Who Can I Sue After a Semi-Truck Accident?
Every 15 minutes, someone is killed or seriously injured due to a semi-truck accident. Since serious trucking accidents are fairly common, victims frequently end up needing to file lawsuits against one or more of the responsible parties to get compensation for medical bills and other losses that have been incurred. If you are involved in a semi-truck accident, there are several different individuals and organizations you might be able to hold responsible.
Of course this is the most obvious answer to “who is liable after a truck accident?” Though not every trucking accident is the driver’s fault, it is still quite common for the driver to be at least partially liable. The driver is often liable if they have been doing something that would put the safety of occupants of other vehicles at risk. There are a myriad of rules and regulations truckers must follow, and ignoring any of them can mean the trucker is negligent.
Potential reasons for liability often involve the driver ignoring rules of the road, doing things like speeding or running stop signs. A driver can also be liable if they were willingly doing something that would impair their driving, such as driving without enough sleep or being on their phone while they are behind the wheel. Furthermore, truck drivers are responsible for keeping their truck and their cargo maintained properly. If something like a blown headlight causes the accident, the trucker can be at least partially at fault.
The Trucking Company
A minority of semi-truck drivers are entirely independent operators. Instead, most of them work for a trucking company or carrier. When a person injures someone else during work hours, their employer typically shares some of the liability. The employer is liable because they are responsible for their employee’s actions. If you are in a crash, your tracking accident lawyer will need to examine the company’s behavior closely.
As a business, a carrier has a duty to hire truck drivers without a history of negligent behavior. They also have the responsibility to properly train their drivers. Therefore, if a driver is not aware of safety regulations or constantly breaks safety regulations, their trucking company is at fault.
In some cases, the trucking company may be even more directly responsible. There have been past trucking accidents where an otherwise safe and reliable driver was pushed into poor behavior by their employer. If a carrier is pushing their drivers to work overtime, skip maintenance, or ignore inspection requirements, they may be held financially responsible for the losses that an accident victim has incurred.
The Cargo Loader
Semi-trucks are often hauling thousands of pounds of weight in very delicately balanced trailers. If there is the slightest problem in how cargo is loaded, something can go horribly wrong. Even when the trucker and their trucking company are being careful, improperly loaded cargo can shift. This can throw the entire truck off balance, causing it to tip, slide, or brake improperly.
It is worth looking into cargo handlers after an accident because many companies contract the job to another organization. The cargo loader is supposed to follow extensive regulations on how cargo is balanced and held in place. If they skip any of these regulations, they can be partially or even entirely liable when an accident occurs.
Because semi-trucks are so massive, they use a very complex mix of parts and equipment. In any accident, it is a good idea to investigate all failed parts and see whether any of them could have contributed to the problem. For example, if a tire blows out or brakes fail, that can cause unsafe driving conditions that lead to a crash.
A failed part is not automatically the manufacturer’s fault, since in some cases the issue may be that the part was not maintained. However, if it was being used according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and still failed, the company that produced the part might be at fault. Proving this will typically require your trucking accident attorney to do extensive research on your behalf, but it can be quite rewarding.
Government Agencies or Contractors
Though rare, it is possible for a government entity to be sued following an accident. Though the trucker and all related companies are responsible for handling the truck safely, they are not responsible for the road itself. Any adverse road conditions could cause a responsible trucker to end up in a crash.
Ultimately, it is usually the government’s responsibility to keep roadways in safe conditions. Issues like broken-up pavement, a soft shoulder, or excessive flooding could all be the local or state government’s responsibility. In addition to suing the government itself, you might also be able to sue any contractors working on that part of the road. Any party that is supposed to be handling the road’s upkeep can be liable in certain types of accidents.
Other Third-Party Vendors
Since the trucking industry is so complex, it is not uncommon to outsource different types of work. It is possible that certain things that are typically a trucker or carrier’s responsibility may have been contracted to another vendor. There is a huge amount of variety in the types of vendors that typically work with trucking companies. Any time one is involved, they may share some liability for an accident.
Third-party vendors often handle administrative work, such as recruiting drivers in the first place or running background checks on drivers. If the contractor fails to perform these duties carefully, an unsafe driver could end up working for the company and getting in a wreck. Vendors may also help with things like cargo selection or scheduling, so there are all sorts of ways they can be liable in a crash.
How to Handle Liability Following Your Trucking Accident
Ultimately, there are all sorts of parties who can be involved in your trucking accident. In a truck accident lawsuit, it is possible to sue more than one party at a time. When several groups are responsible for your injury, you can request that they all pay a portion of the compensation you are owed. Often, the court will assign a certain percent of liability to each group and then have them each pay that percentage of your overall settlement or award.
This sort of lawsuit can be a little more complex, since it requires extra research and paperwork. However, with an experienced trucking accident attorney, the process will be as stress-free as possible. Your lawyer should be able to assist you with gathering proof, determining who is liable, and filing paperwork to sue these parties. Depending on your case, you might be able to negotiate a settlement, or you might end up pleading your case in court. If you win, all the liable parties may be required to assist with medical bills, lost wages, and other compensation.
After a trucking accident, it is important to get assistance from a New Jersey attorney who has experience with these types of complex matters, and RAM Law is here to help you. You can visit us at one of our convenient locations in Freehold, New Brunswick, and Somerville, or you can call 732-394-1549 for a free case review. Learn more about our services by contacting us today.