Who Is Liable for My Injuries After a Truck Accident?
Identifying who is liable for your injuries after a truck accident is often confusing and frustrating. Many factors play a role in who might be legally responsible for a crash, and some of them are not as obvious as you might expect. Knowing how to identify what caused your collision and who is liable based on the crash facts helps you support your claim or lawsuit and recover fair compensation.
Working with a truck accident lawyer makes it easier and less frustrating to document fault and liability after a collision. Your attorney knows how to investigate the crash, what evidence to look for, and how fault relates to liability in these cases. Most law firms provide free consultations so victims can learn their options and the attorney’s services.
Causes of a Truck Accident
Like most traffic accidents, most commercial truck collisions occur because of a driver’s recklessness or carelessness. When drivers make mistakes or fail to exercise the necessary care behind the wheel, they often violate traffic laws. When a driver violates a traffic law, it often increases the accident risk. In this way, a driver’s behavior causes most crashes. When it comes to trucks, there are more laws in place to prevent incidents and collisions.
While a careless trucker causes many collisions, crashes also occur because loads shift, trucks lose cargo, or there are maintenance issues with the tractor or trailer. When someone besides the driver acts negligently, they could be at fault in a truck crash.
Still, truck accidents occur daily. Most commonly, someone violates one of these laws, and it causes the crash.
This could include:
- Violating a traffic law that causes an intersection collision
- Failing to clear an adjacent lane before moving over
- Not stopping in time to avoid hitting a stopped vehicle
- Shifting loads that cause a fishtail or truck rollover
- Losing an unsecured load
- Driving drunk, drowsy, or distracted
- Falling asleep behind the wheel because of hours of service violations
- Poor maintenance or repairs causing a failure
Investigating the Cause of a Truck Collision
When a crash occurs, the responding police officers conduct a preliminary investigation into what happened. They record the observable facts, interview eyewitnesses, issue citations, and sometimes make notes about what they believe occurred. Their report is often key in showing fault. However, their investigation is not the final word on what caused the crash.
Other parties will also investigate, such as:
- The insurance companies
- The victims’ attorneys
Each party will seek evidence to show what they believe happened and support their preferred outcome. Insurance negotiations or the legal case will hinge on this evidence.
Why Does Cause Matter After a Crash?
The cause of a crash is important in determining fault and liability. To identify who is legally responsible for a crash, you must establish the proximate cause. That is the immediate issue that occurred and led to the collision. For example, when a trucker runs a red light, their failure to stop is the proximate cause of the crash.
Knowing the proximate cause usually allows you to easily determine which driver or another party was at fault. This factor is essential in a crash investigation because most states have fault-based accident laws. Victims seek compensation for their injuries, expenses, and losses based on who was at fault. This is often the same party who is liable, although they often share liability when there is a commercial driver involved.
How Does Liability Work in Most Traffic Accident Cases?
In most traffic accident cases, there is a negligent party. The negligent party, often a driver, is the one who is at fault in the crash.
Negligence occurs when:
- There is a duty of care owed to the victim, often because of a traffic law.
- The person in question breaches that duty of care.
- Their breach of duty causes the accident.
- The victim suffers harm.
With evidence to show all four of these things occurred, the victim generally files an insurance claim or lawsuit to hold the negligent party liable. In most collisions, the at-fault party is also the liable party. Liability is the word attorneys, courts, and other parties involved in a personal injury case use to discuss the legal responsibility for the case’s expenses and losses.
The at-fault party generally bears liability for all injuries and costs related to the crash. The victim takes legal action against them or negotiates with their auto liability insurance provider to hold them accountable and recover compensation.
While this applies in commercial vehicle and truck accident cases, it is not the full story. Often, additional parties might be liable when the at-fault driver or another worker is the negligent party whose actions caused the collision.
How Does Truck Accident Liability Differ?
In a truck accident, the truck driver is rarely the only liable party. There are additional liable parties in these cases, even when the trucker made a mistake behind the wheel and caused the crash. This is because of a legal doctrine, respondeat superior. Under this doctrine, an employer might be vicariously liable for a worker’s negligence.
When this doctrine applies, victims generally have the option of pursuing a case against the trucking company or a large corporation in addition to or instead of the driver. This makes a difference because these companies often have large corporate liability policies that provide much more coverage than any individual driver would carry.
Since truck crash injuries are frequently serious, recovering as much as possible based on current and future care needs is essential. A larger policy could make a difference in how much the victim could recover through negotiations with the insurer.
Understanding Vicarious Liability
Vicarious liability applies under certain circumstances that are common in truck accident cases. Most states have codes or case laws recognizing vicarious liability in commercial accident cases, including tractor-trailer crashes.
They generally apply when:
- The driver is an employee of the company.
- The driver was completing work-related tasks when the crash occurred.
Since being behind the wheel of the truck is a key job task of truck drivers, vicarious liability applies in most of these cases. This way, the case is not only against the trucker but the trucker’s employer, too.
Potentially Liable Parties in a Truck Crash
Determining who holds liability for your injuries after a truck crash is complex. It is rarely just a case against a negligent driver. The circumstances of the crash will determine who might be liable. Some possibilities include:
Trucking companies are some of the most commonly liable parties in tractor-trailer accidents. Not only are they vicariously liable if their workers cause a crash, but they also play a central role in ensuring their drivers uphold laws, setting deadlines, and providing maintenance for trucks and trailers.
Some circumstances when a trucking company might be liable include incidents when:
- The truck driver acts carelessly or recklessly.
- The trucker has a history of similar issues, but the company retained them as a driver.
- The trucker did not meet the criteria to drive the truck, but they hired him anyway.
- There was a known issue with the driver’s health, but they continued scheduling him.
- There is a maintenance or repair issue they failed to address.
- The company pushes drivers to violate hours of service.
- The company violated other rules or laws that contributed to the crash.
Shipping companies sometimes run their own truck fleets to distribute their products. In these cases, they could be vicariously liable for an accident.
You can hold a shipping company liable after accidents caused by:
- Shifting cargo
- Unsecured cargo
- Lost cargo
- Improperly loaded cargo
- Improperly labeled or hazardous cargo hauled incorrectly
Sometimes, other parties are liable for truck accidents. It greatly depends on the case facts. Improperly designed or maintained roads or defective vehicle parts could cause a crash. This situation leaves government agencies, contracted service providers, other drivers, or even vehicle manufacturers potentially liable.
What Is the Role of a Truck Accident Attorney?
One way to understand liability in your crash and move forward with your case is to hire a truck accident attorney to manage the process. A commercial vehicle accident lawyer should know how to determine liability, build strong support for your claim, and seek fair compensation.
When you work with a truck accident law firm, the attorney can protect your right to pursue compensation for your damages. This responsibility includes managing all aspects of your case. You should focus on treatment, healing, and rehabilitation. Let your lawyer worry about the rest. They can handle all communication with the insurance companies, identifying the liable party, determining what happened, and seeking a fair payout.
Before they demand compensation from the insurer or sue the liable parties, the attorney may investigate what happened. During this process, they can take steps to gather evidence that supports the claim.
These steps could include:
- Requesting the accident report filed by law enforcement
- Identifying and interviewing eyewitnesses
- Surveying the crash scene
- Working with accident reconstruction specialists
- Analyzing physical evidence
- Seeking video of the crash
- Obtaining relevant medical records
- Pursuing post-crash drug and alcohol test results
- Compelling the trucking company to preserve evidence
- Discussing prognosis, future care needs, and other information with experts
- Documenting victim injuries, expenses, and losses
Once they have strong evidence to show negligence, liability, and the possible settlement range of the case, the attorney may organize it to tell a compelling story about what happened and why you deserve a strong payout.
Building a Truck Accident Case Against the Liable Party
Truck accident victims generally have several options for pursuing compensation after a crash. They could include negotiating an insurance settlement with the liable party’s carrier or suing the liable party in civil court and preparing to take the case to trial. Most successful cases end in a settlement. However, sometimes a trial is necessary for victims to recover a fair payout.
The payout in a truck accident case depends greatly on the expenses and losses the victim experienced. The money recovered aims to allow them to cover these costs.
The recoverable damages in truck accident cases vary but often include:
- Medical bills, current and future
- Related expenses, including ongoing care costs
- Income losses from time missed at work while healing
- Diminished earning capacity because of lasting injuries
- Property damages, including repair or replacement of the vehicle
- Miscellaneous expenses with receipts
- Pain and suffering damages
- Wrongful death damages for the surviving family if the victim passes away
Most attorneys recommend contacting their firm to discuss your options as soon as your injuries allow you to make the call. There are deadlines for filing civil lawsuits against the liable parties. They differ by state. However, they are sometimes as short as one year from the crash date.
These timelines are another reason you might want to hire truck accident attorney as soon as possible after a crash. Your lawyer can handle your claim or lawsuit, protect your rights, and seek compensation for you while you focus on healing from your injuries.
A Local Law Firm Can Listen to Your Truck Accident Case
Most personal injury law firms provide free consultations for truck accident victims. During this conversation, a team member assesses the case and offers information about how their attorneys approached similar cases. They can answer your questions, explain how their fees work, and discuss the possible legal options in your case. This case review serves as an introduction to the firm as well as an information session.
You can reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer in Phoenix through a phone call. Some also use an online contact form to set a time to discuss your options and next steps. Often, there is no obligation to hire the firm, and most go to work on these cases with no upfront expenses.