Liability & Negligence
When a truck is involved in an accident, the question of liability usually arises. Who is responsible for the damages caused by the accident? In most cases, it’s not just one party that can be held liable—multiple parties may be found negligent and required to pay damages. This includes both drivers as well as their employers, depending on certain factors such as who was at fault for causing the crash or whether any safety regulations were violated.
Accident negligence is when a person or entity fails to exercise reasonable care, resulting in injury or damage to another party. This can involve failing to follow safety regulations, operating a vehicle recklessly, or any other action that could have reasonably been foreseen as having the potential to cause harm. When it comes to truck accidents, examples of negligence may include driving over the speed limit, failing to check brakes before making long trips, becoming distracted while driving, and working beyond the legal limits of hours of service.
In order to determine liability and negligence when it comes to truck accidents, courts look at several key factors including speed limits, braking distances, driver fatigue, distracted driving, and more. For example, if a driver was speeding or texting while driving then they would likely be found negligent in court due to their failure to adhere to traffic laws which could have contributed to causing an accident. Similarly, if a company failed to carry out proper maintenance checks on its trucks then it too could be held liable for any resulting damage from an accident caused by mechanical malfunctioning due to lack of upkeep.
Below, we will examine some of the issues related to liability following a truck accident injury. Victims should not bear the costs resulting from an incident that they did not cause. Contacting a skilled personal injury attorney will give you the best chance of recovering compensation after a collision.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Commercial Trucking Accident?
In a commercial truck accident, many people and entities may be held responsible. Some of the most common examples include:
Negligent Truck Drivers
Negligent truck drivers are often responsible for accidents. Many factors can result in truckers being negligent, such as:
- Breaking traffic laws;
- Exhaustion from long shifts; and
- Distractions, including cell phone use or eating.
If the driver was being reckless or grossly negligent, then he/she may even face criminal charges for the damages they cause. However, criminal behavior is not necessary for the driver to bear legal liability in a civil claim.
Truck drivers are often responsible for ensuring that cargo is loaded properly and that the trucking equipment has been adequately maintained. If a loading or maintenance issue results in a collision, the driver may be liable.
The trucking company is also known as the “motor carrier.” These companies have a legal responsibility for the drivers and trucks that they dispatch.
Consider the following scenario: A company hires a new truck driver but fails to provide them with adequate training. If the driver causes a collision, the motor carrier may be held legally responsible.
Also, if a trucking company hires a driver with previous violations of regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), then the carrier may be liable for any damage that they cause. Adequate hiring and training practices can help to ensure the safety of other drivers and passengers.
In some cases, trucking companies pressure their drivers to engage in unreasonably long shifts. Cutting these regulatory corners can save companies money, but they put others in danger.
If the motor carrier has violated FMCSA hours of service limits, a resulting accident will be their responsibility. Because it can be difficult to battle a motor carrier and their insurers in court, it is vital to hire an auto accident injury attorney with plenty of experience in commercial trucking cases.
Some motor carriers are contracted to transport goods and resources for other corporations. These carriers may ship cargo without ever opening or handling it.
In cases like this, each party involved in the process of transport may be held accountable.
Suppose that the contracted motor carrier followed all of the required regulations, but the originator had not packaged their cargo appropriately. If this inappropriate loading method caused a motor vehicle accident injury, the responsible party could be held liable for damages.
Parts Makers and Manufacturers
Not every truck accident is the result of a driver or company’s negligence. Some truck collisions happen because of faulty parts or equipment.
When one or more of the truck’s component parts fail, others on the road face increased risks. The following truck issues and failures may result from a design or manufacturing error:
- Brake system malfunction;
- Tire blowouts;
- Steering problems;
- Coupling (kingpin) system issues; and
- Other dangerous malfunctions.
Some instances of faulty equipment are due to a lack of maintenance or repair. But other times, truck parts fail because of manufacturing issues.
In these cases, the manufacturing company may be legally liable for the damage that their faulty products caused. Every entity in the chain of distribution has a legal responsibility to adhere to the relevant manufacturing regulations.
A skilled attorney can examine the facts of your case and help you to determine legal liability.
Sometimes, truck accidents are the result of dangerous road hazards. Some common examples include:
- Broken stretches of pavement;
- Soft or low shoulders;
- Improperly placed signage; and
- Other unmarked hazards.
When a state or local government is overseeing roadwork, they can be held legally liable for any accidents that occur due to shoddy work. In some cases, government agencies contract other companies to perform road maintenance and repairs.
If a contracted company performs its work in a negligent manner, it may increase the risks of accidents involving commercial trucks. A skilled traffic accident lawyer can help you to determine whether a government agency or contractor is responsible for the damage that you sustained.
Can Multiple Parties Be Liable for a Truck Accident Injury?
An investigation of a commercial trucking accident may reveal that multiple parties have some level of legal liability. In cases like these, the accident victim can seek financial recovery from each of the responsible parties.
If you are involved in a wreck involving a motor carrier, they may offer a very quick settlement. Oftentimes, these companies present lowball offers to prevent the victim from taking further legal action.
You should never accept an offer without speaking to a skilled legal professional. An injury attorney can help you to determine legal liability and fight for maximum compensation in your commercial truck accident case. Complete our free claim review form for a free, no-obligation consultation with an injury attorney.