Trucking accidents differ from car accidents in many ways. Compared to car crashes, trucking accidents typically have a higher cost of damages; and, determining who is negligent and liable can be complicated.
When there is a collision involving a truck, the driver is not the only person who can be held liable and responsible. If you don’t know all the hands that might be responsible, then you might not get all that you deserve.
The toll of trucking accidents
In the last twenty years, the number of trucking accidents has increased by over 20%. Over 130,000 thousand people are injured each year in trucking accidents. Additionally, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, nearly 5,000 people will lose their lives to a trucking accident this year alone.
Only about three percent of all accidents involve a truck, but the toll of trucking accidents is more severe, and the consequences to those who are involved are much more significant.
What are the laws by which a trucker has to abide?
Truck drivers are held to a higher standard of conduct when they are traveling down the road. Certain laws exist to help determine who is liable and responsible when a truck is in a collision. The majority of the federal regulations related to trucking are located in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, along with the US Department of Transportation, is responsible for regulating the trucking industry and getting involved when a truck is in an accident. Also, each state has their own set of trucking laws and regulations.
When there is a trucking accident, who is liable?
When a trucking accident happens, there may be more than just the driver who is liable. Other parties who might be found responsible are:
- The company who owns the trailer or truck
- The company that leased the trailer or truck to the truck driver
- The company that manufactured any part of the vehicle that could be responsible for the accident like the tires, the brakes, or whatever caused the truck to crash
- The cargo loader or shipper who loaded the truck (if it was loaded improperly)
When a trucking accident happens, it is not uncommon for the parties involved to try to deny their liability. It is not unusual for the separate insurance companies to try to avoid being held liable by claiming that someone else is to blame.
Is it possible for a trucking company to avoid responsibility?
Trucking companies traditionally work hard to put distance between the driver of the truck and themselves. They do so by leasing the equipment instead of owning it. In the past, companies could claim that the driver was an independent contractor; therefore, the trucking company could not be held liable due to vicarious liability.
Once a company leases out their truck, they give the driver a “placard” that has both the trucking company’s name and the permit number under which they operate. Since the placard is then placed on the door of the truck, it gives the appearance that a company owns the truck and the trucker is an employee of that company.
When leased out, if the truck is in an accident, they can argue that the person operating the truck was not an employee, and, therefore, the trucking company is not responsible. They might also claim that the company is not the owner of the equipment itself, so they are not responsible for maintaining, inspecting, or operating the vehicle or equipment.
New federal regulations and laws have made the insurance company’s arguments obsolete. The federal government caught on to the placard strategy and companies can no longer use this tactic to avoid liability. Any company who owns a trucking permit is now responsible for a trucking accident regardless of whose placard is affixed to the truck.
These companies do rarely have your best interest in mind; that is why it is essential if you are in a trucking accident, that you hire a truck accident attorney who specializes in the complexity of trucking accidents. Typically, many people are both liable and responsible; therefore, you need a professional who knows how to identify the level of responsibility of each and to get you the full compensation to which you are entitled.