In a Wisconsin truck accident, suffering an injury means your life turns upside down. But seeking compensation for your injuries and associated losses is not easy. Truck accident liability cases are notoriously complex and require a comprehensive understanding of negligence laws, trucking industry regulations, and legal procedures.
Navigating this complicated landscape on your own can be overwhelming, especially while you’re still recovering. Further, trying to represent yourself could jeopardize your chances of obtaining the compensation you deserve.
That’s why you need Schwaba Law Firm by your side. Andrew Schwaba, a knowledgeable and experienced Wisconsin truck accident attorney, can skillfully handle the legal complexities. He’ll work to protect your rights and pursue maximum compensation from the at-fault party, whoever that might be.
Who Can Be Sued in a Wisconsin Trucking Accident?
Multiple parties may bear legal liability for a truck accident in Wisconsin, depending on the specific circumstances and factors involved. Any of the following parties could be responsible.
The Truck Driver
Truck driver negligence is often the cause of trucking accidents. Examples of such carelessness that could lead to an accident include distracted driving, fatigue, impaired driving, and excessive speeding.
The Trucking Company
Under the principle of vicarious liability, victims can hold companies responsible for negligence committed by their employees while they’re on duty. In addition, trucking companies could be liable for negligent hiring or management practices. Examples of such negligence may include:
- Hiring a driver without a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
- Inadequately training new drivers
- Setting unrealistic delivery schedules
- Pressuring drivers to violate federal hours of service regulations
- Failing to maintain trucks properly
The Truck’s Owner
Suppose a separate entity owns the truck that the trucking company or driver leases and operates. In that case, the truck owner may be held liable for any negligence related to the vehicle’s maintenance, inspection, or repair that causes an accident.
The Shipper or Cargo Loading Company
Failure to properly load and secure a truck’s cargo can lead to disastrous effects if the cargo falls off or shifts in transit. If that occurs, the company or entity responsible for the freight may bear liability for their negligence in improperly loading and securing the cargo.
A Freight Broker
When a freight broker arranges for a transportation company to ship another company’s goods, they are responsible for making sure that:
- The transport company has appropriately licensed drivers;
- The vehicles used will pass inspection; and
- The drivers are experienced and skilled at transporting the type of cargo they’ll be moving.
If the freight broker failed in these duties, acted with negligence, or violated federal regulatory obligations, and an accident occurred because of it, they could be liable.
A Maintenance Facility
A facility that handles commercial truck maintenance and repair services must enable the trucks to comply with extensive federal regulations. These facilities may bear legal responsibility for an accident caused by negligent maintenance, repairs, or inspections.
A Truck Part Manufacturer
If a defective part caused the accident, the manufacturer could be liable for injuries. Examples of defective parts may include faulty brakes, steering components, or tires.
Drivers in nearby passenger vehicles could also bear responsibility for a truck accident. If another driver’s negligence causes a truck to crash, ultimately hurting others, those accident victims can seek compensation from the negligent driver.
Government Entities Responsible for Roadways
If a roadway hazard caused the accident, the government entity responsible for maintaining the road could be held accountable. Roadway hazards may include inadequate signage, inoperable traffic lights, uneven pavement, or dangerous road designs.
Evidence to Support Your Truck Accident Liability Claim
Proving liability in a Wisconsin trucking accident is complex, requiring a thorough investigation to gather compelling evidence proving fault. Various types of evidence may help establish fault and support your case. Common types of evidence include the following:
- Accident Reports – Wisconsin law requires individuals involved in an accident to advise law enforcement of any crash resulting in injury, death, damage to government-owned property, or apparent property damage totaling $1,000 or more. The responding officer will complete a report that includes critical information about the crash.
- Eyewitness Testimony – Statements from individuals who saw the accident can provide direct accounts of what happened. Eyewitness testimony can help establish factors such as the truck’s movements, road conditions, traffic violations, or other relevant details.
- Expert Witness Testimony – You may need testimony from expert witnesses to analyze the evidence and provide professional opinions on how and why the accident occurred. Examples of expert witnesses used in truck accident cases include accident reconstruction specialists, forensic engineers, and trucking industry experts.
- Trucking Company Records – Records from the trucking company may include driver logs, maintenance records, training records, and employment records. These documents can shed light on potential negligence by either the truck driver or their employer, including driver qualifications and training, regulatory compliance, and safety practices.
- Electronic Logging Device – Federal regulations require most commercial trucks to be equipped with an electronic logging device (ELD), which tracks driving time, rest breaks, vehicle speed, and other data points. ELD data can provide critical information regarding driver fatigue, hours of service violations, and vehicle speed.
- Truck Maintenance Records – Maintenance records and inspection reports from the trucking company or maintenance facility can demonstrate whether those entities adequately maintained and inspected the vehicle. They may also identify any maintenance-related issues that contributed to the accident.
- Video Footage – Surveillance cameras, dashcam recordings, or footage from nearby businesses or traffic cameras could capture the accident as it unfolds. Such video evidence can help establish the sequence of events, actions, and behaviors of the truck driver, as well as other factors that determine liability.
- Photographs and Physical Evidence – Photographs of the accident scene, vehicle damage, skid marks, road conditions, and any relevant physical evidence can help reconstruct the accident, demonstrate the at-fault party’s negligence, and support your claim.
- Medical Records – Detailed medical records documenting your injuries, treatments, and related expenses are essential to substantiate your claim for damages. They also establish a link between the accident and your physical injuries, pain, and suffering.
Time Limits for a Wisconsin Truck Crash Claim
Under Wisconsin law, victims of motor vehicle accidents have three years from the accident date to file a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent party.
After being injured in a truck accident, you could try to recover compensation from the at-fault party by filing a claim with their insurance company. Even if you don’t plan to file a personal injury lawsuit, the statute of limitations still matters. By being aware of the time limit, you can make an informed decision about whether and when to pursue a lawsuit.
If you file your lawsuit on time, you have leverage when discussing a potential settlement with the insurance company. If the insurance company knows you still have the option of going to court, it may be more willing to negotiate a fair settlement and avoid a lengthy, expensive trial.
How Wisconsin Comparative Negligence Laws Could Affect Your Case
Under Wisconsin’s comparative negligence law, multiple parties can recover compensation after an accident, even if they bear some legal responsibility for causing it. In these cases, the court will assign each liable party a percentage of fault and reduce the amount of damages they recover in proportion to their share of fault.
As an example, suppose the court determines a driver bore 10 percent of the legal liability for an accident in which they suffered $100,000 in losses. In that case, the court would reduce the amount of compensation they can recover by 10 percent, resulting in a $90,000 award.
However, the law also bars a party from recovering compensation if their percentage of fault is 51 percent or more.
This law could affect your case in a few ways. Even if the trucking company’s insurer tries to shift partial blame on you for the accident, this law protects your right to recover compensation as long as you are less than 51 percent at fault. An attorney can fight for this right and push back if the insurance company tries to blame you entirely for the accident.
Given the significant impact of Wisconsin’s comparative negligence law, it is essential to consult an experienced truck accident attorney. A lawyer will work to build a strong case for the at-fault party’s negligence and maximize your compensation.
Get in Touch with a Wisconsin Truck Accident Attorney
Determining liability in truck accident cases is a convoluted process that demands experience and comprehensive knowledge of the trucking industry and negligence laws. You do not have to try to handle your case alone. Schwaba Law Firm can guide you through every step of the legal journey, meticulously examining the evidence, negotiating with insurance companies, and fiercely pursuing justice on your behalf.
Do not delay. You only have two years to seek the compensation you need to support your recovery. Reach out today for a free consultation with Wisconsin truck accident lawyer Andrew Schwaba.