Establishing Liability for a Truck Accident
The first step in receiving compensation after an accident with a truck is determining who is at fault. If the accident was caused by a faulty part on the truck or issues unknown to the driver, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to sue them personally. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t obtain financial compensation. Instead, you need to target liable parties.
Establishing liability is more complex in truck accidents simply because of all the moving parts and different entities involved in maintenance, driving, loading, and repairing a truck. You may have legal rights to sue the vehicle manufacturer if defective parts were the primary cause of the accident. While rare, these instances contribute to about 2% of truck accidents on the road. The government agency responsible for road maintenance and safe driving conditions may also maintain a degree of liability if a defective roadway is what caused the truck accident. Although possible, filing a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) against the government requires skill and knowledge from an experienced truck accident lawyer.
With that being said, most accidents are caused, at least in part, by the driver of the vehicle. Poor road conditions, bad weather, sleep deprivation, prescription medication use, and reckless driving can all drastically increase the chances of an accident while on the road. When you add other drivers to the mix, getting behind the wheel of a truck requires a degree of responsibility and attention. If a truck is fully loaded and traveling at regular speed, the driver needs about two football fields worth of distance to come to a safe, complete stop. This further exacerbates the dedication to paying attention to their surroundings.
In an attempt to reduce truck accidents, federal regulations mandate the hours of surface that individuals can perform within any given day. Different states have different rules for how long a driver can be on the road in a row. In Texas, an interstate truck driver can drive for 11 hours as long as they’ve had 10 consecutive hours of rest and their shift isn’t longer than 14 hours in total. A driver that won’t cross state lines can drive for 12 hours as long as they’ve had eight hours of rest and their shift isn’t longer than 15 hours. Unfortunately, any elongated period of driving can lead to accidents if the driver is fatigued, under the influence of illegal substances, speeding, or driving recklessly. In these cases, you can personally sue the truck driver for negligence.
Suing an Individual After Settling
If the truck driver’s insurance company reaches out to you and offers you a settlement payout, don’t accept it. Doing so will close the case and remove your ability to sue the driver. While the settlement may seem attractive upfront, it will likely only cover the property damage and immediate medical costs associated with your hospital bills. It won’t include any emotional trauma, ongoing medical payments for long-lasting injuries, or lost income incurred from the accident itself. While there are some exceptions to this, it’s better to obtain a personal injury lawyer and refuse any settlement payouts.
Another potential liable party is the trucking company that employs the driver. Lately, there’s been an increase in pressure to meet delivery demands, which can result in companies taking short cuts to try and hire more drivers. This might mean they avoid performing background checks or don’t look into prior traffic violations, fail to provide sufficient training, or neglect their fleet of vehicles. If evidence points to any of these aspects as a contributing factor in the accident, you can sue the company in addition to the driver.
When trucks aren’t properly maintained, the risk of an accident increases. Therefore, the mechanics employed by the trucking company or the outside mechanic shop that performed work on the truck may also be found liable in an accident. This is usually only the case of there are crucial errors found in a post-accident inspection, but it’s worth the effort of looking into.
Other parties that may be found liable include the owner of a truck if it’s an independent vehicle, the cargo loading company, the freight company, and the manufacturer of the faulty part that caused the accident. By working with a truck accident attorney, you’ll ensure that the proper evidence is collected to prove liability of all parties involved. This could lead to one person or multiple parties, thus increasing your chance of maximizing compensation for the accident.
What’s Covered Under Financially Awarded Compensation