While many truck accidents occur due to the negligence or recklessness of a truck driver, injured parties may wonder about their legal options for holding the trucking company liable.
Trucking companies might be legally responsible for the injuries you suffer in a crash if the truck accident occurred due to an employee’s negligence during their job duties. The company may also be liable when its negligent or reckless actions or decisions directly lead to an accident, such as when a trucking company instructs its drivers to speed or disregard hours-of-service (HOS) limitations.
The trucking company’s liability will often depend on the cause or causes of the truck accident. A truck accident lawyer can help you recover the evidence needed to prove the trucking company’s liability for your injuries and other losses and can pursue a settlement or judgment on your behalf. Reach out to a truck accident lawyer.
Common Causes of Trucking Accidents
A trucking company’s liability for an accident may depend on the cause of the crash.
Some of the most frequent causes of truck accidents include:
- Speeding or driving too fast for the conditions
- Tailgating or following too closely
- Reckless driving
- Drowsy or fatigued driving
- Disregarding traffic signs and signals
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Unsafe turns or lane changes
- Failing to use turn signals or mirrors
- Distracted driving
- Dangerous cargo loads, including excessive weight or failing to balance or secure the cargo load
- Inadequate truck or trailer maintenance
- Truck driver inexperience or lack of training
How Do You Pursue Liability for a Truck Accident?
To establish a trucking company’s liability for your accident injuries, your attorney will take several steps to preserve evidence and protect your right to pursue a legal claim against the company.
What Steps Should You Take After a Trucking Accident?
To put yourself in the best position to pursue a legal case against the trucking company after an accident:
- Get the truck driver’s employer and insurance information
- Take photos and videos at the accident scene, including vehicle damage, skid marks on the road, lost cargo, traffic controls, or lighting/weather/traffic conditions
- Seek immediate medical attention to have a doctor diagnose injuries you sustained in the crash
- Follow your doctor’s treatment plan and instructions, and keep all follow-up appointments
- Request copies of the police accident report and your medical records
- Keep any bills, invoices, or receipts of expenses you incur from the crash
- Take notes of any phone conversations with trucking company representatives or insurance adjusters
- Start a diary or journal to write down your recollection of the accident and document the pain and difficulties you experience during your recovery
What Evidence Do You Need To Prove Liability?
Proving a trucking company’s liability for an accident requires evidence from the company’s records and reports.
Examples of evidence that your attorney might use to hold a trucking company accountable for your injuries and losses after a crash include:
- The truck driver’s hours-of-service logs
- Logs from the truck’s event data recorder (black box)
- The truck driver’s employment and driving records
- The trucking company’s dispatch logs
- The truck’s cargo or freight manifest
- The truck driver’s pre-trip inspections reports
- Inspection and maintenance records for the truck or trailer
A truck accident attorney can also find accident reconstruction and trucking industry experts who can provide testimony to support your case against the trucking company. These experts can explain how the crash occurred and what part the trucking company played in causing the accident.
Other evidence your lawyer might use in a case against the trucking company includes:
- Accident scene photos and videos
- Police accident reports
- Surveillance, traffic camera, or dashcam footage
- Eyewitness testimony
- Cell phone logs and records
- Drug or alcohol test results
- Post-accident vehicle inspections
What Kinds of Liability Might the Trucking Company Have for an Accident?
You can hold a trucking company liable for an accident through several legal theories. A trucking company’s liability will depend on the facts of your truck accident case.
Some possible ways that you can hold the trucking company liable for a crash include:
- Vicarious liability. Vicarious liability refers to liability that a party has for someone else’s negligence. A trucking company may have vicarious liability for its driver’s or other employees’ fault in a truck accident through a legal theory of employer liability. The law allows an injured party to pursue compensation claims against an employer when its worker causes that party’s injuries during the performance of the worker’s job duties. You may pursue an employer liability claim against a trucking company for an accident caused by the truck driver’s careless or reckless driving or due to the negligence of other staff, such as negligent cargo loading.
- Direct liability. A trucking company may also have direct liability for a truck accident in certain circumstances. Direct liability means the trucking company’s negligence caused or contributed to the truck accident. You may pursue a claim of direct liability against a trucking company under a theory of negligent hiring, which argues that the company knowingly or recklessly hired a truck driver who posed a substantial risk of causing an accident. The trucking company may also have direct liability when its careless or reckless conduct leads to a truck accident, such as when it orders its drivers to ignore speed limits or hours-of-service regulations.
- Joint and several liability. Under the doctrine of joint and several liability, an injured party may pursue full payment of their compensation from all liable parties, regardless of how much or how little each party contributes to the accident. If you suffer injuries from an accident caused by the actions of an at-fault trucker and the trucking company, you could sue both parties under the theory of joint and several liability. An experienced attorney can review your case and determine whether you can bring an action under the doctrine of joint and several liability.
What Compensation Can You Recover From a Liable Trucking Company?
A trucking company that has liability for your injuries and losses after a truck accident may have an obligation to compensate you.
Financial relief in a truck accident claim may include money for:
- Costs of repairs to your car or reimbursement of your car’s value if the insurance company deems it a total loss after the accident
- Medical treatment and rehabilitation expenses, including hospitalizations, surgeries, prescription costs, doctor’s appointments, and physical/occupational therapy
- Long-term care expenses, including home health care, medical/mobility equipment, or installation of disability accommodations
- Loss of income if you miss time from work or have reduced earnings while on part-time or light duty during your recovery
- Loss of future earning potential and employment benefits if you cannot return to your job or can no longer be gainfully employed
- Physical pain and emotional distress
- Loss of quality of life because of permanent disabilities or visible scarring or disfigurement
Defenses the Trucking Company Might Raise Against Your Truck Accident Claim
Depending on the facts of your truck accident case, the trucking company may have several potential defenses to liability, such as:
- The trucking company did not employ the driver. Many trucking companies retain truck drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. Drivers who own their truck tractors may work as independent contractors, with the trucking company acting as a “middleman” to connect the drivers to clients who need cargo shipped. When a trucking company does not employ its truck drivers, it cannot be vicariously liable if a driver causes a truck accident. However, the trucking company may still have liability under a theory of negligent retention if the company assigned a job to an independent contractor truck driver the trucking company knew posed a substantial risk of causing an accident.
- The truck driver’s negligence occurred outside the scope of their job. A trucking company may avoid employer liability if it can show that the truck driver caused the accident due to negligent acts outside the scope of their employment. For example, suppose a truck driver causes an accident while driving their truck during off-duty hours without the trucking company’s authorization. In that case, the company may claim that employer liability does not apply because the accident occurred outside of work.
- Another company’s negligence caused the accident. Trucking companies may avoid liability for truck accidents by proving that another company’s negligence caused the accident. For example, a truck accident may occur due to improper cargo loading by a freight company that supplied the loaded trailer for the trucking company to transport. Or an accident may occur due to a design or manufacturing defect in the truck or trailer, resulting in liability for the truck/trailer manufacturer rather than the trucking company.
- You bear some of the fault for the crash. A trucking company can reduce its financial liability for your injuries by proving that you bear partial responsibility for the crash. Having a lawyer is essential if the trucking company tries to shift blame to you or reduce your compensation.
How an Attorney Can Help You Hold the Trucking Company Liable for an Accident
Trucking companies often have substantial resources they can use to fight accident claims. An experienced truck accident attorney can use their skills and knowledge to combat the tactics these companies use to deny claims.
A lawyer can help you pursue a liability claim against a trucking company by:
- Thoroughly investigating the truck accident to recover evidence for your case
- Working with accident reconstruction and trucking industry experts to prepare compelling arguments to hold the trucking company liable for the crash and your injuries
- Documenting your injuries and losses to calculate the compensation you deserve to recover
- Identifying all potentially responsible parties and applicable insurance coverages
- Filing your insurance and legal claims and negotiating with the trucking companies and insurers
- Vigorously advocating for your interests to seek full compensation through a settlement or by taking your case to trial if necessary
Trucking Companies Frequently Share Liability for an Accident With a Negligent Driver and Other At-fault Parties
In many truck accident claims, an injured victim will have the right to pursue liability from an at-fault truck driver and the trucking company. Trucking companies may have liability for an accident as the employer of a truck driver who caused the crash.
Companies may also have direct liability for an accident caused by their actions, including negligent hiring and supervision of drivers or negligent vehicle fleet maintenance. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may have the right to pursue total compensation from the trucking company even if other parties share responsibility for the truck accident. Reach out to a personal injury lawyer.
A truck accident attorney can help you investigate the facts and circumstances of the crash that injured you to recover evidence establishing the trucking company’s liability for your losses.