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Who can be held liable in a trucking accident?

Some aspects of trucking accident cases are obvious: someone driving a tractor-trailer while intoxicated obviously bears responsibility for the injuries or deaths that result. However, in most cases like this, there is a lot more going on beneath the surface.

For example, could the trucking company itself be somehow responsible for hiring and failing to supervise someone who would operate the rig while intoxicated? Further, could the manufacturer or the vehicle bear some responsibility if the truck failed somehow? These are important questions for anyone facing a motor vehicle accident claim against a truck driver.

A recent trial

9News online last week reported of the beginning of a trial stemming from a major trucking crash a few years ago. This accident was uniquely catastrophic in that four people died and many more were injured in this 24-car accident.

The driver “faces 41 charges, including vehicular homicide, assault and attempted assault.”

However, the question is whether the driver is solely responsible for the accident. The accident was caused by the truck’s brakes failing. And although the driver should have taken the emergency off ramp, apparently the off ramp was not clearly marked.

What we can learn

Although the report here involves a criminal prosecution for the accident and not a civil personal injury claim, it does bring up some important issues that apply in the civil context.

The most important thing is that there are multiple possible sources of liability other than just the driver in a case like this, including:

  • The truck manufacturer: If the brakes failed or other issues with the truck itself caused the accident, a claim could exist against the truck or brake manufacturer.
  • The trucking company: The same functional problems with the truck could be a result of negligent maintenance and upkeep, which could suggest liability on the part of the trucking company. Further, a history of negligence or accidents on the part of the driver, or poor training could result in a strong claim against the trucking company.
  • The city or municipality: Poorly maintained roads or inadequate signage could also be contributing factors to accidents of this kind. Cities, counties and municipalities can be brought in and named defendants in injury claims.
  • Another driver: In some cases, there was another driver involved who contributed to the accident. Perhaps another vehicle swerved in front of the truck driver or engaged in other negligent driving behaviors.

These are just a few examples of possible parties who share liability with the truck driver in a tractor-trailer accident. It takes experience and savvy to recognize the liable parties and bring them in as defendants. This approach can significantly increase the total compensation award an accident victim can receive.