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Who Can Be Held Liable for a Truck Crash?

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a closeup of the front of a truck

A truck crash is often devastating for everyone involved. However, there is no doubt that those outside the truck are the ones who suffer the most. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 4,119 people died in crashes involving large trucks, and of those deaths, 16% were truck occupants, 67% were passenger vehicle occupants and 15% were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.

Given the potentially life-changing effects of truck crashes, it is important for you to understand your rights in this situation before it happens. Below, we discuss the various elements of a truck crash, including who may be held liable for such an event.

Understanding Liability for Commercial Vehicle Crashes

Commercial vehicles like trucks, taxis, limos, and the like, are unique in that they have multiple parties involved in their maintenance and operation. This differs from typical cars that only have one liable party--the owner of the car.

Since multiple parties are involved in commercial vehicles’ maintenance and operation, then it follows that multiple parties may have played a role in any crash involving a commercial vehicle. With the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, you can identify any and all liable parties for a truck crash and recover the maximum possible compensation from them.

In general, the parties that may be held liable for a truck crash include:

The Truck Driver

When most people consider liability for a truck crash, the truck driver is the prime candidate. While the truck driver may share some liability for a crash if they drove recklessly or negligently outside of their employer’s control, they are rarely held solely liable for such an incident.

However, a truck driver could be held criminally liable on their own if they were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and may be charged with a DUI after the crash.

The Trucking Company

Most of the time, the truck driver’s employer will be held largely responsible for a crash involving a truck from its fleet. This is true through the legal concept of “respondeat superior,” or vicarious liability, which holds an employer legally responsible for the wrongful acts of an employee, if such acts occur within the scope of the employment.

Additionally, a trucking company may be held liable for a truck crash if it is found to have pushed its drivers to unsafe limits that violate the federal hours-of-service regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Sometimes, trucking companies give their drivers incentives to meet unreasonable delivery deadlines, either by promoting financial incentives or threatening termination.

Lastly, a trucking company may be held liable for a truck crash if it is found not to have maintained its fleet properly. Trucks must receive regular inspections and maintenance to keep them in safe operating condition for long drives over various terrain. If trucking companies do not inspect or maintain their fleet (or falsify records that they did so when they did not) they may owe the plaintiff significant compensation.

The Truck’s Manufacturer

Sometimes, a truck is inherently defective out of the manufacturing gate. If an error occurred during the truck’s design, manufacture, or even marketing process, the truck’s manufacturer may be held liable for damages through product liability law.

Under product liability law, manufacturers have a legal responsibility to design and manufacture functioning equipment, and to recall any equipment that is found to have a failure as soon as possible. Manufacturers must also properly market their products to warn consumers of any potential threats that could arise through use of their products, and instruct consumers how to identify and mitigate these threats. The failure to uphold this legal responsibility may make the manufacturer liable for any crash that results from use of a vehicle they produced.

The Cargo Loaders

A truck’s cargo must be loaded securely and evenly in order to prevent cargo shift. If the cargo is not loaded onto a truck correctly, and a subsequent cargo shift leads to loss of control of the vehicle and a crash, then the cargo loaders may be held liable for damages. However, this may also fall under the legal concept of “respondeat superior,” or vicarious liability, so it is important to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Injured in a Truck Crash? We’re Here to Help

Crashes involving commercial vehicles are more complex than those involving passenger cars, and require the guidance of a seasoned legal professional. At Lanier Law Group, P.A., our North Carolina personal injury attorneys have the experience and resources needed to take on large trucking companies and their insurers. The case results below demonstrate our expertise in this area of the law:

  • $1,800,000: Litigation settlement for a client that was involved in a motor vehicle accident when a Shuler meat truck ran a red light and collided with their vehicle. The accident led to the client’s death.
  • $1,200,000: A settlement against a trucking company that struck a pedestrian leading to amputation.

If you or someone you love has been harmed in a truck crash, we encourage you to contact our team today to learn how we may help you obtain justice.

Call Lanier Law Group, (855) 757-4204 to schedule a free consultation.

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