When you get into an accident, especially one as scary as a tractor-trailer truck accident, it is easy to place the blame entirely on the truck driver. After all, they were behind the wheel. But the truth of the matter is that the fault most often falls to the trucking company the driver was working with, either as an employee or as a freelancer.
Many truck drivers don’t own their own trucks, so the trucking company provides a truck for them. Since the trucking company is the owner of the vehicle, it is their responsibility to ensure that it is in road-safe condition. Mechanical problems can easily lead to accidents, but companies like to cut costs to keep their profits high. Their attempt to save a few dollars on repairs could leave them liable for your damages.
Note, however, that this isn’t the only way that a trucking company can be liable for a tractor-trailer accident. In fact, a trucking company could be held liable even when working with a freelancer that owns their own vehicle. One example of this would be when a trucking company forces a driver to stick to an unrealistic delivery schedule.
Other ways a trucking company could be liable beyond cutting corners and placing unrealistic expectations on their drivers include fudging inspections, failing to train drivers, hiring drivers without the proper experience, and more. Thanks to the law of respondent superior, trucking company employees may be held responsible for actions their employees took.
A truck driver can be held liable for an accident in cases where the accident was caused by negligence, recklessness, or carelessness. You may recognize these as being at the core of any personal injury lawsuit. Truck accidents fall under personal injury law, so this shouldn’t be surprising.
If a trucker is self-employed and lacks a connection to any specific agency, then they will be the liable party for the accident. In most cases where a trucking company is involved, they will be liable to some degree. But there are cases where you would want to hold the trucker liable rather than the company.
One example would be in situations where the driver is solely responsible for their actions. Say a driver intentionally chooses to crash in a fit of blind road rage. Despite working for a trucking company, their actions are their own, and the responsibility for the crash falls squarely on the trucker’s shoulders.
A trucker may also be held liable for mechanical issues in situations where they own their own truck. Since the company doesn’t own the truck, it can’t be held responsible for its repair. However, the trucking company may still be held liable if it was discovered that they failed to perform any kind of safety check or inspection of the truck.
While a trucker may be solely responsible for a tractor-trailer accident, liability is most often shared by the trucker and the trucking company. In some circumstances, it may be best to only hold one of these parties accountable. But, quite often, the best course of action is to hold both the truck driver and the trucking company accountable.
Quite a few of these cases are best resolved by holding both parties accountable.
For example, a trucker may be liable for an accident that was caused by their choice to drive over the posted limit. However, that choice might have been influenced by the trucking company setting an unreasonable schedule. If given more time to make the delivery, the driver wouldn’t have been speeding.
In this example, both parties are at fault. The trucking company set an unreasonable schedule that required the driver to speed or give up sleep in order to meet. Yet the trucking company can’t be given the full responsibility. The truck driver made the choice to speed in order to make that schedule. Their decision was influenced by the fear of losing their job, but they still ultimately made the choice that resulted in a tractor-trailer accident.
The best way to decide who to hold accountable is to speak to an experienced truck accident attorney. They will be able to investigate the circumstances of the accident to discover where the fault resides. But it could just be that a third party is responsible.
While most trucking accidents are the fault of a truck driver or a trucking company, there may be other liable parties, such as the following:
Another Driver: It may be possible that you or another motorist are actually the ones at fault. This would be an accident that involves a truck wherein the truck driver held no responsibility.
Truck’s Owner: If the accident was caused by a mechanical issue, the owner of the truck could be liable. This is usually the truck driver or the trucking company, but it could also be a third party.
Cargo Loader: In an accident caused by cargo falling from the truck, the liable party may be the individual that improperly loaded the truck.
The Manufacturer: Most mechanical issues are the fault of the truck owner, but in rare circumstances, the manufacturer of the vehicle may be responsible.
Of course, these are just the most common. But accidents can be weird and complicated, so there is always a chance that your tractor-trailer accident may involve even more parties. For one quick example, picture an accident that was due to conditions caused by a negligent road crew. It’s always important to let the circumstances of your accident drive the case.
The best way to decide which parties to seek compensation from is to speak to an experienced tractor-trailer accident attorney. This way, you can let the unique details of your accident drive the investigation, and you can make your decision based on legal advice you can trust.