Liability in a truck accident is not always clear, and it can be even more complicated if multiple parties caused the crash. Figuring out who is liable will take an extensive investigation, but responsibility will typically fall on one or all of the following parties.
The Truck Driver
Truck drivers have a duty to drive safely and follow traffic laws, adhere to safety regulations, and ensure their vehicles are regularly inspected and maintained. If a truck driver fails in their responsibilities or violates their duty of care and causes a car accident, they can be held liable for the resulting damages.
Some examples of negligent actions committed by truck drivers that commonly cause accidents include:
- Driver Fatigue: Truck drivers work long hours and rarely have a routine sleep schedule. Federal laws dictate how many hours a truck driver can be on the road in one sitting, but these regulations are often ignored.
- Distracted Driving: A truck driver can easily cause a devastating accident if they do not keep their eyes or mind on the road and their hands on the wheel. (e.g., texting or talking on a cell phone, reaching for an item, drinking, eating, daydreaming, etc.)
- Reckless Driving: Braking unexpectedly, abruptly changing lanes, failing to signal, or driving aggressively in traffic, are all examples of reckless driving behavior that can contribute to an accident.
- Driving Under the Influence: Driving while impaired is one of the most dangerous driving behaviors on the road and a prominent issue amongst truck drivers.
- Improper Maintenance: Many truck owners do not regularly inspect their vehicles or maintain them properly.
The Trucking Company
The truck driver’s trucking company may be responsible for the accident under “Respondeat Superior.” This legal doctrine states that employers can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. If the truck driver is considered an employee and was working at the time of the collision, the trucking company can be held liable. Trucking companies also have a duty to hire qualified and certified drivers, adhere to safety standards and practices, properly maintain their vehicles, and ensure cargo is loaded correctly. Any failure to do so can also result in a trucking company being fully or partially liable for an accident.
In most truck accident cases, the truck driver and their trucking company will share liability. However, depending on the circumstances, there may be third parties that are also responsible:
- Loading Companies: Cargo loading companies can be liable if they fail to load a truck correctly. When cargo is not secured correctly or loaded unevenly, any shift can lead to an accident.
- Mechanics: if a mechanic performs negligent repairs on a truck, they might be partially responsible for a collision. For example, failing to fix a broken part, installing an incorrect part, making unnecessary repairs, etc.
- Defective Parts Manufacturer: If a truck is inherently dangerous because of its design or has a defective part that contributes to an accident, the truck’s manufacturer may be liable for damages.