Truck Accident Liability: Is The Driver Or Company Responsible?

May 26, 2024

By Promoting Justice

The legal process for obtaining a settlement for collisions involving large commercial trucks can be complex. Often one of the hurdles to be overcome in a truck accident case is determining the fault for the crash and resulting damages. Depending on the case specifics, the truck driver, truck company, or another party could be entirely or partly responsible. Truck accident lawsuits commonly list multiple parties as the defendants in the claim for damages. A substantial factor making accident cases involving commercial trucks more complicated is that the trucking company, or their insurer, may try to argue that another party, such as the injured driver of a passenger car involved in the accident, was partially or fully responsible for the accident, in an attempt to minimize their liability. Careful preparation, including a thorough investigation to gather the crucial evidence to establish legal responsibility, is essential. Call a qualified lawyer at Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer at 802-457-4848 to discuss establishing truck accident liability.

Who Is Responsible for a Truck Accident?

The process of determining liability is in many cases one of the most significant differences between collisions involving commercial trucks and other passenger car vehicles. Liability is the legal responsibility of a person or agency for the damages and losses other parties sustain due to one party’s negligence. In the context of a truck accident case, proving liability means establishing that a party caused an avoidable crash, typically through some form of negligence. 

Truck Driver Liability Evidence

Successfully proving liability in cases resulting from wrecks with 18-wheelers benefits from a strong knowledge of the federal codes that regulate the trucking industry as well as familiarity with processes for gathering essential evidence, including: 

  • Detailed incident description from the plaintiff
  • Eyewitness statements from bystanders 
  • Police report completed in the aftermath of the traffic accident 
  • Expert opinions and reports 
  • Truck operator driving records and medical records for verification that they meet the physical requirements that apply in the jurisdiction where the accident occurred, such as the Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in Vermont 
  • Photos taken of the incident and video footage, if available 
  • Cell phone records for the truck driver to verify whether they were texting on a phone call when the collision happened 
  • The truck’s electronic control module, also called the black box, for crucial data such as the speed at which the vehicle was traveling at the time of the accident 
  • The electronic logging device to review the trucker’s hours behind the wheel 
  • Vehicle maintenance reports 

After collecting all the necessary documents, an extensive review of the evidence is essential for determining the responsible party. 

Truck Driver Fault 

When a trucker’s negligence causes an accident, they may be the responsible party held liable for the damages sustained. Possible actions that could make them accountable for the damages include: 

  • Distracted truck operations or other reckless actions 
  • Failure to adhere to traffic and safety rules and regulations 
  • Failing to comply with the extensive trucking industry rules strictly regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) 

Even if there is evidence to show the trucker is liable for the damages, the company they work for could still share responsibility. 

Trucking Company Liability 

Certain circumstances can make the trucking company liable for the damages. Common examples of such circumstances include: 

  • Negligent hiring practices 
  • Employing drivers with inadequate training 
  • Failure to comply with trucking industry rules and regulations 
  • Inadequate supervision of employees 
  • Vicarious liability from sharing responsibility for fault because of the actions of a third party 

Determining whether a trucking company responsible for maintaining a vehicle can in many cases be even more complex than determining whether the truck’s driver is liable for an accident. Truck accident lawyers will often conduct an extensive investigation and evidence review in order to be sure that the parties they name as defendants are in fact responsible and can be proven liable in court.

Can Multiple Parties Be Held Liable for a Truck Accident?

A claim for damages from collisions with semi-trucks can list one liable party, but the lawsuit may also name multiple defendants in the action. While the truck driver is often named as one of the defendants in a truck accident case, other parties may also share fault. When cases list various defendants in the suit to recover damages, they may all be equally accountable, or some may share only a small percentage they are responsible for paying. 

The complexity of dealing with multiple at-fault parties often also means communication with multiple insurance providers, which can quickly become overwhelming for injured drivers who attempt to handle the process without legal representation. The seasoned personal injury lawyers at Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer understand the complexities and regularly conduct exhaustive investigations and evidence analyses on behalf of their clients to determine truck accident liability.

What Parties Can Be Held Liable After a Truck Accident?

The truck operator and trucking company are typically the primary parties held liable for damages in truck crash claims. However, other third parties may also be partially liable for the damages. Some examples of common scenarios include: 

  • The truck manufacturer could be at fault when a defective truck part causes a collision. 
  • Sometimes, truck crashes happen because of improper or overloaded cargo, and the loading company could be a defendant in the lawsuit. 
  • The company responsible for vehicle maintenance could be at fault if the collision occurs because of the brakes or tires. 
  • Commercial truck accidents also happen because of a third-party driver’s carelessness, and that person could be a defendant in the lawsuit. 

Driving large commercial trucks, such as 18-wheelers, requires obtaining a commercial driver’s license CDL and adhering to the federal government’s stringent regulations. When employers in the trucking industry fail to ensure their drivers comply with the requirements, they could share fault for the damages.

The Potential Recoverable Damages in Truck Crash Cases

After establishing financial responsibility, the court awards damages within two primary categories. Economic damages cover the plaintiff’s out-of-pocket expenses, such as lost pay and medical care. Noneconomic damages cover more subjective injuries, such as pain and suffering. Some of the damages for which truck accident victims commonly seek compensation include:

  • The current and future costs of healthcare related to the accident 
  • Medical equipment, devices, and prescriptions 
  • Lost salary, earning potential, and benefits 
  • Psychological trauma and emotional distress 
  • Permanent scarring, disfigurement, and disability 
  • Pain and suffering 

While there is no standard settlement amount, accidents involving massive semi-trucks are often severe, and the damages can be substantial. 

Call an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today 

Determining fault is a significant task in all vehicle collision cases. When these cases involve the trucking industry, the process can be especially lengthy and detailed. Having experienced counsel to handle communications and negotiations can in some cases play a substantial role in recovering a fair settlement successfully. If another party’s negligence caused you or your loved ones to sustain damages and losses, you may have the right to pursue legal action against those responsible. Speak to a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer at Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer by calling 802-457-4848 today to seek assistance in establishing truck accident liability. The office represents cases involving the trucking industry throughout Vermont, New Hampshire, and Florida.