When it comes to determining who can be held liable for a truck accident, many factors may be involved. A thorough, time-consuming investigation is required to ensure that the responsible parties are identified and held accountable.
Vehicle accidents can be devastating on their own, even more so when a large truck is involved. These vehicle accidents can result in severe injuries and even death. Identifying who is liable is crucial to successfully winning the compensation you need for medical expenses, lost wages, and various other damages. Certain family member may even need to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Truck Accident?
On the surface, a truck accident may appear to be the fault of one or more of the drivers involved. However, the examination of many other factors is necessary to determine who all can be held liable.
Liability for a truck accident may reside with one or more of the following:
- Truck Driver: The cause of the accident may be due to the driver of the truck engaging in some type of reckless or negligent behavior, including speeding, distracted driving, not heeding traffic signs or signals, or being overly fatigued. Meanwhile, other factors that can contribute to an accident include the way cargo is loaded and general truck maintenance, the driver may be held at least partially liable for these factors. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) maintains strict guidelines for drivers, which must be followed in all circumstances.
- Truck Owner or Trucking Company: Ultimately, the truck’s owner or the trucking company is responsible for each truck on the roadway. This responsibility, in most instances, includes hiring and training the drivers they put behind the wheel. Finding proof of negligent hiring and training of drivers can lead to liability for an accident.
- Truck Driver Employer: The truck driver employer may be the same as the truck owner. Depending upon the circumstances, the truck driver employer, the truck owner, or both, may share liability.
- Contracting Businesses: If the truck involved in the accident is transporting cargo for another contracting business, that business may be liable in some way for the accident. For example, if cargo is packaged prior to pick up by the truck and, in turn, a cargo shift occurs while the truck is in motion, the owner of the cargo may be liable for the resulting accident.
- Contracted Vendors and Freight Brokers: Trucking companies often enlist the services of contractors or vendors to maintain their trucks and manage drivers. These contractors may provide maintenance to the trucks or be responsible for running background checks on drivers before they are hired. Freight brokers are often in charge of transporting items from one location to another. These third-party vendors may contribute to the cause of an accident and can be included in a claim.
- Truck and parts manufacturers: Truck accidents can be caused by faulty parts or systems of the truck itself. The truck and its many components may be defective from the start. If so, product liability may be involved, and liability falls on the manufacturer or its distributors.
- Public Entities: If the accident resulted from a hazardous roadway, such as one with a soft shoulder or broken pavement, whoever is responsible for that part of the road may be held liable. In addition, any government contractor involved in the maintenance of that area can also be held accountable. Engineers that helped design the roadway may also be at fault.
While truck drivers are legally required to exercise safety while operating their trucks, federal and state regulations also apply to others, including truck companies and manufacturers. If anyone involved fails to strictly adhere to these and an accident occurs, they can be held liable.
How is Fault in a Truck Accident Determined?
Wading through the maze of possibilities of who is liable in a truck accident is a daunting task. With guidance by a qualified legal team, the answer to how is fault in a truck accident determined all starts with a thorough investigation.
A thorough investigation is the first step to determine who can be held liable for a truck accident. This investigation needs to begin as early as possible, and requires the completion of several steps before filing your claim. For example, your legal team will need to:
- Collect accident scene evidence, such as taking photos from various angles and distances of the area, involved vehicles, and injuries
- Review the police report
- Schedule or review witness statements
- Hire an accident reconstruction specialist
- Review truck driver records: Under the FMCSA requirements, all trucking companies need to maintain a driver qualification file (DQF) which must include:
- training records
- employment history
- alcohol and drug test results
- driving record, including any safety violations
- certifications and licenses held
- hours of service.
- Examine truck driver logbooks: The FMCSA maintains strict rules on driving times and rests, requiring a recording of these in logbooks for each driver.
- Review weight records to identify any load issues
- Evaluate truck maintenance records, which may also be found in the DQF file of the driver as well as those with the trucking company or maintenance contractor.
- Examine the truck itself to determine if it has any failing or defective equipment and assess its overall condition.
By conducting a thorough investigation, a truck accident attorney can confidently identify potential causes and the liable parties.
Who Can Be Responsible for a Truck Accident?
When it comes to who can be responsible for a truck accident, answers will vary greatly, depending upon the results of the investigation. Multiple parties may be found liable.
In Texas, the proportionate responsibility rule applies, which is a form of comparative negligence. A percentage of responsibility will be assigned to each party found liable, and each will pay out compensation according to those percentages.
If you are determined partially at fault for the overall accident, you are still eligible to file a claim and obtain compensation. The compensation amount will be lower, however, based on the percentage of fault assigned.
Contact Our Truck Accident Lawyer Today
With so much potentially involved in a truck accident, sorting out all the details and establishing liability is challenging. You’ll need the help of a Houston truck accident lawyer to provide the level of experience needed to achieve a successful outcome.
Attorney Terry Bryant and his legal team are highly experienced in these types of cases and stand ready to review your accident claim. Call us at (713) 973-8888 or toll-free at 1 (800) 444-5000 today to schedule a free initial consultation.