Large trucks are one of the primary ways that goods are transported across the country. According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), trucks are responsible for delivering "over 80 percent of all freight transported annually in the U.S." The ATA stated in its report that "[t]rucks carried 10.49 tons of freight in 2015, accounting for 70.1% of domestic freight tonnage." The report also stated that " there were 3.63 million Class 8 trucks in operation." In addition, total trucking revenue exceeded $700 billion in 2015.
Unfortunately, though useful and necessary to the transportation of goods, large trucks can pose a risk to others on the road if not operated in safe and careful manner. When large trucks are involved in accidents with smaller vehicles, the consequences for the smaller vehicle occupants can be dire. In general, 2015 saw an increase in car accident fatalities according to the preliminary report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Approximately 35,200 people lost there lives on the roads and highways across the nation last year. Among the types of accidents that increased were accidents involving large trucks. The NHTSA reported that the number of "[f]atalities in crashes involving large trucks increased by 4 percent." The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported that there were 141,292 accidents involving large trucks in 2015 which resulted in 4,197 deaths and 70,915 injuries.
Passenger vehicles like cars, SUV's, etc., face significant risks when involved in a crash with a big rig, because, as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety points out, ""[t]rucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger cars and are taller with greater ground clearance." The people in the passenger vehicles may be injured, maimed, or killed in a collision with a large truck. In fact, the ATA stated that there is more likely to be a fatality in a large truck/passenger vehicle accident than in an accident involving two passenger vehicles. In addition, the driver of the large truck was less likely to be the fatality in the crash.
Negligence And Truck Accidents
If you or a love one has been in an accident with a large truck, you may be dealing with significant injuries, or your loved one may have passed away. Usually, in order to hold a person liable for the injuries he or she causes, the plaintiff in a lawsuit must show that the other party was negligent. Negligence is an area of tort law that permits people to bring a civil case against another person in order to seek monetary compensation for the injuries that they have suffered at the hands of a careless party.
In Colorado, as in most states, in order to prove a defendant was liable the plaintiff must prove four elements. The plaintiff first must show that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff. The plaintiff then must show that the defendant breached that duty. Third, the plaintiff must show that the defendant's conduct was both the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries. Finally, the defendant's conduct must have caused the plaintiff injury. Vigil v. Franklin, 103 P.3d 322, 324 (Colo. 2004).
Truck Accidents And Employer Liability
If you have been injured because of the negligence of a truck driver, there may be another party who you can seek compensation from. Unlike with accidents between two passenger vehicles, a truck driver can be an employee. And an employer can be held liable for the torts its employees commit under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Respondeat superior means “let the superior make answer” in Latin. Black's Law Dictionary 1426 (9th ed. 2009). Under this doctrine if an employee is negligent and injures someone while in the course and scope of his or her employment, then the employer of that negligent employee can be held liable for the injuries its employee has caused.
For example, truck driver Dylan is an employee working for ABC Trucking Company. While delivering a shipment for the company he rear ends a car, causing injuries to the passengers including Pamela. In a subsequent lawsuit, Pamela seeks damages from the ABC Trucking Company because Dylan was acting in the course and scope of his employment when he was making the delivery.
Whether or not an employer can be held liable is not always clear. There are various things that can affect a plaintiff's ability to seek compensation from a company. If an employee is not acting within the scope of employment then an employer cannot be held responsible for the employee's actions. For example, if an employee was driving a company car on his lunch break and rear-ended a vehicle, the employer would likely not be liable because the employee was not doing any company business at the time.
Truck Accidents And Jurisdiction
Another legal question that may crop up during a truck accident case is that of jurisdiction. It is important to note that jurisdictional issues can quite complicated and an experienced attorney can help you navigate this potentially tricky issue. Jurisdiction means "[a] court's power to decide a case or issue a decree." Black's Law Dictionary 927 (9th ed. 2009). A court must have subject matter jurisdiction, as well as personal jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction is "[a] court's power to bring a person into its adjudicative process." Id. at 930. A court must have personal jurisdiction over a defendant in order for that court to enforce a judgment against the defendant. In general, states have jurisdiction over their citizens. Thus, a if you are rear-ended by a person from Colorado, you can file a lawsuit against that person in Colorado courts because the Colorado courts likely have personal jurisdiction over that person.
The problem can arise when you are hit by a person from out of state or if you get into an accident while you are out of state. Colorado has a long-arm statute that gives its courts power to over defendants who commit "a tortious act within this state." C.R.S. 13-1-124 (2016). An example of a tortious act would be injuring someone in a car accident. Thus, in general, a person who is from out of state and causes a car accident will likely be able to be sued in the Colorado courts. However, it is a different story if you are in a car accident in another state. For example, if you are injured in a car accident in Utah by a person from Utah, then if you choose to bring a lawsuit, you will likely not be able to do so in Colorado unless the defendant has some connection, or "minimum contacts" with Colorado.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney in Colorado
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, an experienced Colorado attorney can help you seek just compensation from the truck driver or truck company who injured you. Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal has been practicing personal injury law in Colorado for over a decade and his firm exclusively works with cases in this area of law. Contact his office today for a free consultation or click here to fill out the online form.