If you suffered an injury in a truck accident caused by someone other than yourself, the civil court provides you with a legal option to seek compensation for all your losses, including the psychological effect a severe accident can inflict. To build your case, you must prove the other party’s negligence and how it contributed to the accident and your injuries. That process can be more complex in commercial truck cases because the truck driver is not the only potentially liable party. However, with the help of an experienced truck accident attorney, you can gather the evidence you need to support your claim.
Who Could Be Liable in a Truck Accident?
What makes truck accidents stand out among other auto accidents, apart from the typically high severity of damages, is the question of liability. If the truck is responsible for the collision, the fault may fall on the truck driver, another party, or more than one party. The first step in building your case is determining who is liable.
Truck Driver Liability
The truck driver may seem like the most apparent party responsible. However, this is only the case under specific circumstances. Most truck drivers work for a trucking company, but independent drivers are self-employed. Therefore, an independent driver would be responsible for their actions and the truck’s condition. Examples of when a driver employed by a trucking company would be accountable include:
- Driving under the influence
- Operating the truck outside of the scope of employment
- Violating a traffic law, such as running a red light or speeding
Another obvious reason the driver would be liable is if they intentionally hit another vehicle on the road. It may seem unlikely, but road rage is a common issue plaguing many drivers.
Trucking Company Liability
According to the law of respondeat superior, trucking companies are sometimes liable for the negligent actions of their drivers if those actions fall under the scope of their job. For example, if they hire an inexperienced driver, they are responsible for providing the driver with adequate training. Driving a large commercial truck is a skill, and trucking companies can be liable if an inexperienced driver causes an accident. Additionally, because trucking companies own their trucks, they are responsible for conducting regular inspections to ensure the tires and other mechanical systems work correctly. Cutting corners on inspections and maintenance or setting unrealistic deadlines for drivers can increase the chance of an accident, making the trucking company liable.
Multiple third parties could be liable for a truck accident:
- Outsourced maintenance. Trucking companies with large fleets often hire an outside source to manage truck inspections and maintenance. Should an accident occur because the company missed an inspection or failed to fix a problem during routine maintenance, the third-party company would be at fault.
- Parts manufacturer. If a part on the truck, such as the brakes or wheel axles, malfunction and cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle, you could potentially sue the manufacturer for damages.
- Cargo loader. Cargo loading is highly regulated, meaning the party loading the truck must ensure they meet the weight and restraint standards set by the federal and state governments. Whether the cargo loader is the driver, a third party, or the trucking company, that party would be responsible if an overweight load causes a tire blowout or unsecured cargo falls off the truck in transit.
When the cause of the accident is the defective part, the case can become significantly more challenging. Product liability cases are sometimes difficult to prove, and you are often up against a large corporation with plenty of resources. Fortunately, most product liability cases involve multiple plaintiffs, making it easier to prove the claim.
Local Government Liability
Suing the local government for a truck accident case is not typical. In some states and municipalities, the government has immunity in personal injury lawsuits. However, suppose the cause of your accident is a roadway defect, such as poor drainage, broken pavement, or issues with the government’s roadwork contractors. In that case, you could potentially sue for negligence.
What Elements Do You Need To Establish Negligence?
If you want to pursue a claim in a truck accident case, it is incumbent upon you as the plaintiff to prove the defendant’s negligence. The basis for any negligence claim is:
- The defendant was responsible for maintaining reasonable safety standards for the people around them.
- The defendant did not up uphold that duty, either intentionally or negligently.
- The breach of duty then caused your accident.
- There is a direct correlation between the accident and the injuries you suffered.
An important benefit of hiring a truck accident attorney is their ability to conduct a professional investigation into your accident and the responsible party. In addition, they can collect evidence to support the negligence claim using accident reconstruction experts and their own legal knowledge and experience. Attempting to support a negligence claim on your own could be highly difficult. Additionally, you may overlook highly valued damages you should include in your request for compensation.
What Damages Could You Recover?
The recoverable damages in any personal injury case refer to the losses you suffered as a direct result of your accident and injuries. These losses are compensatory, meaning the goal of recovering them is to make whole what was lost, economic or non-economic. Economic damages include specific losses, such as medical expenses, damaged property expenses, lost wages, and any other expense you paid to accommodate your accident and injuries.
The non-economic damages are the intangible losses that generally involve the psychological effects of the accident. These include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment, disability, and disfigurement. If you lost someone you love in the accident, you could include loss of companionship or loss of love and nurturing you received from the deceased.
Punitive damages are reserved for cases involving gross negligence or deliberate action. For example, if the truck driver was under the influence and speeding at the time of the accident, that may constitute gross negligence. If they deliberately tried to hit your vehicle in a fit of road rage, that may also warrant further punishment through an order of punitive damages. In cases involving a large company, punitive damages can be substantial.
Would You Benefit From Hiring a Truck Accident Lawyer?
If you have questions about your accident and your rights to compensation, you can contact a truck accident lawyer immediately following the collision. Because negligence can be challenging to prove in a truck accident case, victims often face complex legal processes while trying to heal severe injuries. Additionally, if you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you do not have to face a painful legal process alone while you grieve.
At Cellino Law, we have years of experience working with truck accident victims and their families. We dedicate our time and knowledge to ensuring you get the financial compensation you need to cover your damages and find some peace after a devastating accident. We understand the financial burdens you face, so we offer a free case evaluation where you can ask questions and get trusted legal advice. Should we decide to work together on building your case, we charge no upfront fees. Contact Cellino Law today to speak with a truck accident lawyer. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.