Who is Liable for a Truck Accident?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Sean A. Koch with Law Office of Bruce A. Ralston.

Who is Liable for a Truck Accident?

There are often multiple parties involved in a truck accident, so it might help to understand a little bit about how liability works in a truck accident if you find yourself involved with one. In many cases there is the truck driver, the standard passenger vehicle driver, and potentially a trucking company, not to mention other passengers who might have been injured in a collision with an 18-wheeler. Due to the size and weight of semi-trucks, it’s not surprising that when wrecks occur, they can be truly catastrophic.

Parties commonly involved in a truck accident include the following:

  • Car driver: Drivers of passenger vehicles are not protected from liability in the event of an accident with a tractor-trailer. Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for cars to quickly change lanes or tailgate a large semi-truck, forgetting that it takes a large truck a greater amount of time to brake or react to changes on the road. Similarly, drivers of passenger vehicles are just as susceptible to distracted driving as truck drivers
  • Truck driver: Truck drivers have the same susceptibility to distractions as anyone else, with the additional heightened risk of driving while fatigued. Due to the long hours truck drivers typically work and pressure from clients and trucking companies to stay on the road as long as possible, it’s not uncommon for truck drivers to break speed limits, fail to perform adequate maintenance, and forego industry-required rest breaks, resulting in dangerous situations for anyone sharing the road with one of these large trucks.
  • Trucking company: It is not uncommon for trucking companies to pressure their drivers both indirectly and directly to break industry regulations and traffic rules in order to move their freight as fast as possible. As a general rule, if a truck isn’t moving, it isn’t making money; the quest for greater profit can result in oversights and cutting safety corners with serious consequences.
  • Insurance companies: Both car drivers, truck drivers, and trucking companies all have the possibility of their own insurance. While some drivers choose to travel uninsured, this is strongly discouraged as it can result in an accident in which there is no money to pay for damages such as medical bills, lost wages, or a new vehicle. Trucking companies have their own insurance companies, which can complicate matters even further. It may help to remember that insurance companies make money by bringing in as many policies as possible while paying out as few claims as they can.

In truck accidents, liability generally falls between the drivers.

Despite pressure from a trucking company, truck drivers themselves are generally considered liable for any mistakes made while driving. This applies to passenger vehicle drivers as well. For example, a passenger vehicle driver can claim that someone in the backseat told them to run a stop sign, but regardless of the truth of that claim they will be held accountable for their decision to run the stop sign. Truck drivers are required to know the rules of their industry and follow them despite any outside pressure. Considering that most truck drivers are independent contractors who don’t work for one specific company and carry their own insurance, this is often a non-factor. To learn more about liability in truck accidents or to discuss your situation with a professional, seek legal counsel.


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