When Is the Trucking Company Liable?What is the trucking company liable? Semi-trucks and other delivery and commercial trucks are crucial to American life. For more information, reach out to a truck accident lawyer. As beneficial as they can be in our lives, they can also cause significant damage if someone is negligent. In fact, roadway fatalities involving large trucks increased by 13 percent over the past two years, and this doesn’t account for all the severe injuries also arising from these accidents.
These accidents can cause severe property damage and catastrophic injuries.
A semi-tractor without a trailer can weigh as much as 25,000 pounds.
A semi-truck with an empty trailer weighs approximately 35,000 pounds.An 18-wheeler with a full trailer can weigh up to 40 tons, or 80,000 pounds.
Whereas passenger vehicles weigh an average of 3,000 to 4,000 pounds, they are no match for these types of trucks. All the weight of semi-trucks makes them more difficult to stop. Stopping them requires more time and stopping distance, which increases the risk of an accident. If they hit another car or object, their immense weight combined with the force of speed can do much damage.
If you or a family member recently suffered injuries in a truck accident, reach out to a skilled truck accident lawyer as soon as possible to help secure your rights. You might deserve monetary compensation under the law. Your attorney can help determine who caused the accident. Sometimes you can hold multiple parties liable—including the trucking company.
What Causes Semi-Truck Accidents?
Countless factors can lead to a semi-truck crash. Some are the result of negligent truck drivers. In contrast, others might be the fault of other drivers on the road, municipalities, or even the trucking company or trucker’s employer
However, driver errors are the most common cause of tractor-trailer truck crashes. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 88 percent of truck-related crashes are because of driver error.
These include accidents due to drivers who:
Abusing alcohol or using prescription or recreational drugs
If these drivers cause an accident, a truck accident lawyer can help hold them liable for the damages they cause to others.
Trucking Company Liability
A trucking company can be liable either because they failed to act reasonably or follow the law or under the premise of respondeat superior because their employee failed to do such things.
Was the Employee Truck Driver Negligent?
Many accident victims think that the trucking company should automatically be held accountable for a semi-truck accident; however, it’s not always quite that obvious. The injured party or their attorney on their behalf must prove several points to hold them legally liable.
First, they must establish that the driver was acting within the scope of their work as a truck driver on behalf of the trucking company at the time of the accident. A truck driver employee doesn’t own, maintain, or provide insurance coverage for their own truck because the trucking firm handles those duties and is superior to their employee.
One way to prove the trucker’s employment is obtaining IRS records showing that the trucking company withholds taxes from the driver’s paycheck. Your truck accident attorney will know the correct way to gain legal access to such documents.
What if the trucker is an independent contractor? A trucking company cannot escape liability even if the truck driver involved in the accident is an independent contractor. This is because Congress amended the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act in the mid-1950s to stop trucking companies from using independent contractors to avoid liability. As such, injured parties can still make a claim against the trucking company acting as the driver’s superior.
Next, the victim must establish that the truck driver’s negligent act was unintentional and it occurred within the scope of their job duties. Showing that the trucker was on the clock can sometimes be challenging. Still, it’s much easier with access to certain information from the trucking company.
The good news is that your attorney can utilize legal ways of gaining access to the essential trucking data and log books you require for a successful case.
Did the Trucking Company Fail to Act Reasonably or Follow the Law?
Strict federal and state safety regulations govern all trucking companies operating in America. Under these laws, they must maintain detailed records about their truck driver’s qualifications, previous accidents, incident reports, tickets, drug and alcohol testing, and exactly where and when they are driving.
In addition, you have the right to request the driver’s logbook, which should contain information about how long they have been working each shift, their total miles driven, and other potentially useful information. Most trucks engineered after the 1990s have onboard electronic logging devices or “black boxes” showing GPS tracking, their time spent at the wheel, and other helpful driving data.
A certified inspector must inspect commercial big rigs before they leave an accident scene. You might use the inspector’s report in conjunction with the police report to determine the cause of the accident and show liability. In addition, your truck accident attorney will examine these records at length and decide whether they support your case.
For example, you can hold trucking companies liable for their actions leading up to an accident if they:
Failed to do proper maintenance on the truck and allowed the brakes or tires to become worn and dangerous
Permit a drowsy or unsafe truck driver to remain on the road
Knew the driver was using drugs or alcohol but did nothing
Were negligent in hiring the driver—such as failing to do a background check or ignoring previous DUIs or other infractions on their driving record
Knew the driver had a severe health condition that can impact their driving but did nothing
In essence, if the trucking company neglected something important, their actions or inactions might have contributed to the conditions that caused your accident.
What Other Parties Can I Hold Liable for a Truck Accident?
Semi-truck accidents are typically more complex than other vehicle accidents. One reason for this is that it can be difficult to determine liability, and multiple parties can be liable, more so than in other types of accidents. For this reason and many others, injured individuals can benefit significantly from hiring a truck accident lawyer to settle or litigate their cases.
You may hold these parties solely or jointly liable for your damages in a truck accident:
Government entities. State and local governments must maintain safe road conditions in their jurisdictions. If your accident was caused in whole or in part by a large pothole, an abrupt or poorly made shoulder drop-off, other road maintenance problems, or even areas that frequently have accidents that they refuse to do anything about, the government can be liable for your truck accident.
Private companies. If the truck was incorrectly loaded, which led to the accident, the employer, employees, or contractors can be held liable
Other drivers. In some truck accidents, other drivers on the road play a role in causing the accident. They may be the only party liable or share their liability with any of the previously mentioned parties.
Proving Negligence in a Truck Accident
Once your truck accident lawyer has determined which parties are liable, their next task is to build a case that will prove their negligence and recover compensation for your damages.
Proving negligence in a personal injury case usually involves establishing these four essential points:
The at-fault party or parties owed you a duty of care—for example, to drive safely, not overload the vehicle or adhere to local and state laws.
The at-fault party or parties breached the duty they owed to you.
Their breach of duty directly caused your injuries.
Your injuries caused damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
Unfortunately, most people don’t walk away from a truck accident unscathed. These accidents can cause multiple severe and sometimes life-altering injuries. Victims in a truck accident might suffer:
From a minor concussion to a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), those in truck accidents can sustain injuries to the brain due to the force of the accident and hitting their head on something hard. Some people may never fully recover from a TBI, requiring ongoing help with the tasks of daily living.
Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)
Although the spinal cord is within the spine’s bones, it can suffer damage in a severe accident. The vertebra can fracture, and trauma can injure, pinch, or even sever the spinal cord. If the injury is minor, recovery might be possible. However, some truck accident victims won’t recover and will live the rest of their lives without using all or some of their appendages.
Bones are strong but will break when an even stronger force acts upon them. Nearly any bone is at risk of breaking in a truck accident. A minor break might require several weeks in a cast, but a severe break involving the femur, hip, or pelvis may require multiple surgeries and take months or even years to heal.
Internal Organ Damage
Internal organs can also be injured in truck accidents, some causing severe and even life-threatening bleeding.
When Should You Call a Truck Accident Attorney?
You should call a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. Waiting can hurt your claim. Reach out for legal help as soon as you can for these reasons.
The Statute of Limitations
Under state personal injury laws, injured victims have a limited amount of time from the date of their accident to file a legal case. This law is known as the statute of limitations. If they don’t file their claim within this strict deadline, they give up their right to file a lawsuit over the accident. By contacting a well-versed truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after an accident, they can ensure that they file their legal claim on time and meet all other legal deadlines.
You will need convincing evidence to prove your case. Evidence is best collected immediately or as soon as possible after your accident. If you wait too long to call a truck accident lawyer, you may find the trucking company lost or destroyed some evidence that might have helped prove your case.
Evidence for your truck accident case might include:
Pictures of your injuries
Photos of the accident scene and the vehicles
Video proof of the accident
The truck’s black box
Protection from Insurance Companies
It’s the insurance adjuster’s job to make it difficult or downright exhausting for you to pursue compensation for your claim. They want you to give up and go away or make you do or say something that will harm your case.
They use many different tactics to accomplish this, such as:
Talking to you before you retain a truck accident lawyer
Asking for a recorded statement
Trying to get you to settle for less than your claim is worth
Delaying the processing of your claim
The sooner you hire an experienced truck accident attorney to represent you, the sooner you won’t have to deal with the insurance company. Your attorney will take over communications with them and protect you from their tactics. If you must talk to them, your attorney will be present to protect your interests.
Were You in a Truck Crash? Call an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney for Help
Dealing with insurance claims after truck accidents can be burdensome, overwhelming, and risky. Saying or doing the wrong thing can lessen your claim, especially when dealing with insurance companies and claims adjusters. If an attorney represents you, studies show that you will most likely recover more for your damages than truck injury victims not represented by one.
You can stand up for your rights by hiring a truck accident attorney as soon as possible after an accident. Case evaluations are free, and you can ask the personal injury lawyer any questions you have in your consultation.