In an accident involving a big rig, people often raise questions about liability. Many different parties may bear partial or full responsibility in accidents involving professional driving companies. Since big rig trucking accidents tend to cause serious and catastrophic injuries, knowing who to hold liable in the aftermath may improve your ability to pursue full and fair compensation.
Proving Liability in Big Rig Truck Accidents
In all personal injury claims, the claimant must prove three main elements to establish responsibility and secure damages:
- The existence of a duty of care. Every time a driver pulls onto the roadway, he or she carries a responsibility to drive in a reasonable and safe manner. Every driver must maintain this duty, but juries often hold professional drives to higher standards. As trained and professional big rig drivers, anyone who gets behind the wheel of large truck must use extreme caution and best practices to drive safely and avoid an accident. Similarly, other parties may also owe injured individuals a duty of care. For example, trucking companies bear the responsibility of employing and training capable drivers. Auto manufacturers must ensure their parts meet acceptable standards for safety and performance. Distributors also carry a responsibility for ensuring the containment of potentially dangerous materials carried in big rigs.
- A breach in that duty of care. The individual in question (defendant) failed to use a reasonable degree of caution while driving, hiring truck drivers, or during other activities.
- The failure to act reasonably proximally caused the accident and injuries. If the breach of duty led to an accident and subsequent injuries, the person or company responsible for a duty of care bears partial or full responsibility.
Possible Liable Parties in Big Rig Truck Accidents
Anyone who owed the accident victim a duty of care and breached that duty may face liability after an accident. In big rig truck accident claims, the possible liable parties may include:
- Truck drivers. Whether a contractor or trucking company employee, truck drivers may face responsibility for contributing to an accident. Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations Part 392, all truck drivers in the US bear additional responsibility for driving safely in inclement weather.
- Passenger vehicle drivers. When passenger vehicle drivers swerve in front of trucks, fail to provide enough space, or turn quickly in front of trucks, they may cause a trucking accident. In accident investigations, authorities will look at all acts of negligence to determine liability.
- Trucking companies. A trucking company may face liability for accidents, depending on the employment arrangement. In many companies, employers must accept responsibility for the actions of their drivers on the roadways. They may bear full responsibility or partial responsibility for big rig trucking accidents.
- Auto manufacturers or maintenance contractors. If a faulty part or improper maintenance caused the accident, either an auto part manufacturer or maintenance contractor may face responsibility for the resulting accident.
- Cargo owners. If a distributor fails to take necessary precautions to ensure the safety of potentially dangerous materials and those materials contribute or cause injury, the manufacturer or distributor may face liability.
- Distribution centers. Those who load big rigs may occasionally face liability in accidents, particularly if poor loading practices contributed to a jackknifing or fishtailing-related accident.
To determine liability, investigators must consider every factor leading up to the incident. Roadway hazards, traffic conditions, vehicle maintenance, and driver behaviors may all affect who will face liability for the property damage and resulting injuries. Trucking companies often work quickly to conduct their own investigation and protect themselves from liability.
In 2015, 3,852 people lost their lives in large truck incidents, and 69% of those people were passenger vehicle occupants. We highly encourage all truck accident victims to reach out to a local attorney for a case evaluation as soon as possible to protect their rights to a claim.