Getting into a truck accident is one of the scariest experiences you can have as a driver. The damage that a truck can do, even at lower speeds, is astounding. Truck accidents often result in very serious injuries or even wrongful death.
The days and weeks following a truck accident can be even worse than the accident itself. There are medical bills that have to be paid, property that needs to be replaced, and lost wages due to your inability to return to work until you’ve had a chance to recover. It can be a lot to deal with. Thankfully, a truck accident attorney can help you to recover the damages you’ve lost.
But truck accidents are a bit different from your typical car accident. Most people driving a car are doing so on their own behalf, behind the wheel of their own vehicle. Truckers often don’t own the truck they’re driving, so they may actually share the responsibility with the trucking company. Or, in some cases, it may be entirely the trucking company’s fault. Today, we’re going to learn when a truck driver is held liable for your damages and when a trucking company is, as well as how to determine which is the case when it comes to your specific situation.
When Is a Truck Driver Liable?
When we’re involved in an accident, it is easy to assume that the other driver is responsible. In many cases, this is the truth of the matter. Truck drivers are human, just like the rest of us, and that means that they’re prone to making mistakes. Add into the mixture that truck drivers are often overworked and skip out of sleep to make their deadlines, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Truck drivers have the same obligations as other drivers do. That means that they have a duty of care they must uphold whenever they get behind the wheel. While the actual content of that duty doesn’t change, it is the same for every driver; it is vitally important that truck drivers abide by it because the vehicles they are driving are extremely heavy and can do a lot of damage in a collision.
The duty to care that a truck driver has is to follow the rules of the road. That means not speeding, not making crazy out-of-nowhere maneuvers, paying attention to the road, and everything else you would expect from a driver sharing the road with you. When truck drivers fail to live up to their duty of care, they are acting negligently.
Negligence is the key factor for determining whether to hold a truck driver liable or a trucking company. If the truck driver acted in a negligent manner, they can and should be held liable.
Negligence can take many forms, including (but not limited to):
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Exceeding cargo weight limits
- Tailgating the vehicles in front of them
- Driving over the speed limit
- Driving faster than the weather permits
- Making unsafe lane changes
- Driving while fatigued
When Is a Trucking Company Liable?
While most accidents are the fault of a driver, this isn’t always the case. Truck drivers are often forced to use company vehicles. Since it is the trucking company that owns the vehicle, it is their responsibility to ensure that it is in proper working condition to be out on the road. Unfortunately, there are many companies that push their luck in this regard.
A trucking company is a business entity, first and foremost, which means that its main goal is to generate revenue. You might argue their main goal is to truck goods around the country, but that isn’t really the case. Trucking goods is what they do, but they do it in order to turn a profit.
Not properly repairing a vehicle may seem like a bad decision from a rational perspective. But if you’re focused on money, it can make more sense. After all, it costs money to repair a vehicle.
But that’s just one way that a company may decide to place profits above safety. In doing so, they also risk being held accountable for the damages their decisions resulted in.
Other ways that a trucking company may cut corners and therefore be acting negligently include (but are not limited to):
- Hiring drivers that lack the proper license or training
- Improperly load cargo
- Fail to inspect their vehicles or use sketchy means to pass inspection
- Allowing drivers to operate vehicles that are in less than ideal condition for the haul ahead of them
- Encouraging or making employees violate FMCSA regulations
- Pushing drivers to make impossible deadlines
How Do You Determine Whether to Sue a Trucker or a Trucking Company?
It can be hard to tell who should be held accountable following a truck accident. It is important, however, to ensure that you sue the proper party. If you sue the truck driver but find out it was the trucking company or vice-versa, then you could easily end up losing the case. You want to be as sure as possible that the argument you are putting forth fits the facts of the accident.
The best way to do that is to work with a personal injury attorney with experience handling truck accident cases. They will be able to help you to investigate the circumstances of the accident to determine which party should be held liable: the truck driver, the trucking company, or both.
When Should I Reach Out to an Attorney?
The first thing you should do after a truck accident is to seek medical attention. The extent of the injuries may be more than you first expected, so it’s always good to ensure you are safe. But seeking medical assistance also helps to create documentation of your injuries, as well as the fact that you sought medical attention, and both of these will help any potential case you may have.
After that, it’s time to reach out to an experienced truck accident attorney. They’ll be able to answer your questions and provide you with personalized advice on what to expect when moving your case forward.