When an accident occurs involving a truck (semi, big rig, commercial truck), the truck driver will always claim it wasn’t their fault. And, in almost every case, the trucker will blame the other motorists. The reason for denying liability is that in most trucking accidents the other party usually suffers life-threatening injuries and extensive property damage, which can cost the insurer an enormous amount of money.
Determining trucking accident liability is a difficult problem because, in many cases, everyone denies responsibility and there are multiple parties involved. Determining the correct party responsible for the accident and all the damages is vital if one wants to get full compensation.
Unlike a car accident, truck collisions usually involve multiple parties, including the truck owner, the trucking company, the maintenance individuals, and sometimes even the manufacturer if a defective part was involved. The truck driver may be an independent contractor, a full-time employee, or he may have leased the truck. If the truck driver works as an independent contractor without connection to any company or agency, then he may be solely responsible for the accident.
If the truck driver is a full-time employee of an agency or a company, then the company is also responsible for the accident. For the victim, it is important to know the connection of the truck driver to any company or agency before one can seek compensation. An experienced truck accident lawyer can help sort out these issues and find the connection between the driver and the trucking company.
The Responsible Parties
When involved in a truck accident, there are potentially several parties that may be responsible for the accident, and they include the following:
The truck may have had a faulty braking system, a faulty steering problem, etc. In this case, the truck accident lawyer may have to check to see if there have been other similar accidents or if the manufacturer had replaced a part due to a warning or recall. If so, then the manufacturer can be held liable for the accident.
Maintenance personnel is responsible for maintaining the truck and ensuring that it is roadworthy and safe. For example, if the maintenance crew never checked the brakes or neglected to replace bald tires, they are just as responsible for the accident as the truck driver.
Company That Employs the Driver:
The company may have hired a novice driver and provided him with little or no training, and thus they could be at fault for negligent hiring. The company may have cut corners and allowed the truck driver to drive beyond normal working hours without rest. Finally, the company may have failed to maintain the truck. In such scenarios, an expert witness is necessary to determine what rules the company may have broken. This can be determined by looking at the logbook.
Another manufacturer may have sold defective belts and pulleys that hold the truck loads. If the load shifts and becomes loose and causes injury to another person, then this manufacturer is also responsible.
The Truck Driver:
The truck driver may also be responsible if he failed to obey traffic laws, was speeding, tailgating, or was driving distracted. In some cases, the driver may have been drinking alcohol or have consumed illicit or prescription drugs that may have impaired his judgment and concentration. Or the driver may have been very fatigued but continued to drive so that he could get a bonus for delivering the cargo on time. In many cases, it is only the truck driver who is deemed to be at fault.
The Truck Owner:
In some cases, the trucking company may have leased the truck. In such cases, the owner is responsible for ensuring that the truck is safe, well maintained, and roadworthy. If the owner failed to maintain the truck properly, he could also be held liable. All truck owners are mandated by law to keep a record of all the maintenance the truck undergoes, including tire checks, brake maintenance, and the electronic system. If the logs prove that the truck had missed several inspections, the owner can be sued.
In some cases, the people who load the cargo on the truck may be at fault. If the cargo is not securely fastened and moves around or breaks loose, injures another person, or damages property, these individuals can be held liable for the injuries.
Gathering Evidence to Determine Liability After a Truck Accident
To determine trucking accident liability involves collecting a lot of data, including police reports, truck logbooks, manufacturer maintenance schedules, etc. This data needs to be reviewed by a truck accident lawyer to determine what happened and who may be legally responsible for the crash.
Other evidence of importance includes the crash scene photos, the police report, an examination of the truck and other vehicles in the wreck, and an examination of downloaded data from the wrecked truck’s “black box” event data recorder. In many cases, the lawyer may have to consult with accident reconstruction specialists to perform a forensic analysis and determine the cause of the accident.
By law, the truck driver’s log must have the following documented:
- Time behind the wheel
- Rest time
- Number of times brakes were utilized
- Roads that were traveled
- Amount of continuous driving time
- How much and what type of load was on the truck
In addition, the lawyer has to obtain the records from the trucking company about maintenance, including statements made by other trucking employees. Finally, the lawyer has to speak to all the witnesses. In most cases, trucking companies do not readily give out the logbook or maintenance records, and the lawyer will need to get a court order for the release of these documents.
If evidence shows that multiple parties have trucking accident liability, the lawyer will be able to get the maximum amount of compensation for the victim by filing multiple claims.
Truck Accident Lawyer to Help Navigate Trucking Accident Liability
If you have been involved in a truck accident and are seriously injured, consult with a truck accident lawyer. These professionals can help determine your case’s merits and determine who is responsible for your injuries. Truck accident attorneys have many ways to investigate truck accidents and can gain access to trucking logs and maintenance records. Once the lawyer finds out who is responsible, they can hold them accountable and get the compensation you deserve for your injuries and property damage.