Accidents involving tractor trailers and other large commercial trucks are among the most devastating because of the significant damage they can cause. Not only do commercial trucks have the potential to flatten the vehicle they run over, the occupants of the vehicles struck by tractor trailers often sustain severe life threatening injuries and, unfortunately, fatalities.
Medical bills are generally astronomical and, usually, car accident victims will not cleared to return to work for several weeks or months which results in substantial amounts of lost wages.
Who is responsible for compensating the victims injured in car accidents which were caused by a tractor trailer? The driver of the tractor trailer or the company who owns the tractor trailer?
As it turns out, the answer to who is responsible for compensating victims may be more complex than it initially appears. More than one party, including the driver, the trucking company, or a subcontractor for the commercial vehicle may be on the hook for paying the injured victims.
Experienced tractor trailer accident attorneys are able to help you determine who is liable for paying your damages if you are injured in an accident which was caused by a tractor trailer or commercial truck. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the potential culprits and who might be liable.
Is the Truck Driver Liable?
The first party you might consider to be potentially liable is the driver of the tractor trailer who caused the accident. After all, the driver who was operating the tractor trailer. And most of the time, tractor trailer drivers who caused the accident are 100 at fault for the crash.
The driver carries a lot of the responsibility for the safe operation of the tractor trailer or a large commercial truck. Tractor trailer drivers must take more precautions than motorists driving sedans, SUVs, and trucks because they are harder to maneuver. Due to their size and weight of tractor trailers, they cannot stop as abruptly as smaller vehicles. Since tractor trailers and large box trucks do not have rear windows, they have more blind spots than smaller vehicles.
Tractor trailer and box truck drivers must rely on their side view mirrors to know what is going on around them. Therefore, tractor trailer and large commercial vehicle drivers need to ensure that they are alert, well rested, sober, paying close attention to their surroundings on the roadway. Any good personal injury attorney would start a case by investigating how and why the truck driver was negligent..
Could the Trucking Company Be Liable?
However, even though the truck driver is the person who caused the crash, the driver is not the only one who may be held liable. There are several other possibilities, and the chief among them is the trucking company. In fact, there are multiple ways in which a trucking company may be held responsible.
First, there is the relationship between the trucking company and the tractor trailer or box truck driver. If the tractor trailer or box truck driver is an employee of the company, the company will likely be directly liable for any accidents caused by its driver. However, even if the tractor trailer or box truck driver is an independent contractor, the company might still be responsible for compensating injured victims because the company is responsible for contracting with/hiring safe, skilled drivers. Additionally if the company provided safety training, the truck that was involved in the collision, or other equipment to the driver to use, the company may be liable for accidents caused by the truck driver who is an independent contractor.
There are laws that limit the hours the drivers are allowed to be on the road each day, and how long they must rest. Meaning that if a tractor trailer driver causes an accident because the company the driver works for required the truck driver to drive more hours than legally permitted or imposed tight tight deadlines which lead to the driver feeling under pressure to skimp on taking enough breaks or sleep, the company may be held responsible for the accident.
Companies may also be responsible if they require the driver to drive in inclement weather such as downpours, snow storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Even though the drivers should have the good sense not to drive in those kinds of conditions, they have tight deadlines and fell as though they cannot wait until the weather improves.
Obviously, you cannot sue the weather. However, if the trucking company creates working conditions that make drivers feel like they cannot take a break when it is not safe to drive because of the weather, the company may bear a good deal of responsibility when accidents occur.
Another factor is maintenance. Drivers need to make sure their trucks are well maintained, but the company also should have a well-trained maintenance crew that checks all trucks on a regular basis. This should include tires, brakes, fluids, and everything else that’s necessary for safe driving.
Companies’ maintenance obligations include keeping track of potential recalls of their trucks and parts on their trucks, and to take action immediately if something is recalled. Finally, the manufacturers of trucks and truck parts can be held liable as well if defective parts which played a role in the accident were not recalled prior to the accident.
Moreover, it matters how the cargo is loaded and secured. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has strict Cargo Securement Rules about how cargo must be secured. Both drivers and companies are held responsible for making sure that cargo does not shift around on the truck and cause the driver to lose control of the truck.
So you can see that the question about liability goes far beyond driver versus trucking company. And you need a determined attorney who has lots of experience handling trucking accidents to pursue such a case and find all the responsible parties that can be held liable for the damage the accident has caused.
We have that kind of experience and would be happy to help you if you’ve been injured or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident. Call or email us for a free consultation. We look forward to speaking with you.