If you have been involved in a truck accident case, you may be confused about who the liable parties are. There are many moving parts that are involved in the trucking industry, and as such, there are many parties that might have a hand in an accident’s occurrence. While this may seem intimidating, if you have been injured in a truck accident or have had a loved one pass away due to someone else’s negligence, you should pursue the compensation that you are owed so you can begin to heal and recover.
When you hire us as your truck accident attorney, we will work with you and accident reconstruction experts to determine exactly which parties are liable for the accident so you can receive compensation. Read on to discover who may be responsible in the event of an 18-wheeler crash.
Parties That May Be Liable in a Truck Accident
Trucking accidents tend to be more complex than car accidents, and thus it can be more difficult to establish liability—especially because there are many parties that can potentially be involved. With all the maintenance, cargo considerations, and regulations involved in the trucking industry, truck drivers are not the only party that is responsible for the trucks on the road. While this list is not exhaustive, it will help provide some context for who may be at fault in any given 18-wheeler accident.
The Truck Driver
There are many ways drivers of any vehicle can be negligent and cause an accident, especially if they are driving a large tractor-trailer. Alcohol and drug use are often contributing factors to trucking accidents, but general driver fatigue, inattention, speeding, or traffic violations can be signs of negligence as well. Every driver has a duty to protect themselves and others on the road, but because truck drivers are drivers by profession and must follow rigorous guidelines, their duty goes beyond that of what a regular driver might be held to. There is also the size and weight of these trucks to consider, and something the driver will have to take into account with every decision they make.
The Trucking Company
Trucking companies are regulated both by federal law and by California state law, which requires them to follow safety guidelines by training and protecting their drivers. If the trucking company hired an underqualified driver, did not do their due diligence in checking their licensing, failed to provide adequate training, or allowed a driver to operate a truck against state or federal regulations, they can be considered liable for the damages. Additionally, in California, there are various components of a professional driver’s license you can obtain, which enable you to operate trucks with certain equipment or haul specific types of loads. If the trucking company assigned a driver to a truck they were not qualified to operate, that would be another sign that they might be liable for the accident.
The Owner Responsible for Truck Maintenance
The party responsible for truck maintenance can vary depending on the situation. In some situations, the trucking company owns the truck and hires the driver, and thus they are responsible for maintenance. In others, the trucking company would hire the driver to drive his own truck but haul their cargo, in which case the driver would be responsible for the maintenance—and if they were up to date on maintenance schedules, it could be the fault of the mechanic who signed off on the work that was performed. If repairs were not properly executed or if corners were cut during the maintenance process that resulted in an accident, the responsible party may be considered at fault.
There are many gears in the machine of truck driving, and cargo companies will often contract out a trucking company to do their hauling—meaning the trucking company is not always directly liable for or privy to the cargo that is being carried. While legally, a company must disclose if they are seeking to transport hazardous materials, they may neglect to do so. This is one factor, as are improper loading techniques. Many cargo loads are extremely heavy, and if they are loaded incorrectly, they can shift when the truck is moving and cause extremely hazardous, accident-causing conditions. If these are some of the contributing factors to your accident, it might be an indicator that it is actually the cargo company at fault.
Companies That Recruit and Train Drivers
If the trucking company contracts out its hiring and training process, the organization that performed these services may be at fault. If there was an error with a driver’s driving record or licensure that was overlooked or if the driver did not receive adequate training, it may point to these parties being liable for the accident. Truck driver education is an important part of keeping the roadways safe for everyone, and this is not an area where a company should be cutting corners as it can result in accidents, injuries, and deaths.
The Truck Manufacturer
If there was a known defect or recall with the truck model that caused your accident, the truck manufacturer might be to blame. These manufacturing issues can cost people their lives and should be taken seriously, but all too often, large companies try to cut corners to avoid losing out on their profits.
The Government Body Responsible for Road Conditions
It might be that the accident was not due to the negligence of any of these parties at all, and was instead due to poor road conditions such as inadequate lighting, signage, or hazard warnings. In this case, the driver would not be at fault, and instead, the governing body in charge of these aspects of the road may be able to be held liable. Road maintenance is a serious issue that can lead to loss of life if not upheld, especially when 18-wheeler accidents are concerned.
We hope this has been helpful to your understanding of who may be at fault in a truck accident.