When commercial trucking accidents happen, investigators look into the many potential factors that may have contributed to the crash. In some cases, driver error coupled with poor maintenance are to blame for the collision. But oftentimes, investigators discover that other parties were also to blame, as they may have failed to keep up with their responsibilities.
This boils down to the simple fact that drivers aren’t always responsible for truck accidents. As a matter of fact, truck drivers are often the victims. When companies such as trucking, cargo, or manufacturing firms make mistakes, accidents are more likely to happen.
While it’s always important to call on expert truck accident lawyers in order to properly identify the guilty parties, there are certain factors that should be considered in the aftermath of a trucking accident. Below, I explain why other parties such as the trucking company, the truck owner, the cargo loader, or even the truck leasing company can be held liable for poor maintenance. I also explain why truck manufacturers could be at risk of having to pay for damages if one of the trucks they manufactured presented equipment issues at the time of the crash.
If you are a truck driver who likes to stay informed on your rights and duties, continue reading below.
When Drivers Can Be Held Liable
In many accidents, drivers are victims, however there are certain cases that do put drivers at risk of being held liable.
Federal regulations dictate that commercial trucking drivers must perform vehicle inspections before and after every trip. These inspections help to determine whether the truck is in good mechanical condition. Additionally, drivers are required to check the loads in their trucks before and during trips to ensure they are properly secured.
Despite these requirements, drivers aren’t the only ones who are seen as responsible for truck maintenance before the law. Commercial truck companies have a responsibility to ensure there’s good record-keeping of their vehicles, drivers, maintenance and inspection records, as well as a record of any mechanical issues and repairs associated with each vehicle.
In any case, if an accident takes place and there’s evidence a driver failed to keep up with his duties, he can be held liable.
When Are Trucking Companies Responsible For Accidents?
Federal regulations state that motor carriers are responsible for trucking maintenance, inspection, and repair when leasing a truck to a particular driver or company.
As a matter of fact, drivers are completely free from responsibility in many cases, as the carrier is “solely responsible for ensuring that the vehicles under its control are in safe operating condition and that defects have been corrected,” according to federal rules. However, proving that either a trucking company or the truck owner is the party who should be held responsible for an accident requires proof that inspection failures were to blame for the collision. While that’s not always easy to do, it’s not uncommon to find that firms often take measures that lead to incomplete inspections prior to accidents after a thorough investigation.
Sometimes, companies try to cut costs and end up compromising safety and making accidents more likely. Other times, they fail to have vehicles repaired out of fear of not being able to respond to the demand.
In those cases, experienced attorneys are able to prove that the trucking company is, indeed, responsible for a truck accident and that improper maintenance contributed to the crash. For that reason, victims should always rely on expert professionals.
Cargo Loaders Can Be Held Liable Too
When cargo being carried by a truck is not properly inspected or secured, it may interfere with how well the truck can travel. While drivers might be to blame for improper inspection in cases where the cargo became loose, it is often the cargo loader or manufacturer who is responsible for making sure that boxes and other cargo are properly secure and won’t move or fall off during transportation.
Some accidents happen simply because cargo becomes loose and spills out of the truck, even if the truck itself doesn’t collide with another vehicle. Other crashes happen when improperly loaded cargo cause the driver to lose control over the vehicle, swerving and eventually crashing.
Trucks may also rollover if cargo shifts during transport and even tip over, causing the cargo to spill onto the road. The debris could then expose other vehicles to accident risks. Depending on what the truck is carrying, spills could also expose drivers and nearby residents to potentially hazardous materials. It will be essential to determine if the cargo loader, and not the driver, is at fault for the crash.
Manufacturing Errors: Who’s Responsible For Defective Vehicles?
When truck manufacturers sell vehicles presenting equipment defects, drivers might not be aware of the potential risks until an accident happens or until the firm launches a recall. Unfortunately, many manufacturing errors and other issues might not prompt a recall until it’s too late.
In the case of an accident involving a truck with a manufacturing defect, the truck manufacturer can be held liable. That’s because trucking manufacturers are required by law to report any equipment issue to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration so that a recall can be issued. Too often, however, manufacturers will either ignore or try to buy time by not reporting on the issue promptly.
When manufacturers do launch recalls, drivers and trucking companies may be held liable in the event of an accident if they are aware of the issue but choose to postpone repairs prior to the collision. To avoid being held liable for damages, drivers and trucking firms should always stay on top of recall campaigns. Whenever you learn of an equipment issue impacting the truck you’re driving that could increase the risk of an accident or personal injury, act fast to prevent an accident.
When automakers launch recalls, fixes are often free. And if companies are negligent and take long periods of time to fix impacted vehicles, they risk being held liable for a great deal of damage. In other words, it is in their best interest to have these issues fixed as soon as possible.
For more information on who may be held liable for trucking accidents, be sure to always call on experienced truck accident lawyers.
About the Author
Kirk Bernard is an award-winning civil litigator in Washington and California. With over 30 years of experience, he specializes in personal injury cases representing accident victims.