Who is Responsible for Commercial Truck Accidents?
If you were injured in an accident with a large truck, tractor-trailer, big rig, or any other sort of commercial vehicle, you may be wondering what to do next. Insurance may be able to help pay for injuries, but the insurance company is not responsible for the accident. In many cases, you may be able to hold the negligent truck driver and their employer, the trucking company, responsible for the injuries they caused.
After a truck accident, it is important to talk to an attorney to understand your rights and options. You may be able to seek some compensation through insurance, but it may not fully cover your needs. Talk to the experienced truck accident lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team today to understand who you can hold responsible for a commercial truck accident.
Who to Sue for a Truck Accident
There are no automatic rules that hold a truck driver liable after a trucking accident, but in many cases, the truck is clearly the vehicle that caused accident. There are dozens of additional rules and regulations for truck drivers across the country. Many of these rules deal with the number of hours that truckers can drive, aiming to reduce tired driving accidents. Other rules deal with maintenance and equipment, such as weight limits for trucks, while still other rules govern the health and sobriety of commercial truck drivers. If the driver or their trucking company violated any of these rules, they may automatically be liable for truck accidents.
In many cases, the totality of the circumstances judges which vehicle is responsible for the crash. If you are judged to be partly responsible for the accident, you may still be able to recover in most states. Nearly all states in the US allow an injured victim to recover compensation from the other driver so long as they were less than 50% or 51% responsible. A select few bar these drivers from recovering, while an even smaller number will allow drivers to recover some fraction of the damages even if they were 99% liable for their own injuries.
If the truck driver was responsible for the accident, you may not be limited to suing only the truck driver. If the truck driver was employed by a trucking company, you may be able to recover from the trucking company as well.
Suing Trucking Companies for Driver Errors
Most states allow you to reach beyond the truck driver and sue their employer alongside them. Usually, you can only sue those who are directly responsible for your injuries. In fact, in order to successfully sue for personal injury after a truck accident, you must prove four elements:
- The liable party owed you a duty – such as the duty to drive reasonably on the road;
- The liable party breached that duty – such as by speeding;
- The breach caused your injuries; and
- You suffered injuries and other damages the court can repay you for.
These four elements prove another party’s “negligence” in an accident. If the trucking company was negligent in their own right, you may be able to sue them directly. However, most states also allow you to hold them “vicariously liable” for their employee’s negligence.
In the first case, you can sue trucking companies for their own negligence. This may involve failing to properly maintain or service the truck that hit you or forcing the driver to violate federal trucking rules, drive tired, or speed to make deadlines. Trucking companies are, ultimately, the ones who put the drivers behind the wheel. If they put a dangerous driver behind on the road, they could also be held responsible for negligent hiring or negligent retention of an employee. If the truck driver has a history of drunk driving, severe accidents, or traffic violations, the trucking company may be directly responsible for hiring such a dangerous driver.
If the trucking company was not independently responsible for the accident, they can usually be held liable as the truck driver’s employer. Under a rule called “respondeat superior,” employees can often be held liable for the negligence of their employees. If a truck driver causes an accident, you may be able to sue the trucking company, as a whole, since the truck driver is a representative of that company. Most states require that the driver was working within the scope of their employment duties when the accident occurred for this rule to apply. Any time the trucker is on-duty and behind the wheel, they are likely to be considered “within the scope of their employment,” and you should be able to sue the trucking company.
Trucking Accident Victims’ Attorneys
The truck accident injury lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team represent injured truck accident victims across the country. If you or a loved one was injured by a negligent truck driver or negligent trucking company, talk to a lawyer today. The Truck Accident Team may be able to help you get compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. For a free consultation with your experienced injury lawyers, call (215) 246-9000 today.