Who Is Liable For a Truck Accident?
Truck accidents can be devastating, causing severe injury or even loss of life. The complexities surrounding liability in these accidents can be daunting, as often there are multiple parties that have legal liability, and each of the parties tries to blame the others in order to avoid paying damages. Identifying all liable parties in a truck crash is crucial in securing full compensation for victims and their families.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck crash, you may be wondering who is liable for the truck accident. For each truck accident case, it is vital to consult with an experienced truck accident attorney who can identify all liable parties, and who can then hold all parties accountable for their share of damages.
At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt we can help. With over two decades of helping the injured and the families who have lost a loved one due to a tragic crash, firm-founding attorney Mark Hurt stands ready to tenaciously seek justice and the maximum compensation to which you and your family are rightfully entitled.
You Only Pay If We Are Successful in Recovering Compensation For Truck Accident Injuries.
At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we represent commercial truck crash clients on a contingency fee basis. This means that we only receive a fee for our services if we are successful in recovering compensation on a client’s behalf. We also advance all litigation expenses while a case is ongoing. As a result, you will not have to worry about coming out-of-pocket to retain our services.
In the interim, this article discusses who is liable for a truck accident, particularly semi-truck accidents and accidents involving “big rigs” and tractor trailers that are used in the interstate transportation of goods.
Truck Driver Liability for Truck Accident Injuries
The truck driver is often the first party considered when determining liability in a truck accident. There are numerous reasons a truck driver may be liable for a crash, including:
- Driver fatigue
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Speeding or reckless driving
- Distracted driving
- Disregard Hours of Service driving limits
- Failing to obey traffic signals
- Failing to properly maintain a vehicle
If a truck driver’s negligence or misconduct leads to a crash, they may be held financially liable for any damages resulting from the crash.
Trucking Company Liability
The trucking company that employs a driver will usually also be liable for crashes caused by their drivers. Several factors can contribute to a trucking company’s responsibility, including:
- Negligent hiring practices, such as hiring unqualified or untrained drivers
- Failing to conduct thorough background checks on drivers
- Inadequate driver training and supervision
- Encouraging drivers to exceed federal hours-of-service regulations
- Inadequate vehicle maintenance and inspection
Trucking companies may also be held liable under the legal concepts of “respondent superior” and “vicarious liability”. These terms mean that employers are typically liable for accidents of their employees that occur in the course of employment. However, trucking carriers often try to avoid liability by claiming that a driver is an independent contractor, and thus these two theories of liability do not apply to them.
At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we reject the attempts by trucking companies to avoid liability under an independent contractor claim. We seek to show to the court that the company is a statutory employer by looking at factors such as:
- The method of payment from the carrier to the driver
- The driver’s ability to accept or decline a load
- Which party establishes the working hours
- Which party selects the driving routes
- Whether the driver works as a contractor for other trucking companies
- If the driver takes the truck home or leaves it with the carrier
The greater the level of control the carrier exercises over the driver’s daily schedule, the more inclined a court will be to view the driver as an employee. If the court classifies the driver as an employee, the trucking company is more likely to be held accountable for the actions of the truck driver.
Trailer Owner Liability
In some cases, the owner of the trailer being towed by a truck may be held liable for an accident. This can occur when the trailer owner is found to have:
- Failed to properly maintain the trailer, leading to equipment failure
- Overloaded the trailer, causing instability or an inability to stop in time
- Failed to secure the trailer’s cargo, resulting in a spill or other dangerous situation
Cargo Loader Liability
The party responsible for loading the cargo onto a truck or trailer may also share liability for a truck accident. Improperly loaded cargo can lead to a variety of dangerous scenarios, such as:
- Shifting cargo, causing the truck to become unstable or overturn
- Falling cargo, creating a hazard for other vehicles on the road
- Overloaded cargo, making the truck difficult to control or stop
Government Agencies and Contractors
In certain situations, government agencies and their contractors may be held liable for a truck accident. This can occur when a government agency or contractor is found to have:
- Failed to properly maintain or repair roadways, leading to dangerous conditions
- Designed or constructed a roadway with inherent safety hazards
- Failed to adequately address known hazards, such as poor lighting or confusing signage
Deep Pockets – The Availability of Insurance Companies to Pay for Injuries and Other Damages
Interstate trucking companies are required to have at least $750,000 in insurance to cover injuries from vehicle accidents, and this amount is much higher in cases involving hazardous cargo transportation. Additionally, trucking companies typically carry excessive insurance policies that provide coverage in the millions of dollars. This insurance is substantially higher than the minimum insurance coverage amounts required by most states, which often is only $40,000 or $50,000.
The benefit for those injured in commercial interstate trucking crashes is that in cases of severe injury, there typically will be insurance policies available to pay out large settlements or jury verdicts, compared to those who may be similarly injured in a car crash where there is little insurance money available, and a driver who may have no assets to pay damages.
At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we have long been successful in obtaining insurance proceeds to help those who have been severely injured, and the families who have lost a loved one.
What to Do If You’ve Been Injured in a Truck Accident
If you have been injured in a truck accident caused by someone else’s negligence, it’s essential to take immediate action to protect your rights and secure the compensation you deserve. Here are some steps you should follow:
- Seek Medical Attention. Your health should always be your top priority. Even if your injuries seem minor, it is essential to see a doctor for a thorough evaluation. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent but can have lasting consequences if left untreated.
- Document the Accident. If possible, gather as much information and evidence as you can at the accident scene. This may include taking photos of the vehicles, skid marks, road conditions, and any injuries sustained. Also, gather contact information from any witnesses who may have seen the accident occur.
- Report the Accident. Notify the police of the accident and ensure an official report is filed. This report can be a valuable piece of evidence when pursuing a truck accident claim.
- Keep Records. Maintain detailed records of all medical treatments, expenses, and any lost wages resulting from the accident. These records can help support your claim for compensation.
- Consult with an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney. Navigating the complexities of truck accident liability can be challenging, and having a skilled attorney on your side can make all the difference. As an experienced truck accident lawyer with over two decades of injury representation, Mark Hurt can identify all potentially liable parties, gather crucial evidence, and fight for the maximum compensation possible for your injuries.
Don’t Accept an Insurance Settlement Without Speaking with an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney First – You Could Waive Your Right to a Jury Trial.
Following a commercial truck accident, insurance companies gather various pieces of information, such as driver records, police reports, and other relevant evidence, to determine fault and estimate a settlement amount. Adjustors for insurance companies typically will call an accident victim to get a recorded statement, ostensibly for speeding up the claims process.
If you have been injured you should never give such a statement. The adjustor will not be trying to settle the case, but instead to get you to make statements against your best interest, such as to say that you’re not in any pain. Instead, the best course is to refuse to give a recorded statement, and instead inform the adjustor that you are represented by legal counsel. Our firm can thus act on your behalf.
Even when a proposed compensation amount appears reasonable, it is crucial to consult with an experienced truck accident attorney before agreeing to any insurance offer. In severe accidents, injuries might not become apparent immediately, which means a victim could be suffering from life-altering injuries without realizing it until later. As a result, it is essential to refrain from settling a case until the complete extent of the injuries can be fully understood and diagnosed.
Call The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt Today for a Free Consultation
If you or a loved one has been injured in a commercial truck accident, you need an experienced attorney who understands the complexities of these cases and has a proven track record of success. Duke Law School Graduate Mark T. Hurt has helped countless clients secure the compensation they deserve after devastating accidents and crashes.
At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we offer a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case and help you understand your rights and options. Our dedicated truck accident team will work tirelessly to investigate your accident, identify all potentially liable parties, and build a strong case on your behalf.
Don’t wait – time is of the essence in truck accident cases. The sooner you consult with an experienced truck accident attorney, the better your chances of securing the full and fair compensation you need to move forward with your life. Call The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt today at 276-623-0808 to schedule your free consultation and take the first step toward holding those responsible for your injuries accountable.