Liability in Truck Accident Cases
Crashes involving commercial trucks can result in serious injuries, placing a tremendous physical, financial and emotional burden on victims and their loved ones. To help victims seek justice and remain financially stable following a crash, the law allows truck accident victims the opportunity to obtain compensation from the party responsible for their injuries.
Every truck accident case is different. In some cases, the truck driver or their employer may be held liable. Sometimes, a third party, such as the manufacturer of the truck, may be held liable if equipment on the truck fails.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, our lawyers can identify the parties responsible for your suffering. On behalf of our clients, our lawyers have obtained compensation from careless truck drivers, negligent trucking companies and government agencies that failed to uphold their duty to ensure motorist safety, and they may be able to do the same for you. Receive a free legal consultation by calling 212-736-5300 or by filling out our contact form.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Determining who is legally responsible for a truck collision requires an understanding of what occurred at the time of the crash. While some accidents are truly freak events that no one could anticipate, many are a predictable result of negligent behavior by a driver or other party. Common causes of truck accidents include:
- Truck driver fatigue and failure to follow hours-of-service regulations
- Driver intoxication
- Overloaded or improperly-loaded trucks
- Failure to inspect, maintain and repair trucks
- Inattentive or aggressive driving
- Poor weather or road conditions
In most cases involving traffic violations or driver error, the driver of the truck will be listed as a defendant in any resulting lawsuits. However, the driver is just one of many parties that may share responsibility, depending on why the accident occurred.
Who Is Responsible for Serious Truck Accidents?
Commercial drivers and the companies that employ them are governed by state and federal trucking regulations. Many parties can contribute to crashes and hold a degree of legal responsibility:
- Truck drivers: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provides strict instructions for those operating commercial vehicles. If a driver violates federal trucking regulations by driving extended hours, operating a vehicle under the influence or failing to maintain the truck, they can be held accountable for injuries caused by their negligence.
- Trucking companies: Trucking companies must restrict their employees’ scheduled hours, perform background checks on potential employees and ensure that trucks are properly maintained and loaded. If a trucking company violates these rules, it can be held accountable for any resulting injuries.
- Truck manufacturers and mechanics: When a defective part causes a truck accident, the manufacturer may be partially or fully liable for any injuries that result. Depending on the type of defect, the designer or distributor of the vehicle may also be held accountable.
- Truck loading companies: Improper loading can cause burst tires, brake problems and other serious safety issues. If a loading company failed to properly weigh or secure a load and it contributed to an accident, it may be held liable for any financial damages.
- Truck owners: Section 396 of federal trucking regulations outlines requirements for inspecting, maintaining and repairing commercial trucks. When a truck is not owned by the operating company, the owner may be held liable for any infractions that lead to an accident.
- Leasing companies: Similarly, any company that leases trucks or equipment may share liability for accidents resulting from defective equipment or failed inspections.
- State or local government: In some cases, the government’s negligence can give rise to a legal claim. When a truck that causes an accident is owned or operated by a municipal agency like a sanitation or fire department, the state or municipal government may be responsible. Government agencies are also responsible for maintaining safe roads and may be liable for accidents caused by dangerous or defective roads.
Because so many parties play a part in protecting motorists from dangerous truck collisions, naming a defendant in a lawsuit is not a matter of choosing one individual or entity over another; in some instances, two or more parties may be liable.
A case with multiple potential sources of compensation may allow crash survivors to collect a larger verdict or settlement, but it can also introduce challenges. While multiple parties may be responsible, they are typically eager to avoid their fair share of liability and minimize their individual costs.
For example, it used to be common for trucking companies to hire drivers as independent contractors, rather than employees, to avoid liability for any accidents caused by those drivers. However, federal trucking regulations (49 C.F.R. § 390.5) removed this distinction. Because trucking regulations are complex and ever-changing, it is essential to work with attorneys who understand these laws and know how to apply them to your case for the best result.
Investigating Truck Accidents to Determine Liability
When a commercial truck collides with another vehicle, the trucking company and its insurers know exactly what to do. They will often send a team of investigators and insurance representatives to the accident scene as quickly as possible to begin gathering evidence and building their defense. They are professionals who have done this many times, and their priority is typically to pay out as little as possible.
It is important to work with attorneys whose priority is helping you secure the fullest possible recovery – both physical and financial. Contacting a lawyer as soon as possible after an accident allows your attorney to mount their own timely investigation and determine what parties caused the accident. All of this can contribute to building a compelling case on your behalf.
Case Result: $6 Million in a Trucking Case With Multiple Defendants
Our firm handled a New York case that highlights the importance of identifying and pursuing multiple parties. Our client was riding in a city bus that was struck by a flatbed truck, causing him severe back and leg injuries requiring multiple surgeries.
After investigating, our firm filed a claim against several defendants, including the truck driver, the trucking company and the New York City Transit Authority. Because they all shared responsibility for our client’s injuries, they each contributed to a $6,000,000 settlement. Had we not pursued every possible defendant, we may have missed out on compensation available to our client.
Get Help After an Accident. Contact Us for a Free Case Evaluation.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, you can trust that our attorneys understand how to determine liability in your case and obtain a full recovery on your behalf. We accept cases on a contingency basis, which means we collect attorney fees only as a percentage of any compensation we secure for you.
Call 212-736-5300 to speak to one of our experienced truck accident attorneys and determine your eligibility to recover compensation. We serve Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Long Island, Upstate New York and New Jersey.