Who Is Held Liable After an Oklahoma City Truck Accident?

Colbert Cooper Hill Attorneys

In an at-fault state like Oklahoma, the single most critical legal question that needs to be answered after a truck accident (or any other personal injury) is this: Who is liable? The answer to that question not only determines whether or not you have a valid claim for compensation, but also who you have to file your claim against, and how much insurance coverage you’ll be able to draw from.

But what do we mean when we say, “truck accident liability”? In the legal sense, liability is the responsibility for your actions. When a person fails to act with reasonable care and causes someone else to suffer an injury, they are liable for the injury, and the injured party has a legal claim to compensation.

While liability may seem straightforward, if you were injured in a truck accident, it can be difficult to determine who is at fault and, ultimately, liable. Commercial truck accidents can be complex due to multiple potentially liable parties involved. These may include the truck driver, the trucking company, the manufacturer of the truck and its components, the local government responsible for the highway, and more.

If you are wondering who is liable after your truck accident in or near Oklahoma City, The Wolf Pack™ is here to help. Continue reading to learn who may be responsible for your truck accident. 

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Multiple Parties Can Be Found Liable for a Truck Accident

In an ordinary car accident involving only passenger vehicles, usually only one driver or the other (or sometimes both) will be held liable. However, trucking accidents are typically more complex.

For example:

  • The truck driver may be liable because of a failure to act with reasonable care, which may include improperly maintaining the truck, driving while fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or failing to follow the rules of the road.
  • The trucking company is responsible for the truck drivers they put on the road, including making sure they are qualified, properly trained, and following hours-of-service limits. Unfortunately, trucking companies may cut corners with background checks, safety training, or disciplinary procedures in order to make more deliveries (and more profit).
  • The truck owner might be liable, too, if the truck is owned by someone other than the driver or trucking company. This is more common than you might think. The owner may have acted negligently, for example, by failing to perform routine inspections and maintenance.
  • Outside vendors might be liable if they were careless in their responsibilities, such as failing to provide drug and alcohol tests, background checks, or truck maintenance.
  • Manufacturers may be held liable if the accident was caused by a defect or mechanical failure that wasn’t a result of improper maintenance, such as defective brakes or tires.
  • Cargo companies may be held liable if their shipments weren’t compliant or they were careless in loading, such as not properly securing cargo or loading the cargo in a way that made the truck more likely to roll.
  • The local government may be held liable if the accident was caused by road hazards from poor maintenance, damaged traffic signs, or a poorly organized construction zone.
  • A bar or restaurant who overserved a visibly drunk person, who then drove a truck and caused an accident, may be liable under the Oklahoma dram shop law.

If the investigation reveals that several parties are at fault for the truck accident, it may be possible to seek compensation through multiple claims.

RELATED: How Long Does it Take to Settle a Truck Accident Case in Oklahoma City?

Comparative Negligence in Oklahoma

It’s important to understand the role of comparative negligence and how it can impact liability in your Oklahoma trucking accident case.

Comparative negligence is the concept that, even if an injured person was partially at fault for their own accident injuries, they can still seek partial compensation for their damages.

Oklahoma observes a modified comparative negligence rule. Under state law, as long as you aren’t more than 50% responsible for the crash, you can still make a financial recovery. However, your compensation will be reduced by your share of the liability.

For example:

  • If you were 20% at fault for the crash, you can recover only 80% of the “full compensation” for your injuries.
  • If you were 50% at fault for the crash, you can recover only 50% of the full compensation.
  • If you were 51% at fault (or greater), you cannot recover any compensation in Oklahoma.

Big truck companies often try to use comparative fault to reduce the amount of compensation they have to pay out. After the crash, they will look for any evidence that suggests you might have been at least partially responsible. Working with a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible can help protect you against these kinds of tactics.

Investigating Truck Accidents

Truck accident cases are almost always complicated, with multiple potentially liable parties. They also often involve major injuries and significant damage claims. If you want the best chance at the most money possible for your claim, an experienced truck accident lawyer will need to perform a thorough investigation.

At the same time, the trucking company’s insurer will conduct their own investigation. Since they are the ones who would be paying out any injury claim, they aren’t exactly neutral and impartial.

The insurance company will look for any evidence they can find to deny liability. And even if they agree that their driver was fully responsible, they will still try to settle for as little as possible. For example, they might say you aren’t really as hurt as you say you are, and that you’re exaggerating the amount of future medical care you will need.

Too often, these insurers hold so much power and influence that injured people don’t stand a chance at getting the financial compensation they need and deserve.  

A good truck accident lawyer knows this, and will conduct their own investigation to fight back against powerful insurance companies.     

Your attorney will gather evidence such as:

  • Police reports
  • Evidence from the scene of the accident
  • Photos or video of the accident and damage to the vehicles
  • Data from the event data recorder in the truck
  • Witness accounts
  • Details on truck company hiring and training practices

Some truck accidents require bringing in accident reconstruction specialist to determine what happened.

An investigator will also check the truck activity logs to ensure that the driver was adhering to the hours-of-service limits, which determine appropriate driving periods and rest periods. The trucking company’s records should also be reviewed, along with statements from other trucking company employees.

All of this information will be investigated by an insurance adjuster to determine the party responsible for your collision. Having an experienced truck accident attorney on your side can help strengthen your case. Your attorney will look into every detail of your case to ensure fault can be proven to be with other involved parties.

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When Should I Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer?

Don’t wait to start the truck accident claim process. Contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible for a free consultation. If you wait too long to contact a personal injury attorney, key evidence could be lost or destroyed.

For example, physical evidence like damaged or defective tires could be lost forever soon after the accident is cleaned up. Furthermore, trucking companies are only legally required to keep electronic and physical logbooks and other records for a limited time. Once that time passes, they can destroy the evidence—unless your attorney steps in and requires them to preserve it.

Further, the fresher the crash is in the minds of witnesses, not to mention your own memory, the better your attorney can gather details and start to build the case.

An attorney will know what evidence to look for, what records to preserve, and what steps need to be taken (at what time) to build your case.

Another way an attorney can help you right away is by ensuring that you see the right specialists and get the high-quality medical treatment you deserve. They can even negotiate with the hospital and other medical providers to delay any collection efforts until after your case has been settled.

Colbert Cooper Hill brings a great deal of skill and experience to every truck crash case we handle. From the first phone call to the investigation to your settlement agreement, we’ll be at your side. 

RELATED: Why You Should Hire an Oklahoma City Lawyer After a Truck Accident

Injured in a Truck Accident? Call The Wolf Pack!™

If you were hurt in a commercial truck accident in Oklahoma City, The Wolf Pack™ can help! The experienced team of lawyers at Colbert Cooper Hill Attorneys will help you fight for the compensation you deserve. We have years of experience investigating truck accidents and addressing accident claims.

You’ll have peace of mind knowing we’re working to build you the strongest case possible. Call (580) 271-9672 or fill out the online form to get your free case review from The Wolf Pack™ today!

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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