Assuming the trucker is at fault for a truck accident is common. However, there are other people responsible for operating a commercial truck safely.
Trucking companies must maintain their vehicles, hire qualified employees, and offer adequate training to their drivers. A trucking company can be liable for someone’s injuries under specific circumstances if its trucker causes a collision.
Pursuing legal action against a trucking company requires following strict deadlines and a complicated process. When you file a claim, the insurance company will not be on your side. It is crucial to hire an experienced Bakersfield truck accident lawyer to represent you. They can protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve.
How Vicarious Liability Might Apply to a Truck Accident Case
Vicarious liability is a legal theory allowing a person injured in an accident to sue an employer if their employee’s negligence contributes to the injury. Vicarious liability might apply to your case if the truck driver’s negligent actions caused your injury in the crash.
The truck driver’s employer might also bear some direct responsibility for what happened. Despite the truck driver’s actions, their employer could be liable for knowingly hiring an unlicensed driver or failing to conduct a background check during the application process.
Establishing Liability After a Truck Accident
Your lawyer must prove specific factors apply to the accident to hold the trucking company liable for your injuries, such as:
- The trucker was an employee of the trucking company when the crash occurred. The company can’t be liable for the driver’s negligence if the driver is an independent contractor.
- The trucking company has authority over the trucker’s actions.
- The truck driver was fulfilling their work-related duties at the time of the collision.
Common Reasons Trucking Companies Are Responsible for Truck Accidents
Trucking companies have multiple duties. They must keep their trucks in good working condition, hire qualified drivers, and operate their business in a way that keeps others safe on the road. An error, oversight, or intentional misconduct on their part can lead to a devastating accident.
Failure to Maintain Commercial Trucks
One of the most common reasons trucking companies are liable for truck accidents occurs when they don’t maintain their trucks properly. Routine inspections and maintenance are necessary to ensure the truck’s parts and systems function correctly.
Skipping scheduled inspections or maintenance appointments and not repairing damage or defects can lead to system failure. For example, keeping recalled brakes on a truck can prevent the trucker from stopping in time to avoid an accident when those brakes fail.
Trucking companies must conduct background checks on all driver applicants. The background check should include reviewing criminal records, employment history, and previous accidents and traffic violations.
Ignoring issues with a potential driver’s application can have deadly consequences. If someone with a history of negligent driving operates a commercial truck, the chance of an accident increases.
Sometimes, trucking companies hire unqualified drivers during staffing shortages. They might not care about the safety of others because they’re more focused on meeting quotas and making money. Instead of taking the necessary time to find safe and responsible truckers, they hire anyone they can find to complete the job.
Trucking companies must evaluate their truck drivers regularly to ensure continued compliance with trucking regulations and state laws. A trucking company can be liable for the actions of a trucker who causes an accident if they know about the driver’s history of alcohol use but continue employing them.
Although the truck driver initially qualifies for the job and performs adequately, they might start using illicit drugs to stay awake at the wheel or cause multiple crashes. If the trucking company doesn’t regularly drug test, discipline them, or take steps to correct the problem, other accidents can occur.
Failure to Supervise
Employers must supervise their employees, especially in the trucking industry. A trucking company that doesn’t oversee its truck drivers’ actions can’t determine whether there are problems they need to address. Trucking companies must ensure their employees comply with company standards, adhere to federal and state laws, and follow the required protocols when issues arise.
How Driver Negligence Contributes to Truck Accidents
A trucking company’s actions can contribute to a truck accident. However, the truck driver is primarily responsible for safe driving. They are at the wheel and must maneuver around other vehicles carefully and focus on driving to react appropriately to hazards when necessary.
Following the posted speed limit is a requirement for every driver. Speeding is more dangerous for truckers because the faster a truck travels, the more distance it requires to come to a complete stop. The violent forces produced by an 80,000-pound vehicle during a collision can cause catastrophic damage, injuries, and death.
Truckers might disobey the speed limit to stay on schedule. Sometimes, they hurry to pick up or drop off cargo. Some will do more than speed to complete their tasks. They might also weave in and out of traffic, run red lights, and tailgate other vehicles. Any of these behaviors can lead to a crash.
Driving under the influence is another dangerous action truckers might engage in that increases the risk of an accident. Truck drivers must meet a higher standard of behavior than non-commercial drivers.
State law considers someone under the influence if they operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. The much stricter federal laws for truck drivers set a BAC of 0.04 percent or higher threshold for a DUI.
Long hours on the road can lead some truckers to send texts, watch videos, and browse the internet to pass the time and alleviate their boredom. Distractions prevent them from focusing on their surroundings. Distracted truckers might not notice stopped traffic ahead or a road hazard until it’s too late.
Many truck drivers also use GPS and other navigational systems to drive to unfamiliar destinations. Constantly checking the screen for directions takes their eyes off the road, increasing the risk of an accident.
Fatigue is a common problem for truck drivers. The maximum allowed driving limit is eleven hours after ten consecutive off-duty hours. Driving for eleven hours can be exhausting and interfere with a trucker’s physical and mental abilities. Like alcohol, fatigue impairs reaction time, decision-making, judgment, and sensory perception. Some truckers exceed the driving limit to meet delivery deadlines whether their employers encourage it or they choose to do it themselves.
Common Injuries Caused by Truck Accidents
A small car can’t withstand the weight and size of a commercial truck during a crash. Trucks often crumple passenger vehicles like pieces of paper, crushing the occupants inside. Debilitating injuries are common, especially when the collision occurs at high speeds.
The most common injuries in truck accidents include:
- Broken bones
- Internal bleeding
- Loss of limb
- Spinal cord injury
- Ejection injuries
- Crush injuries
- Traumatic brain injury
- Permanent disfigurement
- Burn injuries
Steps to Take After a Truck Accident
Protecting your legal rights and getting necessary medical care is essential after a truck accident. You must prioritize your health by going to the hospital immediately after leaving the crash scene. You should not risk driving if your injury is too severe. Instead, wait for an ambulance to take you to the emergency room.
The initial examination can determine the type and extent of your injuries. The physician might recommend follow-up treatment for your recovery. You must follow the recommendations by attending every necessary appointment until you heal or your doctors release you from their care.
The insurance company doesn’t want to pay you, despite what you might think. The adjuster handling your claim will look for evidence to disprove the severity of your injury or reduce the value of your claim. They aim to pay as little as possible to save money. Deviating from the treatment plan, skipping appointments, or delaying initial medical care can be evidence the adjuster uses against you to justify denying the claim or offering a lowball settlement.
Hire a truck accident attorney shortly after your initial hospital visit. Trying to recover from a severe injury while pursuing legal action against the truck driver and trucking company is overwhelming. You should not go through this traumatic ordeal alone. An experienced attorney can take over and complete the necessary steps of the legal process while you focus your time and attention on treatment.
Starting a pain journal can be beneficial to your case. You should list your symptoms that start after the accident and indicate the pain levels you experience. You can also explain whether symptoms worsen during specific activities or prevent you from completing various tasks. For example, a back injury might require you to take time off work and get assistance with household chores such as laundry.
Maintaining adequate records is crucial after a truck accident. You should keep copies of every document related to the crash, such as medical records and bills. They can help prove the suffering you endured and the compensation you should receive from the negligent trucking company.
How a Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help
Truck accident lawyers have the experience and resources to protect clients’ rights and manage cases effectively and efficiently. You should never pursue action against a trucking company alone. These companies often hire aggressive and intimidating lawyers to defend them. You deserve the same type of representation.
A lawyer can assist you with multiple aspects of your case, including:
- Investigating the crash to determine the cause. Your lawyer can begin by investigating the accident. They must determine the cause to know who to hold liable for your injury. Truck accident attorneys often hire experts to help. They can work with an accident reconstruction specialist to recreate the collision and obtain a clear picture of what happened. Your attorney can also uncover information to show whether one or multiple parties are at fault. They may show their employer contributed to your injuries.
- Gathering evidence. Truck accident lawyers have extensive resources at their disposal. They can use those resources to obtain substantial evidence to prove your claim and recover compensation. You might not know where to look for evidence, such as traffic camera footage, the truck’s event data recorder (EDR), and witness statements. Your attorney can handle that for you.
- Negotiating a settlement. Negotiating a full and fair settlement with the insurance carrier is challenging. Insurers often take advantage of unrepresented accident victims. Without an attorney, you will likely receive much less compensation than you deserve or no money at all. Your attorney can negotiate with the insurance company for a settlement to cover your medical bills and other losses.
- Negotiating reduced medical bills. Many medical providers place liens on settlements or awards. That means they cover an accident victim’s medical treatment but require reimbursement when there is a settlement or favorable jury verdict. You might not owe the total amount at the end of your case. Your lawyer can negotiate with the billing department staff to reduce the balance on your account so you don’t have to pay as much from your financial award.
- Filing a lawsuit. Sometimes, a lawsuit against the truck driver or trucking company is necessary. If negotiating an adequate settlement fails, your attorney might proceed with a lawsuit. Skilled truck accident lawyers know the legal procedures to follow while handling court cases. They can obtain crucial evidence and guide you through each stage of your lawsuit so you understand what to expect.
What to Do if You Can’t Afford a Lawyer
The cost is one of the biggest deterrents to hiring an attorney after a truck accident. You might think you can’t afford the expense, but most truck accident lawyers take cases on contingency to relieve the financial burden their clients face when seeking legal representation.
In a contingency fee arrangement between an attorney and their client, the attorney agrees not to charge upfront fees or costs to work on the case. In exchange, the client agrees to allow an agreed-upon percentage of the recovered compensation from a claim or lawsuit to go toward the attorneys’ fees and agrees to pay case-related costs. If the attorney loses the case, the client won’t owe them any money.
You should consider hiring someone who charges a contingency fee. Review the fee agreement contract before signing. A true contingency fee means you should not pay the lawyer when you hire them or pay for any ongoing expenses during your pending case. The fee can increase if the attorney files a lawsuit because lawsuits are more expensive. Reach out to a Bakersfield personal injury lawyer.