Who Can Be Held Liable for a Truck Accident?
Trucking accidents can be complex, with many potentially responsible parties involved in a suit. Having an exceptionally skilled truck accident lawyer by your side can help you to navigate the legal process. An experienced lawyer will collect evidence and identify all parties involved in the accident who can be held liable, something that is frequently trickier than it initially seems.
What Parties are Most Commonly Involved in Trucking Accident Cases?
Because of the unique complexities of the trucking industry, several parties may be responsible for your wreck, including:
The Truck’s Driver
If the driver operated the vehicle negligently (i.e., speeding, reckless/drunk/distracted driving, falling asleep behind the wheel), they could be liable for the accident. However, in drowsy driving cases, many companies often pressure workers to get in as many driving miles as possible so that the cargo makes it to the destination on time, in which case the company may also be liable.
The Truck’s Owner
Typically, either a trucking company, driver, or truck owner will be responsible for the maintenance and repairs of their truck, so if these are not performed as mandated, they may be eligible for suit.
The Company of the Truck
The truck company may bear responsibility for your accident if they are found to have hired underqualified or poorly trained drivers, not to have provided adequate rest times for their drivers, to have neglected vehicle maintenance, or to have violated industry standards and regulations.
The Crews Who Loaded the Cargo onto the Truck
Loading crews can be held liable if the cargo causes the wreck or leads to injury.
The Truck Manufacturer
If a specific part leads to a mechanical failure, it’s possible to hold the manufacturing company responsible, especially if the part is defective.
Anyone Who Performed Repairs on the Truck
In addition to those who perform the actual repairs on the truck itself, anyone responsible for maintaining the vehicle can be held liable (including leasing companies or anyone with a contractual obligation to provide vehicle repairs).
Road Maintenance Companies
If poor road conditions, such as potholes or poorly designed curves, were to blame for the accident, it’s possible to hold road maintenance companies liable.
Most truck drivers are either independent contractors or drivers a trucking company employs. Typically, when a truck driver is found negligently operating their vehicle, the employer is responsible for paying damages under a legal theory commonly referred to as “respondeat superior,” which essentially means that employers are responsible for the employee’s negligent acts during working hours since the employer is receiving financial benefits from their labor.
However, independent contractors are not technically employees of the company to which they’re lending their services, and oftentimes their employer cannot be held liable for their actions. But trucking companies can still be responsible if they are found to have negligently hired a driver with a poor driving history or someone found previously unfit to drive.
What Happens if Multiple Parties are Responsible for Your Truck Accident?
Often in truck accidents, there are many moving parts to blame for the incident, for instance, an improperly loaded cargo that causes a driver to lose control. In such a case, both the loading company and the driver would be to blame for inadequately inspecting the cargo load before driving the vehicle.
When multiple parties cause a truck accident, the judge or jury will assign a percentage of blame to each of the defendants. So, in the above example, the cargo company may be found to bear the brunt of the responsibility, thus being assigned 50% at fault, while the truck driver is found to only be 40% at fault, with an additional third party being found to be 10% at fault. Each defendant would pay a proportional amount of the final settlement to the plaintiff— so if the final settlement amount were $100,000, then the cargo company would pay $50,000 while the driver would pay $40,000, and the third party would pay $10,000.
However, if a defendant is found to be more than 50% at fault for an accident, the plaintiff can pursue their full losses from them. In this case, the defendant would be responsible for recovering the losses from any other parties on their own accord.
Can You Still Sue if You Were Partially at Fault for Your Truck Accident?
The simple answer is yes; you can still sue if you were less than 50% responsible for your truck accident. In South Carolina, the comparative negligence rule states that an injured party can seek compensation as long as their fault does not exceed the defendant’s.
Additionally, if you are partially to blame for your accident, your compensation may be reduced according to your percentage of fault. So if you were 35% responsible for your accident and accumulated $100,000 in losses, you would only be entitled to 65% of them, or $65,000.
Truck accidents can be exceptionally complex and require extensive evidence to prove your case, including service logs, black boxes, camera footage, dispatch logs, drug/alcohol screening, employment records, inspection reports, eyewitness testimony, police reports, and more.
Truck companies also have insurance companies prepared to defend their drivers at all costs, so it’s vital to have an experienced truck accident attorney who knows how to negotiate and circumvent any legal tactics they may throw your way. Working with a lawyer will help sort out which parties need to be held accountable and determine how best to minimize your liability so that you receive the maximum compensation you deserve for your hardships.