Truck accidents often cause much more severe damage than the average car accident, which frequently means an overall increase in medical bills and the other financial losses you may face. Not only that, you want to maximize the compensation you can recover as much as possible as you work to rebuild your life following a severe truck accident.
Does a trucking company share liability with its drivers? How do you know if you can sue a trucking company following a serious truck accident?
Trucking companies do not always share liability with their drivers. Sometimes, a truck driver makes a foolish or negligent decision behind the wheel that the trucking company has no control over. The driver might decide to speed, ignore his blind spot, or simply grow distracted while out on the road, despite all the trucking company’s policies, safeguards, and training to help reduce the risk of accidents. However, the trucking company may share liability with the truck driver in other cases.
The Trucking Company’s Duty of Care
State laws and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration dictate trucking companies’ care in caring for their drivers and the people. They must share the road with their drivers each day.
Trucking companies must carefully monitor their drivers and institute safe policies that help protect drivers and the people who share the road with them. Companies must also maintain the vehicles they provide for their drivers to reduce the risk of mechanical failures, which can cause severe accidents with substantial injuries. When a trucking company violates its duty of care, it may share liability with the driver that causes an accident.
When Do Trucking Companies Share Liability for Accidents?
Trucking companies may share liability for an accident any time the company, rather than the driver directly, violates the duty of care in a way that leads to a serious accident. After a truck accident, a lawyer can help carefully examine all the factors that may have contributed to the accident to give you a better idea of whether the trucking company may share liability for the incident.
#1. The trucking company owns the truck but failed to maintain it properly.
According to FMCSA regulations, carriers must carefully inspect their trucks and conduct all needed maintenance regularly. Big trucks require a lot of attention to ensure that they run correctly and do not have any errors that could increase the risk of an accident, from a tire that could blow out suddenly to steering that might lock up and cause an accident.
Often, truck drivers know when their trucks do not behave as they should, based on past performance and familiarity with the truck. Truck drivers often report their concerns to the trucking company or the maintenance staff after a run, especially if they have reason to suspect that the truck might pose a danger to others on the road.
If the company fails to maintain the truck properly and the mechanical failure causes a serious accident, the trucking company may share liability for any injuries caused by that failure.
#2. The trucking company had dangerous policies that led to the accident.
FMCSA regulations carefully govern how long truck drivers can spend out on the road every day and every shift. Those regulations, however, still allow a truck driver 11 hours each day out of a 14-hour shift. Truck drivers who drive for excessive periods may suffer from road haze, drowsiness, or greater distractions than a driver with adequate time to stop, take a break, and rest between runs.
A trucking company that insists that a truck driver stays on the road despite dangerous circumstances, including illness, drowsiness, or dangerous weather that the driver does not feel able to navigate, may bear liability for the accident.
Furthermore, particularly as the truck driver shortage becomes increasingly problematic for many trucking companies, some companies will try to push their drivers to stay on the road even past the federally limited hours they can legally drive.
They may try to push their truck drivers to meet specific mileage requirements regardless of traffic conditions or weather or assign truck drivers to routes they simply cannot complete within the mandated number of hours. Trucking companies with these dangerous policies may share liability any time those policies lead to a serious accident.
#3. The trucking company fails to properly screen or monitor its drivers.
Before a trucking company hires a new driver, the company should carefully screen the driver to ensure that he has a solid driving record and the necessary certifications to operate a big truck safely. Not only that, the trucking company may want to test the driver before putting him behind the wheel to ensure that he has the skills necessary to navigate the road safely.
Once a driver has secured employment with a trucking company, the company needs to continue to monitor the truck driver to ensure that he does not develop bad habits or participate in activities that could pose a danger to others on the road.
That may take several forms. First and foremost, it may mean checking a driver’s records and logbooks. A driver who routinely exceeds the mandated number of hours he can spend on the road may pose a danger to others on the road, and the trucking company may need to take action against that driver.
Furthermore, the trucking company may need to keep track of the driver’s actions on the road. A driver who gets pulled over or issued tickets regularly may not exercise the caution necessary to transport cargo out on the road safely. Trucking companies may also want to carefully consider the hazard of hiring or retaining drivers who have a history of causing accidents.
While any driver can get involved in a single truck accident, a driver who regularly causes or gets involved in accidents may engage in dangerous driving behaviors. The trucking company may not want to continue to employ that driver.
#4. The trucking company cuts corners regarding safety, often to speed up deliveries.
Trucking companies may need to adhere to several vital safety standards to ensure that their vehicles and their drivers do not pose a danger to others on the road. Unfortunately, the trucking company may cut corners to speed deliveries, whether they need to make sure that a delivery gets to its destination faster or they want a driver to take care of more deliveries than he can reasonably manage.
Trucking companies may cut corners in a variety of ways. They may, for example, ignore safety precautions that keep their drivers from speeding, pushing them to meet tight delivery deadlines. They may ignore needed repairs or maintenance on their trucks, particularly when it comes to repairs and maintenance that might take the truck off the road for a considerable period. Trucking companies may also choose to specifically ignore a truck driver who mentions a problem with a truck.
Furthermore, a trucking company may also cut corners to ensure that truck drivers have the tools to remain safe on the road. For example, they may fail to offer the support their drivers need if a problem crops up on the road or not offer adequate tools to properly secure a load to a flatbed truck.
Hazardous Chemicals in Tanker Trucks
To operate a tanker truck, drivers need to have special licensing and exercise a high degree of caution. Not only that, trucking companies must exercise special care when maintaining tanker trucks since a chemical spill could prove devastating to the truck driver, anyone else in the accident, and even the people involved in the cleanup.
If the trucking company pushes a driver without the proper license to operate a tanker truck filled with hazardous chemicals, fails to properly label the tanker truck so that drivers and others who share the road know what the tanker truck contains, or fails to properly maintain the truck, the trucking company may bear liability for any accident that negligence caused.
#5. The trucking company may bear liability for an improperly loaded truck that results in an accident.
Sometimes, as part of their service network, trucking companies may have warehouses where cargo is loaded or have specific loaders that take care of loading trucks for their journeys. Loading cargo properly can make a massive difference in the truck’s overall safety.
Improperly loaded cargo can cause jackknife collisions or shifting load accidents since the cargo may move out of line and swing the balance of the trailer off. That can cause the truck driver to lose control of the trailer. If the loaders do not properly secure the load, including making sure that the truck’s doors get closed properly, it can result in cargo falling out on the road, which can prove hazardous to drivers behind the truck driver.
In some cases, truck drivers may not even know that those doors have come open or that cargo has fallen out until some time down the road.
Loading becomes particularly important when dealing with a flatbed. Flatbeds often carry oversized loads that do not fit inside a traditional trailer. Flatbed loads usually get secured by heavy straps, which help prevent cargo from shifting around or falling off the back of the trailer. Unfortunately, when those straps do not properly secure the cargo, it can lead to a falling load accident. Drivers beside those falling loads may have little room to maneuver and little chance of getting away from a potential collision.
How Do You Know if You Can Sue a Trucking Company After a Truck Accident?
If you have a truck accident and need to know whether you can sue a trucking company for the damages the accident caused, a lawyer can help.
A lawyer can help investigate the immediate causes of the accident.
Did your accident occur because of a distracted truck driver? Does the truck driver’s statement about the accident include a mention of mechanical problems? Sometimes, a lawyer can determine from the initial conversation about your accident and early evidence that you may have grounds for a claim against the trucking company or that you may want to look deeper into the details of the accident.
A lawyer can get access to thorough evidence and information that can help establish your right to file a claim against the trucking company.
Truck accidents often involve a substantial investigation process. Frequently, a lawyer may need to look into many details related to the accident, from the truck driver’s record to the trucking company’s history with past claims.
A full investigation can uncover the evidence you need to establish whether you have the right to file a claim against the trucking company and why. A lawyer can often find it easier to access that information than you would on your own, whether the lawyer needs to look at the truck driver’s logbook or investigate the trucking company’s maintenance records.
Contact a Lawyer After Your Truck Accident
Any time you suffer injuries in a truck accident, having a truck accident lawyer on your side can make a huge difference. A lawyer can help you get a better idea of the compensation you might deserve for your injuries, then help you pursue compensation for those injuries through your negotiations with the insurance company. Whether you need to sue the truck driver alone or the trucking company to hold the liable party responsible for your injuries, a lawyer can help you with every step of the process.