The trucking industry is essential to the functioning of the U.S. economy. In 2019 alone, truckers were responsible for transporting almost 12 billion tons of cargo. Unfortunately, large trucks are also involved in accidents that cause significant injuries and fatalities. During that same year, approximately 75% of the truck accidents that resulted in deaths involved a tractor-trailer that weighed more than 26,000 pounds.
Assessing who is at fault in an accident between tractor-trailers and other vehicles is more complex than collisions involving only cars. The reason for the complexity is the breadth of trucking industry individuals and entities that could potentially be at fault in a crash. Determining liability requires knowledge of the trucking industry and how to interpret evidence to determine fault.
What To Know About Trucking Industry Liability
Police reports for 2019 indicate that around 510,000 crashes involved large trucks, and of those, 114,000 resulted in injuries, and 4,479 led to fatalities. Depending on the accident causes, one or more parties may have been responsible for those accidents.
The federal government establishes rules and guidelines for the trucking industry, addressing responsibilities at each level. Knowing these laws is crucial to determining what parties are at fault in a truck accident.
Truck Driver Liability
If you sustained injuries in a collision with a semi, your first reaction is likely to blame the person sitting behind the wheel of the rig. Often, the driver is at least partially at fault. When truckers agree to transport freight, they take on a tremendous responsibility.
They are legally required to conduct safety checks on the truck and the cargo before driving. They must also ensure the load remains secure throughout the journey. In addition, the shippers and motor carriers often place demands on them to meet tight deadlines.
Truckers may fail to conduct the appropriate safety checks or engage in unsafe driving behaviors to save time. Driving under the influence, aggressive driving, fatigued driving and distracted driving can lead to accidents that cause injuries or fatalities. Determining driver actions or inactions that led up to the collision is one component of assessing fault.
Trucking Company Liability
When trucking companies hire drivers, they are responsible for ensuring they understand their responsibilities and legal obligation. They are also required to train their drivers in company policies and safe operations. These companies must keep up with scheduled maintenance on every truck in the fleet and repair or replace malfunctioning or damaged parts as needed.
If the truck operator is an employee, the company may be held responsible for its employee’s actions. Additionally, if it fails to follow maintenance schedules or make necessary repairs, the company may be at least partially at fault in a truck accident. Determining fault requires a close analysis of the trucking company’s role in the accident.
Several manufacturers are responsible for the components that go into building semis, and the truck manufacturers put all the parts together to create the final product. Throughout the manufacturing process, each company is responsible for ensuring that the products it releases meet the appropriate guidelines for safety and quality.
Mechanical failures are one of the more common causes of tractor-trailer collisions. Tire failure is responsible for approximately 30% of truck accidents. Malfunctioning or failing brakes also frequently contribute to crashes. Determining whether a tire blowout was due to a defective tire or poor maintenance is an example of what it can take to find out who is at fault in a truck accident.
Freight Handler Liability
The individuals who place the cargo on the truck have guidelines they must follow. Trailer height, width, length and axle placement determine how cargo handlers load and secure the freight. The weight must be distributed across the trailer to balance the load over the container and axels.
There are also guidelines for securing cargo. Straps and fasteners must meet design and weight criteria for the items they secure. The freight handlers are responsible for ensuring they use the correct system for the load. Additionally, they must inspect the security system to ensure nothing is damaged and replace any component that is.
While the truck operators are responsible for checking cargo distribution and security, the freight handlers may also be at fault in an accident caused by shifting freight or cargo that falls off the truck. It may not be immediately apparent that a cargo shift caused a trucker to lose control of the rig but tracking down all potential causes is necessary to determine who is at fault.
What To Know About Other Potentially Responsible Parties
Many players in the trucking industry may be held accountable for a tractor-trailer collision. However, it’s essential not to overlook other parties that may have contributed. If you sustain injuries in a truck accident, recovering the damages you deserve requires tracking down all potentially responsible parties and understanding their role in causing the accident.
Passenger Vehicle Driver Liability
When cars are involved in collisions with large trucks, the passenger vehicle drivers and others are usually quick to point the finger at the trucker. However, when you file a claim, you need the complete picture. The insurance companies for the trucking industry are inevitably going to look for ways to place the blame on you.
If you bear any responsibility, it can impact the outcomes of your case. In states that follow modified comparative negligence laws, you may lose out on receiving any compensation, leaving you on the hook for your medical bills, lost income, rehabilitation and therapy costs and lost work capacity. You may also miss out on recovering non-economic damages.
When other cars are involved in the accident, it’s also essential to examine whether they contributed to the crash. Passenger vehicle drivers may engage in unsafe driving behaviors that were the primary cause of the crash, even though you collided with the truck. An experienced attorney often consults with accident reconstruction professionals to understand the chain of events that led up to the crash, helping them determine who is at fault.
Government Entity and Road Construction Contractor Liability
When people think of poor road conditions that cause an accident, they often picture weather-related incidents. However, structural damage to the road can also lead to a truck crash. Large potholes, uneven surfaces and debris create hazardous conditions for all drivers.
Truckers lack the same level of maneuverability as cars. Swerving to avoid a road hazard can cause the driver to lose control of the rig, and road debris can lead to a blowout. These situations are dangerous for truckers and the vehicles around them.
Depending on where the road is located, the municipal, county, state or federal government is responsible for maintaining and repairing it. They often hire contractors to take care of the work. When road conditions contribute to an accident, it is necessary to determine whether the government or road contractors were negligent in their responsibilities.
Where To Get Help With Your Truck Accident Claim
If you sustained injuries in a truck accident in New York, Cellino Law is here to help. We have the knowledge and experience you need on your side to build a solid case. Our truck accident attorneys understand the complexities involved in determining fault in a truck accident, and we do the work it takes to find out what parties are liable for your losses. Contact one of our five offices located conveniently across the state to schedule a free case review.