An accident involving a semi-truck can be complicated, at least when it comes to determining who was at fault and what parties are liable for any damage or injuries that occur. There are some instances where the driver of the truck is to blame, of course, but there are others circumstances where another party’s negligence, like the trucking company, will lead to a wreck.
Determining liability is just one of the many reasons why you’ll need to get the help of an experienced attorney if you’ve been hurt in a trucking accident. Eberst Law has a team of attorneys who have a deep understanding of truck accidents. We’re ready to put our experience, as well as our track record of success, to work for you.
[Learn more: How Hiring a Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help Your Claim]
When is a Truck Driver Liable for an Accident?
When a truck driver causes an accident with a passenger vehicle, the truck driver’s insurance will be pursued for any damages they cause. This usually includes medical bills, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and other losses.
If the driver was an independent contractor and not working for a trucking company, then an injured person will try to get compensation from that driver’s insurer. This is also the case if the driver was not operating their truck within their scope of employment. For example, if the driver was operating the truck on personal time, and not working on behalf of their employer, then you won’t be suing the trucking company.
These are a few examples of when the driver, and not the employer, will be liable for an accident.
Driving Under the Influence
A lot of truckers will operate their rigs under the influence of a drug. Many of them use marijuana, which can make it difficult to operate a complex machine such as a semi-truck. Truckers trying to meet deadlines will sometimes drive after taking amphetamines or cocaine. They want to stay up as long as possible so they can make as much money as possible.
However, stimulants like these can make truckers overly aggressive, and more prone to making mistakes that could lead to catastrophic accidents.
Distracted driving isn’t limited to truckers. However, when someone behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound machine gets distracted, that can have horrible consequences. Anything that takes a driver’s attention off of the road can lead to an accident. The most common culprit is texting or talking on a smartphone, but there are other potentially deadly distractions as well. These include changing a radio station, talking to a dispatcher over CB radio, or simply looking out of the window or windshield for too long.
Road Rage or Aggressive Driving
Again, any motorist can be overly aggressive, or even have a fit of road rage that can lead to an accident. But when a trucker makes this kind of mistake, the problems that result are magnified exponentially.
When is a Trucking Company Liable for an Accident?
Not every trucking accident is the responsibility of the driver. In fact, there are many wrecks that occur due to circumstances beyond the driver’s control. In these cases, a third party may be to blame, usually the trucking company but sometimes the maintenance company or the loading crew. These are just a few examples.
Poorly Maintained Vehicles
Trucking companies have to work to make sure all of their vehicles are in safe operating condition before they allow them to get on the road. But they will try to cut corners far too often in order to save some money. They might not check a truck’s tires, for instance, or might fail to inspect the brakes or the lights. A malfunction of any of these components could result in an accident – and make the trucking company liable.
Federal trucking regulations mandate that truckers get rest breaks, and must have a certain number of hours off for however many hours they drive. But trucking companies will often try to skirt those regulations in an effort to increase profits. This can lead to exhausted drivers trying to go beyond their limits for fear they’ll be fired if they don’t. Obviously, this often leads to accidents.
Negligent Hiring or Poor Training
It has become more and more difficult for trucking companies to find qualified drivers. This leads to companies often turning to people who aren’t safe, or who will drive under the influence. Some companies will even hire drivers that don’t have their CDL (commercial driver’s license).
Other Parties that Can be Liable for Truck Accidents
There are also instances where neither the driver nor the trucking company can be blamed for an accident. There could have been another party responsible. Some trucking operations will hire independent companies to load the cargo their rigs carry. When cargo isn’t properly loaded, it can shift in transit. This results in a truck becoming unstable and rolling over as a result. When an accident occurs in this fashion, the company that loaded the cargo will be liable.
How to Prove Liability in a Truck Accident Case
Unlike an accident involving two or more passenger cars, truck accidents will often produce evidence that a victim can use in order to prove liability. Trucking companies, for instance, will typically test drivers for drugs and/or alcohol if they’ve been involved in an accident. These tests could provide significant evidence to prove a victim’s case.
Other pieces of evidence unique to truck accidents include logbooks, dispatch instructions, loading dock and weigh station reports, and more. Your attorney will be able to obtain these pieces of evidence in an effort to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
Hire a Truck Accident Attorney as Soon as Possible
In order to obtain that evidence, you’ll need to hire an attorney as soon as possible. Not only will your legal representative get all the necessary reports, he or she will also investigate the accident scene. That scene can change quickly, due to weather conditions, construction, and other factors. The faster you hire an attorney, the faster that investigation can begin.