While automobile accidents can be dangerous enough on their own, accidents involving commercial trucks hold much greater potential for harm due to the vehicles' large size. The maximum total weight of a truck and its load is capped at 80,000 pounds by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Injuries caused by commercial truck accidents can be severe, and people injured in crashes may choose to seek compensation.
Who Is Responsible In A Truck Accident?
In a typical car accident, the person responsible for the accident is often one of the drivers. However, when a commercial truck is involved, who is at fault may depend on the cause of the accident. There are several parties who may be liable for a truck accident, including:
- The driver of the truck
- The driver's employer
- The owner of the truck
- The individual who leased the truck
- The manufacturer of the truck
- The organization responsible for loading the truck
If an employee crashes a commercial truck while on the job, for example, the employer may be held financially responsible for injuries to others through the theory of vicarious liability. By this theory, employers are responsible for their employees' actions throughout the course of business. If an accident was caused by a faulty part or a malfunction of the truck, on the other hand, the manufacturer may be held responsible under the concept of product liability.
Proving Fault In A Truck Crash
Proving fault in a truck accident can be difficult because of the many factors that can cause accidents and the many parties that can potentially be liable. Generally, the injured party will need to prove that someone along the line was negligent. To do so, they'll need to prove that:
- the defendant owed the victim a duty of care.
- the defendant failed to uphold that duty.
- the failure to uphold the duty caused the victim's injuries.
Many commercial trucks are now outfitted with a black box similar to the ones used in airplanes that records data about a crash. The data collected usually includes the speed of the vehicle, speed patterns and when the driver used the brakes. This can help prove negligence on the part of the driver or the employer.
Individuals can also collect information about the state of equipment at the time of the accident by contacting federal and state agencies. If the brakes were not properly maintained or the tires were too worn down, this information should have been recorded and can help prove that improper maintenance led to a crash.
Jackknifing and Turning Accidents
While truck accidents can occur just like car accidents, there are two common types of crashes specific to commercial trucks: jackknifing and turning accidents. During sudden braking and turning, large trucks may jackknife, which is when the trailer skids to one side and is at an angle to the cab.
If it can be demonstrated that the jackknife took place due to factors outside of the driver's control, such as a slippery road, the driver may not be held fully responsible. Every case is fact-specific, of course, so the driver could well be fully or partially liable. Turning accidents, meanwhile, are often considered the fault of the driver. Turning accidents occur when two lanes are taken up to complete a turn or a turn is executed from an inside lane.
Compensation Related to Commercial Truck Accidents
There are multiple types of compensation that people who have been involved in truck accidents may be able to collect. Along with the cost of repairing a vehicle and medical bills, people may also be able to collect damages for pain and suffering, lost wages and lost earning capacity. In some cases, if the victim dies as a result of the crash, the victim's family members may also be able to collect damages for loss of companionship and financial contribution. The specific types of damages that can be collected vary by state. A lawyer may help clients determine what damages they can seek.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.