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Why Do Trucking Companies Try to Blame Unidentified Vehicles for Crashes?

How Trucking Companies Try to Shift Blame Onto a Mystery Vehicle

Among the many strategies trucking companies may try to avoid being held accountable for a crash is the "phantom car" defense, where they blame the accident on some mystery car. These vehicles apparently travel from place to place, cause wrecks involving semi-trucks, and then flee the scene, never to be found again. All kidding aside, this defense, however ridiculous it may seem, can be a serious threat to your case's viability if not properly countered.

Questions Answered on This Page

  • What is a "phantom car" defense?
  • Why would a trucking company want to place blame on another car?
  • How can you prove there wasn't another vehicle involved in a truck accident?

How the Phantom Car Defense Actually Works

Like any of the many defensive strategies that attorneys for trucking companies attempt to deploy, the ultimate goal of the phantom car defense is to create doubt about who was actually responsible for the crash. To be fair, this isn't always just grabbing at straws to avoid doing the responsible thing. Sometimes there legitimately are other factors that a trucking company can claim contributed to the accident. For instance, imagine something was thrown off an overpass, crashing through the windshield of an 18-wheeler. When this happened, the truck driver made an abrupt lane change as a knee-jerk reaction, striking the car in the lane next to him.

Under such circumstances, the trucking company's legal team would legitimately be able to claim that the misconduct of an unidentified third party contributed or even caused the accident. But that kind of unlikely situation is not what we're talking about here. The scenario at hand is one where the only two vehicles involved in the accident were the negligent truck driver and the victim, yet the truck driver invents a phantom vehicle out of whole cloth for the sole purpose of shifting blame off of himself.

Here's another example of how this defense is used. Imagine an 18-wheeler swerves into your lane and sideswipes your vehicle. The trucking company might then argue that the reason the truck swerved was that another vehicle cut them off first. So, according to their story, it's the fault of the phantom vehicle rather than the truck driver. The problem is, there's no evidence of this other vehicle being involved in the crash at all, which makes it seem like nothing more than a convenient explanation for the accident.

What is the Trucking Company Trying to Do?

With so many of these defenses, we have to work hard to refute the trucking company's claims. This defense is a little different because there is often no evidence of this mystery vehicle. Although this is a clever attempt at weakening the arguments made by an injured person, it's built on faulty logic. What they are essentially saying is that some vehicle, which fled the scene, caused the accident, and you can't prove that that's not true. Of course, this idea obvisouly cuts both ways, since the defendants can't prove that a mystery vehicle actually was involved. So, while trucking companies do sometimes use this defense, and it can still potentially succeed if you don't have legal help able to refute it, it's not the hardest defense for an experienced truck accident lawyer to defeat. We might even be so bold as to say that when a trucking company has to rely on this kind of nonsensical defense, they're telegraphing the fact that they know they don't have any better arguments.

The other problem with this defense is that it completely glosses over the fact that a commercial driver is still primarily at fault even if another vehicle swerved in front of them. Think of it this way: let's say a car really does cut a truck off. Does that mean that it's acceptable for the truck driver to hurt someone else trying to avoid that car? Most jurors would probably say "no". If anyone has to get hurt because there is nowhere for the truck to go, then surely the truck should strike the car that cut him off, rather than an innocent person. Moreover, if traffic is so dense that there is no way that an 18-wheeler can take evasive maneuvers when someone cuts them off, its driver is obligated to adjust his speed and driving habits to account for this. In other words, it's the duty of the truck driver to not allow himself to be put in a position where another car's abrupt lane change leads to someone else being injured or killed. Notwithstanding dense traffic, an 18-wheeler should leave plenty of space between himself and other vehicles, affording himself an opportunity to not have his path disrupted by another driver's poor decision.

Grossman Law Offices Is Prepared to Counter Trucking Company Defenses

Grossman Law Offices has seen all sorts of common, albeit flawed defenses from trucking companies after a crash, and blaming external vehicles is one of them. If 25 years of negotiating, trying, and winning personal injury claims has taught us anything, it's how to effectively counter all of these defenses. Even against the best arguments, we've proven successful time and time again - something to which our hundreds of satisfied clients can attest.

We hope that this answered all of your questions about how trucking companies use the phantom car defense to avoid accountabilit. If you have any other concerns that need to be addressed, or want to begin working towards your path to financial compensation, then call us at (855) 326-0000 for a free consultation. Grossman Law Offices is ever-ready to serve Texans, and get you back on your feet, so call today.

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