Unlike regular car crashes, truck accidents may involve immense property damage and personal harm with multiple parties potentially liable for the damages. For instance, the driver may be liable for distracted driving or drowsiness. The Trucking company may be liable for cutting corners around safety if the crash was caused by a safety hazard the company failed to address. Third parties are potentially liable too, such as the person(s) loading the cargo, the manufacturer of the truck, or the company or person responsible for inspecting the machine.
Determining liability in a truck accident is usually fairly complicated and requires a thorough investigation into what caused the crash.
Potentially Liable Parties
After a truck accident, potentially liable actors usually try to pass the blame to someone else for the victim’s injury and property damages. For instance, the trucking company may claim that it was the truck driver’s fault because he left work earlier and the accident happened when he was on his way to take care of personal business.
The driver may say that the accident was caused by defective breaks, blaming the truck manufacturer. The manufacturer may claim that the machinery was perfectly fine but because of the normal wear and tear it failed, which means that the party responsible for the machine’s inspections was at fault, and so on.
The people and companies that may be responsible for a truck accident include:
- The driver
- The trucking company
- Third parties: the truck owner, the loader, the company or person that leased the truck, the manufacturer of the truck, or the manufacturer of different machinery parts.
The trucker may be responsible for the accident alone or along with other people. It is critical to determine whether the truck driver was working as an employee or an independent contractor at the moment of the accident. If he was an employee of a trucking company, the trucking company can be held accountable for all of the driver’s wrongful acts as long as they were committed “within the scope of employment.”
If the trucker acted outside of the scope of their employment, he is solely responsible. For example, if a truck driver accidentally rear-ends another car during his work hours, the victim can file a claim with the trucking company’s insurer. If the truck rear-ends another car because the other driver pushed him into road rage, the trucker is responsible because he was not acting “within the scope of employment.”
An employee of a trucking company is also solely responsible if he or she drives distracted, engages in drowsy driving, has a pre-existing medical condition he or she failed to address, or consumes drugs or alcohol. This remains true if the driver's bad conduct was the only reason the accident happened.
What’s more, if the trucker is an independent contractor, he is liable for any wrongful act on the road regardless of acting within the scope of employment or not. A trucking company will not be able to tell the truck driver how to do his or her job when he or she is an independent contractor. Also, the trucker is responsible for paying for gas, truck repairs, and inspections, and is not entitled to any employee benefits if he’s an independent contractor.
The Trucking Company
The trucking company is usually the default answer when wondering who’s liable for a truck accident. This is especially true if the driver is the company’s employee. A trucking company can be held accountable for the wrongful acts of its employees only if they were not intentional and done “within the scope of the employment.”
The trucking company may also be responsible for incomplete inspections and maintenance, not taking all the necessary safety measures, faulty equipment, and so on. Trucking companies usually try to avoid liability by building a wall between them and the machinery or the driver.
Companies may distance themselves from truck drivers by working only with independent contractors and they may distance themselves from the vehicle by leasing it, rather than owning it, which means that the obligation to repair or maintain the vehicle belongs to a third-party (the owner or another company).
Current regulations, on the other hand, have stymied trucking companies’ efforts to skip liability by deeming them potentially liable if the truck has the company’s name/logo on it and if the company has a trucking permit.
Unlike regular car crashes, a truck accident will require an experienced professional to determine each party’s liability and perform a proper investigation into the contributing factors that led to the accident. Fortunately, this is all commercial truck accident lawyers do. They are a special category of attorneys who can expertly identify all potentially liable actors and properly conduct that investigation due to their considerable expertise in truck collision claims.
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