Who Can Be Held Liable for a Truck Accident?

Posted on behalf of Phillips Law Group on Sep 20, 2017 in Auto Accidents

truck driving on highwayA traffic accident that involves a commercial truck is often more complicated than a collision that occurs between two passenger vehicles.

Although commercial truck accidents can result in much more serious damages and injuries, these types of collisions are often complicated because several parties could have played a role in causing the accident.

The Phoenix truck accident attorneys the of Phillips Law Group are well-versed in Arizona’s commercial trucking laws and the federal regulations imposed on the trucking industry. We will work to identify the cause of your truck accident and which of these parties is be liable for the damages.

What Parties are Involved in a Truck Accident Claim?

Numerous parties are involved with putting a commercial truck in service and maintaining it. Because of this, there could be multiple parties liable for the accident, including the:

  • Truck’s driver
  • Company that leased the truck
  • Truck’s owner
  • Loader or owner of the vehicle’s shipment
  • Manufacturer of the truck or the vehicle’s components

Because so many parties are involved in a commercial trucking operation, it can be difficult for most people to determine which one is actually responsible for the accident that resulted in your injury.

Our attorneys will perform a thorough investigation to determine the accident’s cause and identify which parties can be held liable.

Driver Error

Drivers of commercial vehicles have a duty to operate their vehicles in a way that ensures the safety of all motorists sharing the roadway. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) demands commercial truck drivers are qualified and meet the federal requirements to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

However, the FMCSA estimates that commercial truck drivers are 10 times more likely to be the cause of an accident than dangerous road hazards, poor vehicle maintenance or poor weather conditions.

Errors that truck drivers can be held liable for include:

Substance Abuse

The FMCSA strictly regulates all commercial drivers’ actions and behaviors, including monitoring drivers’ controlled substance and alcohol use.

Trucking companies are required to test drivers for illegal substances prior to hiring. Drivers are also prohibited from consuming drugs or alcohol when operating a vehicle and must submit to drug and alcohol tests, especially after a fatal accident.

A commercial truck driver cannot refuse to submit to a required drug or alcohol test. If a driver refuses to comply with a required test, the driver’s employer must prohibit the driver from performing high risk functions.

If a drug or alcohol screening shows that a driver involved in an accident has used drugs or has a blood alcohol concentration of .04 percent or higher, the diver is at fault for the accident.

Fatigue

Drivers must follow the FMCSA’s “hours of service rule” that restricts the number of hours they are allowed to drive. Sleep deprivation is a major cause of commercial truck accidents and can prevent a driver from:

  • Focusing on the roadway and on his or her own driving
  • Making sound decisions
  • Reacting to sudden changes in traffic
  • Recognizing signs of potential danger

Federal laws were created to prevent these behaviors from causing severe traffic collisions and require drivers to follow a strict schedule:

  • After 10 consecutive days on duty, a driver can only drive for 11 hours a day.
  • Drivers of long-distance trips must maintain a log for their breaks and sleep schedule.
  • Drivers can only begin driving after they have taken an eight-hour rest break.
  • Drivers are not allowed to drive a commercial vehicle after 60 hours in a consecutive seven-day period, or for 70 hours in a consecutive eight-day period. A driver must take a minimum consecutive 34 hours off duty before he or she can resume driving a commercial vehicle.

If you believe your truck accident may have been caused by driver fatigue, our attorneys will obtain the driver’s sleep log to determine if he or she followed the FMCSA’s rest requirements.

Equipment Failure

Another common cause of truck accidents is mechanical failure or defective vehicle parts installed during the manufacturing process, such as:

  • Defective brakes
  • Broken or defective tractor-trailer hitch
  • Transmission failure
  • Defective steering wheel
  • Worn or defective tires, resulting in a blowout
  • Defective lighting on the truck or tractor-trailer

The FMCSA requires that trucking companies regularly inspect their vehicles and uphold a maintenance schedule detailing when a vehicle has been serviced or undergone repairs. Our attorneys will acquire the maintenance log for the truck involved in your accident to determine if the party responsible for performing maintenance has upheld its obligation.

Trucking Company

Many trucking companies will try to distance themselves from an accident to avoid liability. However, there are several ways that our attorneys may be able to prove a trucking company is at fault for a victim’s damages.

Is the Driver an Employee?

We will need to determine if the driver is employed by the trucking company or if he or she is an independent contractor. This is important because trucking companies are not liable for the actions of independent contractors.

However, we will be able to determine if the driver is employed by the trucking company after obtaining a copy of his or her employment record. After reviewing the terms of the driver’s contract, we can establish whether he or she is an employee and the trucking company can be held liable.

Does the Company Own the Vehicle?

We can also hold a trucking company liable by proving it owns the truck that was involved in the accident. Often, trucking companies will lease its trucks from another company that is required to maintain and inspect the vehicle.

Our attorneys will help you prove whether the vehicle is owned by the trucking company by requesting the vehicle’s registration and proof of ownership.

What are the Company’s Practices?

The FMCSA requires trucking companies to follow its rules to ensure drivers are well rested and vehicles are properly maintained.

These laws and regulations include prohibiting trucking companies from imposing unrealistic deadlines for drivers that forces them to violate the FMCSA’s required sleep schedule.

Also, a trucking company must follow all inspection and maintenance rules for any vehicle it is responsible for to ensure the truck is ready and safe for road use.

If a trucking company does not comply with the FMCSA’s requirements, it can be held liable for the damages caused by a truck accident.

Contact Our Lawyers Now

Truck accident claims are rarely simple and often involve several parties that can be held liable for the victims’ damages. This may require the help of a skilled attorney with detailed knowledge of the complex structuring of trucking companies and the FMCSA’s policies.

Our personal injury lawyers are experienced in pursuing truck accident injury cases and will work to identify which parties can be held responsible for your injuries.

We can discuss the possibility of pursuing damages during a free, no obligation consultation where we review your claim and determine whether you have a valid case. All of our legal services are provided on a contingency fee basis, which means we only require payment if you are compensated for your claim.

Call or text 1-800-706-3000 if you were injured in a truck accident.

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