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Indianapolis Personal Injury Law

Liability Issues After a Semi-Truck Accident

Liability Issues After a Semi-Truck Accident

Semi-Truck accidents can cause serious injury to drivers and passengers on the road. Following a trucking accident, it is imperative that you contact an attorney who is experienced with this type of crash for various reasons. A semi-truck accident attorney can help you with every stage of a lawsuit so that you can recover for your injuries and receive the maximum possible settlement. However, sometimes even determining who to bring a claim against in the first place is complicated because liability in a truck accident can be complex.

Possible Liable Parties in an Accident

 

There are several people and/or companies that may be held liable in a trucking accident, and who you sue depends on several different circumstances. For example, was the truck driver an employee or an independent contractor? Was the truck owned by the driver or by a company? Was the truck properly maintained? Was the cargo in the truck properly loaded? Was the accident due to negligence or recklessness on the part of the driver?

There are so many questions primarily because there are several possible causes of truck accidents. These common causes include:

  • Driver error: common driver errors include speeding, following cars too closely, dangerous lane changes, failure to obey traffic signs, failure to adapt to adverse weather or road conditions, failure to stay in a lane, fatigued driving, distracted driving, or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Improper cargo loading: cargo that is not properly secured can shift and cause a truck to roll over or for a driver to lose control.
  • Improper inspection or maintenance: trucks should be regularly and adequately inspected and maintained. Brake failure, tire blowouts, and trailer attachments are commonly malfunctioning truck parts that can cause serious, fatal accidents.

Once your lawyer determines the exact cause of the truck accident, she can help you decide which parties to sue. Possible liable parties often include the driver, truck owner, truck manufacturer, manufacturer of specific defective parts on the truck, 3rd party companies that perform truck maintenance, the owner or loader of the cargo, or the company who leases the truck or employs the driver.

When a Trucking Company Can Be Held Liable

 

In many cases, a trucking company may be a party against which you can file your truck accident insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. It is critical to recognize when this may be a possibility as trucking companies are required by law to have more extensive insurance policies and also generally have more available assets than an individual truck driver will. That being said, trucking companies also have more resources to fight against liability so it is imperative to be represented by a skilled truck accident lawyer who knows how to handle these often complicated cases.

Trucking companies can be held accountable for a truck crash in two primary ways:

  • Responsibility for the negligence of an employee (often the driver)
  • Negligence of the company itself

First, the law holds businesses liable for the negligent actions of their employees that cause harm to others under a legal principle called “respondeat superior.” This principle applies when the employee was negligent in the course of performing their job duties. Therefore, if a truck driver is categorized as an employee (as opposed to an independent contractor) and is making a delivery as part of their job with the trucking company, it is likely both the driver and their employer may be parties in a claim for injuries. There are complex exceptions to this rule, however, so you need an attorney who thoroughly understands the legal issues that may be involved in your case.

In addition, a trucking company may be negligent on its own in a variety of ways. Trucking companies have a duty of care to operate in a manner that keeps others safe, which includes motorists on the road with commercial drivers. When trucking companies violate the law or otherwise breach this duty of care, they can be deemed negligent and held liable for your injuries.

Some examples of negligence on the part of trucking companies include the following:

  • Hiring drivers who do not have the necessary commercial driver’s license (CDL)
  • Allowing drivers to operate HAZMAT or other specialty vehicles who do not have the training or endorsement to do so
  • Hiring drivers with a history of reckless driving and crashes
  • Hiring driver with a history of driving under the influence
  • Failing to conduct drug and alcohol testing on drivers as required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
  • Failing to discipline and suspend drivers for failing drug or alcohol tests
  • Not properly supervising drivers to identify dangerous practices
  • Not taking action against drivers who engage in dangerous practices
  • Allowing or even encouraging drivers to violate FMCSA hours of service regulations to make additional or faster deliveries
  • Failing to properly maintain the trucks owned by the company


While you may expect trucking companies to encourage safe practices by drivers, some companies attempt to increase profits by allowing or encouraging violations of law or other dangerous practices by drivers. In such situations, these companies should be held fully liable for any injuries caused to the fullest extent of the law.

As you can see, deciding who to bring a claim against can require extensive investigation and complicated questions. A lawyer experienced in accidents involving large trucks and semi-trucks has the knowledge and experience necessary to handle this claim for you.  It is important to do this as soon as possible to help ensure all evidence is preserved.
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