Understanding the Parties Who Could be Involved in a Trucking Accident
A trucking accident is different from a typical passenger vehicle accident. Usually, trucking accidents are marked by the catastrophic damage they cause and involve multiple parties.
According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in 2015 alone 4,311 large buses and trucks were involved in fatal crashes, recording an 8% increase from 2014. Between 2009 and 2015, there was a 20% increase in truck accidents overall. Other vital statistics for 2014-15 are:
- Total number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes rose from 3,749 in 2014 to 4,050 in 2015.
- The number of large trucks involved in injury crashes decreased by about 1 percent, from 88,000 to 87,000.
- Total number of large trucks involved in property damage only decreased to 342,000 from 346,000.
- The number of buses involved in fatal crashes increased from 236 to 261 (11%).
So it is paramount to understand who is potentially involved in an accident involving commercial trucks and the role they may play. An experienced lawyer specializing in truck accident cases can guide you to determine which party involved in the accident bears the maximum responsibility. Identifying all parties is a complicated task for most people and this is why a legal pro is required here.
- All parties involved in a commercial truck’s creation and operations must unanimously ensure its safety and security. Such parties include the vehicle’s manufacturer and its parts such as the engine, tires, brakes, etc.
- Loader or shipper of the cargo to be carried by the truck.
- The truck’s owner.
- The company leasing the truck from its actual owner.
- Truck driver.
Typically, most lawsuits start with the truck driver being put in the legal crosshairs first. However, it has to be proven that the driver was driving recklessly or erratically, the cargo being carried was improperly secured or loose, or the truck’s brakes failed due to a mechanical problem, and so on for example.
It is compulsory for the truck driver to hold a proper license to drive a commercial vehicle. This is available only after completing the necessary formalities set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Accidents happen for a number of reasons. The main ones are:
- Substance abuse by drivers when operating commercial vehicles such as alcohol and drugs. In fact, federal regulations stipulate that trucking companies must test all drivers for drug or alcohol use before they are hired. Drivers, moreover, are required to undergo random alcohol and drug tests while on duty or after an accident. Refusal to take the test may result in immediate dismissal or penalty. Should the driver test positive for an alcohol concentration of over .04, he can be held liable for any accident caused by his vehicle.
- Driver fatigue is yet another factor that may be the reason behind an accident. Federal law states that for 60 hours of driving, a driver should be allowed to rest for 34 hours before he resumes operations again. Should driver fatigue be suspected as the cause of the accident, the driver’s log book has to be carefully examined to determine if he was overworked and hence, fatigued.
- Driver error, vehicle, or equipment failure and defective tires and brakes are largely responsible for truck accidents. If defective brakes and/or tires are found to be responsible, the brake and tire manufacturer, the truck’s lessee, and also the owner-operator responsible for brake and tire maintenance, may be held responsible as well. They can all be put in the legal crosshairs.
Further Vital Information
The trucking company becomes liable if it is proven that the brakes were tampered with or were inadequately maintained. Moreover, if recalled tires caused the accident, the manufacturer of such may be held responsible too. It is also the trucking company’s responsibility to carry out periodic tire inspections to ensure quality performance. If they do not do this, this can be a legal strike against them.
The liability of the trucking company comes into play when the driver is its regular employee and not employed by an independent contractor, the vehicle is under the company’s direct control, and they dictate the means and manner in which the driver’s duties are performed.
The company’s liability also increases if it fails to comply with all maintenance requirements, approved vehicle parts, and inspection deadlines required by federal regulators for any commercial vehicle it owns. On the other hand, if the truck is leased, then the onus lies with the leasing company for maintaining the truck and making sure it has satisfied all inspections according to FMSCA regulations.
The number of parties involved in any truck accident can make it difficult to determine who is liable. This is why you need legal help to fight through this mess and to make sure all accountable parties are written up in this lawsuit. Nothing needs to fall through the legal cracks!