Published in Personal Injury by Chris Eskew on January 18, 2023.
After being in a truck accident, you might want to seek financial compensation to help you recover from your injuries and losses. Determining fault and negligence might be straightforward if you were hit by a privately-owned passenger vehicle. But if a semi-truck hit you, who is liable for your damages might not be so clear. In fact, several parties might be liable for your damages. A truck accident attorney can help you identify all of the parties who might be responsible for your losses and explain all of your legal options to you.
Truck Accident Liability
Before determining who the liable parties are, it is imperative to determine which theory of liability might apply to your case. Without proving liability, you can not recover compensation. The most common theories of liability used in truck accident claims are negligence and strict liability.
The legal theory of negligence allows an injured person to recover compensation when the negligent conduct of a truck driver, or another party, caused their injuries. Generally, a party was negligent if they failed to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances.
Reasonable care, first and foremost, means abiding by all laws. Along with everyday roadway laws, truck drivers and truck companies must follow additional regulations concerning loading requirements, inspections, and compliance with safety standards. For example, the Indiana Motor Carrier Services, the Department of Transportation, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration all have rules designed to keep drivers sharing the road with trucks safe. If a party failed to abide by all applicable laws and rules, that could be used to show they failed to exercise reasonable care.
Reasonable care also encompasses controlling the movement and speed of a truck and paying attention to the road and other drivers. For example, if the driver caused an accident because they were looking down at their phone, they could be held negligent if their inattentiveness and carelessness caused the accident.
Common examples of truck driver negligence include the following:
- Driving under the influence,
- Failing to obey traffic signals,
- Changing lanes in an unsafe or erratic manner, and
- Failing to yield the right-of-way.
If a trucking company encourages its drivers to ignore safety laws to meet deadlines and maximize profits, that could also be negligence.
Strict liability applies if you can prove a manufacturing defect in one of the truck’s components caused your injury. You’ll need to prove that an error in the manufacturing process caused the collision that harmed you. Faulty equipment, like brakes, tires, engine parts, or cargo straps, could support a strict liability claim. Some additional truck parts that could have dangerous flaws include:
- Steering mechanisms,
- Fuel tanks,
- Locks and failsafe mechanisms,
- Underride guards,
- Safety lights, and
- Windshield wipers.
The truck accident lawyers at Eskew Law can determine whether you might be able to bring a strict liability claim to receive compensation for your damages.
Determining Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident
Indiana is an at-fault state for the purposes of accident insurance claims. In an at-fault state, the injured party is responsible for pursuing compensation from the insurance company of the at-fault party. That means the injured person has to prove the other party was at-fault for the accident to receive compensation from the insurance company. But the question remains, who is the at-fault party? When it comes to truck accidents, there are several parties who might be at fault.
Commercial trucking companies hire and train drivers (either as employees or independent contractors) and maintain their trucks. If the trucking company failed to ensure its drivers and trucks were safe enough to be on the road, it might have been negligent.
If the negligent truck driver was an employee of the trucking company, the company might also be responsible for the driver’s actions. Under the rule of respondeat superior, an employer can be held responsible for their employee’s actions while an employee is acting within the scope of their employment. Determining whether an employee’s action was within the scope of their employment is a complicated matter. An experienced truck accident lawyer can analyze the facts of your case to determine if a trucking company might be liable for its driver’s actions.
Manufacturer liability generally falls under the umbrella of strict liability, as explained above. Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that mechanical parts are safe and in good working order. If a part of the truck malfunctions or breaks and causes an accident, the manufacturer rather than the trucking company might be liable for your damages.
Trucking companies must ensure that large cargo loads are properly secured, are within legal weight limits, and meet state and federal safety requirements.
Securing cargo that could easily roll or move around is essential to prevent cargo from shifting and causing accidents. If a cargo loader fails to follow the strict cargo loading rules and guidelines, they might be liable for injuries caused by the improperly loaded or secured cargo.
Improper truck maintenance by a maintenance company can also qualify as negligence. Negligent repairs occur when a mechanic performs poor-quality work or neglects to fix the vehicle’s problem. Failing to diagnose or misdiagnosing mechanical issues or ignoring or failing to replace damaged parts could be enough to demonstrate a maintenance company was negligent.
In determining liability on the driver’s part, it matters whether a trucking company or the driver owns the truck. Sometimes, a trucking company may not own the trucks because their drivers are independent contractors. If the trucking company does not own the truck, liability may fall on the truck driver. Additionally, like a truck company, independent truck owners are responsible for the maintenance of their trucks, including checking brakes, fluid levels, and tires. The truck owner might be liable if you prove they failed to maintain their truck properly.
Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today
Determining who can be held liable in a truck accident takes a knowledgeable attorney with experience successfully resolving truck accident claims. Eskew Law is an award-winning law firm that is part of the National Trial Lawyers Top 100. Our attorneys never take a one-size-fits-all approach. We value our client relationships above all else and will always prioritize your unique needs and goals. Contact us online or by phone to schedule your consultation today.