A truck accident can leave you scrambling to get the compensation you deserve for any injuries sustained in the accident. To get that compensation, you need to determine all parties that may share liability for the truck accident. That may, in many cases, include the trucking company that employs the driver who caused the accident.
What liability does the trucking company bear after a semi truck accident? Liability may depend on many factors.
When Does the Trucking Company Bear Liability for a Semi Truck Accident?
The trucking company will generally bear liability when 1) the truck driver, rather than the other party involved in the truck accident, bears liability for the accident; and 2) the trucking company committed some act of negligence that contributed to the accident.
Common Negligence in Trucking Accident Claims
Trucking companies must generally follow stringent regulations protecting their drivers and others who may share the road with them. When trucking companies violate those regulations or do not engage in the required standard of care needed to protect others on the road, they may commit negligence.
1. The Trucking Company Does Not Keep Up With Needed Maintenance on Its Trucks
Motor carriers must take care of essential maintenance on their vehicles, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Big trucks have a lot of mechanical parts, and things can go wrong very quickly when things break. To help ensure that trucks remain safe, drivers must report any issues after each run so that the trucking company can take care of them. In addition, trucking companies may need to:
Inspect Trucks Regularly
The FMCSA lays out regulations for how often motor carriers must inspect their trucks. Failure to inspect trucks in a timely manner can increase the danger to others on the road since the lack of inspections can make it more challenging to determine when the trucks have problems that mechanics need to address. Regular inspections can help identify issues that drivers should note.
Big trucks may require a great deal of regular maintenance. Not only do they need the same type of maintenance necessary to keep a passenger vehicle running smoothly, but they may also need additional support. Big trucks have more tires to replace and may face more potential problems out on the road. The FMCSA lays out how often trucking companies must take care of specific types of maintenance, including what maintenance these vehicles need most often.
Manage Repairs Effectively and Efficiently
Whether the trucking company handles repairs in-house or out-of-house, taking a truck in for repairs often means taking a truck out of service for some time. Some trucking companies may put off regular maintenance to keep the fleet moving smoothly. Major repairs may require careful scheduling to avoid disrupting deliveries. However, trucking companies that put off needed repairs increase the risk of an accident out on the road.
Any time a trucking company fails in its maintenance responsibilities, it may share liability for an accident caused by its damaged truck.
2. The Trucking Company Does Not Adequately Oversee Its Drivers
Once drivers take to the road, the trucking company cannot keep physical eyes on them. Trucking company employees could end up anywhere in the country throughout their weeks on the job. As a result, motor carriers may have a much harder time overseeing their employees. A lack of oversight may substantially increase the risk of a devastating accident out on the road. Motor carriers may need to track a driver’s behaviors and risks.
Tickets and Dangerous Driving Behaviors
Truck drivers often engage in risky behaviors on the road to meet their deadlines. Truck drivers may choose to drive recklessly to reach their destinations faster. Truck drivers may also have a greater tendency to speed if the trucking company pays by the mile.
Trucking companies, however, can virtually track how fast the driver goes by using devices in the truck or by checking log books to see how long it takes truck drivers to reach their destinations. Furthermore, trucking companies can keep track of how often their drivers get pulled over and issued any tickets, including tickets for speeding or reckless driving.
Anyone can end up involved in an accident, and truck drivers may have a greater likelihood of bring an accident than passenger vehicle drivers. Truck drivers spend more hours on the road each day, leading to more vehicle miles driven and higher overall accident potential. Additionally, big trucks offer several hazards that can increase the risk of accidents.
Truck drivers who become more frequently involved in accidents may engage in various dangerous behaviors that increase the risk. Trucking companies that do not adequately oversee their drivers and keep track of driver accident history may bear liability when these drivers cause an accident.
Motor carriers may need to carefully monitor their drivers’ training before they allow them to take to the road. Before they can start driving for a company, drivers may need to have considerable training. Unfortunately, some CDL schools may not provide adequate time behind the wheel, leaving drivers unsure about how to handle potential emergencies once they start driving. Trucking companies may need to pay particular attention to how drivers navigate tight streets or deal with dangerous weather conditions.
Unfortunately, many trucking companies will push drivers to get behind the wheel before they have the necessary training to deal with these conditions. With the truck driver shortage causing increasing problems across the nation, many trucking companies will take anyone they can put behind the wheel of a truck and push them to perform.
3. The Trucking Company Has Rules or Regulations That Increase the Risk of an Accident, Including Regulations That May Pressure Truck Drivers To Engage in Dangerous Behavior on the Road
Generally, trucking companies issue regulations to help keep everyone on the road safe and decrease the risk of an incident. However, some trucking regulations may actually create unexpected concerns out on the road. Most notably, some trucking companies may have rules about timely deliveries that increase drivers’ risk of speeding. If trucking companies have policies that significantly increase the risk of speeding, the company may bear liability when a truck driver’s speeding leads to an accident.
4. The Trucking Company Pushes a Driver To Drive Despite Potentially Dangerous Circumstances
Truck drivers often need to make a judgment call that keeps them off the road. However, trucking companies sometimes push their drivers to continue driving anyway. When a truck driver ends up in an accident because the trucking company forced them to keep going despite the dangers, the trucking company may share liability for the incident.
Dangerous conditions may include any condition that increases the risk of a serious accident that the driver deems unsafe, especially if the driver tries to avoid getting behind the wheel.
Truck drivers, like anyone else, face a high risk of missing work due to illness. In some cases, such as a mild cold, truck drivers may feel comfortable getting behind the wheel and continuing regular deliveries despite their illness.
In other cases, however, truck drivers may have symptoms that prevent them from driving safely. Serious illness can cause brain fog, fatigue, or difficulty concentrating on the road. Truck drivers may even suffer from decreased reflexes, making it very difficult to navigate safely on the road.
Unfortunately, trucking companies, feeling the pressure of deadlines, may attempt to pressure the driver to get out on the road anyway. With the driver shortage, trucking companies may not have other drivers to fill in, worsening the pressure on a sick driver. If a sick driver, pressured to drive despite his symptoms, ends up causing an accident, the trucking company may share liability.
Due to the long hours they spend away from friends and family, truck drivers may end up drinking while out on the road. Often, truck drivers may start drinking while off duty but find that they still have a blood alcohol content too high to drive when the time rolls around for them to go back on duty. Truck drivers cannot drive with alcohol in their blood above .04, which is stricter than the .08 legal limit of passenger vehicles.
Unfortunately, truck drivers may not realize that they have consumed too much or did not burn the alcohol as fast as expected until it’s time to get back behind the wheel. If they notify their employers of that inebriation, but the trucking company pressures them to go ahead and get behind the wheel anyway, the trucking company may bear liability for any associated accident.
Truck drivers take to the roads in a variety of weather conditions, including conditions that other drivers would avoid. However, truck drivers should exercise due caution in deciding whether or not to drive when dangerous weather conditions threaten. When very heavy rain interferes with visibility, a strong wind has the potential to turn over the truck, or ice and snow fill the roads, truck drivers may need to stay off the road until conditions are safe.
However, that does not mean that trucking companies will automatically accept their drivers’ decisions. In some cases, trucking companies may pressure drivers to get back on the road even in very bad or dangerous weather, which can raise the risk of an accident. The trucking company may share liability for the incident if a truck driver causes an accident due to pressure to drive in dangerous weather.
5. The Trucking Company Sends the Driver Out With a Dangerous Load That the Driver Should Not Take
The FMCSA also has guidelines for what drivers can safely carry, including what types of loads they can haul based on weight and content. For example, drivers may need to have a specific license to carry hazardous material. If a trucking company pushes drivers who do not have the proper license to carry a load, the company may bear liability for that driver’s errors.
When a trucking company’s liability leads to an accident, it may result in severe injury and substantial losses to the company and the driver. An attorney can help you determine whether the trucking company may bear liability for your accident.
After your crash, contact a truck accident lawyer right away to better understand what compensation you can pursue after a truck accident and who may bear liability for your losses.