Determining LiabilityAn accident involving a truck and another vehicle can be a complicated situation, and unraveling the circumstances in order to find out whose fault it is can be equally complicated. There are others who might bear responsibility in addition to the drivers of the vehicles immediately involved. These include the truck’s owner, the manufacturer of the vehicle or of any of its critical systems, or the trucking company that either employs the truck driver or has hired the driver on an independent contractor basis. As the victim of such an incident, you may have to ask serious questions of a number of people in order to establish exactly who holds the liability. Information from the appropriate governmental entities and the technical data-gathering devices that are installed in each vehicle are important resources in an accident investigation.
Liability of the Trucking CompanyOne of the more difficult questions to answer is whether the blame rests on the driver or the company who hired him or her. Trucking companies are governed by state and federal regulations which set maintenance and safety standards to which they must adhere. Regulations at the federal level require any company with a trucking permit to bear responsibility if a driver hauling for them is involved in an accident.
Most Frequent CausesThere are several frequently seen causes for collisions involving trucks. Some of these are:
- Operator error: The driver was negligent, reckless, or inattentive at some point, either in preparing for the trip or while on the road. This could include driving in a fatigued or impaired condition, improperly loading or overloading the truck, failing to use safety equipment such as tire chains when road conditions warrant, or driving too fast or too fast for conditions. Lack of sleep is one of the top reasons for driver error.
- Inclement weather: Fog, rain, ice or snow, sleet or other conditions can impede vision or cause roads or bridges to become dangerously slippery. This can cause even an experienced driver to lose control of the vehicle. High winds can cause large trucks to become unwieldy and possibly cause cargo to shift, causing dangerous instability.
- Failure of a critical system: This might be steering, brakes, tires, lights, hydraulics or another system that fatally jeopardizes the driver’s control over the vehicle. A failure in braking or steering can cause the vehicle to jackknife or overturn, while failure in the lighting system could render the truck difficult for oncoming traffic to see, especially in bad weather.
- Road hazards: Sharp curves, potholes, non-functioning traffic lights, uneven road surfaces, poorly maintained traffic lines and so on can be especially challenging to truck drivers.