Liable Parties in Commercial Truck Accidents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, overall traffic fatalities are becoming less frequent. However, that is no thanks to truck accidents. The NHTSA predicts an increase in truck accident deaths despite the overall decrease. When truck accidents aren’t deadly, they’re often still incredibly damaging. To complicate matters, survivors don’t often have a simple personal injury case on their hands. With various entities involved in the trucking industry, finding out who is liable can be difficult.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Distracted driving is a bad habit that most motorists succumb to at one point or another. However, this negligent behavior can have much more devastating consequences when 20,000 to 80,000 pounds of truck are involved. Truck drivers who take their eyes off the road have a tougher time regaining control. Their vehicles can quickly turn over or swerve into several cars. Some truckers turn to drugs and alcohol to get them through their difficult shifts. Consequently, their decision-making is impaired. Intoxicated truckers are more likely to speed and misjudge obstacles on the road.
Overdue maintenance and faulty parts can also lead to truck accidents. To save time, some companies delay routine maintenance. It can encourage malfunctions like brake failure. Likewise, unsecured or overloaded cargo can push trucks past their limits. It puts undue wear and tear on the engine, brakes, and other critical mechanical functions.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Truck Accident?
More than one party can be liable for the injuries you sustain. With the expertise of a truck accident attorney, you’ll feel confident in knowing each one is held accountable in your personal injury case.
If negligent behaviors such as distracted or drunk driving lead to an accident, a driver may be held liable. This may lead to criminal charges against the driver depending on the circumstances of the accident. Additionally, drivers are responsible for duties like checking the rig to make sure it is safe and roadworthy. If they fail to fulfill their responsibilities, that may contribute to a crash.
The trucking company is responsible for the trucks and the drivers it puts on the road. It must adhere to safe hiring, training, and operating practices. Sometimes companies cut corners by asking drivers to disregard hours of service (HOS) limits. This keeps overworked and unalert drivers on the road. Also, if the carrier hires employees with FMCSA violations or other driving infractions on their records, then the carrier can be liable. The company has a duty of care to check for these infractions on a regular basis.
Some accidents are caused by one or more parts malfunctioning. Tire blowouts, for instance, could be a manufacturer’s fault. It is possible for both the manufacturer and distributor of the parts to be held liable in some cases.
Companies sometimes work as contractors to ship cargo. Multiple parties may be involved in the loading and transporting materials. Each entity is responsible for following all rules and regulations that apply to them. If cargo shifts and causes an accident, one or more of these parties may be at-fault.
Depending on the size of the trucking company there may be various third party vendors who do various functions. Although the trucking company is often ultimately responsible, those individual contractors may also be held liable.
Companies that use trucks don’t necessarily own the vehicles they use for business. The owner may be a third party who leases the trucks. In a situation like this, the owner of the trucks could be at-fault if they allowed a faulty product to be leased.
How is Liability Determined?
Many commercial trucks are equipped with event data recorders. Also known as black boxes, event data recorders collect and store information when an accident happens. When truck companies realize they could be held liable, they’re not eager to share this data. It is critical to have a truck accident attorney to investigate whether black box information is available. Your lawyer will make sure the data is discovered and revealed before it becomes lost or tainted. If your attorney suspects that improper maintenance or faulty parts led to the accident, he or she can investigate records to confirm that as well.
Along with the police report, statements from neutral witnesses can also be instrumental. Witnesses may have noticed contributing factors that those involved couldn’t see from their perspectives.
Can Multiple Parties be Liable for a Truck Accident?
If more than one party’s negligence contributes to an accident, more than one party can be liable. For instance, say a company knowingly allows a driver on the road with bad brakes. If an intoxicated truck driver crashes when the brakes fail, both the company and employee may share liability under Florida’s comparative fault system.
Receiving Compensation for Truck Accidents Damages
Once negligence is established, you can pursue compensation. Under Florida law you are entitled to both economic damages and non-economic damages. In some cases, you can collect punitive damages. Businesses in the trucking industry have substantial policies to cover all types of compensation. The more hazardous their cargo is, the higher the policy limits are. For instance, trucks transporting gasoline carry a minimum of one million dollars in coverage. However, their insurance companies go to great lengths to minimize their costs. Your personal injury attorney will ensure that you don’t settle for less than what is available to you.
Economic damages include all out of pocket expenses you incur due to the truck accident. This includes past and future medical bills such as bills for physical therapy, hospital stays, outpatient treatment, in home care, and nursing home care. Economic damages also include lost wages.
As truck accidents can be especially traumatizing, you can also collect for non-economic damages like pain and suffering. Your attorney can help you to pursue the maximum amount possible.
You may be awarded punitive damages if there is willful misconduct on the part of the trucking company or the driver. In other words, if these damages may be available if they knowingly took actions they knew could cause harm.
Contact a Florida Truck Accident Attorney
Trucking companies and their insurers will do anything to deny or minimize your claim. This includes tactics to make you seem liable for an accident. Hiring a truck accident attorney to represent you will protect you from these misleading practices. The attorneys of Jones Law Group have extensive experience in truck accident cases. Our dedicated team will thoroughly investigate the factors that led to your accident and aggressively seek compensation from each responsible party. For a free consultation, contact us online or by phone at 727-571-1333.