Are Truck Drivers Responsible for Damages?
Large trucks are some of the most dangerous vehicles on the roads today. Commercial trucks travel up and down our California roads every day delivering goods and cargo. This means large trucks are inevitably going to be involved in accidents with passenger vehicles on a regular basis putting Californians in danger. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in three long-haul truck drivers have experienced a serious truck accident during their career. California is also in the top four states that account for one-third of all truck accident deaths. It is important for truck accident victims to know if the at-fault truck driver works for a trucking company, is an independent contractor, or is driving the large truck under other employment circumstances. Your personal injury attorney will be able to examine the facts of your situation and determine who is potentially liable for your truck accident damages.
After being injured in an accident with a semi-truck, 18-wheeler, or other large truck, you and your attorney will determine who to sue for damages. Your attorney will look at what elements exist in your claim for damages. There are many concerns that must be taken into account, including truck defects, trucking company policies, independent contractor policies, and more. If the accident was caused by something other than or in addition to the truck driver’s negligence, your personal injury attorney will be able to find the cause and hold the appropriate party liable. Having an experienced legal team on your side is the best way to ensure you obtain maximum compensation for your injuries. In the state of California, normally the truck driver involved in any traffic accident will either work for a trucking company that provides the job or is an independent contractor that takes on jobs for multiple trucking companies. The victim of a semi accident may hold the truck driver and those who were responsible for them liable if they are directly at fault for causing the crash.
If the trucking company that hired the driver is found to have played a role in the accident, they may be held accountable for their actions or inactions that contributed to the crash. In many truck accidents, the truck company is found to have cut corners on safety, forced their truck drivers to work excessively long shifts, failed to repair defective equipment, or engaged in other elements that could cause a crash.
The following are some of the most serious contributing factors that may cause a trucking company to be liable for a truck accident:
1. Not Hiring Qualified Drivers
When a trucking company hires an unqualified driver, the company can be held liable for any accidents that the driver causes. It is the responsibility of the trucking company to vet its drivers and ensure they have clean driving records and appropriate trucking experience. Hiring a truck driver with a history of DUIs, drug offenses, speeding violations, red light violations, or other violations of specific legal safety protocols can constitute company negligence in its hiring practices. The company knows the truck driver it hired has a history of dangerous and reckless behavior but still puts them on the road. Trucking companies should regularly drug test their employees and follow up on any reports of reckless behavior to avoid injuring others on the road and being held liable for a truck driver’s actions.
2. Not Properly Maintaining Their Fleet of Trucks
If the truck driver who caused the accident is driving a vehicle owned by the truck company or has rented the vehicle from the truck company, and that vehicle malfunctions due to improper maintenance, the vehicle owner and/or maintenance provider may be held liable. Truck fleet managers and their reports are considered responsible for conducting regular inspections and maintenance on their trucks based on the guidelines set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). If a truck company chooses to forgo these inspections, delay maintenance, or use “cheap” repairs that patch problems instead of appropriately fixing them, their trucks are more likely to malfunction and cause a serious accident. Many truck accidents are caused by failures in proper truck maintenance which then makes the trucking company liable for the damages caused by those accidents.
3. Using Defective Parts
All trucks are required by law to have safety features and up-to-date equipment, including working visual indicators, reflective lights, warning devices, fire extinguishers, and more that keep the truck and truck driver safe on the road. Trucks that fail to use fully functioning safety equipment or use defective parts can quickly cause an accident. If a piece of safety equipment fails, and the manufacturer of that equipment is to blame, the victim of the truck accident may be able to hold the manufacturer accountable for the damages resulting from the collision.
4. Overloading or Inappropriately Loading a Truck
Large commercial trucks often haul large amounts of cargo that should be loaded evenly onto the truck without going over any weight or load limits. Some trucking companies attempt to overload a semi-truck to get more bang for their buck on transporting cargo. The FMCSA limits the amount of weight any commercial vehicle can transport and heavily regulates hazardous or flammable cargo. Overloaded large trucks are more prone to rollover and tip-over accidents, as their cargo may shift and cause the truck to crash. The truck company is responsible for checking the cargo and ensuring it is safe, not too heavy, and tied down appropriately before it is transported. Failure to do so can leave the truck company liable for any accidents that occur.
California Truck Accident Injury Lawyers
In deciding whether or not to pursue the truck driver as well as other negligent parties involved in your big rig accident, you will first need to determine exactly what caused the crash in the first place. Attempting to only hold the truck driver liable may not compensate you for your damages as they do not generally have the funds or insurance coverage available to pay for your injuries. Often times a personal injury lawsuit is necessary to seek appropriate compensation for your medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and more from all potentially responsible parties. Your personal injury attorney will be able to investigate the truck accident and determine which parties should be held liable for your damages.