Involved in a Trucking Accident? Who’s Liable?
If you’re ever in a car accident with a commercial truck, one thing you’re bound to quickly find out is that it isn’t like dealing with an ordinary car accident. When you’re in a car accident with another car, you’re typically only dealing with the driver/owner of the other car. But when you’re in an accident with a commercial truck, determining liability can easily turn into several people or entities pointing the finger at another. The driver is just one of many people who could get involved.
Since truckers are often working as employees for another company, their employer is very likely to get involved. When a person is acting as an employee, the employer is often responsible for the employee’s actions. The government has strict regulations regarding how long a truck driver can be on the road for, how much time they need to have off between shifts, and how many hours they can be on duty in a given week. Employers are also required to show reasonable standards of care in hiring drivers and are required to regularly test their employees for drug and alcohol use. If an employer is found to be ignoring federal regulations, encouraging drivers to falsify their driving records to get more time on the road, or to have been hiring drivers with questionable driving histories, they could be very well be liable for the accident.
Liability gets even more complicated if a driver is an independent contractor instead of a regular employee. When a trucker is working as an independent contractor, the employer might not be held liable for the driver’s actions.
Equipment failure is one issue that could potentially cause a trucking accident, but figuring out who was responsible for maintaining the equipment is often difficult. If a company owns and operates their own trucks, they have a duty to ensure their trucks are properly maintained and are in good, roadworthy condition. If a company leases their trucks from another person or company and they lease a truck that shouldn’t be on the road, the person or company who leased the truck could be liable. But if the accident that was caused by a manufacturer’s defect in the brakes or tires, the manufacturer of that particular piece of equipment might be liable.
Sometimes truck drivers or trucking companies will try to save wear and tear on tires and brakes by depowering or disabling a truck’s front brakes and rely on the brakes on the trailer to control their speed instead, which can cause a truck to jackknife. In a situation like this, the person who disabled the front brakes would be liable for the accident.
If the truck accident was caused by the truck being improperly loaded, the responsibility would fall on the party who loaded the truck. If the truck was loaded by the driver’s employer, they would be responsible for not loading it correctly, but if it was loaded up by a different company, they’re the one who would be liable.