The driver of a semi truck is responsible for the safe operation of both parts of the rig in the course of a haul: the cab (also known as the tractor) as well as the trailer. The cab is the driver’s primary means of controlling the 18-wheeler. What happens, then, when errors involving the trucking trailer cause the accident?
It is important to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible if you have been injured or a loved one was killed in a collision with a semi-trailer truck. Trucking trailer accident injury lawyer Mickey Fine can help you navigate the complexities of your 18-wheeler accident claim, including determining who is at fault.
Please contact The Law Offices of Mickey Fine at (661) 333-3333 today for a free consultation. Our tractor trailer accident lawyer serves clients in Bakersfield, and other areas of California.
Determining Liability for a Trailer Accident
In any truck accident investigation, it is important to evaluate the condition of both the cab and the trailer, as well as the load the rig was hauling. Although the driver doesn’t control the trailer in the same way that he does the cab, it is also important to take into account how the driver’s negligence contributed to the crash.
As with any tractor trailer accident claim, multiple parties may be at fault, including:
The Truck Driver
Errors on the part of the driver can cause the trailer to operate independently of the truck, increasing the risk of an accident. Some of the most common crashes stemming from a driver’s failure to maintain control of the trailer include:
- Jackknife accidents: A jackknifing accident occurs when the trailer swings out from behind the cab and folds to the left or the right. These accidents may be the result of excess speed, improper braking, and a failure to adjust to road conditions.
- Wide turn accidents: Semi trucks need extra room to make turns. If the driver fails to leave enough room between the truck and nearby vehicles, the trailer may collide with other cars on the inside or the outside of the turn.
- Rollover accidents: If the truck driver is going too fast or takes a corner too quickly, the balance of the weight in the trailer may shift. This can force the entire rig to tip over on its side or even roll on to the roof.
The truck driver may also be liable in the event of an override accident. Override accidents occur when the truck driver fails to see another vehicle in the blind spots on the side of the rig. The underside of the trailer collides with the top of the smaller vehicle, which may become trapped underneath the semi-trailer.
In addition to safely operating the 18-wheeler on the road, truck drivers must inspect the rig over the course of the haul. These inspections include critical components on the trailer, such as the brakes, tires, and coupling devices that connect the trailer to the cab, as well as the cargo.
Should the driver fail to inspect the trailer and its cargo or overlook a defective or malfunctioning part, he or she may be liable for a resulting accident.
The Trucking Company
Some truck drivers are independent, owning both the cab and the trailer they use to haul loads. In other cases, however, the trucking company owns the trailer. If the trucking company owns the trailer, then the company is responsible for ensuring the trailer is in safe condition to carry cargo. (A third-party mechanic or maintenance provider may be liable as well if they fail to perform necessary repairs and replacement of worn or broken parts.)
The trucking company is also responsible for hiring qualified, experienced drivers. If a driver’s negligence or inexperience causes a trucking trailer accident, the company may also be liable for the injuries and other damages in the wreck.
The Shipping Company
Although the truck driver is responsible for periodic inspections of the cargo, the company that loaded the truck also has a duty to ensure that all freight is properly positioned and secured on or within the trailer. Improper loading and securing of cargo may result in trucking trailer accidents such as:
- Rollover accidents
- Jackknife accidents
- Cargo spill accidents – unsecured items may fall off of or out of the trailer onto another vehicle, or loose cargo may create a road hazard
- Tire blowout accidents – the trailer’s tires may become gradually worn or spontaneously explode as a result of excess weight, causing the driver to lose control of the truck
- Brake failure accidents – an overloaded or improperly loaded truck takes longer to stop, increasing the risk of an accident
In determining the liability of the shipping company for the accident, it is important to investigate both how the cargo was loaded (i.e., was the trailer carrying too much weight, were the weight limits for one or more of the axles exceeded, was the load improperly balanced, etc.) and if the proper equipment was used to secure the load (such as straps, ropes, chains, etc.).
A Vehicle or Parts Manufacturer
Defects in the trailer and its component parts may be caused by wear and tear, or they could be the result of errors in the design, manufacturing, and/or distribution process. Investigation of the trailer after a trucking accident may uncover defects of the:
- Coupling pin and other parts of the coupling assembly
- Electrical system
- Latches and locks on the doors of the trailer
If a trailer defect was a factor in the accident, you may be able to recover compensation from the manufacturer and/or other companies in the supply chain through a product liability claim.
Contact Our Trucking Trailer Accident Injury Lawyer Today
Trucking accident claims are often complicated by the number of parties that may be at fault. An experienced attorney can determine who is liable and pursue the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Please call The Law Offices of Mickey Fine at (661) 333-3333 today for a free consultation. Attorney Mickey Fine has more than 37 years of experience handling tractor trailer accident claims on behalf of clients in Bakersfield, and other areas of California.