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Who Is Liable in an Accident Between Different Types of Vehicles?

Richardson Richardson Boudreaux, PLLC

With so many vehicles sharing transportation space, accidents between different types of vehicles are bound to happen. A car could hit a boat. A motorcycle could hit a bicycle. An ATV can hit a construction vehicle. There are endless possible combinations for vehicle accidents.

Determining liability in any vehicular accident can be confusing. In the swirl of activity, responsibility is not always obvious. Even when your mind clears, your initial experience colors your view of the facts.

This confusion compounds when the accident involves two different types of vehicles. What may appear to be a simple solution could be more complex. For example, if a car driver strikes a bicyclist, it’s easy to assume that the driver is at fault. However, the bicyclist may have been reckless and, disobeying traffic laws, responsible for the accident. In any vehicle crash, the details of the accident determine responsibility.

The Same Rules Always Apply

Imagine a crash involving two cars. Person A is exercising caution, obeying all traffic laws and keeping their attention on the road. Person B is speeding, runs a stop sign, and slams into Driver A. Liability in this scenario is clear. Person B is responsible for the accident.

Now imagine that instead of driving a car, Person B is riding a motorcycle. Speeding, they run the stop sign and hit Person A. The front tire stops against the car door, sending the rest of the bike into the air. Person B is sent flying, hits the road, and skids several yards before stopping. In this situation, the motorcycle rider is still at fault.

Negligence is a major factor in any personal injury claim. To understand negligence, consider what a driver failed to do. If they were speeding and ran a stop sign, they failed to follow traffic laws. If they were too busy playing with the radio, they failed to pay attention to the road. The negligent party is the one who is responsible for the accident. Regardless of the kinds of vehicles involved, people must follow the rules pertaining to that vehicle. If a car takes a turn too tightly, flies off a bridge, and hits a boat, that car’s driver is probably responsible for damages. However, if a boat comes in too fast, pushes its way onto the shore, and hits an oncoming ATV, the boat operator may be liable.

Comparative Negligence

Personal injury cases in Oklahoma operate on a system of comparative negligence. Put simply, the law recognizes that in an accident, fault can be distributed among several parties. Imagine a speeding driver who hits a bicyclist crossing on a “do not walk” signal. Both individuals broke the law, and they are both at least partially responsible for the accident.

The courts must decide who is more responsible, and for that, they assign a percentage of fault. The plaintiff can receive damages only at the defendant’s percentage of liability. Let’s say that in the case above, the bicyclist sues the driver. After reviewing the facts, the court determines that the defendant, the driver, is 60% responsible for the accident. The bicyclist, our plaintiff, can receive only 60% of the total compensation awarded by the court.

The Severity of an Injury Does Not Affect Liability

Recall our earlier example, where the speeding biker is thrown from his ride. Hitting the ground hard on the other side and skidding causes severe damage. He must undergo several surgeries and therapies to become mobile again, and his injuries result in a permanent limp. As tragic as this outcome is, it doesn’t affect his ability to win a lawsuit. He was clearly at fault, so he can’t simply blame the driver for his injuries.

Severity of injury matters only if you were the victim. If you were in a crash that you did not cause, and you were badly hurt, you can ask for more compensation in a lawsuit. Compensation, sometimes called “damages,” is meant to pay you back for your injuries. Damages can cover your lost wages and medical expenses as you recover. They can also help cover your pain and suffering, offering some relief for the misery you endured. Therefore, if you were unjustly harmed in an accident, you can sue for a larger amount of money.

How Can a Lawyer Help?

It bears repeating: Liability is difficult to determine in any vehicle wreck. Regardless of the specific vehicles involved, it takes the skills of a good lawyer to accurately reconstruct the scene. Your lawyer can launch a full investigation into the accident, overlooking physical damage, records, eyewitness accounts, surveillance footage, and more. Whether your accident took place between two cars or a plane hitting a riding lawnmower, a deft attorney can judge the facts, discovering who is responsible for the damages.

If you’ve been hurt in an accident between different vehicle types, reach out to our office today. Through a free consultation, we can review the facts of your case and help you decide how to move forward. You can fill out an online contact form or call us at (918) 347-6456.

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