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Published on November 7, 2023

A Step-by-Step Guide to the Truck Accident Legal Process

Truck accidents can result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities. In 2019 alone, over 5,000 people died in crashes involving large trucks. The statistic came from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

For victims and their families, understanding the legal process after a truck accident is crucial. This guide will walk you through the key steps to navigate these complex cases.

Understanding the Magnitude of Truck Accidents

In 2021, large trucks were involved in 16% of all motor vehicle crash deaths, per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Most fatalities were occupants of passenger vehicles, not truck occupants. These events highlight the sheer magnitude of truck accidents. 

These statistics are startling. But understanding the root causes of these accidents can provide clarity. It can also potentially lead to preventive measures. But with how complicated the process is, consulting truck accident attorneys is a big help. They know the law regarding these accidents like the back of their hand. Hence, they can assist anyone to arrive at a beneficial resolution.

Determining Legal Responsibility in Truck Accidents

In the realm of vehicular accidents, truck accidents present a unique challenge. Not only do they result in a higher percentage of fatalities, but determining liability can be a complex process. In 2019, a staggering 74% of all fatal crashes involving large trucks were multiple-vehicle crashes, according to IIHS. Though rattled, parties should try to take pictures of the incident so attorneys have evidence to go through.

The complexity arises because there are often multiple parties involved in the accident. Thus, they all share responsibility regarding the event:

  • The truck driver: They may have been negligent through these cases:

  • Speeding

  • Driving recklessly

  • Operating the vehicle unsafely

Determining if driver error or negligence caused the crash is crucial.

  • The trucking company: As the driver’s employer, they can be vicariously liable for the actions of their employee. This logic falls under the legal theory of respondeat superior. The company may have also been negligent in the following:

  • Maintenance of the truck

  • Inadequate driver training

  • Forcing unsafe work hours

  • The company leasing the truck: If the truck is leased, the leasing company may share liability. The case can stem from improper maintenance or equipment defects.

  • Manufacturers: Defective equipment like faulty brakes can contribute to the crash. If so, the product manufacturers can share the blame.

  • Other motorists: In multi-vehicle crashes, other drivers may have contributed through their negligence.

  • Government agencies: In these cases, government bodies overseeing those areas may shoulder responsibility:

  • Poor road design

  • Improper or poorly maintained signage

  • Other hazards

With so many potentially liable parties, experienced attorneys are needed. They can help to investigate faults and handle these complex cases.

Truck Driver’s Liability: When is the Driver at Fault?

While there are many possibilities, the truck driver is very commonly deemed partially or fully at fault due to their own negligence. Some examples include:

  • Speeding or Reckless Driving: Excess speed is a major contributor to truck crashes. In 2019, it was a factor in 26% of all traffic fatalities. Truck drivers have a duty to operate carefully.

  • Distracted Driving: Certain actions can divert the driver’s attention. Texting, eating, or operating electronic devices can be distracting. They make accidents more likely.

  • Fatigue or Impairment: Certain influences can significantly slow reaction times and decision-making. Drowsiness, illness, intoxication, and drug-impaired driving are the most common causes. Trucking companies may pressure drivers to work excessively long hours, leading to fatigue.

  • Poor Maintenance: Failure to inspect and maintain the vehicle can result in accidents. Brake defects, tire blowouts, and other mechanical problems may be linked to crashes.

  • Improper Loading: This refers to unbalanced or shifting cargo that is improperly loaded. It can affect the truck’s stability and handling.

  • Error in Judgement: Lapses in judgment like these cases can be catastrophic:

  • Unsafe turning

  • Merging

  • Passing

It can be disastrous, especially when large trucks are involved.

Any of these or other forms of negligence can contribute to the accident. When it does, the driver will likely share fault and legal responsibility. An attorney will need to thoroughly investigate the specific causes.

Employer’s Liability: When is the Trucking Company Responsible?

In the intricate web of truck accident liability, the trucking company’s role is pivotal. The legal theory of respondeat superior can hold the employer accountable for the actions of its employees. 

For instance, there was a rear-end accident case that settled for $210,000. It showcased the complexities of determining liability especially when multiple parties are involved. The truck driver claimed that the accident caused his labrum tear and needed surgery. However, the initial insurance offer was only $25,000. That is until they reached the final settlement amount. This example demonstrates that the trucking company can share responsibility.

With such intricate details involved in truck accident cases, it’s natural to have questions. Let’s address some of the most frequently asked questions about the truck accident legal process.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I determine if the truck driver or the trucking company is at fault?

Determining fault requires understanding the nuances of liability. One also needs to know the factors that determine responsibility. Investigating the causes like equipment failures or driver errors will shed light on who is negligent. And as a result, they’re also the ones to be held accountable. It may be the driver, company, or both.

What if the truck driver was an independent contractor?

If the driver is an independent contractor rather than an employee, the lines of liability blur slightly. The key differentiation is that the trucking company has less control over contractors. However, there are instances of the contractor acting negligently “within the scope” of their work duties. Then, the company can potentially share liability.

How do state and federal regulations impact my truck accident case?

Compliance with regulations is critical in the trucking industry. Violations of state or federal rules, like hours of service limits for drivers, can strengthen the case for negligence. The outcome of an insurance claim or lawsuit can hinge on whether parties were flouting important regulations.

Seeking Legal Counsel: Why It’s Essential

Commercial truck accident cases can involve complex cases. Obtaining legal representation is highly recommended. An attorney can guide you through the following if needed:

  • Insurance claims

  • Settlement negotiations

  • Court representation if needed

They will determine all liable parties. As well as build the strongest argument for just compensation under the law. Don’t navigate the truck accident legal process alone. Seek counsel to protect your rights and get the maximum recovery possible.

Truck accidents can be devastating with long-lasting consequences. Understanding the legal process is the first step on the road to obtaining justice. With the aid of an attorney, the liable parties can be held fully accountable for their actions. Don’t delay in seeking legal assistance after a truck accident. Your physical and financial recovery depends on it.

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