When Is the Shipping Company Liable?

Posted on May 8, 2023 in Truck Accidents

Under some circumstances, the shipping company is liable for a truck accident and injuries. This scenario is not as common as cases where the driver holds fault, and the trucking company bears liability. However, it does occur.

Tractor-trailer truck accidents are often complex. Victims must investigate what happened, determine the potentially liable parties, and navigate the claims process to recover compensation. Understanding who might be liable in these cases is often difficult. Working with a law firm that handles truck crashes regularly could help recover fair compensation more easily.

If you suffered injuries in a crash, a truck accident lawyer can help. You do not have to try to navigate the claims process or understand your case on your own. Most law firms work based on contingency fees and provide free initial consultations for potential clients. You can probably speak to a team member today about your rights, options, and next steps. You also have no obligation to hire the attorney after your case assessment.

Who Can You Hold Liable for a Truck Accident?

In most traffic accidents, the at-fault driver is usually liable for any injuries and damages. When one driver acts carelessly or recklessly, it can cause a crash. Most states have laws that allow victims to file an insurance claim or lawsuit to hold that driver legally responsible for the losses that occur as a result.

While this also applies in truck accident cases, there are additional considerations. The at-fault truck driver could be liable for the crash if their negligence caused it. However, the driver is rarely the only liable party in a commercial vehicle accident.

In truck accident cases, the trucking company is often liable, too. This scenario can occur because of the company’s negligence or vicarious liability.

A trucking company’s negligence can cause a crash in several ways, including:

  • Failure to provide proper maintenance and repairs
  • Negligent hiring or retention, when they hired or maintained a driver who was not qualified or had serious concerns
  • Failure to train or certify a driver properly
  • Pressure to violate hours of service laws or otherwise drive longer than they should
  • Ignoring issues or concerns that could make it unsafe for the driver to work

Vicarious Liability

In addition, a legal doctrine allows victims to hold the at-fault driver’s employer vicariously liable under some circumstances. It often applies in these crashes.

Whether recognized in the state under code or case law, this case generally occurs when:

  • The driver is an employee of the company
  • The driver was on the clock or working for the company at the time of the crash

As you can imagine, this is common in truck crashes. Truck drivers are behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler and move cargo for their employers when these accidents occur. These circumstances generally meet the criteria for vicarious liability in most states.

Other Parties May Bear Responsibility for the Crash

Truck Accident Lawyer in Phoenix, Arizona area Under some circumstances, another party might be liable for a crash, such as the shipping company, a maintenance company, a mechanic, the truck manufacturer, or another party.

If you work with an attorney, they can help you identify all potentially liable parties in your case. This task is important because it is the only way to recover the compensation you need and deserve based on the case facts.

Examples of When a Shipping Company Might Be Liable for a Crash

While the most common liable party, in addition to the driver, in a truck crash is the trucking company, shipping companies could also be liable. Some examples include the following:

The Shipping Company Improperly Loaded  the Cargo

Loading and securing cargo properly requires training, following laws, and understanding how a load affects the truck and trailer. A shipper might be liable if an exposed, loose, or shifting load caused a crash. When a truck is overloaded, the cargo inside could cause the trailer to fishtail or roll over. Both events could involve other vehicles and lead to serious collisions.

Unsecured cargo can also spill. When cargo falls from the truck onto the roadway, it often causes other cars to collide or crushes those vehicles nearby. The shipping company that loaded the cargo might be legally responsible when this accident occurs.

Unmarked Hazardous Cargo

Occasionally, a shipper might skirt the rules, make a mistake, or otherwise fail to properly mark or transport hazardous cargo. In that event, it could lead to serious injuries, especially when a crash causes a leak of flammable materials or other hazardous cargo.

The shipping company might be liable if they allowed an unqualified worker to oversee the loading or unloading of hazardous cargo or failed to keep adequate records about certain types of goods.

Vicarious Liability for the Shipping Company

Under some circumstances, the shipping company might be vicariously liable for the truck driver’s actions, like when the shipping company is also the driver’s employer. This could occur in some instances where a large corporation ships and distributes its own goods.

For example, large companies sometimes have their own fleet of trucks and drivers to take products to supermarkets and convenience stores. In this case, the shipper is also the trucking company and employer of the driver.

How Do I Build a Case Against the Shipping Company?

You will need strong evidence to show the shipping company’s liability to hold them legally responsible for your crash and injuries. While commercial truck accidents generally generate a lot of evidence, you might want an attorney’s help to preserve, access, and analyze it.


Common Forms of Evidence in a Truck Accident Case

Some common evidence used to support traffic accident cases includes:

  • The accident report filed by the responding law enforcement officers
  • Eyewitness statements or interviews
  • Video of the crash when available
  • Photos from the scene
  • An accident scene survey
  • Accident reconstruction
  • Documentation of the damage to each vehicle
  • Relevant medical records
  • Expert testimony about prognosis, future care, and expenses
  • Documentation of damages

When it comes to truck accidents, additional evidence should be available because of the numerous state and federal laws on motor carriers. However, much of this evidence is in the hands of the trucking company, shipping company, or another party. Getting access to and preserving it is a top priority when an attorney handles these cases.

Your attorney can send a spoliation letter to the parties involved imploring them to keep all related evidence.

This letter could allow them to access additional evidence to support the claim or lawsuit, including:

  • The truck’s computer
  • Hours of service records for the driver
  • Dashcam video if the truck was equipped
  • Information about the cargo
  • Post-accident drug and alcohol test results
  • Employment records for those involved
  • Maintenance history for the truck and trailer

What Damages Can I Recover After a Crash?

Every truck accident victim suffers their own unique damages. They are the expenses and losses they incurred because of the crash. They must identify these damages, document them, and have a strong understanding of the case value before they file a claim or take the case to trial.

While this process does not sound difficult, it often is. In addition to the costs to date, they must consider their future expenses and losses, as well as the intangible pain and suffering they endured. These factors make it almost impossible to accurately estimate a fair settlement range without help from a truck accident lawyer.

Some categories of damages are common in most truck crash cases, such as:

  • Medical treatment and related costs to date
  • Future medical care and/or ongoing support needs
  • Income lost because of time missed at work
  • Diminished earning capacity if the victim cannot return to their previous job
  • Property damages, including the vehicle involved
  • Miscellaneous expenses with receipts
  • Pain and suffering damages

Because of the differences from case to case, there is no way to know what an average payout might look like or compare your case to others and determine an approximate value. Your attorney can help you document your damages and set a range where a fair settlement might fall. This determination can guide settlement negotiations.

What Are My Options for Recovering Compensation in a Truck Accident Case?

When a careless driver, trucking company, or shipping company causes a crash, and you suffer injuries, you have legal options for seeking fair compensation in most states.

In general, you may hold a liable party accountable after a crash by:

  • Filing a claim based on their liability insurance coverage and negotiating a fair settlement
  • Suing the liable party in civil court, taking the case to trial, and the jury awarding a payout based on the evidence

When building a case against a shipping company that caused a truck accident and injuries, you are likely looking at a corporation with a significant liability policy. Many businesses have large liability policies that could cover your damages even if you suffered catastrophic injuries. That could make it easier to settle the case without going to trial.

However, some cases require filing a lawsuit. Some firms choose to go this route and pursue both avenues concurrently. Even when there is a lawsuit, most cases settle, and the victim agrees to an insurance payout.

Taking a shipping company to trial is possible. A truck accident attorney does not back down, regardless of the size or reputation of the defendant. They can present strong evidence to show the shipping company is liable and ask the jury to award fair compensation based on the circumstances and the victim’s losses.

How Can an Attorney Help Me Hold the Shipping Company Liable?

When you partner with a truck accident attorney, they take care of your legal case for you. You focus on your treatment, healing, and getting your life back to normal. The last thing you want to do after a serious truck collision and injuries is to spend your days focused solely on building a case and recovering compensation. A truck accident lawyer can step in, manage your case, and handle everything on your behalf.

You do not have to worry about corporate lawyers or large insurance companies trying to reduce the value of your case or intimidate you into accepting a settlement offer. Your lawyer is accustomed to dealing with them and can fight for the compensation you deserve based on available evidence.

They can:

  • Protect your rights
  • Investigate the crash
  • Analyze evidence
  • Document your expenses and losses
  • Demand fair compensation from the insurer
  • Negotiate with the insurance adjuster
  • Prepare and file paperwork to begin a lawsuit if necessary
  • Represent your best interests and seek fair compensation

Your lawyer knows what it takes to win a case and hold the shipping company accountable. They navigate this process and build solid cases against large corporations regularly. They can make this process easier and less frustrating for you. Put your health and well-being first. Let an attorney take over your case and pursue the payout you deserve.

Discuss Your Case Against the Shipping Company

Robert W. Boatman, Truck accident Attorney

Robert W. Boatman, Truck Accident Lawyer in Phoenix, AZ 

If you suffered injuries in a truck crash, an attorney can help you identify the potentially liable parties and take legal action against them. You might have a case for compensation against the truck driver, trucking company, shipping company, or another party. A truck accident attorney will know how to support your claim with evidence and seek fair compensation based on your losses.

You do not have to navigate the claims process on your own. You have options for holding the liable parties accountable, and an attorney can help you.

With most truck accident law firms, you can contact their office to get a free case evaluation today. You can discuss your next steps and often hire a personal injury attorney in Phoenix without paying upfront fees.