“Most Americans will be involved in a motor vehicle accident in their lifetime, and one quarter of the population will be involved in accidents that result in serious injuries,” according to a national comorbidity study printed in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The impact between a passenger vehicle and a large truck can cause even more serious destruction. And for many victims, it results in severe or life-threatening injuries.
Once the accident scene has cleared and initial medical treatment has been completed, there could be a long road to recovery. In the midst of that, an injury victim might be considering filing a claim. But who exactly is liable for the truck-car accident? Is it the truck driver, the trucking company, or both? It’s important to understand how liability works in this type of accident.
When Truck Driver is Liable for Damages in a Truck Accident
In many cases it’s the truck driver who is responsible for the crash by way of negligence, for example:
- texting while driving;
- taking a turn too fast; or
- following a vehicle too closely.
But even if the trucking company played no role in the accident, if the driver is employed by the company (rather than as a contractor), the company would still be responsible for the damages the victim suffered.
Respondeat superior is a legal theory that says employers are accountable for their employees’ actions. So even if the truck driver violated a traffic law—such as running a red light—and that was the cause of the accident, the trucking company would be liable.
When Trucking Company is Liable for Damages in a Truck Accident
Trucking companies are sometimes more directly at fault for an accident, though. For instance, a company may be liable if it mandated or allowed a driver to violate federal regulations, which contributed to the accident.
For instance, to meet a deadline on delivering a load, the employer directs the driver to go over the federal limits allowed behind the wheel. It’s determined later that as a result of traveling for an extended length of time, the driver became sleepy and lost control of the truck, colliding with another vehicle. In this case, more than likely the trucking company would be at least partially at fault.
Determining Liability When Equipment Problems Caused the Accident
Some truck accident cases can get even more complicated when some type of problem with the equipment caused the crash. An example would be faulty brakes. Even if another company is responsible for maintenance and repairs, it doesn’t necessarily mean the trucking company can avoid liability.
In fact, drivers and their employers have an obligation to ensure the trucks are in good working order. Inspections are required before operating a truck. However, this could allow for more than one party to be found liable for the accident.
In such cases, the individual or entity responsible for the truck’s maintenance may be liable in addition to the trucking company. If a truck or part was defective, the manufacturer could even be liable.
Importance of Securing Legal Counsel if Seriously Injured
These types of cases are oftentimes complicated, not only in determining what caused the crash but who is liable. It’s a good idea to discuss the possible claim with an attorney who is familiar with truck accident claims. There are federal laws and other special rules that may apply to a truck-car accident claim, in addition to the challenges in proving fault and liability.
Call Gacovino, Lake & Associates at 800-550-0000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation and get started with your case today.