How to Determine Fault After an Arizona Truck Accident

arizona truck accident

Over the past 10 years, the number of truck accidents in the U.S. has steadily increased. According to the latest data from the National Safety Council (NSC), there were 5,700 fatal truck accidents in 2021, representing a 10% jump from the year before and a nearly 50% growth since 2011. 

With so much weight and speed combined, it’s easy to understand how these vehicles could be at risk. Truck drivers and nearby vehicles are vulnerable when they’re present. In the Copper State alone, there were 14,225 crashes involving trucks or buses in 2021. 

Have you been involved in an Arizona truck accident? If so, it’s important to know what and who caused the collision. Proving fault could affect the outcome of your case, as well as the compensation you receive. Today, we’re sharing how to complete this step, and why it’s important to have an accident lawyer by your side. 

A Look at Truck Accidents in Arizona

As mentioned, the latest data from the Arizona Department of Transportation (AZDOT) reveals that more than 14,000 crashes occurring throughout the state involve trucks. That number represents around 6.06% of all crashes that occur in the state each year. 

According to the same report, 140 of those collisions were fatal and 4,771 resulted in some type of injury. In addition, 10,789 resulted in property damage only. While these statistics might be shocking, it’s important to understand that many of these accidents are preventable. 

By practicing caution every time you get behind the wheel and driving defensively, you can stay safe when you encounter a truck on the road. However, the reality is that even if you’re the safest driver out there, you could still fall victim to someone else’s negligence.

A truck accident can be serious, as well as complex. Big trucks are much larger, heavier, and more imposing on the road than a conventional vehicle. Colliding with one could mean suffering serious injuries or even death. 

If you’re involved in a trucking accident, it’s crucial to follow the right steps immediately afterward. The sooner you can iron out the details around what happened and who was responsible, the better the outcome can be. 

This brings us to the topic of fault. 

Determining Fault in an Accident Case

When we talk about determining fault, what we mean is figuring out whose actions ultimately led to the truck accident. Any negligent driver should be held responsible for their actions. 

While this process might seem simple, it rarely is. When a truck is involved in an accident, there are typically more parties affected than just two vehicles. While each situation is unique, most of the time, the following players are involved:

  • The truck driver
  • The passenger vehicle driver
  • The truck owner
  • The truck maintenance company
  • The truck manufacturer
  • The shipping or loading entity
  • The organization that leased the truck from the owner
  • The truck manufacturer
  • Other parties and stakeholders

Truck Accidents in Arizona: How to Determine Fault

Each state sets its own laws regarding how to determine fault in the event of an accident. This includes accidents that involve large trucks. In addition to mandates set forth by the local department of Transportation (DOT), there are also national laws designed to keep truck drivers and passenger vehicles safe on the road. 

The USDOT has teamed up with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to develop and enforce laws and regulations around trucking safety. They’ve also created a helpful list of tips and techniques that can help truck drivers stay diligent when they get behind the wheel. You can find those tips in this guide

While every driver should be familiar with these laws, this isn’t always the case. Many factors could render their actions unsafe on the road, some of which are even beyond their control. When it’s time to determine fault, your truck accident attorney will look at the collision from every angle. 

A few of the main factors they will consider include:

  • The cause of the collision
  • The number of parties involved in the collision
  • The degree to which the passenger vehicle driver contributed to the collision 

Let’s take a look at each of these in greater detail. 

The Cause of the Collision 

The first factor used to determine fault is what caused the accident in the first place. Some of the key questions that your attorney will ask at this stage include:

  • Was the accident attributed to a driver acting negligently?
  • Were there other issues at work, such as a defective design or recalled part in the truck?
  • Was the vehicle properly repaired and maintained?
  • Did the collision occur on a road that’s dangerously designed?
  • Was weather a factor? 

Many times, there is more than one factor involved in a truck accident. For instance, the driver might have been distracted (negligence) plus the roads may have been slick from a recent storm. 

The Number of Parties Involved

Next, an attorney will determine the full extent of the parties involved in the collision. Often, there are multiple parties involved including the driver, the trucking company, or any cargo loaders who may have been responsible as well. 

It’s critical to get the full picture of who holds responsibility. This way, all parties can be held responsible for the incident.

The Degree of Second Driver Contribution 

While the truck driver may have been at fault for the collision, the passenger vehicle driver may share some of the blame. This is where the concept of fault becomes important.

Along with 38 other states (as well as the District of Columbia), Arizona follows what’s known as a fault-based system when it comes to roadway accidents. Specifically, this state is a no-fault state.

Put simply, this means that both drivers can file a claim for compensation with their own insurance company after a collision occurs. This can be done regardless of which party was responsible for the crash. Drivers carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance in a no-fault state like Arizona. 

In the event of a collision, PIP insurance will kick in to cover the injured driver’s medical bills, as well as any wages they might have lost due to being out of work. It’s important to note, however, that these benefits only cover your personal medical care and wage losses, and there’s usually a limit to how much you can claim. 

What happens, then, if your total damages exceed that pre-determined cap? In that case, you will still need to file a claim against the other, at-fault driver. You’ll also need to file a claim if you suffered any type of non-economic injuries such as:

  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Inconvenience 
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of society and companionship
  • Loss of consortium 

If the other driver is found to be at fault for causing those damages, then they will be required to pay you the full compensation you deserve. To get even more specific, Arizona is also a pure comparative fault state. This means that you can still file a claim, even if you’re partially to blame for the accident.

In this case, your compensation will be reduced by your degree of shared blame. For instance, if you’re found to be 20% at fault for the collision, then you will receive 80% of the compensation you’re owed.

Kinds of Evidence to Consider

As your attorney works to determine who was at fault for your accident, they will need as much evidence as they can amass. Of course, any images or videos you can take of the accident will be infinitely helpful in this regard. Other places your lawyer can look for evidence include:

  • Police reports
  • Witness statements
  • Personal accounts (including yours)
  • Medical reports
  • Property damage reports (e.g. car maintenance bills)

Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of evidence they will examine. 

Driver Logs

Commercial truck drivers are required to keep detailed logs of their travels. Often, their driver log will contain valuable information that can prove useful in your case. This includes a record of how long the driver was on duty before the accident occurred.

If they were just coming off a long stretch of work, there’s a chance that fatigue could have played an issue. 

Alcohol or Drug Screening Results

Immediately after the accident, a truck driver will often be required to perform an alcohol or drug test. These are given to determine if the driver was under the influence at the time of the crash. Naturally, the results will serve as important evidence in your case. 

Truck Logs

Today, many commercial trucks come equipped with electronic data capture tools. These help the driver’s company keep tabs on their fleet so they know key statistics such as:

  • How fast they’re traveling
  • If they’re keeping their eyes on the road
  • The number of times they stop
  • Their exact GPS position 

These recording devices are similar to the black boxes found on airplanes. In addition to driver behavior data, they can also capture critical information on the truck itself, such as engine performance, upcoming necessary repairs, and more. Most of the devices contain cameras that can even record in-cab footage of the driver, which can be used as evidence. 

In addition, some trucks also include dashcam videos that serve a similar purpose. Any recordings from these can also be considered valid evidence in your case. 

Truck Maintenance Records

It’s important to keep all commercial trucks properly maintained. This includes taking the vehicle in for routine, preventative maintenance visits to stay on top of any issues and correct them before they snowball into bigger problems. In addition, if a driver recognizes a problem with their truck, they’re required by law to take it in immediately. 

Your attorney may be able to find an issue that was occurring in the truck at the time of the accident. For example, the vehicle may have needed new tires, or the timing belt might have been old. The same goes for the suspension, engine, brakes, and any other part. 

If this is the case, it not only points to driver negligence. It could also signal negligence on behalf of the trucking company, the truck manufacturer, or the company that the driver works for. In addition to current maintenance records, your lawyer can also look at post-accident vehicle reports to get a clearer picture of what was going on with the truck when the collision occurred. 

Eyewitness Statements

Before leaving the scene of a truck accident, it’s critical to get the contact information of any eyewitnesses who were around right before or during the collision. They can give an unbiased account of what occurred, who was at fault, and what happened right afterward. The police should have this information in their report, but your lawyer can also request that information from the witnesses themselves. 

The more witnesses who were there, the stronger your case can be. If you’re able to speak to them and glean their information, you can share those details with your lawyer, too.

Do You Need Help With an Arizona Truck Accident Case?

At Sweet Law, we understand how disheartening an Arizona truck accident case can be. This is a stressful time and you need to be able to focus on healing. That’s why our team of trusted attorneys is here to help. We’ll listen to your case and work to determine who was at fault. 

Then, we will hold the responsible parties accountable. We’ve built a solid reputation in and around this area, and we’re familiar with all of the trucking laws that apply to your case. Contact us today for a free consultation!

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