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Is fault based on damage in a West Virginia trucking accident?

Safe driving advice is often dispensed from a stay-out-of-trouble perspective. You follow the rules to avoid criminal punishment. Some West Virginia drivers, including commercial truck drivers, forget there is another reason to take driving seriously.

Driving is a potentially dangerous activity. Therefore, vehicle operators have a legal obligation to use care when driving. A driver who fails to consider the consequences of unsafe driving is negligent and liable for harm caused by carelessness.

The safety standard is higher among large truck operators than other drivers, because truckers are specially trained and licensed professionals. Add to that the size and weight of an 18-wheeler compared to non-commercial vehicles. Tractor-trailers, sometimes carrying possibly-volatile cargos, can be more than 26 times heavier than passenger cars.

By size alone, smaller vehicles and their occupants are at a distinct disadvantage in semi-truck accidents. In 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of large truck occupants killed nationwide in fatal crashes was 529. Conversely, the number of non-occupants and occupants of other vehicles who died in those collisions stood at 3,146.

What non-professional drivers don't know about large trucks can hurt them. Many truck accidents occur because car drivers misjudge what trucks and truck drivers are capable of doing -- semi-trucks do not brake or accelerate quickly. Blind spots to the rear and sides of a large truck also impede driver visibility.

Big rigs may cause the most damage in a crash, but that alone has no bearing on fault. There's no automatic penalty for driving a bigger, heavier vehicle, unless the actions of a truck driver or related party are careless. Third parties may include a trucker's employer or other company responsible for the driver actions or the tractor-trailer's performance.

Truck accident investigations and claims stemming from them can be highly complex. Attorneys make sure plaintiffs are fully aware of their rights and risks.

Source: FindLaw, "Truck Accident FAQ" Oct. 29, 2014

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