Truck accident liability is extremely complicated. Whereas fault for a car accident generally rests with one or more of the drivers involved, truck accident claims may involve a host of different parties.
At Colombo Law, our focus is representing people who have been Hurt By A Truck. We recognize the devastating toll these accidents take, as well as the legal challenges involved in pursuing fair compensation. Our attorneys thoroughly investigate to identify what caused the accident and hold all liable parties accountable.
Prompt investigation is crucial for establishing truck accident liability. Call Colombo Law at (304) 599-4229 today for a FREE case review.
Determining Liability for a Truck Accident
Building a truck accident case requires time, resources, and advanced knowledge. Evidence establishing liability takes a number of different forms.
The first place to look for evidence to prove liability is the scene of the accident. Both victims of the crash and/or truck accident attorneys can obtain the following:
- Photos of the accident scene
- Eyewitness accounts
- Video footage of the accident (if available)
- The truck driver’s licensing and insurance coverage
- A report of the accident (be sure to speak to law enforcement at the scene; a copy of the report can be obtained at a later date)
All of this evidence can help to establish who is at fault. However, determining full truck accident liability often requires additional evidence such as:
- The truck driver’s log book
- Electronic data from the truck’s “black box”
- Trucking company records
- Repair and maintenance records
- Expert inspection of the truck and/or the trailer
- Documentation concerning the truck’s cargo
None of this information is readily available. Often, a truck accident attorney will need to get involved to ensure that trucking companies, vehicle manufacturers, and other parties preserve and turn over all relevant evidence. Expert witness testimony is often required as well to interpret the evidence, identify issues of negligence, and help to assign liability.
Liable Parties in Truck Accident Claims
The potential defendants in a truck accident case depend on the exact circumstances. A knowledgeable lawyer will look at the following individuals and entities:
Multiple errors on the part of a truck driver can lead to an accident. These include:
- Truck driver fatigue and hours of service violations
- Distracted driving
- Careless merging and lane changes
- Failure to inspect the truck and/or the cargo
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Ignoring traffic signs and signals
- Reckless driving (e.g., tailgating, illegal passing, etc.)
Truck drivers who are independent owner-operators (i.e., they own their own trucks, are responsible for finding loads to haul, and carry their own insurance) can be held liable for accidents arising from their own negligence. In this situation, the truck driver’s insurance should cover damages sustained by victims of the accident.
Read More: Are Truck Drivers Liable for Accidents?
If the driver of the truck is an employee of a motor carrier, the driver’s employer may also be held liable for an accident. Trucking companies can face liability under the legal theory of vicarious liability (which states that an employer can be held legally responsible for injuries caused by employees in the course of their work) and/or for the company’s own negligence.
Issues for which truck accident liability may be assigned to the carrier include:
- Negligent hiring practices (e.g., failure to ensure drivers are properly licensed and trained)
- Failure to provide necessary training to drivers
- Hours of service violations
- Errors in maintaining and repairing the truck (provided the carrier owns the rig)
- Inadequate screening for substance abuse and disqualifying health conditions
Victims of truck accidents are typically unaware of these issues, let alone their legal rights when it comes to holding trucking companies accountable. Prompt action must be taken to obtain records that can prove the carrier contributed to the accident.
Shipping and Cargo Companies
Unsecured and shifting cargo often lead to truck accidents. Reconstruction of the accident and examination of the truck’s records may reveal that the trailer was overloaded, too much weight was placed on one or more axles, and/or that the cargo was not properly tied down.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has created rules governing how commercial trucks should be loaded and how cargo needs to be secured. If the evidence shows that a third-party company responsible for loading the trailer failed to follow these rules, you may have grounds for a claim against the company.
Third-Party Mechanics and Service Facilities
Responsibility for the maintenance of a semi-truck ultimately lies with the owner. This may be an independent owner-operator, a trucking company, or a third party. In addition, different parties may own the truck and the trailer.
If mechanical failure contributed to the accident, the owner can be held liable for failing to keep the truck in safe working order. Maintenance records and inspection of the rig may also reveal that repair work was not done properly. If this is the case, one or more third parties (including a mechanic or other service provider) may also be liable.
Mechanical failures may be caused by defective vehicle design or defects in the manufacturing process. The makers of semi-trucks and their component parts may face liability if it can be shown that the failure of the truck and/or a part led to an accident in which you suffered injury.
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Hurt By A Truck? Colombo Law can help!
Truck accidents are serious. Qualified legal counsel is essential for navigating the many challenges of litigation and obtaining the compensation you deserve.
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Colombo Law has the experience, knowledge, and resources to determine who is at fault and assign truck accident liability accordingly. We handle all aspects of your case, from gathering evidence to consulting experts to negotiating a settlement and—if necessary—going to trial.
For a FREE case review, contact Colombo Law today. Our attorneys handle truck accident claims throughout West Virginia from our office in Morgantown.