To determine who is liable for a truck accident, you must investigate the facts of the case. Evidence like photos, dashcam footage, the police report, and truck maintenance records can help point you to this party. Liability can range from the truck driver, the trucking company, the cargo loading company, the manufacturer of the truck parts, or a third-party driver. A truck accident attorney knows the steps to help you determine liability.
Once you establish this party, you can request compensation from them. If you reach a successful outcome in your case, you can recover damages, such as past and future medical bills, lost income, or non-monetary losses, like pain and suffering. If you lost a loved one from the accident, you may seek compensation in a wrongful death case.
Potential Liable Parties in a Truck Accident Case
Several parties could share liability for the accident. Investigating can help you gather enough information to identify the appropriate liable party, which may be:
The Truck Driver
Many truck crashes result from an error on the truck driver's part. If they don't follow the rules of the road or drive safely and cause an accident, they may bear fault for the crash. However, due to respondeat superior, employers take financial responsibility for their employees’ actions, thereby making them on the hook for your damages. However, if the truck driver is an independent contractor or they own the business, they may hold liability.
A common reason truck drivers cause accidents is fatigue because they drive longer than they should have. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates how long truck drivers can work at a time.
Other situations where fault falls on the truck driver include when they drove while intoxicated or drove recklessly. An in-depth investigation of the accident can provide more insight into whether the truck driver solely caused it.
The Trucking Company
The driver’s carelessness isn’t the only time the trucking company bears liability. You could hold the trucking company accountable if their negligence caused the collision.
You can hold the trucking company responsible for the accident if:
- It cut corners when training truck drivers and allowed them to drive before they had the proper truck driving skills.
- It did not teach their drivers proper safety protocols.
- It allowed or forced their drivers to work past the maximum hours of work the FMCSA enforced.
- It did not conduct formal background checks to ensure their drivers had clean driving records.
It's often more difficult to prove liability on the trucking company. New driver training logs and driving records could prove the trucking company’s negligence.
The Truck Owner
Collisions can occur because of failure on the truck's part. For example, a crash could occur because of a brake failure. Your attorney could find evidence, such as records showing that the owner knew the truck had brake problems. If this happens, liability for the accident could fall on the truck owner.
Other examples of situations where you could file an insurance claim against the truck owner include:
- The owner does not complete regular inspections on the truck to ensure the parts stay in proper condition.
- The owner knows about an engine problem on the truck and still allows the trucking company to operate it.
- The owner does not keep up with changing and inspecting the tires to ensure they don't blow out on the roads.
- The owner has manipulated their vehicles to increase the speed limits they can reach.
- The owner has not followed federal regulations or proper licensing by avoiding inspections.
Truck owners must uphold the standards that any other vehicle owner on the road should. If the truck's poor maintenance caused the accident, you could file a claim against them.
The Cargo Loader
Often, the truck driver isn't responsible for loading the cargo onto the truck. Instead, trucking companies hire cargo loaders to take on these tasks. Improperly loaded cargo could cause the truck to fall on top of or crash into vehicles. In other cases, boxes or cargo could fall off the truck and hit vehicles behind it. Flying debris can also hit other vehicles, causing catastrophic damage.
If the accident occurs because of improperly loaded cargo, you could hold the company who loaded the cargo accountable.
The Trucks Parts Manufacturer
While the truck owner should properly maintain their trucks, sometimes the truck’s parts are defective. If the accident occurs because of a part defect, liability could fall on the manufacturer of the truck parts. Defects, such as bad brakes, bad tires, or other mechanical issues, can cause accidents to occur in a matter of seconds.
Your attorney could investigate the accident and hire experts to review the evidence to prove that a faulty part caused the accident.
A Third-Party Driver
Another vehicle driving near the truck could cause a truck accident. To avoid accidents, other drivers must take safety precautions when driving around large trucks.
Examples of situations where liability could fall on a third-party driver include:
- When the driver changes lanes in front of a truck so the truck driver has to slam on their brakes or swerve
- When the third-party driver passes a large truck on the right and stays in their blind spot for an extended time
- When someone fails to switch lanes, slow down, or speed up when a truck makes an attempt to merge onto a highway
- When another vehicle tailgates the truck
If someone in another vehicle engages in these behaviors and causes an accident, you could file a truck accident claim against them. The driver whose actions directly resulted in the crash is the first party your attorney could consider when determining liability.
Evidence of Liability in a Truck Accident Case
You must have strong evidence to prove liability in a truck accident case. Examples of evidence could include:
- Statements from eyewitnesses who can provide a firsthand account of the events leading to the collision
- Work logs to determine how long the truck driver worked when the accident happened
- The truck's maintenance records determine the last time the parts received an inspection or maintenance
- Information about the blood alcohol content (BAC) level of the at-fault driver
- Training procedures the company conducted to determine if the truck driver who caused the accident received proper training
An attorney has access to resources that extend beyond the reach of people who don't obtain legal representation. With the power to subpoena and having a network of expert witnesses, truck accident attorneys can work to enhance the strength of your case.
How an Attorney Can Help Determine Liability in a Truck Accident Case
An attorney can lend support and take care of any difficult legal matters that arise. They can help determine liability in a truck accident case in the following ways:
- Pick up a copy of the police report to see if they can identify any pertinent information to cause and fault
- Interview witnesses who saw the accident happen
- Review photographs from the scene
- Locate security cameras that could have recorded the accident taking place
- Speak to the camera's owners so they can review the footage
- Ask you questions to get your version of events
- Collect your medical records and bills to link the crash to your injuries
- Compile all of the evidence they gathered to present to the at-fault party
Common Recoverable Damages in Truck Accident Cases
In addition to helping you determine and prove liability, your attorney could help you pursue compensation for the damages the responsible party caused. Seeking compensation for your damages can provide a safeguard to prevent you from facing financial devastation.
Recoverable damages in a truck accident case could include your past and future medical bills, lost income, future loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Because truck accidents can be so severe, people may lose their lives as a result. In that case, the surviving family members can obtain wrongful death damages, such as funeral and burial expenses, final medical costs, loss of consortium, and loss of financial support.
A truck accident lawyer can also help you prove you sustained these damages so you have a better chance of recovering compensation. For example, proof that you sustained these damages could include records of your medical care and pay stubs to show that you lost income.
Filing a Truck Accident Case Against the Liable Party
Once they have calculated your damages, your attorney may request a settlement amount from the other party’s insurance company. In general, they don’t agree to pay the original amount you demand and offer a lower number, which kickstarts settlement negotiations. Here, your lawyer can go back and forth with the insurer until they can reach an agreement. This outcome is the norm, but there are instances in which the insurer won’t cooperate.
As a result, your attorney may file a lawsuit and prepare for trial. Here, they take your case before a jury and continue your pursuit for compensation. Insurance companies typically settle once they see a court date on the calendar due to the high cost and time it takes to go through the trial process.
How Long You Have to File a Truck Accident Lawsuit
Every state imposes a statute of limitations, also known as a filing deadline, on lawsuits. This time limit varies from state to state, as well as based on the circumstances of the accident.
For example, usually, when someone passes away from their injuries, the law gives the surviving family members less time to sue. If a government entity bears liability for what happened, you may only have a few months to file a lawsuit.
Whatever happened, you may want to consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Failing to file before the statute of limitations ends could prompt the state to dismiss your case, leaving you without any options for recovering compensation. However, with adequate notice, an attorney can help ensure you comply with the deadline.
A Law Firm That Handles Truck Accident Cases Can Assist You
After going through the trauma of a truck accident, you can't afford to let the other party get away with not taking accountability. You can learn how a law firm can help you in a free, no-obligation consultation. Then, you can choose the right truck accident lawyer for your case. You could sustain severe injuries that could affect your livelihood, so you deserve strong and compassionate legal care.
Many law firms also take truck accident cases on a contingency-fee basis. That means they don’t ask for a fee up front, hourly, or out of pocket. Instead, they cover every cost related to your case from start to finish. The attorney only recovers a fee if and when they obtain a settlement or court award. This way, you don’t have anything to lose.