In 2020, early estimates put out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Delivery truck accidents are becoming more frequent due to the fact that more people are shopping from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic; meaning, there are larger numbers of delivery trucks on the road when compared to previous years.
There are myriad ways in which the driver of a passenger car can be involved in an accident with a delivery truck. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Being rear-ended;
- Being side-swiped; and
- Being crushed by the underside of the truck.
Injuries resulting from an accident with a delivery truck may be especially serious when compared to collisions involving only passenger vehicles. This is largely due to the size of delivery trucks, which are generally larger than a common passenger vehicle. Additionally, delivery truck accidents frequently involve collisions with pedestrians. This is due to the fact that they often must enter loading/unloading zones and spaces which are located near pedestrian traffic.
Some of the most common examples of delivery truck injuries resulting from an accident include:
- Whiplash injuries, generally resulting from rear-end accidents;
- Broken bones, cuts, and lacerations, especially in accidents involving pedestrians; and/or
- Head, neck, and spinal injuries.
Who Is Liable If I Am Injured By a Delivery Truck Driver?
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your specific case, there are various parties that might be held legally liable for injuries that are caused by an accident with a delivery truck. Determining who exactly will face liability can sometimes be a complex endeavor, especially in terms of sorting out liability between an employer and a delivery truck employee.
Vehicle accidents are generally covered by personal injury law. Personal injury claims involve a plaintiff claiming that they have sustained an injury due to an act or failure to act by the defendant. The court may award the plaintiff money damages for personal injury. If an unintentional injury is the result of someone’s negligence, the plaintiff may file a lawsuit based on this legal theory. Auto accidents, slip and fall accidents, and injuries sustained from medical malpractice are all considered to be examples of “negligence” cases.
If you have been injured by a delivery truck driver, you will most likely want to file a lawsuit against any number of defendants for negligence. Some possible defendants who may be held liable for your injuries resulting from the accident include:
- The truck driver themselves;
- The truck driver’s employer;
- The trucking company;
- The truck’s manufacturer;
- The shipper of hazardous goods;
- The truck’s repair shop;
- An establishment that served the truck driver alcohol, such as a bar or nightclub, which caused them to drive while intoxicated; and/or
- The government agency responsible for maintaining public roads.
The truck driver themselves may be at fault due to any of the following reasons:
- Errors made while driving;
- Fatigue; or
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
How Can I Sue the Delivery Truck Driver’s Employer?
You may be able to sue the truck driver’s employer on the basis of the theory of respondeat superior. What this means is that employers are liable for the negligent acts of their employees. Another way of putting it is that the employer is vicariously liable for accidents occuring during the usual course of the employee’s business.
Vicarious liability may also be referred to as “imputed liability.” It is the legal concept of holding one person accountable for the actions of another person. Although the term applies to many different types of legal relationships, it is most commonly associated with the employer-employee relationship covered by employment law. Vicarious liability occurs when an employee acts negligently while “on the job.” The negligent act is considered to be unlawful, and causes harm. When the act is done “in the course of employment” and within the “scope of the employee’s job,” vicarious liability can apply; meaning, the employer can legally be held liable for any damages or injuries resulting from the employee’s negligent actions.
Vicarious liability is intended to allow the injured party to sue the employer instead of the employee, who is much more likely to have greater financial resources than the employee. Damages generally include:
- Medical bills;
- Lost wages;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Property damage;
Some common examples of when an employer can be held vicariously liable for an employee’s actions include:
- An employer knowingly hires an unqualified employee who causes harm resulting from their lack of skills;
- An employee was or became unfit for a position, either mentally or physically, and a supervisor was aware but allowed them to continue working;
- The employer failed to provide adequate supervision over an employee;
- The employer has either insufficient or no policies or procedures in place;
- The employer is made aware of harassment occurring in the workplace, but does nothing to prevent, stop, or correct the harmful behavior; and
- The employer did not properly train or direct employees regarding their assigned job duties, resulting in injuries or damages.
However, if you wish to hold the truck driver’s employer liable, the truck driver must be directly employed by the company. Additionally, they must have been acting in the course of their employment. What this means is that they must not be an independent contractor.
How Can I Sue the Delivery Truck’s Manufacturer? Who Else Could I Sue For Delivery Truck Accidents?
You may be able to file the delivery truck’s manufacturer on the basis of a defective product. This argument asserts that the accident occurred because of a defect within the truck, or a defective part of the truck. Liability would then fall to the truck manufacturer, or the maker of any of the truck’s defective parts.
Legal theories associated with defective products can be categorized in the following three ways:
- Design Defects: Defects that have their basis during the design phase of the product’s creation; the defect is associated with the way in which the product is designed or conceptualized. An example of this would be when the manufacturer poorly designed the truck’s brakes, making it more difficult to stop and therefore more likely to cause an accident;
- Manufacturing Defects: Defects which occur during production or assembly. These defects have to do with the way in which the product is put together. If a delivery truck is assembled in such a way that a crucial gear is missing, the manufacturer could be held liable if the defect results in an accident or injury; and
- Warning Defects: These defects are associated with the information included with the product. If the product does not contain sufficient warnings or information regarding safety risks, the manufacturer could be held liable for resulting injuries or damages.
If the goods being delivered by the truck were hazardous, you may be able to sue the shipper. This is especially true when the shipper failed to inform the truck driver or truck company that the goods were dangerous. Here, hazardous or dangerous goods include solids, liquids, or gasses that are harmful to people, other living beings, property, or the environment.
If the truck had recently been repaired, and it is determined that the repairs were performed incorrectly, you may be able to sue the mechanic responsible for the repairs. You may also be able to sue the mechanic’s employer. This is a fairly frequent issue, especially when the mechanic has been contracted to perform repairs on an entire fleet of delivery vehicles.
Do I Need an Attorney For a Delivery Truck Accident Lawsuit?
If you were involved in an accident with a delivery truck that resulted in injury or damage, you should consult with an experienced and local truck accident attorney immediately. Because personal injury and negligence law can vary from state to state, it is recommended that you work with a local lawyer to ensure you receive the most relevant legal advice.
Your personal injury attorney can help determine which party to sue, gather evidence to support your claim, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.