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Who May Be Held Liable for a Truck Accident?

Some road accidents involve multiple parties who may bear responsibility for a person’s injuries. Truck accident victims could have a claim against several individuals or entities and not realize it. After all, it takes a team to prepare a truck and its cargo for the road, and multiple individuals or entities may drop the ball and cause harm to another. Fielding Law wants to make sure you recover maximum compensation for injuries and harm suffered, and you cannot do that until you know all liable parties.

The Truck Driver

When a truck operator makes mistakes, engages in illegal behavior or misbehaves, innocent drivers and passengers may suffer. Some truckers use illegal substances to stay awake or drink while driving, either of which could dull their reactions and awareness and cause accidents. Truck drivers may also drive fatigued to stay on schedule or earn a commission or bonus. Using drugs or drinking could also contribute to a truck driver’s fatigue.

Looking down at a phone or GPS device, eating and drinking behind the wheel, talking on the phone and becoming lost in thought are examples of distracted driving. When something takes a truck operator’s eyes and attention off the road, accidents could happen.

Truck drivers must also know and follow rules and regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. That means truckers may only drive for a limited number of hours before taking a break, and they must keep thorough records of complying with the administration’s laws. Commercial truck drivers must also follow standard traffic laws.

The Trucking Company

Say a truck operator followed all the rules of the road, took all required breaks and stashed all electronic devices before hitting the road, but an accident still happened. The driver’s employer could become the liable party. Trucking companies must properly screen all job candidates before hiring them, train candidates fully and properly, and conduct regular drug and alcohol testing.

Trucking employers must also maintain their fleet of commercial vehicles. Neglected trucks and those in need of repair may become an unnecessary danger and trigger collisions.

When trucking companies enact dangerous policies or create tight schedules, they may unknowingly put others at risk when truck drivers speed or engage in risky driving maneuvers to keep their bosses happy. Drivers may not mind cutting corners if it means earning more money.

The Truck Manufacturer

The company that originally built the truck could become a liable party in a truck accident. Manufacturers sometimes release defective or dangerous products that harm others. For instance, trucks with defective brakes could have a hard time stopping, and commercial vehicles with faulty steering may become impossible to control properly. Other than the truck manufacturer, an equipment, parts or component manufacturer could bear the blame for truck accident injuries and damages.

The Cargo Loader

Those in charge of loading and securing a truck’s cargo must double-check their work to ensure the vehicle’s load remains in place. A poorly secured load could come loose and trigger an accident. Badly balanced loads may make it hard to control a truck, which could lead to a rollover accident or something similar.

Common Causes of Truck Accidents

Other than liable parties, it’s also a good idea for truck accident victims to educate themselves on the most prevalent causes of truck accidents. When injured individuals know what triggered their collision, they may better understand where to focus their efforts on building their case and pinpointing the at-fault party.

A quick rundown of common reasons for truck accidents includes:

  • Speeding
  • Following another vehicle too closely
  • Failure to yield
  • Driver inattention

Rather than the truck driver, another motorist could bear the blame for causing a truck accident. For instance, another driver may linger in a truck’s blind spot or shift lanes immediately in front of a truck. To keep from hitting one car, a truck driver may swerve and hit another car inadvertently.

Trucking Company and Driver Liability

To pass liability onto their employees, some trucking companies say a person involved in an accident works as an independent contractor rather than a traditional employee. Truck accident victims and their legal teams must determine how much control the company exercises over the driver’s schedule to determine if she or he works as an independent contractor.

For instance, truck operators who buy their own fuel, use their own commercial vehicles, absorb repair costs and handle their insurance policies likely work for themselves. Trucking companies who lease vehicles from drivers, decide where the driver goes and take care of the necessary permits likely employ drivers and bear responsibility for damage their employees cause.

Scope of Employment

To try to sidestep blame, a trucking company may say a truck operator it employs did not perform work on the clock when an accident happened. Whether the company or driver becomes the negligent party depends on the driver’s scope of employment during the incident. To determine whether the driver acted within the scope of employment, judges and juries consider several factors:

  • The employee’s level of freedom in performing her or his job responsibilities
  • Incidental responsibilities the trucking company should expect truckers to carry out
  • The work the company hired the worker to perform
  • The place, nature and time of the driver’s actions
  • The employee’s intentions when the truck accident happened

For instance, if a truck T-bones a car during a run, the company must likely answer for the resulting damage and harm. If that same driver left work early to run an errand and t-boned a car, the trucking company may say the victim should talk to the truck operator because she or he did not act within the scope of employment during the collision.

Multiple Defendants and Intentional Acts

Truck accident victims may have claims against multiple defendants. For example, while the truck driver used illegal substances and lost control of the vehicle, the cargo loader also failed to secure the load properly, making both parties liable. Under such circumstances, the defendants may only bear responsibility for the portion of the injured party’s injuries and damages they caused, or they could bear equal responsibility. The responsible parties may divide their share of fault for a settlement, or they may leave that in the court’s hands.

Rather than multiple defendants, a truck accident may instead involve intentional acts. Trucking companies do not shoulder the blame for their workforce’s intentional acts, such as assaulting another person. When truck drivers steal from others, they no longer operate within the scope of employment.

Insurance Companies and Truck Accident Liability

No matter the person or entity responsible for a truck accident, the party’s insurance provider may contact the accident victim to settle. Sometimes, insurance representatives use pressure tactics to convince a person to accept what seems like a generous offer. Initial insurance settlement offers may not account for all the truck accident’s financial and physical harm.

Truck accident victims deserve to know that insurance providers often look out for their own interests rather than the harmed party’s interests. Their settlements may not account for long-term injuries and medical treatment or a person’s pain and suffering. By accepting an initial offer without conferring with a legal representative, truck accident victims may bar themselves from receiving full and fair financial recovery.

Contact Us Today

Do you know the person or entity to go after for your truck accident injuries and car damage? Fielding Law wants to speak with you and help you protect your rights. Arrange a consultation with our law office by calling 877-880-4090.