Commercial truck accidents involving giant transportation vehicles like big rigs, semis, and tractor- trailers are complicated. It may not be immediately obvious who is at fault after a truck accident. If you’ve been injured in a serious collision involving an 18-wheeler, you need to know that the negligent party will be held accountable for the actions that harmed you. But how do you know who is liable for a truck accident?
Because the truck driver is the most visible party, it’s common for crash victims to assume that the trucker is responsible for the accident. Many people don’t realize that multiple people and companies have already been involved in the process by the time the truck driver gets behind the wheel. From manufacturing the truck to loading cargo, there are numerous opportunities for error. And it may be one of those errors that is responsible for your accident much later down the road.
Parties That May Be Held Liable for a Truck Accident
Here are just a few of the parties that may be liable for a truck-involved wreck. You and your truck accident attorney will need to work together to make sure that liability is accurately determined. Passenger vehicle drivers harmed in a truck accident may find that one (or more) of the following people or companies were at fault in the crash.
Driver error is one of the leading causes of tractor-trailer accidents. Although the majority of drivers take the hazards they encounter in their role seriously, others are negligent behind the wheel. Truck driver negligence can come in many forms. If a truck driver is engaging in any of the dangerous behaviors below, they will probably be found liable if they result in an accident.
- Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs (including prescription medications)
- Texting while driving
- Speeding or driving too fast for conditions
- Driving distracted (by cell phone use or other distractions)
- Disregarding traffic signs and signals
- Falling asleep at the wheel or driving while fatigued
- Reckless or aggressive driving (may include tailgating, cutting other drivers off, swerving, or other dangerous maneuvers)
Your truck accident lawyer will also need to examine how the trucker’s actions may have been influenced (or coerced) by the company that employs them.
Motor carriers do not always make corporate decisions that benefit drivers. Many drivers find themselves caught in a system that promotes risky driving and prioritizes profits over safety. If a trucking company is found to have violated the laws that protect truckers and others on the road, they may be held liable for an accident that results. Trucking companies may be found guilty of:
- Pushing drivers to stay on the road longer than is safe or legal
- Hiring underqualified drivers
- Allowing drivers to operate vehicles without the proper license
- Inadequately training drivers
- Not properly inspecting trucks before use
- Failing to perform regular vehicle maintenance
- Encouraging drivers to use stimulants to stay awake longer
In some cases, the driver or trucking company may not be the actual owner of the vehicle. The truck owner may be a separate party, and can be held liable if their negligence caused a collision. The owner has a responsibility to conduct regular inspections, keep up on maintenance tasks, maintain fluid levels, safeguard engine function, and perform other duties to ensure the vehicle’s safety. If the owner fails in this duty, they may be held responsible through a truck accident claim.
Passenger Vehicle Drivers
A smaller passenger vehicle, like a car, light truck, or sports utility vehicle (SUV) could be responsible for causing a collision involving a large commercial tractor-trailer. A car directly or indirectly involved may be held liable. For example, a car driver who makes an illegal turn and collides with a truck is directly involved in the accident as the at-fault driver. In other cases, a car driver may cause the accident, but not be involved. If an SUV driver cuts off a truck driver and causes them to lose control of the vehicle, but then speeds away uninjured, they could still be held liable—even if they weren’t involved in the accident.
Shipping Companies or Cargo Loaders
If cargo is not loaded or secured correctly, it could shift in transit and disturb the balance of the vehicle. Improperly loaded cargo can also cause tire blowout, loss of vehicle control, and brake and transmission failure. If your truck accident attorney examines the evidence and discovers that a shipping or loading company was negligent, that party can be held liable. Negligence could be a matter of failure to inspect, improper loading techniques, or overloading.
Vehicle Parts Manufacturers
Some accidents result from a mistake that occurred months or even years prior to the accident. This may be the case if a vehicle component was designed or manufactured with a defect. For example, if faulty brakes give way on the highway and lead to a collision, the brake manufacturer can be held liable for the consequences of the company’s negligence.
Determining Fault After a Truck Accident
As you can imagine, determining liability after a truck accident is a complex undertaking. Only the most experienced truck accident lawyers know where to look and how to get the evidence necessary to accurately establish fault. It is often the case that more than one party is found to be at least partially responsible for a collision. And an added complication comes from the fact that many companies erase or bar access to evidence in an attempt to shield themselves from liability.
If you were hurt in a commercial truck accident, you need a qualified and practiced legal representative on your side. At Stapp Law, LLC, we’re not intimidated by the complexity of truck accident cases. We do what it takes to get justice for our clients. We are always willing to devote the time, effort, and legal expertise needed to make sure your case has the best chance for a highly successful outcome.
Let an experienced attorney from our office evaluate your case at no cost to you.
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