Holding Truck Drivers and Transportation Companies Accountable for Negligent Driving
Truck accidents cause some of the most devastating motor vehicle accidents. The added vehicle weight gives a truck more momentum, which causes more severe injuries, and increases the chances that an accident will be fatal to injury victims. This is why it is so important to hold truck drivers accountable for negligent driving. The experienced truck accident injury attorneys at Winer, Burritt & Tillis LLP have spent decades protecting the legal rights of motorcycle accident victims around the Oakland area. Call (510) 200-0162 today to schedule your free consultation.
Who Is at Fault for a Truck Accident?
Legal responsibility (“liability”) for a truck accident can fall to many different people or companies, depending on the facts and circumstances of the collision. Some of the most common sources of liability for a truck accident include:
- The at-fault driver. As with any auto accident, a driver found negligent for causing a collision has a legal obligation to pay for all financial losses associated with the accident. A negligent truck driver may have caused your accident directly. Or a negligent truck driver may have cut off another driver, followed someone else too closely, failed to yield to other traffic, or forced another driver to slam on the brakes unexpectedly, resulting in your injuries from an accident. Many such truck accidents result in chain collisions involving many more vehicles. The negligent driver is then legally obligated to compensate all injuries and losses incurred by all vehicle occupants involved in the chain collision.
- The transportation company that employs the truck driver. In general, employers are liable for negligent acts their employees commit while performing their work duties. This means that a transportation company can face liability for an accident caused by its truck driver’s careless conduct on the road. As a result, many truck accident lawsuits are filed against a company that owns or operates a truck, or employs the truck driver in some capacity. Often a key issue in a truck accident case is whether a truck driver is an independent contractor not employed by the company. In those cases, the company sometimes takes the position that it isn’t responsible for the truck driver’s negligence. Normally a skilled lawyer can overcome this defense, but that doesn’t stop the companies from trying.
- A company that negligently designs or manufactures a defective truck. Sometimes, a truck accident is the result of defective brakes, steering wheels, or other important equipment. A vehicle manufacturer that put a defective vehicle into the marketplace can be subject to a products liability claim. Products liability requires manufacturers of consumer goods to make those products safe for ordinary use. A commercial truck, for example, must safely brake, change lanes, and perform other ordinary driving tasks. A defect in the truck’s design or manufacturing that results in injuries can expose the manufacturer to products liability claims. The manufacturer could then face a legal obligation to compensate all injuries and financial losses that occurred as a result of the dangerous defect on the truck.
- A company that negligently maintains a truck. A design or manufacturing defect is not the same thing as improper maintenance. Brakes, for example, may work properly when the truck is purchased, but they will wear down with time. The vehicle’s owner has a responsibility to regularly change the brake pads, inspect the equipment, and repair or replace it when needed. A failure to do may constitute negligence on the part of the owner. In this case, the truck’s owner could face liability for negligently allowing an unsafe vehicle to injure other drivers and passengers.
- Government agencies that negligently maintain the roadway. City, country, state, and other local governments are responsible for maintaining roadways in safe conditions. If potholes, uneven surfaces, loose gravel, or poor road design cause a truck accident, the agency or entity that neglecting its duties may face a negligence lawsuit. A government agency may try to defend itself from such claims under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity, however, does not apply in every situation. Always explore the possibility of a lawsuit against a government agency with an experienced truck accident attorney who can determine whether sovereign immunity applies to your claim. You may need to undergo different procedures—and you may face a shorter deadline, or statute of limitations, when filing a claim against the government—so do not delay. If you suspect that negligence on the part of the government contributed to your truck accident injuries, contact an experienced lawyer immediately.
- Items in the roadway. Many accidents are caused by debris that falls off of trucks and into the road, forcing other drivers to swerve and avoid it. Unfortunately, removing debris from the roadway can present its own set of dangers. This highly dangerous situation can result in liability to a driver who transports improperly secured cargo. Tracing the source of debris left in the road can prove difficult, but an experienced attorney may know how to track it down and hold the driver liable for negligently securing the cargo.
Proving Liability Is Difficult—but Important
When more than one party is at fault (or could potentially face liability), defendants are quick in their attempts to shift the blame to one another—such as in a chain-reaction accident involving several drivers. The parties may also dispute the driver’s reaction to conditions that led to the accident.
Rain, ice, and snow can make roadways slippery. As a result, drivers have a duty of care to respond to these conditions appropriately and slow down when necessary. But how slow is necessary? What if all drivers acted cautiously, but a weather-related accident occurred anyway? In such a case, a jury may need to determine whether all drivers met their duty of care, or whether one or more drivers were negligent (and if so, to what degree they share fault).
Despite these challenges, injury victims must fight hard to hold negligent parties accountable. Accountability promotes safer behavior in the future, which protects other innocent victims from suffering similar injuries.
For instance, a products liability case against a vehicle manufacturer can help make the entire line of vehicles safer. If an injury victim proves negligent design or manufacture of a truck, the manufacturer may take corrective measures to make other vehicles safer. It may issue a recall or redesign the next model to account for the safety defect. These actions protect not only drivers of the manufacturer’s vehicles, but all other road users whom those vehicles could potentially injure.
Truck accident lawsuits also promote accountability for safer driving behaviors. An individual driver who is found liable for an accident will often drive more carefully in the future. Truck drivers who hold commercial drivers licenses may also face a suspension or revocation of that license as the result of an accident. This, too, is incentive to drive more carefully.
A transportation company that is held liable for its driver’s negligence may implement stricter safety standards for all of its drivers. This may consist of safety training programs, incentives for safe drivers, and other measures to prevent future accidents. The consequences of a truck accident lawsuit are important incentives to prevent similar negligent behavior in the future.
An Attorney Can Help Victims Recover Compensation for Injuries and Losses
Defense attorneys have many tactics to shield a truck driver or company from liability for a truck accident. Plaintiff’s attorneys, however, have many strategies to deal with these defenses and protect an injury victim’s claim from challenges and pursue that victim’s right to compensation for all losses and injuries caused by the defendant’s negligence. The exact nature of these defenses and strategies will depend on the facts of the accident, and what specific challenge the defense raises. This is why you need an attorney who has specific experience in truck accident claims.
An experienced attorney can also help injury victims identify every source of compensation to which they are entitled. Most victims expect compensation for medical bills and vehicle damage. But some are not aware of the many other losses for which the law provides compensation.
For example, injury victims can recover lost wages for any time they missed work as a result of the accident (including time off for medical appointments). Victims who have suffered long-term or permanent injuries can also recover compensation for any future earning capacity the accident has impaired. A victim who must switch professions, work limited hours, or accept different job responsibilities usually loses income as a result. This, however, constitutes a compensable loss. Victims who are left permanently unable to work after a truck accident are entitled to compensation for all future earnings they would have made for the remainder of their working years.
An experienced attorney can also help a victim prove the full amount of pain and suffering. This is often the largest component of any personal injury award. It is also the most difficult to prove. As a result, insurance companies and defense attorneys find many different ways to attack the amount a victim claims in pain and suffering.
Many insurance companies will simply make a lowball offer during settlement negotiations, hoping that the victim would rather accept it than incur the time and expense of litigation. Others will claim that the victim contributed to the pain and suffering (as by failing to wear a seat belt, waiting to seek medical treatments, or not following all of the recommended courses of medical treatment). An experienced attorney can skillfully negotiate with the insurance company, and if necessary, present the case to a jury in the strongest possible manner. This improves the chances of a fair award for the full value of the victim’s pain and suffering.
Truck accident claims can prove unpredictable. It is not always possible to foresee exactly what defenses, tactics, or strategies an insurance company or defense attorney will use. This is why you need the guidance of an attorney who has handled many truck accident claims. An experienced attorney will better handle unexpected circumstances when they arise, defend your claim, and help you recover compensation.
The Right Representation for Your Truck Accident Claim
A truck accident can overwhelm any injury victim, so hire an experienced attorney who can help file claims, establish liability, prove the amount of damages, and defend your claim from any challenges.
It is important to hire an attorney as soon as possible after a truck accident. It is a guarantee that the trucking company will contact an attorney immediately and sometimes investigate an accident on the same day. If the victim waits to retain an attorney, this gives the trucking company an advantage. Most people don’t realize that police reports are not admissible into evidence during a trial. Thus, only an attorney retained by the victim can quickly begin an investigation and preserve evidence that may be key to winning the case such as skid marks, evidence of vehicular damage, shattered glass and car parts at the scene. All of this can “disappear” either by weather or inscrutable tactics by the trucking company.
No injury victim should have to face these tasks alone. Call (510) 200-0162 today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced truck accident attorney at Winer, Burritt & Tillis LLP. We fight hard to hold drivers, transportation companies, and truck manufacturers accountable for dangerous conduct that places all road users in danger.