Trucking Accident Liability

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 Trucking Accident Liability

When a person is the victim of an accident involving a truck, they may have a more difficult time figuring out who is liable for the accident. The truck driver may be liable, but other entities might be liable as well. 

Commercial trucking accidents can be particularly dangerous due to the size, weight and operating characteristics of semi-trucks and other similar large vehicles. In addition to being larger than normal passenger vehicles, they may be carrying or towing large, heavy cargo loads. For this reason, trucking accidents can be serious and may cause severe injuries and significant property damage. 

What are Some Common Trucking Accident Injuries?

Trucking accidents vary depending on the circumstances. However, common injuries that result from a trucking accident are similar to those that result from any other motor vehicle crash, including:   

  • Whiplash injuries – these are common when a truck is unable to stop and rear-ends the car in front of it;
  • Broken bones and other injuries to the musculo-skeletal system;
  • Lacerations;
  • Head, neck, and spine injuries;
  • Injuries to internal organs, e.g. brain;
  • Injuries resulting from fires or explosions; 
  • Injuries caused by exposure to chemicals or toxic substances, e.g., if a truck is hauling dangerous chemicals or toxic substances.

Trucks can also cause accidents in ways that are not typical for smaller passenger vehicles. For instance, many trucking accidents involve car roll-overs, crushed vehicles, and multiple vehicles. 

Who is Responsible in a Trucking Accident?

When the driver of the truck is at fault in causing the accident, several different parties may be legally liable. The driver may be liable for negligence. The legal theory known as “respondeat superior” makes the employer of the trucking company that employs the driver responsible for the driver’s accidents. Thus, potentially liable parties include:

  • The truck driver, who have driven in a negligent manner, e.g. speeding;
  • The owner of the truck; this may be the driver if they are an independent owner/operator of the truck; or it might be a different entity;
  • The trucking company that employs the driver; 
  • The company that loads the truck’s cargo; it is possible that negligently loaded cargo could be a cause of an accident. So, if the negligence in loading the cargo causes an accident, the loading company could be liable;
  • The government agency that designed, constructed or repaired the road on which the accident happened.

If a person has been injured in a truck accident and the driver of the truck did not have the training required by federal regulations, then the person injured can sue the driver for violation of the applicable rules. If the trucking company that employs the driver failed to provide their drivers with adequate instruction about the operation of trucks, or if the company hired the truck driver without checking their license credentials and driving qualifications, then the injured person can also sue the trucking company for personal injury and property damage caused by the truck accident.

In addition, there are numerous other federal regulations that govern the trucking industry. They include: requirements for preventive maintenance and inspection of trucks, specific driver documentation and conduct, checking and understanding brake performance, taking the mandatory rest period between driving shifts, keeping a driver’s log book, conducting routine alcohol and drug testing, proper transportation of HAZMAT goods, and more.

If any truck driver or trucking company is in violation of the federal rules that govern them, and if the violation has resulted in an accident, then negligence can probably be proven, and a person’s truck accident case becomes stronger. 

Truckers are also required to have a minimum amount of insurance coverage. Because the injuries caused by truck accidents are often more severe than injuries caused in other auto accidents, truckers and trucking companies need to have much more insurance coverage than is required for the drivers of other vehicles. 

In a truck accident case there could well be more insurance coverage available than there is in other types of auto accident cases. This could mean that a person who is injured or whose property is damaged may be more likely to receive adequate compensation for the harm done to them. Working with a truck accident lawyer will help to ensure a person that they receive all of the compensation to which they are entitled.

Can the Non-Driving Parties Escape Liability for a Trucking Accident?

In some cases, the non-driving parties may try to escape liability by creating legal distance between themselves, the driver and the equipment. They may argue that the driver was not their employee or that they do not own the equipment.

Nevertheless, under a new federal law, the government holds the trucking company and companies that lease trucks liable even if they have tried to establish a more legally distanced relationship between themselves and the driver. 

What are Other Possible Causes of Trucking Accidents?

An accident involving a truck might also be caused by a defect in the truck or one of its parts, such as a defective brake pad.

If this is the case, the manufacturer of the truck or truck part might be held liable under product liability or defective product laws. Generally, there are three main categories of defects in trucks. These are: manufacturing defects, i.e., defects in the way the truck or truck parts were produced or assembled; design defects, i.e. errors in the way the truck or part was designed or engineered; and warning defects, defects that have to do with the safety or hazard warning associated with the truck or truck part.

In other cases, defective mechanic work might also contribute to a trucking accident. If that is the case, it may be possible to hold the mechanic or truck repair company liable for injuries stemming from a defective repair. An example of this is if a mechanic knowingly uses a part that has already been subject to a recall, because it is defective.

Are There Any Legal Remedies for a Trucking Accident Lawsuit?

Trucking accident lawsuits may be needed in order to resolve any legal issues associated with an accident. A person injured in an accident with a truck would file a lawsuit for negligence against the driver, the owner of the truck, and any company that might have been involved in loading cargo onto the truck. 

Or, if it is determined that a defect in the truck caused the accident, the lawsuit might be based on a product liability theory. The parties who could be legally liable would include the company that designed and manufactured the truck or any company that might have modified or repaired it.

If a person is involved in an accident with a truck, it would probably be wise to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer. Depending on the nature of the accident, if it is not immediately clear what the cause was, a personal injury lawyer would be able to hire the appropriate experts to investigate the accident and determine the cause, so that the person or company that is legally liable can be named in the lawsuit. 

In such lawsuits, the legal remedy will likely be an award of money damages to the non-liable person who suffered injury and other losses. Losses that can be compensated by an award of damages in a lawsuit include:

  • The cost of medical treatment for people injured in the accident; this would include doctors, medication, procedures and anything else connected with treating injuries;
  • The cost of hospitalization;
  • The costs of repairing damaged property;
  • Lost wages, future lost wages and loss of future earning capacity;
  • The cost of future medical treatment if the injured people have not fully recovered and can expect to incur medical expenses in the future;
  • Pain and suffering damages;
  • Mental anguish or emotional distress..

Do I Need to Hire an Attorney for Help with a Trucking Accident Claim?

Working with a truck accident lawyer will help to ensure that you get all of the compensation you are entitled to.

If you are involved in a trucking accident, you may wish to hire an experienced truck accident lawyer. An accident involving trucks has many potential causes and an experienced lawyer will be able to help determine the cause in your case. Then the party who is liable can be named in your lawsuit. This will help you maximize your personal injury award. Your attorney can provide guidance and representation both before and during a trial. You will get the best possible outcome if you hire an experienced personal injury lawyer.

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