While the majority of truck drivers use reasonable care and are responsible motorists, there are outliers who may not take the care necessary to keep themselves and others safe. It is important that the negligent outliers must are held accountable when their careless actions harm other innocent people so that bad behavior can be stopped.
Like all other road users, semi-truck drivers are expected to live up to a specific duty of care. The duty of care states that all road users have a legal responsibility to operate vehicles conscientiously and take reasonable care to avoid hurting others out on the road.
However, truck drivers have an even greater responsibility to act with a reasonable duty of care because they drive vehicles that are a much greater danger to themselves and the rest of the motoring public because they are so much larger than a passenger vehicles. Because of this, truck drivers are required by law to carry a commercial driver’s license to operate a commercial truck legally. This means that they must go through far more rigorous training than people with regular driver’s licenses.
In addition to complying with the rules contained in each state’s Vehicle Codes, commercial truck drivers are also required to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulations (FMCSRs), as well as the rules contained in the Commercial Driver Handbook for each state that they drive in.
Semi-Trucks Are Not The Only Type of Commercial Truck
Commercial trucks are not just semi-trucks—that is just one type of commercial vehicle. Commercial vehicles of all types suit a number of different needs, which makes each different type unique in its own way. A semi-truck refers to the physical vehicle containing the engine, but not necessarily the unit that it tows behind it. In addition to semis, the following types of vehicles are also considered commercial trucks:
- Tanker trucks
- Cement trucks
- Delivery vehicles
- Box trucks
- Other large freight trucks
According to the FMCSA, any vehicle that has a gross weight rating or gross combination weight rating (whichever is greater) of 10,0001 pounds is a commercial vehicle subject to the FMCSRs.
If you are hit by a commercial vehicle, you may wonder whether you have the right to file a lawsuit against the driver. Read on to learn the answer to this question, plus much more.
Truck Accident Liability
Depending on the circumstances of the crash, there are a number of parties who may be held liable if a semi-truck hits you. It is often assumed that the truck driver will be the only person held responsible for any crashes they’re involved in, but that is not always the case.
While truck drivers do sometimes cause the accidents they’re involved in, the truth is, passenger car drivers cause the vast majority of truck accidents. In fact, studies show that 70% of truck accidents are the result of the reckless actions of passenger car drivers alone.
Depending on the facts of your case, any of the following parties can be held responsible for a truck accident that occurs:
- Truck driver
- Trucking company
- Owner of the truck
- Owner of the trailer
- Owner of the goods inside the trailer
- Cargo loaders
- Tractor manufacturers
- Parts manufacturers
There are various reasons why a truck driver may cause an accident, including:
- Violating the law
- Encountering an operational problem in the truck
- Distracted driving
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Failing to execute reasonable care
- Neglecting to maintain adequate control of the truck
- Not properly warning other drivers of the maneuvers executed
- Failing to yield the right of way
Some other conditions that can lead to a truck accident in which the truck driver is at fault include:
- Long hours on a single trip
- Nighttime driving
- Fatigued driving
- Certain health ailments
It is not uncommon for the trucking companies that employ truck drivers to be at fault for crashes that ensue, however, it can be complicated to gather the evidence you need to prove in a court of law that a trucking company is responsible for a crash. Fortunately, it is not impossible. Expert witnesses and skilled lawyers know how to discover steps the trucking company could have taken to prevent crashes and hold trucking companies responsible.
Some of the reasons why a trucking company may be responsible for a crash include:
- Incomplete or inadequate inspections.
- Failing to properly vet drivers before putting them on the road.
- Not adequately training drivers.
- Compromising safety to increase productivity.
- Unreasonable expectations that force drivers to push themselves harder than they should in order to fulfill deadlines.
In some cases, an investigation can reveal that both the trucking company and the manufacturer of the tractor or some component part share accountability in accidents that occur as a result of defective equipment and taking shortcuts in an attempt to amplify speed.
Owner of the Truck
Sometimes trucking companies use vehicles they do not own and provide them for the drivers they employ. If a crash occurs, it may be possible for the owner of the truck to hold some or all of the legal responsibility.
Some of the things that can occur in which a truck owner would be held accountable for a crash include:
- Failing to Inspect the vehicle.
- Not checking the engine.
- Failing to maintain the tires and internal vehicle functions.
Truck owners are required to ensure that the necessary parts on their trucks are in proper working order, such as:
- Vehicular fluids,
- Tires, and
- Electronic system.
There are federal regulations in place regarding the inspection and maintenance of commercial trucks. If a truck owner neglects to adhere to the federal regulations, he or she may be held liable for damages in a resulting accident.
If cargo is improperly loaded onto a commercial truck and it falls off, causing injuries, it may be possible to sue for damages. Cargo loaders are responsible for completely inspecting and properly securing the cargo they load onto trucks.
If a particular part on a truck is defective and an accident results, the manufacturer of the part may be held liable for damages. Some examples include:
- A parts batch malfunction leading to a tire blowout.
- Collision Avoidance Technology failure.
- Technical failure.
- Defective brakes.
Commercial Truck Accidents Are Not Like Car Crashes
While car accidents also have the potential to cause significant harm, truck accidents almost always result in severe damage. As you can imagine, these massive vehicles have the potential to cause significant harm when they collide with other objects, including other vehicles.
A fully loaded truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds (lbs). An average passenger car that weighs 2,000-4,000 lbs does not stand a chance against an 80,000 lbs vehicle.
As a result of the significant damages often experienced in truck accidents, lawsuits of this nature tend to generate more damages than simpler car accidents because the injuries and property damages incurred are usually much more severe.
If You’ve Been Hurt, We Want To Help
If you’ve been hurt in a truck accident through no fault of your own, you may be owed compensation to help pay for your losses. It is critical that you receive justice for the pain and suffering you have endured due to these unfortunate circumstances.
At Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, we represent the victims of truck accidents, including truck drivers who have been harmed by the negligent actions of other truck drivers or subjected to work in unfair conditions by their employers.
We have helped many other people in similar situations obtain the compensation they deserved for their damages and we want to do the same for you.
Don’t hesitate to contact our office right away if you have any questions. We are ready and prepared to help you now.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, call our Los Angeles attorneys at (866) 634-4525 or contact us online. We will fight to recover your full and fair compensation.