Trucking Accidents: Legal Complexities to Consider
Trucking accidents, when they involve big rigs, are more complex and deadly than a simple car accident. The number of individuals involved in the accident adds to the complexity even if it's just you and the opposing truck driver,
When a truck accident occurs, the parties responsible can include a number of people, including:
- The driver
- The truck's owner
- The employing company
- Shippers or loaders
Complexity leads to lengthy, costly legal battles. If you're in an accident, you may have numerous parties that are held responsible for the accident.
Manufacturers, Shippers and Loaders
Not only will the driver, owner and employer be potentially responsible for the accident, but manufacturers, shippers and loaders may also be involved. An investigation into the cause of the crash will need to be completed.
There are times when these parties may be held responsible:
- Manufacturers are responsible if there was a defect in the truck or equipment that led to the accident.
- Shippers and loaders may be responsible if improper loading was the cause of the accident. This would be a cargo-related issues that leads to the accident.
But this doesn’t mean that other parties may not be involved. A complex list of events could have led to the accident, such as the driver speeding or being distracted on the road. Trucking accidents often include several parties which does help ensure that a settlement is paid.
Trucking Companies and Liability
A common question is ""can trucking companies avoid liability?"" Not anymore. There was a time when trucking companies found a loop hole that allowed them to bypass local laws and avoid any form of liability for an accident.
This was done by the trucking company not owning the equipment to haul the goods.
Companies would contract out their work, argue that the driver didn't work for them and they would get away with not having to be liable for an accident. Federal laws and regulations have put an end to this practice.
Trucking companies that now have a permit are liable for all trucks that have a company placard or name on a vehicle.
Even if the truck is driven by an independent contractor, the trucking company can be held liable in the accident. This is a major advantage to plaintiffs because trucking companies often have the financial means and insurance needed to satisfy a claim.
Laws Governing the Trucking Industry and Accidents
The trucking industry employs millions of people, and there are federal laws and regulations that govern the industry. There are standards that must be followed. Federal regulations dictate much of the trucking industry law with a key focus on:
The Title dictates the law for: regulations, definitions, hazardous material, shipping, carriage by rail, aircraft, vessel and public highway.
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) also governs the industry alongside the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Every state has their own DOT that will have their own set of trucking regulations that need to be followed.
If a trucker is found to be violating any of these laws or regulations, they will be held liable for their actions.
When a trucking accident occurs, a plaintiff can choose to contact federal and state regulators to inspect the truck and trailer involved in the accident. The investigation will find any conditions that led to the accident, including:
- Mechanical issues
- Trailer defects
Data may also be retrieved if the truck was equipped with GPS or on-board computers. Investigators will get to the bottom of the accident to help victims pursue legal action against the right person or persons.
Driver errors and equipment problems are the most common causes of trucking accidents.