Who is Liable for a Truck Accident?

Who is Liable for a Truck Accident?

Commercial truck accidents happen everyday, though these crashes are anything but commonplace for victims. When a large semi-truck crashes into your car, you might have serious injuries, require extensive medical treatment, and have major disruptions in your life.

After you receive initial medical care and learn about your injuries, it likely will not take long for you to begin to wonder about your legal rights. You know the bills will begin to come in soon, and you should not have to be responsible for paying them. So, who should be liable for your losses?

Under injury laws, the party who was liable for your truck accident should also be liable for covering your losses. But who is liable for your crash? You might think it is obvious and straightforward that the truck driver caused the collision, but they are not necessarily the liable party, and there might be multiple parties that share liability.

To identify all liable parties and get all the compensation you need for your losses, always consult a truck accident attorney. They have the tools and knowledge to investigate and make sure you seek compensation from the right parties.

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Your Rights After a Truck Accident

You've received a settlement check for a lawsuit, and it's addressed with the placeholder "Your Name Here," suggesting you might be entitled to a significant payout from the legal case.

You can qualify for a substantial settlement check if you have suffered an injury in a truck accident. The core requirement is showing that someone else's actions meet the legal definition of negligence. Then, they will have to pay you for all the harm that they have caused you. Numerous entities may owe you money for your injuries, and an experienced truck accident lawyer can investigate the cause of your action and determine whom you can sue. You may have far more legal options than you think in a truck accident case.

The first step you need to take after a crash is to hire an experienced truck accident attorney to represent you in the legal process. You may be entitled to substantial financial compensation if you prove someone else was to blame for your accident. However, the trucking company and its insurance provider will not simply roll over and give you every dollar you deserve, and you will need to fight for financial compensation.

Your Truck Accident Attorney Can Help You Fight for Financial Compensation

The most effective way to fight for what you deserve is to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to handle your case. Insurance companies look at you differently when they see that you have an attorney who can make them pay. Suddenly, what may have been a runaround will end up being more respect given to you. The last thing insurance companies want to see is the inside of a courtroom, where an angry jury will make them pay.

You Can Qualify for Financial Compensation By Proving Negligence

Before filing any claim or lawsuit, you must know the responsible party. In a truck accident case,

anyone whose negligence caused injuries may owe you money to pay for what they did. Here, negligence may mean the following:

  • The other party owed you a duty of care
  • They did not uphold their duty of care because they acted unreasonably under the circumstances
  • You suffered an injury
  • You would not have suffered an injury had it not been for the actions of the other party

While these elements might seem simple enough, they can be surprisingly complicated legal principles that are difficult to prove. You need evidence to prove each one to succeed in your case.

Your Truck Accident Lawyer Can Find Out Who You Can Sue

A group consisting of a lawyer, legal advisor, they are engaging in a brainstorming session to clarify the agreement details.

More than one person or entity may owe you a duty of care. Of course, a truck driver in your vicinity on the roadway owes you a duty of care, even if they never meet you. If a trucking company hires a third party to perform work, that third party will owe you a duty of care, even if you are never privy to their contractual relationship.

One of the challenges you may face is learning who was to blame for the truck accident and gathering the evidence to prove it. As the claimant, you have the burden of proof in your case and must show that the other party was negligent by a preponderance of the evidence. You do not have to prove they were to blame with 100 percent certainty, but you should show that it is more likely than not that their actions were to blame for their injuries.

Trucking Companies Are Usually Responsible for the Actions of Their Drivers

The trucking company is the most likely party that will need to pay for the damages caused by your truck accident. It will not benefit you to sue the truck driver because they will not have the assets or the insurance coverage to pay for your damages. The trucking company is the entity that has the money to make you whole.

In personal injury law, a concept called respondeat superior is Latin for "let the master answer." Here, the master is the employer. Trucking companies and their operators are the same entity regarding the damages the truck driver causes. Trucking companies can be responsible for anything the truck driver does when on the job. The only way they may not be liable is when the employee uses the truck for personal errands or does something to cause harm intentionally. Trucking companies can even be liable when the truck driver does something reckless, such as drunk driving.

Trucking Companies Should Have Sufficient Insurance to Pay You

A cargo truck is parked outside a warehouse building, ready for loading or unloading.

Federal regulations require trucking companies to have a minimum of $750,000 in insurance coverage. These laws recognize that you will have likely suffered significant damages in your case. The law intends that you should not be left holding the bag when you have suffered a severe injury in a truck accident. In reality, most commercial insurance companies should carry far more insurance coverage than just the bare minimum.

From the trucking companies' perspective, having a more extensive insurance policy is wise. Their existence can be at stake in a truck accident lawsuit, and a spate of nuclear verdicts have put trucking companies out of business. Angry juries have slapped trucking companies with massive verdicts for deplorable and egregious conduct. Trucking companies often cut corners in the name of profits, and juries try to make them pay. There have been many cases in which a nine-figure jury verdict has meant the end of the trucking company itself.

Your Truck Accident Attorney Performs a Full Investigation of Your Accident

Your lawyer will do a full investigation after your truck accident. The National Surface Transportation Board may investigate your accident but only cover some bases. For example, its investigation will not work to uncover all the possible defendants who you can sue. Your lawyer's job is to help maximize the value of your claim by naming all potential defendants in your case.

There May Be Other Potentially Responsible Parties in a Truck Accident

While the trucking company is most likely the defendant, other parties may also be liable for damages caused by your truck accident. Many smaller trucking companies work with third parties to handle crucial tasks because they do not have the budget or the money to perform many of these functions. For example, trucking companies may outsource the critical function of maintenance of their trucks. You can sue the third-party maintenance company for negligence if a mechanical failure caused the accident. In addition, you can sue a third-party cargo loader if improperly loaded cargo causes the accident.

Suing for Truck Accidents Caused By Third Parties

Still, trucking companies may be unable to escape liability because they chose to outsource a critical function to a third party. They must adequately scrutinize who they hire for a crucial job and cannot simply outsource a function to anyone. Trucking companies must perform due diligence before entrusting a critical task. At the same time, trucking companies must also cut loose and fire a contractor if there is any hint that they are not doing their job correctly. Trucking companies can also be sued for negligent retention when they do not cut loose a contractor who has a dangerous record.

Product Liability Lawsuits for Defective Trucks

A truck loaded with gravel sits by the roadside, its damaged wheel hub and tire evidence of an accident. It awaits maintenance, stranded until repairs can be made.

Sometimes, the truck caused the accident, where an essential element may have failed. Even if the driver did everything right, you may have still suffered an injury because a crucial part was defective. In that case, you can sue the company that made the part or sold the truck in a product liability lawsuit.

First, you must prove that the truck, or a crucial part, was defective. If you succeed, anyone in the stream of commerce can be strictly liable for the damages that you have suffered.

Here are some possible defects that can legally entitle you to financial compensation for your injuries:

  • Design defect - there is an inherent flaw in the design that makes the product unreasonably dangerous. For example, a defect can make the truck more likely to roll over.
  • Manufacturing defect - everything is fine with the design, but something goes wrong during manufacturing, making it unreasonably dangerous.
  • Marketing defect - the manufacturer knew, or should have known, of danger in the product and failed to warn the public about it. 

Truck Accidents Damages Can be Higher Because Injuries can be More Serious

There is a reason why truck accident cases are often worth more than the average car accident case. Because of the size disparity between the truck and your vehicle, a tremendous amount of force hits your car in a truck crash.

In addition, truck accidents often occur on highways at a higher speed. Either way, you have likely suffered a severe injury in the accident, and you might be facing a lifetime of damages from what happened in an instant.

You need to move forward with the proper financial support to cover your bills and losses. Your truck accident attorney should have experience handling cases with severe injuries and costly losses.

Truck Accident Lawsuit Defendants Have More Money to Pay Your Damages

In addition, you are also dealing with defendants who often have deeper pockets than the average personal injury defendant. In a car accident case, the driver may have an insurance policy with a coverage limit of several hundred thousand dollars. Then, it may not be easy to collect from them as they may not have the assets to satisfy a judgment you may obtain. It is an entirely different ballgame in a truck accident case. Unless you have been in an accident with an owner-operator, you are likely dealing with a defendant with deeper pockets. They have the money to satisfy a judgment, and your attorney has the skill and determination to collect from them on your behalf.

While your damages may not vary, remember that each defendant has an insurance policy and assets that can satisfy a judgment. Even the trucking company may not have enough to pay for your harm. Your lawyer will advise you to name all possible defendants in the lawsuit. You do not have to worry about who pays what; that is for them or the court to figure out in your case.

All you need to do is prove that each is responsible for your damages. Then, they will be jointly and severally liable for your damages. In other words, you must prove fault, and they must worry about paying you.

The time to hire a personal injury lawyer is as soon as possible after your truck accident. Valuable evidence may be available to prove who was to blame for the truck accident. If you wait too long to hire an attorney, you can lose the proof that you need to qualify for money for your injuries. Even worse, the insurance company may pressure you into making a statement against your interests or accepting a settlement that only pays you pennies on the dollar for your serious injuries. Be sure to reach out to a lawyer soon.

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James Wayne Holliday Author Image

James Wayne Holliday

James Wayne Holliday has been practicing law since 1995. He has been named as a “Best Attorney” Lifetime Charter Member in Florida, an honor awarded to less than one percent of the nation’s lawyers.

Mr. Holliday has earned a reputation as a relentless trial lawyer because of his outstanding work ethic and thorough preparation of his cases for trial.

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