If you find yourself the victim in a trucking accident, one of your priorities will be to determine liability. This is a crucial first step in helping you to move forward and obtaining the damages and financial compensation you are owed.
Depending on the exact nature of the truck crash, several parties may be liable. In some cases, more than one party is to blame, and this can make things more confusing in court. The main culprits are typically the truck manufacturer, anyone responsible for maintenance and inspection, another road user, or the truck driver themselves.
The Truck Driver
In many cases, it is the actual driver of the truck who is to blame for the crash, and therefore the person to be pursued for damages. Common driver errors may be becoming distracted while driving, including the risk of being tired or drowsy after a long journey or after a night drive. The driver may also be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, have an underlying health condition that results in the crash, or breaks road rules and traffic laws such as stop signs—failing to pay attention when switching lanes is another widespread cause of trucking accidents.
The Trucking Company
If the driver works for an external company, they may also find themselves liable. This option can be trickier to prove but may be deemed to be due to a lack of care and attention, or cutting corners in maintenance. In many cases, the company will demand unreasonable or unrealistic hours from their drivers, leading to the latter taking dangerous risks to meet deadlines, including speeding and exceeding recommended driving times. Trucking companies may also use faulty equipment or fail to maintain their vehicles correctly.
The Truck Owner
Truck companies may not necessarily own the truck, but lease it from another owner. In this case, responsibility for maintenance, inspection, and upkeep falls to the owner. The legislation states that they will then be legally required to check tires, brakes, electronics, and parts to ensure that the vehicle is roadworthy. There are strict federal regulations that govern these inspections, and failing to follow the requirements could leave the owner liable for damages in the event of an accident.
The Truck Manufacturer
In some cases, an accident is caused due to an error in manufacturing. If a defect in the parts causes the truck to malfunction, the manufacturer will find themselves liable for paying damages. This may include mechanical failure, faulty brakes, or a tire blowout – all hazardous at high speeds.
The Cargo Loaders
If the truck involves cargo, there is always the potential for an accident. In these circumstances, it is the responsibility of the loader to inspect the cargo and ensure that it is fully secured before setting off on the journey. Failure to do this correctly means that the load may become unstable and fall, leading to damage and injury to other road users.