A fully loaded semi-truck can weigh anywhere from 25,000 to 80,000 pounds. These massive trucks collide with a non-commercial passenger vehicle with devastating results.
Nearly 400,000 truck accidents occur yearly on U.S. roads, resulting in 110,000 injuries and roughly 6,000 fatalities. A truck accident can leave victims with serious, catastrophic injuries that require extensive, long-term medical treatment.
You may assume the truck driver caused your crash. But ultimately, the trucking company must hire qualified drivers and properly maintain its trucks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which oversees carriers, has established rules and regulations designed to prevent trucking accidents. If a trucking company violates one of these regulations, and a truck accident occurs, you can hold the trucking company liable.
If you suffered injuries in a truck accident, you deserve financial compensation for your injuries and other losses. A truck accident lawyer can review the trucking company’s records to determine fault.
How Vicarious Liability May Apply to a Truck Accident Case?
Vicarious liability is a legal concept that enables an accident victim to pursue a legal claim against an employer and their employee when the employee’s negligence causes an accident that injured them. Holding both the truck driver and the trucking company liable for your injuries provides more options for pursuing compensation.
Truck drivers must carry a minimum amount of insurance, but your injuries may exceed their policy limits. Trucking companies usually have more financial resources.
How Do I Establish a Trucking Company’s Liability in a Truck Accident?
To hold a trucking company liable for your injuries, you must show:
- The trucker worked for the trucking company when the accident occurred
- The trucking company had the authority to control the driver’s actions
- The driver was performing their work-related duties when the accident occurred.
What Are the Elements of Negligence in a Truck Accident Case?
In general, negligence refers to the failure of an individual or entity to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm or injury to another person. An accident attorney can guide you in this situation.
When it comes to a truck accident case, the four elements of negligence typically include:
- Duty of care: You must establish that the truck driver owed a duty of care to other individuals. For example, the truck driver has a legal obligation to operate the vehicle safely and responsibly.
- Breach of duty: You must demonstrate that the truck driver or trucking company breached their duty of care. This could involve actions or omissions that deviated from the standard of care expected from a reasonable truck driver. For instance, if the truck driver broke the speed limit, drove while fatigued, or failed to follow traffic laws, it may be considered a breach of duty.
- Causation: You must establish a causal connection between the truck driver’s breach of duty and the accident or injuries that occurred. You must prove that the truck driver’s actions or negligence directly led to the accident and your subsequent harm.
- Damages: Finally, you must prove that you suffered actual damages because of the accident. These damages can include property damage, medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other related losses.
Failure to Maintain Their Commercial Vehicles
Trucking companies must conduct routine inspections and maintenance to ensure a truck’s parts and systems properly function. Missing a scheduled inspection or maintenance appointment or not repairing damage or defects can lead to a system failure. For example, not replacing balding tires can lead to a blowout, causing the trucker to lose control and crash.
Negligent Hiring Practices
Trucking companies must hire qualified, experienced, professional drivers. They should conduct background checks on all applicants and look for any criminal records, employment history, and driving records for any accidents and traffic violations.
During staffing shortages, trucking companies might hire inexperienced drivers because they focus on profits over the safety of others.
Overlooking an issue with a driver could have deadly consequences.
An accident victim must show that the carrier knew or should have known that they hired an unfit driver who posed a risk to others.
Trucking companies should fully vet truck driver applicants before hiring them and evaluate their drivers regularly to ensure they comply with state and federal laws.
For example, the Department of Transportation requires companies to drug test all CDL drivers before beginning employment, as well as drug test them at random each year. And, when an accident occurs, the DOT accident checklist determines whether a driver must take a drug test.
You might hold a trucking company liable for a driver’s accident if they don’t perform regular drug tests on drivers and a driver using illicit drugs causes an accident.
Failure to Supervise
Employers must supervise their employees. If a trucking company fails to properly supervise its drivers, then you may hold the company liable for the harm their on-duty employee causes you. Trucking companies must ensure that their employees comply with state and federal laws and discipline or terminate them if they fail to follow those rules.
How Does a Truck Driver’s Negligence Contribute to Trucking Accidents?
Human error causes many truck accidents.
Common errors that can result in a truck accident include:
Long hours of driving can lead to exhaustion. Fatigued truckers can lose focus and make mistakes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatigue may contribute to 30 percent of all truck accidents.
FMCSA’s hours of service regulations limit the hours a trucker can drive in a 24-hour period to cut down on driver fatigue. The regulations also require drivers to take breaks to keep them well-rested and alert. However, some drivers may push themselves to drive beyond the hours allowed or not get enough rest when off duty. Moreover, unrealistic expectations by trucking companies may push truckers to drive longer than they should.
Improperly loaded cargo can shift or fall off the truck and cause the trucker to lose control of their vehicle and get into an accident.
Several factors can lead to improper loading, such as overloading a truck, improperly securing the cargo, or loading the cargo unevenly.
Trucking companies must follow proper loading procedures. Then cannot overload, unevenly distribute, or improperly secure the cargo.
Truck Driver Inexperience
Inexperienced truck drivers may lack the necessary skills and knowledge to safely operate a large commercial vehicle, making them more likely to collide, roll over, or jackknife their trucks.
They may not know the regulations and safety guidelines that apply to commercial vehicles, or understand the importance of proper maintenance, inspections, and loading procedures.
They may also lack the training to handle difficult driving conditions, like inclement weather, steep inclines, or heavy traffic, and may not react quickly and appropriately in emergencies.
Truck Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence is illegal, especially for those who operate commercial vehicles. Truck drivers cannot operate a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or higher—lower than the 0.08 percent legal limit for drivers of non-commercial vehicles in Florida. Truck drivers must also comply with regular drug testing requirements.
Distractions like texting, talking on the phone, eating, drinking, and using navigation systems can contribute to a truck accident. Even a momentary distraction can have deadly consequences. According to FMCSA, distracted driving contributes to 8 percent of fatal crashes involving commercial trucks.
A speeding commercial truck presents a deadly hazard. When speeding, these large, heavy trucks hit with incredible force and take longer to stop. And when truck driver speeds, they have less time to react to unexpected situations.
What Evidence Can Prove Liability in a Truck Accident?
The same records regulators and law enforcement use to ensure trucking companies and their drivers comply with the law can prove fault in a trucking accident.
Records an attorney may review following a truck accident include:
- Truck driver hours of service logs
- Truck driver pre-trip inspection report
- Truck cargo/freight manifest
- Inspection and maintenance records
- Truck event data record logs
- Truck driver employment and driving records
- Drug/alcohol testing after an accident
- Cell phone usage data
- Post-accident truck inspection report
How Can a Truck Accident Lawyer Help Me?
Commercial trucks are huge, heavy vehicles that can cause serious life-altering injuries and fatalities in an accident. A truck accident lawyer can hold trucking companies and drivers who cause these dangerous crashes accountable for the injuries and losses they cause accident victims.
If you suffered injuries in a truck accident, a lawyer can:
- Secure evidence from the trucking company and truck driver, such as inspection reports and trucking logs
- Identify all liable parties
- Bring on accident reconstruction, medical, or financial experts to provide testimony to support your truck accident claim
- Calculate the value of your damages
- Negotiate a fair settlement with insurance companies
- File your truck accident lawsuit within the statute of limitations
- Represent you in court and advocate for you
Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Trucking companies must ensure the safety of others by properly maintaining their trucks and training their drivers. A truck accident lawyer can hold trucking companies that fail to take these important measures liable if these actions lead to an accident. Having an experienced truck accident lawyer on your side gives you peace of mind that a professional will handle all the legal aspects of your case and work to get you the full compensation you deserve.
You can trust a truck accident lawyer to handle your claim professionally and thoroughly so you can focus on your own recovery. Contact a personal injury law firm in Miami today for your free consultation and case evaluation.