Truck accident litigation is often very complex. When a collision between a commercial truck like a big rig or 18-wheeler and one or more smaller passenger vehicles occurs, the injuries suffered by victims tend to be major, as is the damage suffered by the vehicles themselves. Multiple passenger vehicles are also often involved in these types of crashes, which can mean that more than one claim may be involved.
One of the other main reasons trucking wreck cases tend to be complex is the fact that there are many layers to figuring out why most accidents occur and who is liable. Commercial trucks are typically owned by major corporations backed by large legal departments. When a collision occurs involving one of their vehicles, these legal departments are equipped to do whatever they can to argue that the company was not at fault.
With the help of an experienced trucking attorney, however, a victim of a truck accident can hold the true party at fault accountable—whether it was the company’s fault, the trucker’s, or perhaps both.
Before we discuss who is usually found liable for these types of devastating crashes, let’s examine some data on the causes of most truck accidents:
Why Do Most Truck Accidents Happen?
A study done by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that went over data from large truck crashes that happened over a period of 33 months broke down data related to the causes of truck accidents by identifying the critical events and reasons which led to the crashes. According to their data, among the traffic incidents involving 141,000 large trucks that were part of the study, the trucks were identified as the critical reason, or cause, for 55% of those crashes.
The critical reasons were then broken down further into the following categories, paired with their percentages below:
- Driver – 87%
- Vehicle (the truck in this case) – 10%
- Environment – 3%
As you can see, the drivers of the trucks, overwhelmingly, were found to be the critical reason, or cause, for many of the accidents. The driver critical reasons were then broken down even further:
- Decision (when a driver made the decision to travel too fast for conditions, misjudged the speed of other vehicles, or followed another vehicle too closely) – 38%
- Recognition (when a driver was inattentive, distracted, or failed to observe the situation for another reason) – 28%
- Non-performance (when a driver fell asleep or was disabled or impaired by a medical emergency such as a heart attack or other physical impairment) – 12%
- Performance (if a driver performed a poor driving behavior, such as panicking, overcompensating, or exercising poor directional control) – 9%
Who Can Be Found Liable in Most Accident Situations?
In the above section, we can see that truck driver error is one of the most common causes of truck accidents. When a trucker decides to drive faster than is safe, misjudges distance, is inattentive, or is so tired that they run the risk of falling asleep at the wheel, they are putting themselves and everyone else on the road around them in danger. In these situations, most would think it’s safe to say that the driver is at fault for the crash, but the process of determining who is 100% liable can be more difficult.
Investigations in recent years have placed trucking corporations under heavy scrutiny for pushing truckers to drive long hours without taking breaks or getting enough sleep. Trucking companies are supposed to follow regulations put into place by the FMCSA which govern how many hours truckers must be allowed to rest and take breaks, but these regulations are not always followed. Driver logs are even sometimes falsified to make it look as though regulations are being followed when they factually aren’t.
Trucking companies have also been known to take part in other negligent hiring procedures such as hiring drivers without the adequate amount of training or with a past drug or criminal record. These employers cut corners when they’re desperate for new hires or to deliver cargo faster to meet deadlines or make more deliveries. And negligent hiring and management behaviors like this, unfortunately, only tend to worsen during times when finding new workers is difficult.
One other way trucking companies can act negligently is by failing to perform adequate maintenance on their vehicles. They may choose to skip maintenance checks or fail to repair older truck parts to save a bit of money. If this negligence is found to be a cause of a crash, they could be held liable for failing to provide proper upkeep.
All of this means that after a truck accident, the trucker’s actions need to be investigated, but also the company they work for, the company’s hiring procedures, the truck’s driving logs, the truck itself, and the company’s history regarding how they treat their employees and if any corners are cut when making deliveries. If a company is willing to send out an overtired trucker, they may be willing to do so again—unless legal action is taken.
How Can a Lawsuit Hold a Trucker or Trucking Company Liable?
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident and you believe the driver and/or the trucking company may have been negligent, filing a lawsuit against the guilty party can ensure that the negligent decisions or actions come to an end. If the driver is found liable, they will be forced to take actions to make them a safer driver. If the trucking company is found liable, they will be forced to properly follow regulations and keep our roads safer.
During the process of filing a lawsuit, an attorney may find that multiple parties are liable for the wreck. If a driver fell asleep behind the wheel due to working longer hours than they should have, for example, both the truck driver and company may be held accountable since it was the driver’s direct actions that caused the crash, but also the company’s for encouraging longer hours than was safe.
As you can see, these types of claims can get exceptionally complex. To ensure that every negligent party is held accountable and that justice is granted, you need the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer who has gone up against major corporations like trucking companies in the past.