When a truck accident occurs, determining liability for injuries and property damages depends on who owns the truck and what caused the accident.
Who’s Liable for Truck Accidents?
Trucking accidents often involve significant property damages, catastrophic injuries, and death to people involved in the accident. Determining liability for an accident may be difficult, because multiple parties may be involved. To begin the process, the owner of the truck and the cause of the accident must be determined.
Commercial truckers may own their own truck and drive as independent contractors, or hire on through a commercial trucking company or agency that owns and manages the trucks. Accident liability depends on who owns the truck.
The Truck Driver
If the truck driver owns his/her own truck and drives as an independent contractor, he/she may be solely liable for an accident. The cause of the accident will play a significant role in determining liability. If an investigation into the crash determines that the truck driver was driving while drowsy, distracted, suffering from a health condition, or impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, he/she will likely be held solely liable for property damages and injuries.
The Trucking Company
The company that hires a truck driver is often the responsible party in an accident, but proving this may be difficult without a truck accident lawyer who can investigate the cause of the accident. If the trucking company failed to complete a safety inspection on the truck or pushed the driver to meet unrealistic deadlines on the road, the trucking company may be held liable.
If the trucking company doesn’t own the truck, but provides use of the truck to a driver, the truck’s actual owner is usually liable. Under federal trucking regulations, the truck’s owner has a responsibility to regularly inspect and maintain the truck to prevent accidents.
The Manufacturer and Cargo Loaders
In some cases, the trucking company may share liability with a manufacturer, if the accident was due to faulty or defective equipment. If defective parts on the truck cause an accident, the manufacturer of those parts becomes liable for accident injuries and property damages.
Cargo loaders who fail to inspect the cargo, over-load or under-load the truck, or fail to properly secure the cargo can also be held liable for damages. Many commercial trucking accidents involving tractor-trailers and 18-wheelers are caused by overloaded trucks with too much weight or improperly loaded cargo that shifts around.