Truck Accident Liability

It’s not always apparent who’s liable when you get into an accident with a truck. It may be the driver, the company that owns the truck or the business for whom the truck driver works. Experienced trucking accident lawyers investigate accidents thoroughly to establish liability. They read police reports to discover the cause of the accident and find witnesses and experts to corroborate the findings. Seek the best truck accident attorneys in New Jersey at RAM Law. Call before you settle with insurance carriers who sometimes push you to accept a minimal settlement.

What Is Truck Accident Liability?

Truck accident liability refers to the legal responsibility that a party holds for a truck accident that’s caused damage to a property or injury to another person.

In a commercial truck accident, liability may involve several parties, including:

  • The truck driver
  • The trucking companies
  • The truck manufacturer
  • The government agency responsible for maintaining the roadways

Consulting with the knowledgeable attorneys at RAM Law in New Jersey addresses your questions about who is responsible for damages when it comes to a liability accident with a semi-truck or other common trucks on the road. Determining the liability for damages in an accident involving an 18-wheeler, for example, depends on the specific circumstances of your case. So consult with the experienced attorneys at RAM Law in NJ.

Can the Trucking Company Be Held Responsible for a Driver’s Actions in a Truck Accident?

Trucking corporations are legally bound to adhere to a multitude of state and federal regulations. Non-compliance with such regulations frequently exposes them to culpability. When the driver may have caused the accident, an investigation into the trucking company happens as well.

The primary factors that attribute liability to a trucking company for a big rig truck accident typically include:

  • Poor maintenance. To ensure the safety of other drivers on the road, the company must maintain and keep tires, fluids, windows, mirrors and lights in proper working order.
  • Inadequate operation. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the number of hours a truck driver may operate per day and week, along with mandatory intervals before resuming driving. These regulations, known as the Hours of Service, are a requirement for trucking companies to avoid fines and other penalties.
  • Inferior recruitment. Companies with inadequate hiring practices increase their susceptibility to liability for damages resulting from accidents caused by their drivers.

To offset their lack of suitable employees, trucking companies sometimes resort to negligent hiring practices that lead to truck accident liability problems for the company.

Common hiring practices may include:

  • Employing a driver without a mandatory Commercial Driver’s License
  • Neglecting to conduct a background check on a driver’s driving record
  • Hiring a driver with a history of traffic violations, such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is responsible for the actions of their employees while they’re performing their job duties. If a truck driver, as an employee of a trucking company, is acting within the scope of their employment when the accident occurs, the trucking company may be liable for any damages caused by the driver’s actions.

Can a Third Party be Held Liable in a Truck Accident?

A third party can be liable in a truck accident under certain circumstances. A third party is any person or entity not directly involved in the accident, but whose actions or omissions contributed to the accident.

Examples of third parties that may be liable in a tractor-trailer truck accident include:

  • Co-driver. If the co-driver’s actions or omissions contributed to the accident, that person may be liable. For example, if the co-driver was distracting the primary driver, interfering with the operation of the vehicle, or was under the influence, they may be held responsible.
  • Contractors. If a trucking company contracts with an independent contractor to provide services, such as maintenance or repairs, and an accident occurs due to the contractor’s negligence, the contractor may be liable for damages.
  • Cargo loading company. The company responsible for loading the cargo onto the truck may be liable if the cargo’s stacked improperly or if the company overloaded the truck, causing the truck to become unstable, contributing to a truck rollover type of accident.
  • Government agency. In some cases, a government agency may be liable when it’s responsible for road maintenance and safety. When poor road conditions, inadequate signage or other safety-related issues contribute to an accident, that agency may bear liability.

 

What Is My Liability if a Truck Registered to Me Gets into an Accident?

If you were negligent in some way — such as failing to maintain the truck properly, allowing an unqualified driver to operate the vehicle or knowingly allowing a dangerous or defective truck on the road — you as the owner may be liable and therefore responsible for damages.

If a truck registered to you gets into an accident, your liability depends on several factors, such as:

  • The cause of the accident
  • The laws in your state
  • The extent of your involvement in the incident

Negligence is a critical factor in determining liability in a truck accident. Negligence refers to a failure to take reasonable care that results in harm to another person or property.

In New Jersey, as the owner of the truck, you may be liable for damages resulting from the accident, including:

How Is Liability Determined if the Truck Accident Was Caused by a Mechanical Failure?

Liability for a truck accident caused by mechanical failure may be determined through an investigation of the accident. The investigation involves a review of the truck’s maintenance records and any available evidence of the mechanical failure. For example, a defective truck part necessary for braking may have contributed to a rear-end collision, a head-on collision, or another brake failure accident.

Other measures used in investigating a truck accident include:

  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Examining any available video footage
  • Reviewing the event data recorder, the black box for commercial trucks
  • Photos and videos of the accident scene
  • Trucking company accident reconstruction reports

Determining who’s liable in a truck accident may be complex, as it usually involves multiple parties and factors. For example, the truck driver may be responsible if driving recklessly or violating traffic laws occurred, while the trucking company may be liable if it failed to properly maintain the vehicle or adequately train the driver.

The expert attorneys at RAM Law in New Jersey are the premier truck accident lawyers. They know what questions to ask to determine liability. They review the collected information and evidence needed to prove liability and build a compelling case for compensation. Contact RAM Law when you need them.

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To schedule a confidential consultation, contact us online or call our offices, in New Brunswick at (732) 247-3600, in Somerville at (908) 448-2560, or in Freehold at (732) 828-2234.

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