Because of a semi truck's larger size and greater potential for causing injury than passenger vehicles, semi drivers are subject to a great responsibility toward other drivers to operate their trucks in a safe manner. However, not all truckers are able or willing to uphold this responsibility, and the haphazard manner with which trucking safety regulations are enforced can mean that these truckers fly under the radar while violating state laws. Some even estimate that 1 in every 5 semi trucks currently in operation are too unsafe to be on the road. What should you do if you're injured in an accident with a semi truck whose driver has a history of safety violations? Read on to learn more about how this factor can impact a potential personal injury claim.
How can a history of safety violations impact your personal injury claim?
In order to recover a monetary judgment against a trucker who has injured you, you'll need to establish a few key factors. You'll need to show that the trucker owed you a duty of care and breached this duty of care by engaging in negligent or reckless activities -- for example, speeding, following too closely, or towing an overweight load. You'll then need to demonstrate that the trucker's negligent or reckless actions directly resulted in your injuries.
This doesn't mean you must show that the trucker had a history of safety violations or of breaking the law to recover a judgment -- you'll only need to establish that negligence occurred during your specific accident. However, if you are able to demonstrate that the trucker has a history of traffic infractions, ordinance violations, or other safety breaches, you'll be able to use this evidence to bolster your claim and more clearly establish negligence in the present instance. You may even be able to add the trucking company as a co-defendant in your lawsuit if you can show that this company knew its driver was engaging in reckless behavior and did nothing to stop it.
In addition to making it much easier to demonstrate the trucker's breach of care, evidence of past safety violations can help you during the penalty phase of a civil trial. While compensatory damages are assessed in most personal injury cases -- helping compensate you for medical bills, lost wages, and other direct costs of your accident -- punitive damages are available only when the defendant's actions have been so negligent or reckless that a financial penalty is deemed necessary to deter future similar behavior. Punitive damages don't need to be based on any specific criteria, and the amount you may receive can vary widely depending upon the trucker's (or trucking company's) available income and assets.
Can you make this argument even if the trucker's history is "off the record"?
In some cases, the driver who struck you may not have ever been officially cited for violations of safety regulations or state laws, despite engaging in prohibited practices for years. This doesn't necessarily mean you're prevented from raising this issue if you become aware that the driver was engaging in illegal activity prior to your accident. For example, if you learn that the driver routinely used his or her cell phone for texting or internet browsing while behind the wheel, you may be able to subpoena phone records and compare them to GPS points to demonstrate the trucker's clear history of texting and driving.
It can be difficult to unearth this type of information, but doing so could significantly impact the amount you will eventually recover from the trucker and his or her insurance company. Even if you're not sure whether the trucker who struck you had a history of negligent behavior, if you feel this is a possibility, it can be worthwhile to do some digging before proceeding with a standard personal injury claim.
For more information, contact an experienced attorney or visit sites like http://www.gabrielsonlaw.com.