Who Is Liable in a Truck Accident?

June 25, 2024

Truck accidents can be devastating, often resulting in severe injuries, extensive property damage, and even death. If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a truck accident someone else’s negligence caused, you may qualify for compensation from those responsible.

Navigating a truck accident claim, however, is complex and requires the skills and resources of an experienced truck accident attorney. One of the most important questions is who is liable in a truck accident.

Identifying the party or parties whose actions or inactions led to the crash is imperative to your claim. By establishing liability, your attorney can pursue the compensation you deserve for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Read on to explore the various parties that may be liable in a truck accident, the factors that affect liability determination, and the legal considerations involved in these cases.

For help determining the liable parties in your truck accident, contact a truck accident lawyer in your area for a free consultation. A lawyer can evaluate your case, inform you of your rights and options, and assertively represent you to protect your rights and recover the maximum compensation possible.

Get your free consultation

Parties Potentially Liable in a Truck Accident

Unlike most car accident claims, truck accident claims often involve several parties who bear liability for your injuries and losses. These include:

Truck Driver

  • Truck driver texting while drivingDriver error or negligence: Truck drivers are often the first party considered when determining liability in a truck accident. Driver error or negligence can take many forms, such as distracted driving, fatigue, speeding, or failing to yield the right of way. These actions can lead to serious accidents, and when a truck driver is found to be at fault, they may be liable for the resulting damages.
  • Driving under the influence: Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not only illegal but also incredibly dangerous, especially when operating a large commercial vehicle. If authorities find a truck driver was impaired at the time of the accident, your attorney can hold them accountable in a civil action, aside from any criminal consequences they face.
  • Violating traffic laws or regulations: Truck drivers must follow both state and federal regulations, including hours of service rules that limit the time a driver can spend behind the wheel without rest. If a driver violates these regulations or other traffic laws, and an accident occurs as a result, your attorney could hold them liable.

Trucking Company

  • Negligent hiring or training practices: Trucking companies must hire qualified, properly trained, fit drivers. If a company fails to conduct thorough background checks, provide adequate training, or address known issues with a driver’s performance, you can hold them liable for accidents their employees cause.
  • Inadequate vehicle maintenance: Proper truck maintenance is essential for safe operation on the road. If a trucking company fails to maintain its vehicles according to manufacturer guidelines or industry standards, and an accident occurs due to a mechanical failure, the company could be liable for resulting damages.
  • Encouraging or requiring drivers to violate regulations: Some trucking companies may prioritize profits over safety, pushing their drivers to meet unrealistic deadlines or violate hours of service regulations. If evidence exists that a company encouraged or required such practices, and an accident results, your attorney can use that to prove the trucking company’s liability.

Cargo Loader or Shipper

  • Improperly loaded or secured cargo: How cargo is loaded and secured on a truck can significantly affect the vehicle’s stability and handling. If cargo is not properly loaded or secured, it can shift during transport, causing the truck to become imbalanced or even tip over. In such cases, the party responsible for loading the cargo, the trucking company, or a third-party shipper, may bear liability for the accident.
  • Overloading the truck: Trucks have specific weight limits that must be adhered to for safe operation. If a truck is overloaded, it can become more difficult to control, increasing the risk of an accident. The party responsible for overloading the truck, whether the trucking company or the shipper, may be liable for any resulting accidents.

Vehicle or Parts Manufacturer

  • Defective truck parts or design: Sometimes, defective parts or design flaws in the vehicle itself cause truck accidents. If a manufacturer produces a faulty component, such as brakes or tires, or designs a truck with inherent safety issues, you can hold them liable for accidents that occur because of these defects.
  • Insufficient recalls or warnings: When a manufacturer becomes aware of a product defect, they have a duty to issue timely recalls and warnings to consumers. If a manufacturer fails to do so, and an accident occurs due to the known defect, the manufacturer may be legally responsible for the resulting damages.

Other Motorists

In some cases, the actions of other motorists may contribute to a truck accident. For example, if a car cuts off a truck or suddenly brakes in front of it, causing the truck to swerve or jackknife, the car’s driver may bear full or partial liability for the accident.

Factors That Can Affect Liability Determination

Numerous factors can affect how insurance companies and the courts determine liability, such as:

  • Evidence from the accident scene: Physical evidence gathered at the accident scene, such as skid marks, vehicle damage, and debris patterns, can provide valuable insights into how the accident occurred and who may be at fault.
  • Witness statements: Eyewitness accounts from other motorists, passengers, or bystanders can help corroborate or clarify the events leading up to and during the accident.
  • Police reports and citations: Law enforcement officers who respond to the accident will create a detailed report, which may include their assessment of fault based on the evidence and statements collected. Any citations issued to the parties involved can also be used as evidence of liability.
  • ELD and EDR data: Most commercial trucks have electronic logging devices (ELDs) and/or event data recorders (EDRs). These devices record data on the vehicle’s movements, speed, and the driver’s hours of service. This so-called black box data can determine if the driver complied with regulations at the time of the accident, whether the truck malfunctioned before the crash, and other information to help determine cause and liability.
  • Maintenance and inspection records: A truck’s maintenance and inspection history can reveal whether the vehicle was properly maintained and if the truck owner addressed any known issues in a timely manner. These records can establish whether the trucking company or driver was negligent in maintaining the vehicle.
  • Employment records and company policies: The trucking company’s hiring practices, training programs, and internal policies can be examined to determine if they contributed to the accident. For example, if a company has a history of hiring drivers with poor safety records or encouraging them to violate hours of service regulations, you may use this evidence of the company’s liability.

Legal Considerations of Trucking Accidents

contributory negligence in a truck accidentThe trucking industry is subject to a complex web of state and federal regulations, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules.

These regulations cover various aspects of truck operation, such as driver qualifications, hours of service, vehicle maintenance, and cargo securement. If a trucker or trucking company violates these regulations, your lawyer can use that as evidence of negligence in a truck accident case.

Under the legal doctrine of vicarious liability, trucking companies can be liable for the actions of their employees, including truck drivers, while they are on the job. This means that even if a truck driver’s negligence caused the accident, the trucking company may still be liable for the resulting damages.

When multiple parties contribute to an accident, comparative or contributory negligence comes into play. Each party’s degree of fault will be assessed, and their liability for damages will be apportioned accordingly.

Each state has its own laws regarding comparative or contributory negligence, which determine how fault is apportioned when multiple parties contribute to an accident.

In Florida, for example, the state follows a modified comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, you can still recover damages if you’re not more than 50% responsible for the crash. However, the court will reduce your compensation by your percentage of fault.

Another important factor to be aware of is the statute of limitations for filing a truck accident claim. You must take legal action to pursue compensation within this timeframe.

In Florida, the statute of limitations for filing a truck accident lawsuit is generally two years from the accident date. There are some exceptions, so speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible after an accident to ensure you protect your legal rights and have your lawyer file your lawsuit on time.

Importance of Seeking Legal Assistance

Truck accident cases are often more complex than typical car accident cases due to the numerous parties that may be involved, the extensive regulations governing the trucking industry, and the severity of the damages often incurred. Navigating these complexities can be challenging without the guidance of an experienced attorney.

An attorney can help you gather and preserve crucial evidence, such as ELD data, maintenance records, and witness statements—all of which may establish liability and build a strong case.

Insurance companies often seek to minimize payouts and may employ tactics to undervalue or deny your claim.

An attorney can handle negotiations with insurance companies on your behalf. They can help ensure the insurance company treats you fairly and offers you the full compensation you deserve. They can also take your case to trial and fight for maximum compensation if the insurance company refuses to negotiate a fair settlement.

A skilled personal injury attorney can help you pursue compensation for a wide range of damages. These include medical expenses, lost bills, pain and suffering, property damage, and more. They can also advise you on the potential long-term impacts of your injuries and ensure that your settlement or award accounts for future costs and losses.

Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer Today

Determining liability in a truck accident is a complex process that involves numerous factors and parties.

Truck accident claims require a thorough investigation to determine who is liable for the accident and resulting damages. They also require an in-depth understanding of state and federal trucking regulations, comparative negligence laws, and statutes of limitations.

At the Grife Law Firm, we understand the physical, emotional, and financial challenges that truck accident survivors and the families of those who lost a loved one in a truck accident face. We’re here to provide the compassionate, knowledgeable legal representation you need while fighting zealously to help you get the compensation and justice you deserve.

Don’t navigate the complexities of a truck accident case alone. Contact the Grife Law Firm today for your free consultation. Let us help you hold the liable parties accountable and secure the compensation you need to move forward with your life.