Who's Responsible? Tips For Determining Liability After A Trucking Accident

Posted on: 27 October 2015


Being hit by a commercial truck is no small matter. A trucking accident can leave you with a lifetime of medical issues and pain. You're certainly entitled to want compensation for your damages and losses. But who should be held liable? In an ordinary car accident situation, you would file a claim against the drivers' insurance and possibly against the driver. However, an accident that involves a commercial truck is more complicated because there may be other parties involved, like the company that hired the truck driver. Take a look at some tips for determining liability after a trucking accident.

When Is The Driver Liable?

The truck driver (or the driver's insurance policy) will be at least somewhat liable in almost all cases. So what you really need to know is when the driver is the only liable entity. For example, if the driver is an independent contractor who owns their own truck, then the driver is probably the only person who can be held liable.

Furthermore, if the driver caused the accident by acting negligently or recklessly in a way that the trucking company couldn't have predicted, like driving too aggressively, speeding, or driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, then the responsibility will probably be completely on the driver.

When Is The Trucking Company Liable?

Most of the time, if the driver is an employee of the trucking company and not an independent contractor, the trucking company will be held liable. This is true of any commercial driving arrangement – when you're on the clock, your employer is responsible for the things that you do. Even in the case of a driver acting negligently or recklessly, the trucking company could be held responsible if they had some reason to expect that the driver might behave that way, such as a prior history of similar incidents, or a known drinking or drug problem.

The trucking company is also liable if they create the conditions that caused the accident. For example, if the driver fell asleep at the wheel and that was what caused the accident, it may mean that the driver was pushed to ignore hours of service regulations that outline how many hours a driver can spend on the road without resting, and how long they have to rest before being allowed to drive again. If the trucking company pressured the driver to shorten their resting hours in order to make a delivery on time, then the trucking company would definitely be partially responsible for the accident.

When Is Someone Else Responsible?

Truck drivers and trucking companies aren't the only entities that you may have to deal with when filing your accident claim. The relationships between truck drivers, truck owners, trucking companies, and companies who use trucking services can be convoluted and legally complex. There are several situations where you may sue the truck driver, the trucking company, and yet another party who bears some legal responsibility for the accident.

If the driver is an independent contractor who is leasing their truck from a third party, you may have a claim against the lessor. In rare cases, you may have a claim against the company that the truck was delivering to. If a mechanical failure was at fault for the accident, then you may have a claim against the person responsible for having the truck serviced, the mechanic who last serviced the truck, or even the truck's manufacturer.

It's important to have a good lawyer who is skilled and experienced in trucking accident cases. Without a good legal advisor, you might miss out on compensation that you didn't know you were entitled to. Make an appointment with a truck accident lawyer in your area to find out how to proceed.