Tractor trailers are among the biggest and most dangerous vehicles on the road. For this reason, they are subject to strict state and federal safety regulations, and drivers must be licensed, experienced, and capable of operating their rigs safely at all times.
But, despite the various laws that are in place to keep other motorists safe, tractor trailer accidents occur in alarming numbers. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 3,405 passenger vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians were killed in large truck accidents in 2018. This is the highest number in a decade, and it pales in comparison to the number of non-fatal tractor trailer accidents that occur each year.
Who Is Liable for Your Losses After a Tractor Trailer Accident?
When seeking financial compensation for losses sustained in a tractor trailer accident, there are two main questions you need to answer:
- Who is liable?
- How much are they liable for?
This article focuses on the first question. For information on the second, you can read our previous blog post discussing economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Is the Truck Driver Liable If He or She Was at Fault?
Truck driver negligence is the most common factor in tractor trailer accidents. Generally speaking, truck drivers can be held liable just like drivers of “ordinary” passenger vehicles.
Additionally, commercial truck drivers should be well-insured. If you have a claim against a tractor trailer driver, the recovery process will most likely involve filing a liability claim with his or her insurance company.
Is the Trucking Company Liable for the Driver’s Negligence?
If the truck driver is employed by a trucking company (as opposed to being a self-employed owner-operator), then the trucking company may also be liable for your injuries based on the law of vicarious liability. Also known by the Latin term respondeat superior, the law of vicarious liability holds employers legally responsible for their employees’ actions performed “within the scope of employment.”
In many cases, trucking companies can also be held directly liable for tractor trailer accidents. Examples of trucking company negligence that can support direct liability claims include:
- Hiring unlicensed drivers
- Hiring drivers who have poor driving records
- Failing to adequately maintain the trucks in their fleet
- Allowing (or forcing) their drivers to exceed federal driving-hour limitations
- Committing other state or federal truck safety regulatory violations
What Other Companies Could Be Liable for My Losses from a Tractor Trailer Accident?
As you can see, both truck drivers and the trucking companies that hire them may be liable for your injuries. However, what if some other factor – or combination of factors – was involved in your accident?
Due to the size, weight, and complexity of tractor trailers and their cargo, there are numerous issues that can potentially play a role in causing serious and fatal accidents. With this in mind, depending on the circumstances involved in your collision, other companies that could potentially be liable for your losses include:
- The Cargo Owner – If the cargo on the tractor trailer played a role in causing the accident, then the cargo owner could be liable.
- The Shipping Company – If the cargo was not properly loaded or secured, then the shipping company that loaded the cargo onto the tractor trailer could be liable as well.
- The Truck Manufacturer or Dealer – Defective brakes, taillights, headlights, engines and transmissions, tires, and virtually all other parts of a tractor, trailer, or both can cause and contribute to dangerous accidents. When they do, truck manufacturers and dealers can be held liable under the law of strict liability.
- A Component Manufacturer – In addition to truck manufacturers, individual component manufacturers can also be held liable for tractor trailer accidents caused by defective truck components.
- A Repair or Maintenance Service Provider – If the accident was the result of shoddy repair or maintenance work, then the shop or mobile maintenance company that performed the work may be legally responsible.
- A Road Construction or Maintenance Contractor – What if your accident did not result from an issue with the tractor trailer, but instead from an issue with the road? In this scenario, the company that the government hired to build or maintain the road could be fully liable for your accident-related losses.
Discuss Your Case with Bakersfield, CA Truck Accident Lawyer Mickey Fine
This list isn’t exhaustive. For example, if the brakes or seatbelt in your vehicle failed, you could have a claim against your car’s manufacturer. Similarly, if another driver or vehicle was at fault in the crash, then you could have a claim against that driver’s insurance company, or the other vehicle’s manufacturer as well.
Please call 661-333-3333 or to schedule a free consultation with Mickey Fine at our law offices in Bakersfield or Manhattan Beach. Our attorney will initiate an investigation to untangle the parties responsible for the crash, then take action on your behalf.