Crashes involving commercial vehicles, commonly known as trucks or semi-trucks, are far more dangerous and complicated than those involving other motor vehicles. These crashes involve vehicles weighing over 10,000 lbs. and are regulated not only by state driving laws but also by federal trucking regulations. If you or a loved one are hit by a truck or other commercial vehicle, you may be wondering who could be responsible for the harm? Who is required to provide compensation for the injuries? Under federal trucking regulations (known as the “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR)”) and/or under state law, the following could be legally responsible for a truck crash:
Truck Driver – The most obvious party to sue is the driver that hit you. The truck driver can be sued for the same reasons as any other driver, such as by violating a state driving law and causing a crash (i.e. speeding or running a red light and causing a crash). The truck driver can also be sued more generally for negligence — meaning that the driver was not operating his vehicle as a reasonable driver should at the time of the crash. Truck drivers are trained on, and required to abide by, the state Commercial Driver’s License Manual. Failing to abide by this manual is key evidence of a truck driver’s negligence. Failing to abide by the policies and procedures of the truck driver’s employer is also strong evidence of the truck driver’s negligence.
Trucking Company – The trucking company can often also be sued for a variety of reasons:
- Negligent Hiring – The trucking company can be sued for negligently hiring the truck driver that caused the crash if the driver had a poor driving or safety record at the time of hiring. Trucking companies are required to perform an extensive background search on truck drivers before hiring them, so there is no excuse for hiring an unsafe driver.
- Negligent Retention – The trucking company can also be sued for negligently retaining the driver if the company learned that the driver was an unsafe driver while the driver was employed by the trucking company, but still put the driver out on the road.
- Negligent Training or Supervision – If the trucking company did not properly train or supervise the truck driver that caused the crash, that is another basis to sue the trucking company.
- Negligent Inspection or Maintenance – Finally, the trucking company can be sued for its negligence in inspecting or repairing the truck that caused the crash.
Also note that the trucking company can usually be sued even if it was leasing the truck or driver that caused the crash.
The Shipper – The company that loaded the truck can be sued if that company improperly secured the load of the truck, which in turn caused or contributed to the crash (i.e. the load shifted in transit which caused the crash).
The Broker — The broker is the company that connects the shipper with the trucking company—the middleman between the two. Depending upon the level of control that the broker has in supervising, disciplining, or even hiring the driver involved in the crash, there may also be a basis for suing the broker.
The Insurer for the Trucking Company – Smaller trucking companies may rely almost exclusively on their insurance company to screen potential drivers to hire. If the insurer, through its screening process, is effectively choosing which drivers the trucking company will hire, then the insurer can be sued for failing to reject an unsafe driver that later causes a crash.
Any one or more of the above could be the responsible party in a truck wreck—meaning any one or more of them could be made to compensate a person injured by a commercial vehicle. But this is just the first step. Only an experienced trucking lawyer can guide you through this process and the many additional steps required to get you fair compensation for your injuries. Have you been injured by a truck or other commercial vehicle? Contact the trucking attorneys at Rittgers & Rittgers today, and stay tuned for additional articles on truck and commercial vehicle lawsuits.