FAQ: Who is liable in a commercial truck accident?

Trucks and other commercial vehicles are heavy, large, and powerful. When they get into an accident, they can cause devistating injuries and obliterating damage. Thus, the safe and responsbile maintenance and operation of these vehicles is crucial. There are numerous parties involved in making sure a truck travels safely and successfully, and, therefore, there are several potential parties that can be held liable when a truck causes an accident. Who you can sue when you’ve been in an accident with a truck depends on how the truck is owned and what negligence took place that contributed to the accident. It’s likely that there will be a combination of multiple parties responsible for your truck accident.

Possible Liable Parties in Commercial Truck Accidents

The Truck Driver

The truck driver is largly responsible for how the large vehicle behaves on the road. There is the potential for the driver to make all sorts of operator errors and mistakes that lead to serious accidents when driving such a large, heavy vehicle. If the driver fails to obey traffic laws, such as exceeding the speed limit or running a red light, the driver is at fault in the accident. Speeding, distracted driving, and driver fatigue are some of the leading causes of truck accidents.

When figuring out who to sue or who is liable for a truck or commercial vehicle accident, you must first establish what type of driver is operating the vehicle. The driver may fall into one of three categories:

  1. Owner-operator contractors: They own their truck, and either hold a contract with a trucking company to ship the goods that company needs shipped or act as an independent contractor making trips for several different companies.
  2. Company drivers: They are a direct employee of a trucking company. The driver does not own the truck he drives. It is owned by the trucking company or a third party.
  3. Independent owner-operators: They own their own truck, or perhaps multiple trucks, and work for themselves. They haul their own goods.

Knowing the type of driver and ownership arrangement involved in the truck tells you what additional parties may or may not also be involved and have some culpability when a truck accident happens.

The Trucking Company

If the driver of the truck that hit you works for a trucking company and was on the job at the time of the accident, it is posslbe that the trucking company can be found liable. The trucking company could be responsible for the accident because of:

  • Personnel issues: The trucking company has responsibilities in the hiring, training, and supervision of the drivers they employ. Trucking companies have to perform background checks when making hiring decisions, and conduct drug screenings of their drivers periodically. Hiring someone with a poor driving history or background abusing drugs or alcohol or driving under the influence is irresponsible and can be usafe. For the individuals they hire, the trucking company must also provide adequate training and ensure that their driver has or obtains the correct commercial vehicle operating license. That training includes vehicle operation, safety protocols, and vehicle inspection prior to driving. Lastly, the trucking company is responsible for supervising their drivers for compliance with safety regulations and company policies.
  • Maintenance shortfalls: the company is required to meet certain requirements regarding truck maintenance. The trucks must be regularly inspected for safety and maintained as needed to satisfy the safey benchmarks. When the accident is caused, even in part, by a mechanical breakdown, and maintenance records to not show compliance with inspection and safety standards, the trucking company may be held liable.
  • Pressure on the driver: In an effort to increase profits by getting more goods delivered faster using less labor, a trucking company can be tempted to cut corners. They might also pressure the driver to driver faster and go longer distances without taking a break or getting rest. Driving faster, for longer stretches of time, or with inadequate rest has a host of detremental effects on a driver’s physical and mental abilities and can all too easily lead to accidents.
  • Negligence: Failing to repair a truck or having the truck loaded or hitched improperly are some examples of negligence on the part of the trucking company.

The Truck Owner

The responsibilities of the truck owner intersects with the responsibilities of the trucking company. Some trucking companies own their trucks, some trucks are owned by an individual driver, and in other cases there may be a company that owns a fleet of trucks and supplies those trucks to the trucking company, who takes care of manning the vehicles and managing the use of the vehicles. If there is a separate entity that owns the truck, it is their duty to keep up with maintenance and repairs, swtiching out the tires, etc. So in this case, improper maintenance or inspection failures can make the owner of the truck liable for the accident.

The Manufacturers

Though the maintenance of the truck and all the components involved falls on the owner of the truck, a manufacturer can have a role as well. Large commercial vehicles are comprised of many different, intricate parts and therefore, many different manufacturers are involved. Manufacturers of the truck or any part on the truck could be responsible for failures as long as regular and proper maintenance has taken place. Common truck component failures include brake failure, tire blowouts, steering mechanism defects, and fuel tank fires as well as defects in hydraulic systems, hitches, and couplings. There may be an issue of product liability as well.

Mechanics and Loading Companies

If the truck owner, trucking company, or other party responsible for the upkeep of the vehicle has the truck inspected and discover that something is wrong, they have to take it to a truck mechanic who can repair the truck or replace the bad part. If they take it to have the work done but the work was done incorrectly or the mechanic made a mistake that causes another issue, the maintenace worker, mechanic, or the company that operated on the vehicle could be at-fault.

If there is another party who participates in loading cargo on the truck, those workers or the company they work for may hold some responsibiliy as well. Improper loading can be dangerous. The load could be too heavy, fall off or out of the truck onto the highway, or shift and spill inside the truck, causing balance issues that can lead to loss of control for the driver and could even cause the truck to roll over.

Truck Accident Lawyer in St. Louis | The Hayden Law Firm

You’ve been hurt in an accident caused by a commercial truck or other large commerical vehicle. You need a lawyer on your side who can stand up to the companies and individuals that are liable for your accident and hold them accountale for their negligence. Amanda Hayden is equipped with the skills and experience necessary to be successful in a commercial truck case. You and your family deserve safety, peace of mind, and a chance to move on. The Hayden Law Firm want to help you obtain these things by winning your truck accident suit. Send a message or call (314) 480-3100 to find out how we can help you with your case.

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