Parker Waichman LLP

After being involved in a truck accident, you’re likely facing significant expenses just to get your life and health back in order. Your next step is to file an insurance claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. But who was actually at fault: the truck driver or the company that employs the driver?

In many cases, the trucking company is at least partially liable for the accidents a driver causes. Trucking company accidents can sometimes be more complex than regular automobile accidents, and you may not know who to hold responsible.

Potential Liable Parties in a Truck Accident

Even if the truck driver technically caused the accident, that doesn’t mean they are fully liable for your damages. Another party — such as the trucking company — could be partially liable.

Below are a few examples of potentially liable parties in a truck accident. In many states, insurance companies allow multiple parties to share liability in an accident, and there’s a chance your case also involves shared liability.

Truck Drivers

Truck drivers are often at least partially liable for the accidents they’re involved in while driving their trucks. Unless the accident occurred due to circumstances completely outside the truck driver’s control, they may assume partial liability.

The following are a few instances in which a truck driver may be liable for an accident:

  • The driver wasn’t paying attention and struck your vehicle.
  • The driver failed to perform pre-ride safety checks to ensure the truck was in safe working order.
  • The driver fell asleep at the wheel.
  • The driver was intoxicated.

Trucking Company

The trucking driver’s company may also assume partial liability for the accident. This could be due to a concept known as “vicarious liability” or because the company was responsible for the issue that led to the accident.

A few examples in which a trucking company may be directly liable for a truck accident include:

  • The company failed to properly train the truck driver before letting them drive on their own.
  • The trucking company forced the driver to work longer shifts than the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recommends.
  • The company did not maintain its commercial truck to the necessary standards, leading to a malfunction.

In trucking company accidents like these, the truck driver may not be directly liable for the accident.

Truck Parts Manufacturer

In some cases, another third party is partially liable for accidents involving commercial trucks. For example, perhaps a truck part malfunctioned, and the manufacturor can be held liable for a trucking company accident.

Your truck accident lawyer will review your case closely to determine whether any third parties may be liable.

Another Driver

If the accident involved multiple drivers, another driver could share partial liability for your damages.

Vicarious Liability in Truck Accidents

Many states, including New York, New Jersey, and Florida, follow a vicarious liability or “respondeat superior” policy for personal injury cases. Under this policy, a party that was responsible for the liable party in an accident could be held vicariously liable. For example, a parent could be vicariously liable for an accident their child causes.

In an accident involving commercial vehicles, like FedEx, freight, and other large trucks, the company responsible for the vehicle’s driver is often vicariously liable for the accident. The accident must meet the following three criteria to establish vicarious liability or respondeat superior:

  • The at-fault driver was an employee of the company. In some cases, even independent contractors and unpaid volunteers may count as employees for negligence purposes.
  • The at-fault driver was acting within the scope of their job — i.e., driving the vehicle for work, not pleasure.
  • The accident was generally foreseeable by the average person. This is true for most vehicle accidents, as anyone on the road is at risk of experiencing an accident.

If these three conditions apply to your truck accident case, you may be able to submit an insurance claim or lawsuit against the trucking company instead of or in addition to the driver, potentially increasing your payout.

How to Determine Liability in a Truck Accident

Truck accidents often happen in the blink of an eye. One minute, you’re cruising along the road, and the next, you’re in the wreckage of a serious crash. Because these events happen so quickly, pinpointing the liable party takes some careful consideration in the days and weeks following a collision.

The police officer who came to the scene of the accident likely created an accident report in which they detailed who they believed to be liable for the accident. But the officer can only go off the information immediately available to them after the crash. Their judgment may be right or wrong.

Insurance companies need a more accurate depiction of who was responsible for an accident. When you report the accident to your insurance company, an adjuster will do some digging to determine how the accident occurred and who was responsible. They will assign percentages of the blame to different parties depending on the accident circumstances. If the trucking company is liable, you’ll file a claim with its insurance company rather than yours.

Still, insurance companies often maintain a bias in favor of their clients. The trucking company’s insurance company could try to deny any liability for the crash or undervalue your insurance claim. That’s where your truck accident lawyer comes in.

Your attorney can help you gather compelling evidence to prove you were not responsible for the accident and that the truck driver and/or their company was. This evidence may include:

  • Video footage of the crash
  • Images of the damage to your vehicle
  • Crash reports from the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) system
  • Black box data from the commercial truck
  • Witness testimonies
  • Testimony from an accident reconstruction professional

Should You Sue a Trucking Company After an Accident?

You may decide to sue a trucking company after an accident if the insurance company denies your claim or lowballs you. Because insurance companies are in the business of making money — and trucking companies often work with aggressive insurance companies — your claim may be unsuccessful. The next step to secure adequate compensation for your accident is to file a personal injury lawsuit against resonsbile parties.

Your attorney will guide you through the legal process and represent you in court.

What Damages Can You Seek in a Truck Accident Lawsuit?

A personal injury lawsuit usually allows you to seek more compensation than you could through an insurance claim. While most insurance claims only cover your direct monetary expenses from an accident, lawsuit payouts leave room for emotional and other non-economic damages.

Through your lawsuit, you could seek all of the direct expenses from the accident, such as:

  • Physical damage to your vehicle
  • Medical bills
  • Time off work
  • Loss of ability to work
  • Future medical treatments

Meanwhile, you could also claim compensation for non-economic damages, like:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of companionship (in a wrongful death case)

If the truck driver acted recklessly or egregiously, such as drinking and driving, you may also be eligible for punitive damages to punish their wrongful behavior.

Need Help Claiming Compensation After a Truck Accident? Contact Truck Accidents Law Firm

Dangerous truck accidents can leave extensive physical and emotional damage in their wake. If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a truck accident and trying to determine which party is liable, you need an experienced attorney.

The attorneys at Truck Accidents Law Firm are well versed in truck accident claims and lawsuits across New York, New Jersey, and Florida. We can help you determine which party to hold liable for your accident and guide you through the compensation process. Trucking company accidents don’t scare us, and we have extensive experience communicating with trucking companies and their insurance providers to negotiate fair settlements for clients.

Contact Truck Accidents Law Firm today at 1-800-LAW-INFO for your free case evaluation, and let us help you put the pieces of your life back together so you can move forward.