Who Can You Hold Liable in a Truck Accident?
Any type of car accident can be scary, but truck accidents are particularly dangerous and deadly. This is largely because a car is no match for the size and girth of tractor-trailers. Whereas a standard passenger vehicle weighs somewhere around 3,000 pounds, a semi-truck can easily weigh 35,000 pounds (empty). A standard payload can double this weight.
So if you find yourself alive in the aftermath of a truck accident, you can consider yourself fortunate. But with injuries that may be severe – and psychological trauma to boot – it’s important that you don’t simply accept your fate and move on.
By holding the right party liable, you can receive the compensation you need to heal properly. The only question is, who do you hold liable?
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
A total of 4,136 people died in truck accidents in 2018. Just 16 percent of these deaths were truck occupants. The rest were occupants of cars, motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians. The number of people who died in truck accidents in 2018 was 31 percent higher than in 2009 (which was the lowest point in recorded history). Hundreds of thousands of additional people are injured each year.
Though no two truck accidents are identical, some of the most common causes include:
- Driver error (failure to follow road signs, poor handling, etc.)
- Speeding (driving in excess of the posted speed limit)
- Distracted driving (texting while driving, eating while driving, etc.)
- Driver fatigue (falling asleep behind the wheel)
- Poorly loaded cargo (improper weight distribution)
- Impaired driving (driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol)
6 Parties That May be Held Liable
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, you have every right to file a claim and/or lawsuit against the party responsible. In many cases, the biggest challenge is figuring out exactly who is responsible. Depending on the circumstances of your case, here are some parties that may be held liable:
1. Truck Driver
Driver error is by far the most common cause of truck accidents. Whether it’s making too wide of a turn, changing lanes and failing to check a blind spot, overcorrecting to an error, or driving in excess of the speed limit, the truck driver is often the one liable for the incident.
2. Trucking Company
If a truck driver is employed by a company, it’s possible that the employer may be held liable for his actions. The FMCSA requires trucking companies to do things like run background checks, provide training, and ensure drivers follow strict drug and alcohol rules. If the company isn’t living up to its responsibilities, the organization may be held liable.
3. Truck Manufacturer
“While driver error is usually to blame for truck accidents, defective or faulty parts or equipment can also be the culprit. In some cases, the manufacturer may be to blame,” Marks & Harrison explains.
These cases can be more difficult to prove, but if a truck manufacturer is to blame, they need to be held liable. Doing so will not only provide you with compensation, but it could also prevent hundreds or thousands of similar accidents from occurring in the future.
4. Truck Mechanic
Sometimes it’s not the truck itself that’s the problem, but the mechanic who worked on the truck. If the mechanic did something that made the truck unsafe, he could be held responsible for the accident – especially if it can be shown that his actions were a primary causal factor in the accident.
5. Cargo Loading Company
The company loading the cargo into the truck has a responsibility to load it properly. A failure to do so could lead to improper weight distribution and/or problems when turning. If it can be shown that the cargo loaders did a poor job of loading the truck, liability may shift to them.
6. Local Municipality
Finally, the local municipality could be brought into things. They have a responsibility to maintain safe road conditions and can be held liable if something like a massive pothole or malfunctioning stoplight caused an accident.
Get the Right Legal Assistance
In the aftermath of a devastating truck accident, your energy and focus should be on reaching a full recovery. The best thing you can do is hire a truck accident lawyer who specializes in cases jus like yours. This significantly increases your chances of getting the right settlement from the responsible parties.