vehicle hits a car already making its way through the intersection and kills the driver. This act leads to a person’s death and is the actual cause of their demise.

4. Proximate Cause

This relates to those damages a defendant could foresee. Unlike actual cause (see above), which is the genuine cause of the injury, proximate cause deals with foreseeable consequences. The jury must decide if negligence is a near cause of the accident. For instance, let’s say the pedestrian was injured due to negligence displayed by the trucker unloading his cargo as described above. He or she should have been aware of the fact that unloading the cargo in this negligent way might cause injury to a pedestrian walking nearby. This is the proximate cause.

But, what if the pedestrian was loaded into an ambulance to go to the hospital, and it crashed while making the journey? While the pedestrian would not have been in the ambulance had the accident not happened, the defendant could not foresee that the ambulance crash would happen. In this sense, the trucker would not be liable for damages in the ambulance accident.
But for: This is another way of proving causation. The jury is presented with the argument that an accident would not have happened “but for” the acts of the defendant. This is used to prove proximate cause.

The question the jury is asked to consider is whether the accident would have happened but for the action or inaction of the defendant. An example would be a situation where a wrong-way driver is heading toward another vehicle, causing that driver to move out of the way to avoid a head-on collision. However, in doing so, the driver hits a parked car and is injured. The injuries are, under a “but for” argument, caused by the wrong-way driver. The driver of the second vehicle would not have hit the parked car “but for” the wrong way driver’s action.

Substantial Factor

For an act to be considered sufficient to cause harm, it must be one that a reasonable party would consider capable of causing injury. If the injury would happen with or without the conduct, it is not considered substantial.

Multiple Factors

In many accidents, multiple reasons for injury exist. Say that a person’s actions are one of several that caused the injury. While the action may not be the sole reason the injury occurred, it cannot be ignored. The negligent party would still be responsible for their actions.

5. Damages and Harm

Damages or some form of harm must result from the specified negligence. This means that actual damage was done that in turn resulted in the need for medical care, loss of income and other expenses/monetary loss. It is necessary to prove that the lack of reasonable care by the defendant resulted in harm that caused a financial loss. It is this monetary loss that will be repaid by the defendant.

Ways Truck Drivers Contribute to Accidents

There are specific types of negligence that result in a truck accident. Some of the most common are:

  • Blindspot and no-zone accidents
  • Compliance violations
  • Not paying attention to traffic signals
  • Driver fatigue
  • Drug use
  • Failure to yield
  • Drunk driving
  • Hazardous road conditions
  • Hit and run
  • Backing up improperly
  • Improper turning or passing
  • Inattention or distraction
  • Intersection issues
  • Poorly planned routes
  • Oversized load accidents
  • Spillage of contents
  • Poorly screened drivers
  • Tailgating
  • Unrealistic schedules
  • Unsafe lane changes
  • Unsafe speed
  • Unsecured load
  • Visual obstructions

How an Attorney Establishes Negligence in Trucking Cases

In any accident, it is necessary to establish negligence. An attorney will investigate the accident to determine how it occurred and who was responsible. Once the cause is established, the attorney will need to build a case outlining the negligent person’s actions and how they caused the plaintiff’s injury. This is not always clear cut but is a vital part of the case. The insight a personal injury lawyer can provide is essential to winning the case.

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Free Case Review from a Truck Driver Negligence Lawyer

If you have been injured by someone’s negligence, you have the right to obtain compensation for your suffering, medical expenses and lost wages. David Azizi has helped numerous residents of Los Angeles and the surrounding area to achieve this end. He wins 98 percent of his cases with dogged attention to detail. Call him at (800) 991-5292, or contact him online. Let David handle your case, while you heal.