Trucking Accident Driver & Carrier Liability
When a commercial truck is fully loaded with cargo, it is somewhere between 25 – 35 times heavier than an average passenger car. Being hit by one of these behemoths of the road can have a catastrophic effect on the smaller vehicle. Being hit on the side or rear can cause the smaller vehicle to skid off the road or hit another car close by. Smaller cars can also be crushed or rolled over with dire consequences for the inhabitants.
The driver and passengers in the smaller vehicles are usually the ones who suffer the most injuries and fatalities in truck accidents. Accident statistics from 2016 show that truck driver and passenger fatalities in accidents with small auto cars was 17% of total deaths. The driver and passengers in the smaller vehicle made up 82% of all casualties in such accidents.
People who suffer injuries or damage to property in a trucking accident can claim for compensation from the trucking company and the truck driver. In order to make a successful claim they must prove that the accident took place due to negligence on the part of the driver or carrier.
Identifying Liable Parties
Truck accident litigation can be quite complicated because it is difficult to assess the party that is liable for the accident. The following parties can be held accountable for compensation.
An attorney can answer your questions quickly, and inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities after an accident.
The driver is usually the first person to investigate. Truck drivers are subject to similar driving rules and regulations as any other driver. FMCSA mandates additional requirements where truck drivers must take mandatory breaks and rest before driving continuously. If the driver violates one of their responsibilities, they can be held accountable to pay for damages.
The majority of truck drivers are safe and cautious. However, many drivers are reckless, drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol or take the wheel even when they are fatigued. It is common to hear of truck drivers that fell asleep while driving and ran into another car.
The Trucking Company
One of the reason many truck drivers drive without precautionary measures is because the trucking company put unrealistic pressure on them. Trucks are overbooked and drivers are expected to drive cargo over long destinations without adequate breaks. If a driver is delayed due to roadblocks or traffic, the trucking company urges them to drive faster, taking more risks than they should.
If an investigation shows that the trucking company is more to blame for the truck accident, then they can be held liable to pay for damages.
The Cargo Company & Loader
The cargo company is responsible for loading the truck with the freight. If the cargo is fitted incorrectly, overloaded or makes the truck unbalanced to drive, the loader or cargo company can be held fully or partially responsible for the accident.
Securing the freight in place is also the responsibility of the loading cargo company. If the cargo becomes loose and starts spilling out of the truck, it can lead to an accident, even if the truck itself does not run into another vehicle.
Truck and Part Manufacturer
Truck manufacturing requires special care and extensive testing. Defective parts present dangers to the truck driver and others on the roads. Malfunctions with the breaking system, unexplained engine failures or loss of wheel-grip on the road can cause devastating damage.
If an investigation shows that the truck accident occurred due to mechanical faults in the truck, or one of its components, then the manufacturer can be held responsible to pay for damages.
Proving Liability in Court
In order to be compensated for damages, the plaintiff is required to prove liability of the party that is responsible for the accident. This can be quite tricky and the claimant will need to collect evidence and witnesses to the accident.
Driver’s Negligence – If the truck accident occurs due to the truck driver’s negligence, an accident scene investigation will need to be carried out. The claimant can also ask for access to police report of the accident, as it can be helpful in determining responsibility.
The claimant may also want to check the trucking company’s employee records to determine what type of background checks were performed on the driver. The driver’s commercial driving license can be checked and the claimant may want to go over the truck driver’s schedule to see if they were driving over the number of maximum hours allowed by FMCSA.
Trucking Company’s Negligence – The driver’s medical certificate and history of alcohol or substance abuse should also be checked. One of the key factors to determine here is whether the trucking company was aware of any problems with the driver. If the trucking company was aware of the driver’s health complications or lack of a proper license, they can also be held liable by the plaintiff.
Manufacturer’s Negligence – If the fault occurs due to mechanical failure, the option for the manufacturer’s liability can be explored. All commercial trucks have a black box similar to the ones that are found in commercial aircraft. These devices record the action of the truck right up to the moment before the accident.
The claimant can also check for truck maintenance records. If the truck was not being maintained with mandatory checks, the trucking company can be held responsible for the accident. Commercial trucks are also required to keep a repair record that indicates when a faulty repair work was performed on the truck.
A plaintiff can hold multiple parties accountable for the truck accident. Once all the defendants have been named, the claimant legal team must establish a theory of liability. The most usual line of reasoning is based on the theory of negligence by the truck driver, trucking company, the cargo company or the manufacturer. The plaintiff will need to show that a reasonably prudent defendant would have taken the due diligence and avoided the accident.
If the plaintiff can prove that reasonably expected actions from one of the named parties could have avoided the accident, the case is decided in their favor. The party held liable for the accident is ordered to make fair compensation to the claimant.
If you or a family member has been catastrophically injured and need to talk to an experienced truck accident lawyer, use TruckAccidentAttorneyNetwork.org to start your search.
Special Consideration for Truck Drivers
Although truck drivers are held to a similar standard of following regulations as any other driver, there are some areas where they can be given special considerations. For example, it is possible for a commercial truck to jackknife when the driver kicks the break or tries to make a sharp turn.
If the driver hits a vehicle while trying to avoid an obstacle or a stalled vehicle, they may not be held liable for the accident.
3.5 Times More Compensation with a Truck Accident Attorney
The Insurance Research Council reports that people with attorneys were paid 3.5x more than those who did not hire an attorney and that 85% of all the dollars that are paid out by insurance companies for bodily injury claims are paid to clients who have hired an attorney to represent them. (“Auto Injuries: Claiming Behavior and Its Impact on Insurance Costs”)