Automobile, Motorcycle and Truck Accidents
Unfortunately, at some point every driver will be in a motor vehicle accident. Sometimes these accidents will be nothing more than "fender benders," while at other times the result can be serious personal injury or death.
I've just been involved in an accident with another automobile. There's property damage and two people have been injured. What now?
If you've been involved in an automobile or motorcycle accident, the first thing you need to do, obviously, is make sure any injured persons receive prompt medical attention. You also want to make sure you get the names of all parties involved, as well as all potential witnesses, contact the police department and make out a full and complete accident report, and exchange insurance information with the other driver or drivers.
Who is responsible for paying for property damage or the medical bills for someone who is injured in a motor vehicle accident?
It depends on whether your state is a "fault" or "no fault" state. Traditionally, most states look to a negligence standard to determine who is at fault or who caused or contributed to an accident. A negligence standard holds that every driver will behave in a reasonable and prudent manner and will obey the rules of the road. Behaving as a reasonable person and following the rules of the road is known as each person's duty.
If someone violates that duty by driving too fast, not paying attention, or some other violation of the rules of the road, that is known as a breach of the duty each driver owes to his or her fellow drivers.
If the breach of the duty causes a party to suffer some form of damage such as property loss or personal injury, then all the criteria of negligence have been met.
Once it has been shown that there is a duty, that the duty has been breached, that the breach has caused a person to be damaged, then courts, in a negligence standard jurisdiction, would next determine who is at fault or, in the alternative, what percentage of fault should be apportioned to each party.
What is comparative fault?
Some states have adopted what is known as pure comparative fault. Pure comparative fault states hold that if any percentage liability is apportioned to a party, that party is responsible for that percentage of damages.
Some states have adopted a modified comparative fault system. In these states, a party must prove that the other party is more than 50% at fault. If less than half the fault lies with the other party, or if the fault is 50-50, there can be no recovery for any damages in these jurisdictions.
What is a "no fault" state?
A large number of states have adopted a "no fault" liability system to determine who pays damages in motor vehicle accidents. There are different types of no-fault systems in place in different states. Some no-fault systems operate after a certain dollar amount has been reached, while others are applied when a serious personal injury has occurred or when someone has been operating a vehicle illegally.
What type of damages are available?
Typically, property damage to an automobile is recoverable. Costs associated with medical expenses, loss of income, and in some states, compensation for pain, suffering and disfigurement are also recoverable.
Is there a time limit for bringing a legal claim for a personal injury in an automobile or motorcycle accident?
In all states, certain time periods exist for making a claim under either a fault or a no-fault system. The period of time during which you must bring a claim is commonly known as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations holds that if a party does not bring his or her particular claim, either in a fault or no-fault state, that party will forever lose the right to seek any kind of compensation for property loss and/or personal injury damage. In some states, such as California, the statute of limitations is one year. In other states, like Missouri, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is six years. In order to determine what the appropriate statute of limitations is for you, you should immediately seek counsel in your jurisdiction.
While much law is the same for trucking accidents as it is for automobile and motorcycle accidents, over-the-road trucking is slightly different.
In addition to the regular rules of the road that apply to automobiles and motorcycles, many aspects of over-the-road trucking are regulated by the Federal Highway Transportation and Safety Administration. This agency reports that approximately 5,000 people are killed each year in accidents involving over-the-road trucks.
One of the major requirements that the Federal Highway Transportation and Safety Administration imposes on truckers is that they are limited to ten consecutive hours behind the wheel, followed by a required eight hours of down time before they can drive again. This is important to remember because drowsiness and the inattention of the driver is often a factor in over-the-road trucking accidents. It is always prudent to make sure that the police officer investigating the accident determines how much rest a driver had prior to the accident. Your attorney should make this determination if the police officer doesn't.
Like automobile and motorcycle accidents, claims for damages from over-the-road trucking accidents are controlled by the statute of limitations, which control how soon a claim must be brought. To determine what the statute of limitations is for you, you should retain an attorney of your choosing in your state.