Who Is Liable in a Commercial Truck Accident?
Truck collisions are often more traumatic and cause more severe injuries than regular passenger vehicle crashes. But the physical and psychological effects aren’t the only differences between the two types of collisions.
Large truck cases are significantly more complex than those involving only passenger vehicle crashes because they involve more parties and defenses — and the defendants are often large corporations with entire legal teams on retainer. As a result, proving fault in a truck wreck case and holding the negligent party responsible for your damages is challenging and will likely require the help of an experienced truck accident attorney.
Let’s review the three main parties that are most often at fault for truck wrecks, as well as when and how you can hold them liable for their negligence.
1. The Truck Driver
If you’ve been in a truck crash, the truck driver likely shares at least some of the blame. Truck wrecks are often caused by negligent behavior and other factors, such as:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol
- Prescription, over the counter, or illegal drug use
- Speeding and distracted driving
- Poor judgment calls
- Driver fatigue and sleep disorders
- Physical impairments (vision, hearing, back problems, etc.)
Regardless of whether anyone else is responsible for your truck crash, the truck driver’s behavior likely contributed to causing the wreck. But sometimes there are reasons and motives behind a truck driver’s actions that point to an additional negligent party, the truck company.
2. The Truck or Freight Company
Depending on the circumstances of your commercial truck crash, an attorney might be able to help you hold the trucking or freight company responsible in addition to the driver. To prove the company is liable, however, your attorney will need to investigate them for negligent and unsafe practices.
Negligent Hiring and Training
The company’s hiring and training practices are often the first places an attorney will look for evidence of company negligence. Negligent hiring and training relate to the idea that companies are responsible for ensuring all potential and current employees are able and fit to be drivers.
A company is accountable for having safe hiring and training practices, including:
- Conducting checks into criminal backgrounds and driving records
- Contacting previous employers and references before hiring
- Mandating periodic physical exams and drug tests
- Providing adequate job training before the employee can drive
Unsafe Policies and Expectations
While negligent hiring and training are irresponsible, some companies take things one step further from lax to blatantly unethical. Focused only on making money, these companies sacrifice safety and even employee health to increase profits. The companies pressure drivers with unsafe driving policies and expectations that contribute to trucking accidents.
Violating Hours of Service Rules. Some companies push drivers to exceed the hours of service rules that dictate how long a truck driver can stay on the road without taking a break. These rules exist to enforce safe driving hours. Companies that try to falsify driving logs and make their employees drive extended hours are contributing to the rising problem of truck driver fatigue.
Requiring Unrealistic Performance. Unrealistic expectations regarding how much distance a driver must travel in a day can pressure drivers to falsify logs and speed, along with other reckless decisions. Drivers who don’t meet these dangerous standards of performance might face pay cuts or even termination.
When Can’t I Hold the Truck Company Responsible?
Holding the company responsible for drivers’ behavior is contingent on several conditions in addition to evidence of negligent or unethical behavior.
Scope of Employment. The truck driver must be acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the crash. The company is not liable for actions their employees take while off the clock.
Truck Driver Intent. In the rare occasion that a truck driver maliciously and purposefully caused a collision, the company might not be liable. The exception to this is if there were signs that the truck driver could engage in violence and the company hired or continued to employ them anyways.
3. Mechanics and Truck Manufacturers
While truck companies have a responsibility to conduct proper and regular maintenance checks, the maintenance jobs themselves may fall on third-party mechanics. If a mechanic misses an issue or provides a faulty repair job, they might be responsible for any accident that was caused by related mechanical issues. Likewise, if a truck manufacturer includes a defective or faulty part in the truck, and that part contributes to a collision, you may be able to sue the manufacturer for damages as well.
“Depending on the circumstances of your commercial truck crash, an attorney might be able to help you hold the trucking or freight company responsible in addition to the driver.”
While less common than holding the truck driver or company accountable, negligent mechanics and manufacturers can cause devastating crashes. This is especially true if the issue lies with the truck’s brakes, tires, steering wheel, or suspension system.
What If I’m Partially Responsible for the Crash?
Texas uses contributory negligence laws to govern compensation in situations where the victim contributed to their own injuries. If you think this could apply to you, don’t worry, you can still recover damages. However, your percent of the blame will influence the amount of your compensation.
RELATED ARTICLE: Can I Recover Damages If I Contributed To a Car Accident?
The real concern regarding contributory negligence is that truck companies may use this rule in an attempt to deny victims their rightful compensation. If a truck company or other defendant can convince the judge that you were more than 50% responsible for your crash, you will no longer be eligible to receive compensation. Therefore, the defendants will likely try to place at least some of the blame on you to decrease the settlement they need to pay.
If you think there is a distinct possibility that someone will try to use contributory negligence against you, you should contact a skilled commercial truck attorney right away.
Crosley Law Firm | Truck Accident Attorneys
In conclusion, there could be two, three, or even more parties responsible for your truck wreck. Determining who is to blame and proving their negligence requires in-depth investigation into each and every aspect of your crash. Without the help of an experienced truck accident attorney, most victims usually aren’t sure where to start looking.
At Crosley Law Firm, we years of experience handling truck wreck cases and can help victims investigate the causes of the crash to help them get the compensation they deserve.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
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