If you are involved in a truck accident, you may decide to go down the route of a personal injury lawsuit. If so, then you will need a truck accident lawyer to assist you with the lawsuit. Truck accident cases can be far more complex than other personal injury lawsuits because there can be difficulty in determining fault. In some situations, it is not the truck driver or the trucking company who is at fault. It could be a fleet mechanic, the loading team, the truck manufacturer, or even another driver. However, the most common question a truck accident lawyer will be asked is if it is better to sue the driver or the trucking company. In many cases, going after the trucking company is going to be the most lucrative, but it isn’t always the right way to go. Let’s take a closer look at this question.
Suing a Trucking Company
If you and your truck accident lawyer decide to go down the route of suing a trucking company following a truck accident, a crucial piece of information is going to be the truck driver’s employment status. Truck drivers can be employees, or they can be independent contractors. This can significantly impact who shoulders the liability for an accident.
- Employed Truck Driver - Laws vary slightly between states. Still, in general, if the truck driver is an employee of the trucking company and was on duty at the time of the accident, the company is liable. There are exceptions, including if the driver was drunk or if they were using the truck for personal reasons.
- Independent Contractors - If the truck driver is an independent contractor, then it is highly unlikely that your truck accident lawyer can sue the company as they have limited control over the driver, even if they were driving for the company on the day of the accident.
When is a Trucking Company Liable for Accidents
If you have been injured in a truck accident as a result of a negligent driver, then it may seem like that is who you should be suing. You may have a valid lawsuit against the driver, but it is also wise to look at the potential liability of the trucking company. Trucking companies have responsibilities to adequately screen, train, and manage their drivers. They must also provide those drivers with safe equipment to carry out their job. If the company has been negligent in any of these areas, then your truck accident lawyer should be naming them in your lawsuit.
Let’s take a look at some of the areas of responsibility where a trucking company might fall short:
- Hiring & Screening Process - As soon as a trucking company decides to hire a driver, its responsibilities begin. The company should perform background checks to ensure all drivers have the appropriate qualifications and a clean driving license. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also requires trucking companies to do regular drug and alcohol screenings on all drivers. Failure to do their due diligence could result in an unsafe or underqualified driver being on the road, making them at fault in the event of a truck accident.
- Driver Training Procedures - Trucking companies are also responsible for ensuring that their truck drivers are adequately trained not only on how to safely operate their vehicle on the road but also on how to operate the safety features on the truck. If the company fails to provide the proper training, they can be held accountable if the driver causes an accident.
- Overworking Drivers - One of the biggest causes of truck accidents is drivers who are sleepy or fatigued behind the wheel. A recent study revealed that more than half of the participating truck drivers had felt sleepy or actually nodded off multiple times in a month. How is this the fault of their employer? Unfortunately, many truck drivers say they are overscheduled beyond their allowable service hours and that they are often forced to skip breaks and miss out on sleep to meet increasingly demanding delivery schedules.
- Truck Maintenance - If the trucking company has failed to maintain their trucks to the appropriate standards, the risk of the truck malfunctioning increases exponentially. If a malfunction occurs, there is probably very little the driver can do to avoid an accident. That means the liability falls on the trucking company or the third party tasked with carrying out such maintenance on their fleet.
Suing the Truck Driver
We’ve looked closely at how a truck accident lawyer can place the blame on trucking companies, but there will be some situations where the driver is responsible. Most drivers will have insurance coverage in case of an accident, but it is often not enough to cover all the damages an injured party is seeking. That is why it is usually better to focus on the trucking company if it is possible.
Butler, Vines and Babb is a leading law firm in Knoxville, TN, with extensive litigation experience in Medical Malpractice Law, Birth Injury Law, Trucking Accident Law, Personal Injury Law, and Business Law. Contact us today at www.bvblaw.com or call 865-637-3531.
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