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Holding Trucking Companies Liable for Accidents

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Trucks on the road passing each other.
April 22, 2024

Almost every time you drive, you probably share the road with semi-trucks. According to the American Trucking Association, there are close to 14 million large trucks registered in the US. With so many tractor-trailers and semis on our roads and highways, accidents involving these massive vehicles are not uncommon.

If you were involved in a truck accident, you may be wondering who is responsible for the payout of damages. The parties liable for commercial truck accidents can vary, but the truck driver or trucking company may typically be held liable.

 It is important to identify all liable parties to recover maximum compensation for damages. 

This article will discuss various situations where a trucking company may be liable for accidents. 

Negligent Hiring Practices

Negligent hiring occurs when a trucking company fails to fully evaluate and vet potential truck drivers before hiring them. Poor hiring practices can lead to the employment of individuals who pose a risk to public safety. 

Trucking companies may be negligent when hiring drivers in several ways: 

  • Failing to conduct background checks: A trucking company should check an applicant’s criminal record and driving history. Hiring a driver with DUI convictions, a substantial accident record, or a history of using a commercial vehicle for drug trafficking could be grounds to hold a trucking company liable for an accident. 
  • Hiring drivers without proper certificates and licenses: A truck driver should have a current commercial driver’s license (CDL) and complete a knowledge and skills test. In some situations, trucking companies are required to administer road tests to applicants to test their driving skills. 
  • Neglecting to require a physical examination: A truck driver should be medically deemed “physically qualified” to operate a commercial vehicle. This could include not having a clinical diagnosis of a serious heart condition, being able to pass a vision test, and not having a history of drug abuse or alcoholism. 

Failure to Provide Adequate Training to Truck Drivers

While drivers must undergo certain training to obtain a CDL, that training does not fully cover all of the specific skills they need to handle tasks on the road. 

For example, advanced training may be required in:

  • Navigating in inclement weather
  • Handling flatbed trailers
  • Securing cargo
  • Transporting hazardous materials

Truck drivers may require ongoing training after being hired as the scope of their work changes and to stay updated on safety protocols. Part of a driver’s training may include riding with another more experienced truck driver for a period of time. 

Hours of Service Violations 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established hours of service regulations to limit the amount of time drivers of commercial trucks are allowed to spend behind the wheel. The goal of these regulations is to reduce the risk of truck accidents caused by driver fatigue. 

Regulations in place to prevent driver fatigue include:

  • An 11-hour driving limit: A driver can operate a commercial truck for no more than 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty
  • A 30-minute break: A commercial truck driver is required to take at least a 30-minute break after driving for 8 cumulative hours
  • A 60/70 hour limit: A truck driver can only be on duty for 60 hours within 7 days or 70 hours within 8 days

A trucking company can be liable for an accident if it pressures or allows its drivers to violate hours of service regulations to meet unrealistic delivery schedules. 

Negligent Vehicle Maintenance and Inspection

Federal regulations require trucking companies to systematically inspect, repair, and maintain their fleets. Unfortunately, some companies do not perform regular maintenance on their vehicles in an attempt to save time and money. 

A lack of maintenance results in a mechanical failure while the truck is on the road. A mechanical issue could cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle and trigger a devastating truck accident. 

Examples of mechanical issues that result from poor vehicle maintenance include:

  • Brake failures: Worn brake pads and rotors or improperly maintained brake lines can cause brakes to fail
  • Tire blowouts: Tread separation or a tire blowout can occur if tires are old, damaged, or improperly inflated
  • Transmission failures: Worn gears, lack of fluid, and other maintenance issues may cause a transmission to malfunction
  • Broken or burnt-out lights: Headlights, brake lights, tail lights, running lights, or turn signals that do not work properly can cause commercial truck accidents
  • Worn windshield wipers: This may seem like a minor issue, but if a driver cannot see well while it is raining, a truck accident may result 
  • Trailer hitch malfunction: A hitch malfunction could cause a trailer to detach from the truck and collide with surrounding traffic

A truck driver should perform post-trip inspections at the end of a shift. Drivers should keep maintenance logs to record the results of the inspections and identify any potential issues.

Negligent Supervision

Negligent supervision occurs when an employer, such as a trucking company, fails to monitor and supervise its employees properly and someone is harmed.

Examples of negligent supervision in the trucking industry include:

  • Failure to monitor a driver’s compliance with hours of service regulations
  • Failure to enforce safety protocols
  • Failure to address known issues about a truck driver’s performance or behavior

You could hold a trucking company responsible for damages if negligent supervision of employees caused or contributed to your accident.

Vicarious Liability

One of the main ways that a trucking company can be held liable for an accident is through the legal concept of vicarious liability. Under this legal principle, an employer can be held liable for the actions of its employees when those actions occur under the scope of employment. 

This means that a truck driver may be liable for an accident if he or she was:

  • On-duty at the time of the accident
  • Driving a company-owned truck
  • Carrying out work-related tasks

Under the rule of vicarious liability, a trucking company may be found liable for damages even if not directly negligent.

What Evidence Is Need to Hold a Trucking Company Liable for an Accident?

An essential step in recovering fair compensation after commercial truck accidents is proving negligence and liability. You must give evidence clearly proving that the truck driver or trucking company is to blame for the accident and your injuries. 

You will also need to provide evidence of the damages you have sustained as a direct result of the truck accident. This pretty much stands for any other type of vehicle accident.

Common forms of evidence used to hold a trucking company liable for damages include:

  • Police reports: A police report will provide the officer’s insights into how the truck accident occurred and who may have caused the collision. The report will also state whether a citation was issued to anyone involved in the incident. 
  • Black box data: Most commercial trucks are equipped with electronic recording devices (EDRs). These devices, also referred to as black boxes, record information such as the vehicle’s speed at the time of the crash and whether the brakes were applied. 
  • In-cab camera: Some trucking companies have installed rear or front-facing cameras inside the truck. Video footage can reveal whether the truck driver was distracted, drowsy, or engaged in unsafe driving behaviors. 
  • Phone records: Truck drivers may get bored on long hauls and use their phones to text, call, or watch videos. If distracted driving played a role in the truck accident, phone records could be used to prove the driver was talking or texting at the time of the collision. 
  • Driver logs: Trucking companies should require drivers to document their rest periods in a logbook to ensure they are complying with FMCSA regulations. By reviewing the driver log, you may be able to prove that the trucker violated the rules regarding rest periods and was drowsy at the time of the accident. 
  • Witness testimony: Truck accidents are usually major events with numerous eyewitnesses. Testimony from eyewitnesses can provide an impartial perspective of how the truck accident unfolded. 
  • Accident reconstructionists: Accident reconstruction is one method of using evidence and data collected from the accident to demonstrate visually how the crash took place. In complex truck accident cases, it can be an essential form of evidence for proving fault and liability. 
  • Maintenance records: Trucking companies are required to inspect their trucks and to keep them off the road when they have repair problems. Vehicle maintenance records can be useful to determine if the condition of a truck could have caused or contributed to the accident. 
  • Alcohol and drug tests: The police officer who responded to the accident scene may have required the trucker to undergo alcohol or drug testing. The results of this test could prove the truck driver was drunk or high at the time of the crash. 
  • Medical records: Your medical records will be used to prove that you sustained damages in the truck accident. Medical records can establish the cause and extent of your injuries, the immediate and long-term effects of your injuries, and the costs of your ongoing and future medical care.

A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You Recover Fair Compensation

Building a strong case with supporting evidence is essential when negotiating with the trucking company and their insurance provider. When you hire an experienced truck accident lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will handle every aspect of your case. This allows you to focus on what is most important – your recovery. 

Consider some of the ways a truck accident lawyer can help you hold a trucking company liable for damages:

  • Knowledge of truck accident laws: Truck accidents involve specific laws and regulations that differ from car accidents. An experienced truck accident attorney will have in-depth knowledge of state and federal regulations governing commercial trucks. 
  • Investigating and gathering of evidence: Establishing truck accident liability requires thorough investigation and gathering of evidence. Experienced truck accident lawyers know how to procure the evidence needed to build a solid case for their clients.
  • Negotiations: Dealing with insurance companies can be stressful. They often try to minimize payouts or place the blame on the victim, but an experienced truck accident attorney will be able to skillfully negotiate a fair settlement for you.
  • Peace of mind: Dealing with the aftermath of a truck accident can be emotionally and physically draining. By entrusting your truck accident case to an experienced personal injury attorney, you can alleviate much of the stress and anxiety associated with the legal process. 

Contact Our Truck Accident Attorneys Today

A truck accident can cause severe injuries or even loss of life. If a truck driver or trucking company caused you harm, the right party should be held accountable for negligence. 

The legal team at Hoffspiegel Law is here to help. Our truck accident lawyers can assess the full extent of your damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We will use our knowledge of the trucking industry and insurance laws to negotiate maximum compensation for your losses. 

Truck accident claims can be challenging to navigate without legal assistance. Contact Hoffspiegel Law today to schedule a free consultation by clicking on this page to call or chat with our representatives standing by.