Who Is At Fault for a Truck Accident?

Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident? | Patrick Daniel Law
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Fault is a complex issue in truck accident litigation. Unlike most car accident claims, collisions involving semi-trucks may be the fault of more than one party.

To recover the maximum amount of compensation for injuries and losses sustained in a truck accident, you must identify all of the liable parties. Comprehensive investigation is necessary to determine who is at fault and how their negligence led to the accident.

Experienced truck accident lawyer Patrick Daniel in Houston can help. Contact Patrick Daniel Law today for a free case evaluation.

Determining Fault for a Truck Accident

Truck accidents are thoroughly investigated by local police, state agencies, and (in some cases) the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Because of the large number of victims that may be involved in a truck accident and the essential nature of commercial trucking, the authorities have a significant interest in ensuring that serious errors and safety violations are not repeated.

Trucking companies and their insurers also have an interest in minimizing accidents. However, their investigations focus more on the financial ramifications than safety concerns.

All of these parties have the knowledge and resources to get to the truth of what caused a truck accident. But it is important to keep in mind that none of them have your best interest in mind.

Hiring a lawyer after a truck accident is imperative for protecting your rights. One of the most important roles an attorney can perform is to investigate the accident on your behalf. Based on the recovered evidence, accident reports from the NTSB and other agencies, and testimony from expert witnesses, your lawyer can identify who is at fault and pursue the compensation you deserve.

Potential At-Fault Parties in a Truck Accident Claim

The results of your truck accident lawyer’s investigation will likely reveal that more than one party is at fault for the crash. Common defendants in truck accident claims include:

The Truck Driver

As with all accident claims, the driver or drivers involved face immediate scrutiny. This is especially true of commercial truck drivers, who are trained to handle big rigs and are subject to rules and regulations that are much more extensive than those that apply to other motorists.

Some of the most common causes of accidents where the truck driver is at fault include:

Truck drivers may also be at fault for accidents when they fail to inspect their rig and the cargo before starting a trip. Missing or ignoring items on the pre-trip inspection checklist can lead to mechanical failures and malfunctions that result in a crash. Unsecured loads, meanwhile, increase the risk of the truck driver losing control and can cause the rig to jackknife or tip over.

Violations of these and other rules represent a breach of duty on the part of the truck driver. Proving that the driver was negligent is key for the success of your truck accident claim. An experienced lawyer can gather crucial evidence to establish that the driver was at fault and that you are entitled to compensation.

The Trucking Company

Some truck drivers work as independent contractors. If this is the case, you may be limited to bringing a claim against the negligent owner-operator in the event of a crash.

Many drivers, however, are hired by trucking companies to transport cargo. The driver’s employment status can have a major impact on your truck accident claim. If the driver was operating within the scope of his or her job when the crash occurred, the employer may also be liable for your injuries and damages.

Employers are legally responsible when a worker causes injury to someone else. Trucking companies know this, which is why it is not uncommon for drivers to be misclassified as independent contractors in an effort to avoid liability for accidents.

Truck accident lawyers have the knowledge and resources to delve into employment records and establish that the at-fault driver is indeed an employee. Investigation into company records may also reveal other types of negligence that contributed to the truck accident, such as:

  • Improper hiring practices
  • Lack of testing for alcohol, drugs, and disqualifying medical conditions
  • Failure to train drivers
  • Errors in maintaining and repairing trucks under the company’s ownership
  • Pushing drivers to violate the federal hours of service regulations – this can lead to truck accidents caused by driver fatigue
  • Failure to disqualify a driver who commits a major or serious offense

Trucking companies are notorious for doing whatever they can to undercut accident claims. Large carriers often have their own investigators on the payroll who – unsurprisingly – often find that the accident was not the fault of the company. Representatives for the company (as well as insurance carriers) will also try to get you to settle your claim for less, make a statement against your interest, and more.

Working with a truck accident attorney is of the utmost importance to make sure you don’t fall prey to these sneaky tactics.

The Manufacturer of the Truck

Companies that design, manufacture, and sell semi-trucks and parts have a responsibility to ensure that their vehicles and components are safe and function according to industry standards. When parts on a tractor-trailer fail, serious accidents can occur.

Before you can bring a claim against a manufacturer, you must be able to show that the truck or one of its components was defective. This requires detailed inspection of the rig. Unfortunately, trucking companies often take possession of the truck immediately following an accident.

Your truck accident attorney can demand that the carrier preserve the truck for independent inspection. Automotive engineering experts can inspect the truck and the trailer for potential defects and provide testimony on how a substandard design or faulty part should work.

A Mechanic or Service Center

Crashes caused by mechanical failures may also occur due to negligence in maintaining the truck. Responsibility for ensuring that the truck is maintained may fall on the owner-operator, a trucking company, or a combination of the two (if the tractor unit is owned by one party and the trailer is owned by another). However, liability for accidents caused by negligent service and repairs may also rest with the mechanic or service provider entrusted to work on the truck.

As with truck defects, inspection is necessary to determine if the semi was properly maintained prior to the accident. Maintenance and repair records should also be perused to determine if scheduled service and other work has been neglected. Fault can be established by expert testimony concerning how the condition of the truck deviates from what constitutes safe working order for a semi-trailer.

The Loading or Shipping Company

Semi-trucks must be properly loaded to ensure that the cargo is balanced and secured. This duty is shared by the truck driver (who is responsible for inspecting the cargo in the course of a haul) and the company that loads cargo on the truck before it is transported.

Many truck accidents are caused by excess loads or weight that is unevenly distributed. Fault for these crashes may be attributed to the shipping company for negligent loading of the truck, the truck driver for failing to inspect the load, or a combination of the two.

Other Parties

In the immediate aftermath of a truck accident, it is often difficult to determine exactly what happened. Comprehensive investigation could reveal that one or more additional parties may be at fault.

For example, the truck driver may lose control of the rig as a result of another driver’s carelessness, such as cutting off the semi or drifting between lanes. This may result in a collision with the other vehicle, or it could be a “near miss” that causes the accident in which you are involved. If this is the case, you may be able to bring a claim against the driver of another vehicle.

Dangerous roads are another potential cause of truck accidents. Highways and other roads that are heavily trafficked often suffer significant damage that can lead to collisions if they are not properly designed and maintained. A lawyer can identify which government agency is responsible for maintaining the road and take legal action on your behalf if a defect in the road led to the truck accident.

What If You Are Partially At Fault for the Truck Accident?

Sometimes the driver of the passenger vehicle is partially at fault for an accident involving a semi-truck. Perhaps you were going slightly over the speed limit or had to come to a sudden stop.

In most states, negligence on your part does not prevent you from recovering damages. However, being partly at fault will result in a reduction in compensation proportionate to your share of fault.

For example, Texas operates on the principle of comparative negligence. Plaintiffs who are partly at fault are allowed to recover a portion of the damages they would have been entitled to, provided the plaintiff’s responsibility for the accident does not exceed that of all of the other parties at fault.

Truck drivers, trucking companies, and their insurers are likely to argue that you are at fault for the accident. If this tactic succeeds, you may recover less than you deserve in damages or even lose your right to bring a claim. For this reason, it is important to start working with a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after the crash.

Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer Today

Being involved in a truck accident is a traumatic experience. Your first priority should be your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, not worrying about getting to the bottom of the crash.

At Patrick Daniel Law, we take a Strategic, Meticulous, and Merciless approach to serving our clients. We understand the complexities of truck accident litigation, which enables us to perform comprehensive investigations, hire the right experts, and develop an individualized legal strategy. Attorney Patrick Daniel ruthlessly pursues the compensation our clients deserve, whether that means negotiating a favorable settlement or going to court.

Please call Patrick Daniel Law at (713) 999-6666 today for a free case review. Our truck accident lawyer serves clients throughout Houston, all of Texas, and nationwide.

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