Third-Party Liability for Truck Accidents
23rd November 2020
If you’re involved in a truck accident, you should know that there may be more liable parties than just the driver.
In 2018, there were 5,096 large trucks involved in fatal accidents. Large commercial trucks weigh 20-30 times more than the average passenger car, so injuries from these accidents can be catastrophic, causing traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries, and even death.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Unlike car accidents, truck accidents can be caused by more than just the negligence of the driver. There are multiple different parties that could be liable for your accident. Because of this, there are many different causes of truck accidents.
Truck accidents can be caused by driver error, driver fatigue, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failing to secure loads properly, inexperience or poor training, rear-end crashes, wide turns, distracted driving, defective parts, lack of maintenance, or inexperience with weather conditions like snow or rain.
In a study performed in 2007, the FMCSA found that drivers were responsible for 87% of accident causes, while vehicles were responsible for 10%, and the environment the remaining 3%. Of the 87%, 9% of those accidents occurred because of the driver’s performance.
Can Multiple Parties be Liable?
Yes, it’s completely possible for multiple parties to be liable for your accident. In the case that multiple parties are liable, you’ll have to file a lawsuit against the two parties, requiring them both to show up to trial or participate in a settlement negotiation.
For example, if an accident occurs because a driver falls asleep at the wheel, both the driver and the trucking company could be liable. This is because the trucking company is supposed to monitor how much their drivers are driving and ensure that they don’t go over the legal limits.
In another case, an accident could occur because of a malfunction to the vehicle. This could be the fault of both the manufacturer of the product and the trucking company for not making sure that their trucks were in proper working order before sending them out onto the road.
Who Could be Liable for your Truck Accident?
Truck drivers are the most common liable party, as they’re the ones driving the vehicle and making sure that everything is operating safely while out on the road. Any negligence on their behalf could cause them to be at-fault for an accident. This may include:
- Texting while driving
- Talking on the phone
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving recklessly or aggressively
- or Driving while exhausted
Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring that their drivers are safe while on the roads. If they fail to provide enough or adequate training, or encourage their drivers to drive past legal limits, they may be liable for an accident that occurs. They’re also required to make sure that the trucks are safe to drive. So if they don’t have the trucks regularly checked for maintenance, they could be liable.
The manufacturers of the trucks could be liable if a defective part caused the truck to get into an accident. While this is uncommon, it does happen. Manufacturers are required to make sure that their trucks and parts are safe before they go out. If a part malfunctioned and it hasn’t been recalled, the manufacturer could be liable.
Because trucks need to be loaded in a specific way to ensure that the freight is secured and well distributed, any error to the loading could possibly cause an accident to occur. If an accident occurs because of improper loading, the loading team (which is often a different company than the trucking company) could be liable.
Occasionally trucks will be owned by a different company than the company who hires people to drive them. If this is the case, the truck owners are the ones who are responsible for maintenance. If they don’t keep the trucks in good working order, they could be liable for an accident.
How Does Liability Affect My Claim?
Liability affects your claim in two major ways. One, the liable party is responsible for paying your damages. That means that depending on the liable party, the insurance cap may be smaller or larger. A party with a higher insurance cap will be able to pay out more for settlements and trial wins. Second, if there was gross negligence involved, your compensation will be higher. For example, if the driver was drinking and driving or if the truck was well past driving ability.
Investigations to Determine Liability
Your attorney will be responsible for performing an investigation to figure out how the accident occurred and who was liable for it. They’ll gather information from police reports, medical records, and witnesses. They may also speak with the trucking company, have the truck looked at by a mechanic, and talk to any other parties who may be involved in the accident. After their investigation, they’ll determine who they believe to be liable in your case, whether it’s one party or multiple.
Contact a North Dakota Truck Accident Attorney
If you or someone you love has been injured in a truck accident, please contact us for more information. We’re ready and willing to help you get the compensation that you deserve for your accident. For a free case evaluation, please contact us online using our chat box option or by calling us at 701-609-1510.