The United States Department of Transportation Traffic Safety Administration estimates over 500,000 truck accidents every year, with the increase in commercial transport delivery fleets expanding inter and intrastate transport. When truck accidents occur, parties to the accident need to bear responsibility based upon their direct and indirect actions leading up to the accident and an experienced accident attorney can help.
Parties that can be named in a trucking accident insurance claim or lawsuit include:
- the driver of the truck;
- the trucking company (motor carrier);
- manufacturers of the trucks;
- manufacturers of parts that are basic to the truck’s safe operation;
- municipalities that maintain roadways for safe driving;
- truck maintenance providers;
- truck or trailer owners;
- people responsible for cargo loads;
- other vehicles that may have caused a truck to react in a way that exacerbates a crash situation.
It is imperative that investigations into the cause of a truck accident are undertaken right after the accident, accounting for all facets including weather conditions, roadway conditions, traffic patterns, cargo loads, state of maintenance and care of the truck, health of the driver, necessary documentation in support of state and federal laws regarding road time for drivers to rule out fatigue, cargo information and mandatory driver and insurance certifications to name a few. Investigations will identify the parties who may be directly, or indirectly responsible for the action and will give a direction as to how liability will be measure for each party.
Insurance carrier legal strategies.
Legal counsel for insurance companies are skilled in crafting strong defense strategies for commercial cases when an insurance settlement does not occur. A common practice in truck accident cases is to make sure the truck does not remain out of commission for too long rendering a more focused investigation into potential problems that were evident at the time of the crash. If a truck is back in service, it may cloud issues regarding maintenance inspections on the truck for representatives of injured parties from collecting clean reports and information on the truck.
Responsibility for drivers.
Trucking companies are usually legally responsible for drivers who are employed by them in the course and scope of their activities at the time of an accident, and must be able to show compliance to safety policies under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Under Section 376.12, if a driver is leasing a rig from a company, FMCSR makes clear that the company must retain exclusive possession, use and control of the truck, making the “Motor Carrier” liable for the damages caused by the operation of the big rig. In the case of statutory employees, under 49 U.S.C. Section 14102(a), 49 C.F.R. 390.5 (definitions) and 49 C.F.R. Section 376.12(c), a motor carrier “shall assume complete responsibility for the operation of the equipment for the duration of the lease.” Moreover, the definition of “employee” includes independent contractors.
Under 49 U.S.C. Section 14102(a), the responsibility of the motor carrier for the equipment is invoked whenever the motor carrier uses motor vehicles “not owned by it to transport property under an arrangement with another party.” So, if the motor carrier uses any vehicle that it does not own to transport property under such an arrangement, the motor carrier is deemed to assume control over that equipment and the driver is deemed their employee as a matter of law for that period of time. Therefore, the motor carrier is responsible for the acts of the driver.
Call an attorney.
Hire effective legal counsel who understands the trucking industry and personal injury laws to effectuate a smooth case to remedy property damages and personal injuries related to a truck accident.