Trucking companies should always do all they can to ensure they put safe vehicles on the road. Unfortunately, dangerous trucks and drivers make it onto our highways, often resulting in serious or fatal crashes. Hundreds of thousands of commercial vehicles crash yearly in the U.S., many of which have tragic results.
After a truck accident happens, you might face severe injuries and losses. Often, the trucking company can be liable for your damages if the driver was negligent or the company failed to keep its trucks safe.
Always discuss a possible accident and injury claim with an experienced truck accident lawyer near you. You want to hire a law firm with experience handling trucking cases, as they can become complex very quickly.
Trucking Company Obligations
To ensure the safety of everyone on the road, truck companies must ensure the safety of their fleets on the road.
- Hire qualified drivers and provide proper driver supervision
- Use rebuttable mechanics
- Regularly inspect the trucks to look for defects
- Ensure they complete repairs before the truck is back on the road
- Train and supervise cargo loaders to ensure they comply with safety regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets out many requirements and regulations for trucking companies, and violations can lead to crashes, injuries, and death. When a trucking company is negligent, and an accident occurs, the company should cover all the losses of injured victims or grieving families.
What Are Potential Claims Against Trucking Companies?
Potential claims injured parties may have against a trucking company after an accident with a commercial truck driver include the following:
Trucking companies must hire qualified and dependable professionals to operate their trucks. Like any other company, trucking companies must be careful to hire drivers who are capable of safely handling a commercial truck.
Some qualifications trucking companies should ensure each of their drivers has include:
- Proper licensure
- Clean driving record
- No criminal charges for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Commercial truck accidents can also happen if the cargo inside the truck is improperly loaded. Trucking companies hire employees specifically to load trucks. Trucking companies must ensure these employees are qualified to complete this task well.
Failure to Supervise
Trucking companies must adequately supervise their employees. Failure to supervise may expose trucking companies to liability for injuries the unsupervised employees cause to a third party. Improper employee supervision can include a trucking company’s failure to learn of a driver or an employee’s failure to meet company safety standards. If the trucking company does not address the issue and a third party is hurt, the company may face liability for the harm.
A trucking company may face legal responsibility for keeping employees on staff that the company knows have unsafe practices. Leaders at trucking companies must evaluate their employees to ensure they remain qualified for their positions.
Having unqualified employees can cause a chain reaction leading to significant safety concerns. For example, if the cargo loaders do not have the proper training to load trucks safely, the driver may get into a cargo-related accident, potentially injuring multiple people.
Inadequate Truck Maintenance
Trucking companies must regularly evaluate their employees and their vehicles. To properly maintain their vehicles, trucking companies must ensure that they hire qualified professionals. A trucking company may get into legal trouble if it fails to properly maintain its vehicle.
Lack of maintenance can have terrible consequences. Trucking companies must keep detailed maintenance records and conduct regular checks on their vehicles. Without proper attention to these things, trucking companies put everyone on the road at risk.
Examples of maintenance that trucking companies are responsible for include:
- Checking the brakes. Maintaining the brake system is important because a lack of maintenance can lead to various kinds of accidents, including rear-end & rollover accidents.
- Checking the tires. A trucking company must ensure that its vehicles have properly inflated tires. If tires get worn out, they can blow out and cause injuries from crashes and scattered debris.
- Check lighting systems. If a truck has a faulty light system, broken signal lights or reflectors can decrease a truck’s visibility on the road.
These are only some of the failures of trucking companies that can lead to devastating crashes and company liability.
Trucking Company Responsibility for an Accident
To hold the trucking company liable, you must present evidence of the specific negligent conduct that led to the accident. Your truck accident lawyer can help you build a strong case and demonstrate the company was negligent can should cover your losses.
Further, a trucking company does not need to engage in negligence to be liable for accident-related injuries. If a truck driver is driving a trucking company’s vehicle when the accident happens, the trucking company often shares responsibility for your losses because of vicarious liability.
Under the law, a company can be vicariously liable for the negligent acts of its employees. Often, a truck driver is an employee of the company, and therefore, vicarious liability applies. A company can be vicariously liable even if the driver was an independent contractor as long as the driver was operating the company’s vehicle and making deliveries for the company’s benefit.
Whenever possible, you should name both the driver and the company responsible for your harm in your claim. Trucking companies likely have more significant insurance coverage and greater financial resources than individual employees.
The federal government requires trucking companies to carry insurance on each of their vehicles. Carrying adequate insurance helps keep trucks safe by providing a way to pay for injuries if accidents happen. The FMCSA is responsible for setting insurance coverage requirements for trucking companies.
The amount of insurance required depends on the type of cargo the trucking company transports.
- If the truck carries regular cargo, the trucking company must carry a minimum of $750,000 in insurance coverage.
- If the truck carries hazardous materials (like chemicals or oil), the trucking company must carry a minimum of $1,000,000 in insurance coverage.
- If the truck weighs more than 3,500 pounds, the trucking company must carry at least $5,000,000 in insurance coverage.
Failing to carry adequate insurance can mean a federal fine for the trucking company and exposing the general public to an unreasonable safety risk.
Most accident victims need professional help proving that trucking companies are responsible for their injuries. An experienced truck accident attorney can help you build your case and prove liability. Contact an attorney in your area to learn more about your legal options after a truck accident.
Common Injuries In Truck Accident Cases
The size and weight of commercial trucks can easily cause permanent injuries, disability, or death. The injuries you suffer can turn into a massive bill. In addition to the physical damage, there are emotional losses that come with getting into a truck accident with a commercial truck.
Common injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI), concussions, and other head trauma
- Organ damage
- Internal bleeding
- Cuts, scrapes, and bruises
- Spinal cord injuries
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Broken bones and fractures
What Damages Are Available in a Truck Accident Case?
Damages available in a truck accident are usually either economic, non-economic, or punitive damages. You need an attorney to help you prove this damage.
Economic damage reflects certain losses from a truck accident. These damages are usually easy to prove and straightforward.
Examples of economic damages include:
- Current and future lost income
- Current and future medical bills and cost of medical treatment
- Lost earning capacity (this refers to the inability to work in the same way that you did before the accident)
- Property damage
- The cost of paying for in-home help, like cleaning services, paying for grocery delivery, babysitting services, help bathing, or pet sitting services.
Non-economic damages are generally tougher to prove. This category of damages addresses the need to help accident victims recoup their intangible losses. Accident victims usually need an experienced attorney to help them prove non-economic losses.
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional trauma
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship
- Diminished quality of life
Punitive damages punish defendants for their wildly outrageous conduct. Punitive damages are not typical awards in truck accident cases unless the defendant’s conduct falls so outside the normal standard of conduct that it shocks the conscience.
Punitive damages are not widely available, but they can increase your compensation if they are. Ask your attorney whether you can recover punitive damages in your state and if your case qualifies.
How Can a Truck Accident Attorney Help Me?
Hiring a skilled professional truck accident attorney is the best way to start pursuing compensation after a truck accident case. If you suffered an injury in an accident with a commercial truck, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Here are some ways truck accident attorneys can help you resolve your case:
Negotiate With the Insurance Company
Effective negotiation takes skill. Civil attorneys work with insurance companies and defense attorneys every day. These attorneys know what the insurance companies will argue to avoid paying out your claim. Unrepresented accident victims have a much harder time getting the money they need to cover their losses. An accident attorney can help you ensure your legal rights are protected.
Investigate the Accident
Civil lawsuits succeed on the facts, so having as much detail about what caused the accident is important. Your attorney will work with their team to investigate the accident and get to the bottom of who is liable. Many truck accident attorneys have a network of other professionals, including doctors and accident reconstructionists, that can help them understand the extent of your harm and get an idea about how the accident happened.
Identify Each Responsible Party
During their investigation, your attorney will identify each responsible party to the accident. In a truck accident, multiple parties can share responsibility for causing an accident. Each party must pay its share for the losses you suffered after a truck accident. It can also be difficult to find each responsible party. Relying on an attorney and their team to find the potential defendants in a truck accident case is your best bet.
Speak With Debt Collectors and Hospital Billing Departments on Your Behalf
A truck accident attorney can help you by funneling all correspondence and communication to their office. Calls from debt collectors can get stressful, especially when you are trying to recover from an accident. Being represented by an attorney can help you avoid the hassle and focus on recovery.
Help You File a Lawsuit
Civil litigation can get complicated, especially if it is your first time in an accident. There are procedural rules that you must follow to protect your right to sue. An experienced accident attorney can help you protect your interests by complying with applicable procedural rules.
Can I Afford An Attorney?
The cost of legal representation is expensive. The fear of being unable to afford an attorney to represent them may keep many people from pursuing a claim for damages. Fortunately, contingency fee arrangements are widely available for people injured in truck accidents.
A contingency fee agreement is a payment structure that allows a client to pay for legal services at the end of their case and only if their case settles. The advantage of having a contingency fee plan is that it gives accident victims the freedom to pursue litigation and get the compensation they need to get their lives back on track.
Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today
There is no reason to pursue an accident claim alone. Large trucking and insurance companies are intimidating, and they do not want to admit fault and spend money paying for your injuries. By having an attorney working for you, you have protection against intimidation tactics.
Contact a Florida personal injury attorney in your area today if you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a truck accident case.