In a typical passenger car accident case, the at-fault party assumes liability, and their insurance pays for medical expenses and additional costs incurred by the other driver. Commercial trucking accidents, however, tend to be more complex.
Even if the truck driver indisputably caused the collision, other entities may be held financially responsible.
Who May Be Held Liable for My Commercial Vehicle Accident?
Determining liability in a commercial vehicle accident case involves understanding the laws governing the employer-driver relationship as well as the federal regulations determined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Parties who can potentially be held responsible for failing to do their due diligence following safety regulations include:
- The driver. If the accident resulted from reckless driving, distracted driving, substance abuse, etc., you may be able to sue the driver, especially if the driver is an independent contractor and not an employee of the company for which they drive.
- The trucking company. If a trucking company’s negligence contributed to the driver’s poor driving behavior, it could be held liable. For example, if the employer encourages drivers to work longer shifts than hours-of-service regulations allow in order to keep up with delivery demands, they can be held responsible for an accident that occured due to driver fatigue. Or perhaps they failed to perform a legally required background check and hired a candidate with a history of DUIs. Other grounds for liability include neglecting to perform routine maintenance on vehicles or failing to train drivers to make safe decisions on the job.
- A third party, such as the vehicle manufacturer or the company responsible for loading the cargo. The FMCSA provides regulations for cargo weight and securement. The truck and cargo together cannot surpass the maximum weight limit, and the weight must be distributed between the axles to prevent the dangers of transporting an uneven load. If cargo has been poorly loaded or there’s a defect in the design of the vehicle that has gone undetected in inspections, the fault may lie with a third party instead of the driver or their employer.
What Are the Common Causes of Commercial Vehicle Accidents?
Pursuing a successful claim against one of these parties requires a deeper investigation into why the accident occurred. Semi trucks can weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger cars, making them a significant threat to other vehicles sharing the same Austin roadways. Due to their weight and size, they take longer to brake and accelerate and are difficult to navigate through sharp turns.
These vehicles must be operated and maintained with the utmost caution in order to ensure the safety of everyone on the road. Unfortunately, the people responsible for safe operation and maintenance often neglect their responsibilities. Here are the most common causes of truck accidents involving some form of negligence:
- Driver fatigue
- Drug and alcohol use
- Insufficient driving training
- Poor vehicle maintenance
- Reckless or aggressive driving (speeding, tailgating, changing lanes without signaling, etc.)
- Cell phone use
- Improperly loaded cargo
Understanding the causes for the accident that may not be immediately apparent is essential to determining who should be held liable.
Commercial Vehicle Accident Settlements
Truck accidents tend to be far more damaging and devastating than accidents between passenger vehicles, and a substantial settlement is often needed to cover the injured party’s losses. If you have been injured in a commercial vehicle accident, you may be entitled to financial recovery to address your medical costs, missed wages and future earnings, loss of quality of life, and other related expenses.
How Can a Commercial Truck Accident Lawyer Help?
Commercial vehicle accidents are complex and require a deep understanding of applicable laws, as well as an ability to manage communication with multiple parties and their insurance companies. Hiring a Texas commercial truck accident lawyer positions you to receive fair financial recovery for your losses.
There are many legal nuances when it comes to commercial vehicle accidents. The decision to sue the driver, the employer, or both depends on the driver’s employment status, but that may not be as black and white as it initially seems. For example, an independent contractor is usually responsible for their own actions but could potentially be deemed a “statutory employee” of the company they work for based on whether or not that company withholds federal expenses from their paychecks.
FVF’s expert Austin commercial truck accident lawyers will navigate the nuances of your case, investigate and document evidence, negotiate on your behalf, and offer critical support and guidance. We offer free, no-commitment case evaluations so that you can understand your case and feel confident taking the step. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.