Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident?

Jason Hutzler January 20, 2023

Big trucks pose a considerable danger on the road. Despite all the precautions in place to help keep truck drivers and others safe, big trucks may become involved in accidents more often than smaller passenger vehicles when considering the number of vehicle miles traveled.

When you suffer injuries in a truck accident, you may wonder who bears liability for that accident. Should you hire a truck accident lawyer for pursuing compensation from the truck driver? The trucking company? Does a third party bear liability for the accident? Take a look at these commonly liable parties involved in Phoenix truck accidents and how determine who may bear liability for a specific incident.

The Truck Driver

Often, the truck driver will bear liability for an accident. Truck drivers must make decisions that impact how they travel on the road, including overall safety, like deciding whether to drive despite suspecting damage to the vehicle. Truck drivers also determine how they choose to control their vehicles. Truck drivers may bear liability when they make any dangerous decision on the road increasing the risk of an accident.

Distracted Driving

Driving while distracted can pose a problem for any driver. For truck drivers, who may need to react more quickly than the average passenger vehicle driver to avoid the risk of an accident, distracted driving can prove even more catastrophic.

Unfortunately, truck drivers may also have a more challenging time avoiding distractions on the road. They may eat or drink in the vehicle to save time, and use distracting tools to help keep them entertained. Furthermore, truck drivers may have difficulty keeping their attention on the road due to the long driving hours, which can lead to an increased risk of road haze.

Ignoring the Rules of the Road

Truck drivers must adhere to more rules than the average passenger vehicle driver. For example, they may need to maintain a slower speed when traveling through certain areas since big trucks need more maneuverability to travel at the same speed as a passenger vehicle.

Truck drivers who ignore the road rules, including trying to roll through stop signs and red lights, may bear liability for accidents caused by those acts of negligence.

Drowsy Driving

According to FMCSA regulations, truck drivers can spend up to 11 hours driving out of each 14-hour shift on the road. Those long hours can lead to marked drowsiness, especially since truck drivers may have to sleep away from home in unfamiliar or noisy locations, which can further cut down on overall rest.

Drowsy driving can significantly increase the risk to all drivers on the road. A drowsy driver may have some of the same symptoms as an intoxicated driver and may struggle to keep their vehicle safely on the road.

Driving a Dangerous Vehicle

Sometimes, truck drivers may choose to keep driving despite noting a problem or hazard with the vehicle. For example, a truck driver might notice that the truck’s brakes fail to catch properly but continue to drive anyway because they want to get home or because the company pressures them. If that dangerous decision causes an accident, the truck driver may bear liability for the incident.

Blind Spot Collisions

Big trucks have large blind spots where truck drivers cannot see what takes place around them. Those large blind spots can pose a serious danger, especially when other vehicles sit in them for long periods or the truck driver fails to properly look around the truck before completing maneuvers, including changing lanes or turning. If a truck driver’s failure to adequately monitor blind spots causes an accident, the truck driver may bear liability for the accident.

The Trucking Company

Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident?

In many cases, the trucking company may share liability for the truck accident with the truck driver. Trucking companies must carefully maintain their vehicles and provide a high overall safety standard. Under several circumstances, the trucking company may fail in that duty of care, leaving the trucking company liable for an accident.

Ignoring Federal Regulations

The FMCSA issues a number of important regulations that govern both the steps that truck drivers and trucking companies must take to protect their drivers and others. Failing to follow those regulations, including regulations that may govern how often big trucks need maintenance, can leave the trucking company liable for any damages that may occur due to this failure.

Failing to Properly Monitor Drivers

Trucking companies must pay careful attention to their drivers’ actions on the road. While that does not necessarily mean that trucking companies must perfectly track every movement that drivers make, it may mean that they need to reconcile log books to ensure that truck drivers do not spend too much time on the road.

They should keep an eye on their drivers’ records. If a truck driver has a history of causing accidents regularly, and the trucking company does not address those issues, the trucking company may bear liability for further accidents caused by that driver.

Failure to Ensure Drivers Have Proper Training

With the truck driver shortage continuing to cause problems for many trucking companies, many companies may push drivers into trucks without ensuring they have the training necessary to handle those routes and the challenges that may accompany them.

Truck drivers may, for example, need to know how to drive in dangerous weather conditions, including snow and ice in winter, or how to navigate tight streets and congested highways in major cities.

While truck drivers need considerable behind-the-wheel training before getting a commercial license, they may not have the opportunity to drive in those dangerous conditions before they take to the road with a company truck for the first time. Trucking companies may need to ensure that their drivers receive the proper training for the conditions they face.

Dangerous Policies

Trucking companies must establish policies that keep their drivers safe on the road. They dictate how long their drivers can drive, how they have to turn in their logbooks, and what may happen in potentially dangerous situations. In some cases, however, trucking companies may have policies encouraging dangerous or even reckless driving.

For example, the trucking company may have policies that encourage speeding, including setting too-tight routes and penalizing drivers for late deliveries.

Insisting a Driver Drives Despite Dangers

Drivers often have to make judgment calls about whether they can safely continue their routes. When dangerous weather hits, drivers may need to decide whether they can safely keep driving or if they need to pull off the road until the weather subsides.

Drivers may also need to determine if they can safely drive despite illness or if they have had enough time to shake off inebriation from drinking the night before. Sometimes, drivers may call in to inform their companies that they cannot safely continue the route, but the trucking company pressures them to continue driving anyway.

If the company pressures a driver to continue to drive despite challenges that could make it more dangerous, and that driver causes an accident due to those dangers, the company may bear liability for the accident.

The Truck Manufacturer

Big trucks have a lot of important parts that must run smoothly to keep the truck operational out on the road. Unfortunately, sometimes, manufacturers may not put these parts through adequate testing or may discover that the parts can pose a danger to truck drivers but continue to install them and keep them in operation.

When a truck or its parts break down on the road, leading to an accident, the company that manufactured the truck or part may end up bearing liability for the accident.

The Loading Company

Shifting loads can pose a danger for many trucks out on the road. Loading the truck’s cargo with care can make a massive difference in the stability of that load on the road, decreasing the risk of an accident that may involve devastating injuries.

On flatbed trucks, that may mean properly securing the cargo and ensuring it stays tied down during the run. In an enclosed trailer, that may mean ensuring that the load gets distributed properly and will not fall during transport.

Sometimes, trucking companies will hire third parties to deal with loading the truck. Those loading companies may bear liability for shifting load accidents, including falling cargo, which can cause jackknife accidents or damage to vehicles as the cargo falls.

The Company That Owns the Cargo

In some cases, the company that owns the cargo may bear liability for the damages caused by an accident. Some companies may need to transport dangerous or hazardous cargo.

During transport, the company that owns that cargo must carefully inform the trucking company of any dangers associated with transporting that cargo and take necessary steps to protect it and ensure that it does not pose a danger.

Sometimes, however, those companies may try to cut corners, including failing to properly secure the cargo for transport and informing the trucking company of precisely what the transported substance can do. If the company’s negligence ends up causing or contributing to an accident on the road, the company may bear liability for those damages.

Other Drivers

Truck drivers and their companies will often bear liability for an accident on the road. However, not all trucking accidents involve truck driver negligence. Sometimes, another driver’s negligence may end up causing an accident. Other drivers may be liable for several dangerous behaviors that can cause an accident with a big truck.

Pulling Over in Front of a Truck

Sometimes, drivers may cut off a truck sharply, pulling over in front of the truck driver and not offering adequate room for them to stop or slow their vehicle. Many drivers do not realize how long it takes to stop a big truck. They may assume that the truck driver has plenty of room. Unfortunately, the truck driver may not have time to safely stop the vehicle, making the other driver responsible for the collision.

Trying to Outrun a Truck

In some cases, other drivers may try to outrun a truck or get over in front of it so that the driver does not have to sit behind the big truck. Unfortunately, that behavior can cause the truck driver to lose track of the other vehicle. The driver may engage in reckless behavior to outrun the truck, which can result in an accident.

Ignoring the Rules of the Road

Drivers may often ignore the road rules when sharing the road with a truck because they do not want the truck to slow them down. When ignoring the rules of the road causes an accident, the driver may bear liability for that accident.

Contact a Lawyer for Help With Your Truck Accident Claim

If you suffered injuries in a truck accident, you might need a Pheonix personal injury law firm‘s attorney to clearly identify who bears liability for that accident to help you seek compensation for your injuries.

Contact an accident attorney to learn more.