Who Can Be Liable for a Truck Accident?
If you’ve been hurt in a truck accident, you may wonder who is responsible. Several parties could potentially be liable, including the driver, the truck company, the cargo company, and even the truck manufacturer. Let’s take a look at each of these parties and discuss how you can claim compensation for your truck accident injuries.
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Why Are Truck Accident Claims So Complex?
Truck accident claims are notably more complex than other motor vehicle accident claims. In most fender benders, two parties are usually involved, and it’s often straightforward to determine who caused the accident. However, in a truck accident, there are typically multiple parties involved, each with their own insurance policies and legal teams — and each blaming the other party. Truck accident laws are also complex, so you must hire a personal injury lawyer who understands both federal and state trucking regulations and insurance laws.
Who Can Be Liable for a Truck Accident?
As we mentioned, several parties can potentially be liable for a truck accident. In some cases, multiple parties can each contribute, such as if a driver is fatigued but only because their employer has instructed them to work an extra shift. In this case, both the driver and the trucking company may be liable.
The main parties that can be at fault for a truck accident are:
The Driver: The truck driver is liable if they were driving recklessly or negligently. Recklessness or negligence can comprise multiple behaviors, such as speeding, tailgating, making an improper lane change, or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A truck driver can also be reckless if they are driving while distracted — for example, if they’re checking their cell phone or texting while on the road — or driving while fatigued.
The Truck Company: The trucking company can be liable if they failed to properly maintain the truck or allowed an inexperienced or unqualified driver to operate the vehicle. Truck companies must also abide by federal hours-of-service regulations, which stipulate how long a truck driver can be on the road without a rest stop. These regulations state that truckers cannot drive for more than 11 hours after a 10-hour break. Unfortunately, drivers are often under pressure to meet tight deadlines and may work longer than allowed to make a delivery. Other times, the trucking company may actively incentivize drivers to work overtime by rewarding them based on hours clocked or deliveries made.
The Cargo Company: The cargo company may be liable if they fail to properly load or secure cargo to a truck. This can cause the cargo to shift and fall from the trailer, which can strike another vehicle and cause a deadly accident. Cargo companies must also meet weight restrictions. These vary depending on the type of truck carrying cargo. Too much cargo can wear away or break the truck hitch, which secures the cargo to the truck cab (where the driver sits). If the hitch breaks, it can throw off the truck’s balance, causing it to tip or roll over.
The Truck Manufacturer: The truck manufacturer may be held liable if a known defect in the truck led to the accident. Defects commonly affect a truck’s brakes, tires, or steering column.
How to Determine Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident
If you’ve been involved in a truck accident, it’s vital to determine who is liable so you can get the compensation you deserve. We know the parties that might be liable for a truck accident, but how do you determine who was ultimately responsible?
This depends on several factors.
What Caused the Truck Accident?
Many truck accidents are caused by driver error, such as fatigue, distracted driving, speeding, and road rage. In these accidents, the driver is often at fault, but the trucking company could be liable if the truck driver was working within the scope of their employment during the accident.
Accidents may also be caused by a mechanical problem with the truck, such as faulty brakes or tires. While the manufacturer may be liable if there was an auto defect, the truck company may be responsible if they identified a potential issue — such as a worn tire — and allowed a trucker to drive the vehicle anyway.
Evidence of Liability
Evidence is key for a successful truck accident claim, as it helps prove who is liable for a truck accident. Evidence includes the truck’s black box — which records data showing the truck’s speed and braking activity — witness statements, traffic camera footage, and the police crash report.
A truck accident lawyer can also hire an accident reconstructionist to replicate the events leading up to the crash and determine what caused the accident, which can yield insights into who is liable.
What to Do If You’re in a Truck Accident
If you’re injured in a truck accident, it’s crucial to seek legal help as soon as possible. An experienced truck accident lawyer will investigate who might be responsible and explore all possible avenues to recover compensation.
A truck accident attorney will also negotiate with the insurance companies of each liable party on your behalf and fight for the compensation you deserve.
When Is the Best Time to Contact a Lawyer?
A personal injury lawyer can recover your medical expenses and lost wages and secure compensation for your injuries, but time is of the essence. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims varies by state, but there’s another reason you should act quickly.
Truck companies may erase black box data that could prove they are responsible, which means vital evidence could go missing before your case is investigated. Getting in touch with a lawyer as soon as you’ve sought medical attention gives you the best chance of securing the compensation you’re entitled to.
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