Who Is Liable for My Truck Accident?
Collisions involving commercial trucks can be much more catastrophic than other types of vehicle accidents because of the great disparity between the sizes of large trucks and passenger vehicles. While the average passenger car weighs around 4,000 pounds, commercial trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Determining liability for a truck crash can also be more difficult than for other types of motor vehicle accidents because multiple parties might have contributed to the causes of the collisions.
Commercial truck drivers in Pennsylvania and the companies that employ them are required to follow the regulations promulgated by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for truck drivers and carriers. They must also follow the regulations established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or FMCSA.
Rules for Pennsylvania commercial truck drivers
While driver negligence can be a factor in any motor vehicle accident, truck drivers must follow additional safety regulations. There are many different regulations that apply to truck drivers and trucking companies. Drivers must adhere to the hours of service rules, medical clearance requirements, and other regulations. Drivers must secure CDL licenses and obtain medical certification showing their physical fitness to drive commercial trucks. The medical certificate must be updated every two years. Truck drivers must also complete DOT drug testing before they can be hired and must also submit to random drug tests. If a driver is convicted of a traffic offense or has his or her license suspended or revoked, he or she must report that information to PennDOT.
Liability in a commercial truck crash
Commercial truck collisions can involve multiple liable parties. In addition to the truck driver, his or her employer may also be vicariously liable for the negligent actions of the driver while he or she is acting within the course and scope of his or her employment. Since the trucking company benefits from its drivers’ work, trucking carriers are legally responsible for their actions while they are working. Several other parties might also be liable. A Philadelphia truck accident lawyer at Raynes & Lawn can investigate your case to determine all of the potentially liable parties following a truck accident.
Important evidence for determining truck accident liability
Following a collision involving a commercial truck, a thorough investigation is critical for determining what happened and which parties might hold legal liability. Some of the types of evidence that might be important include the following:
- Evidence gathered from the accident scene
- Photographs of the damage to the truck and each involved vehicle
- Accident reconstruction reports
- Police reports
- Any surveillance video
- Information from the truck’s black box
- Electronic logging device data
- Forensic data
- Medical records
- Witness statements
A commercial truck accident attorney can file a motion to preserve evidence so that the trucking company will save the records and evidence and turn them over for an examination.
Parties that might be liable in a truck collision
After a thorough investigation, a Philadelphia truck accident attorney might find evidence to support a determination that more than one party should be held accountable for a truck accident. Some of the parties that might be responsible include the following:
Truck drivers might be liable when they have engaged in negligent driving behavior that contributed to the accident, including speeding, distracted or drowsy driving, impaired driving, and others. Drivers are also responsible for inspecting their trucks to make sure that they are properly loaded, secured, and maintained. If the accident is caused by the driver’s negligence, he or she might be partially responsible for the crash.
Trucking carriers are responsible for the actions of the drivers that they employ as well as the trucks they place on the roads. Trucking companies are responsible for hiring, training, supervising, and terminating drivers. If a company hires a driver that has not been properly trained or who has multiple convictions on his or her record and is incompetent to drive, the company may be directly liable for a truck crash. Carriers are also vicariously liable for the negligent conduct of their employees.
Distributor or shipper
Distributors and shippers that load trucks may be liable when they fail to properly distribute the weight of the cargo or to secure it correctly. Cargo shifts can cause trucks to overturn, leading to catastrophic accidents and injuries.
Many other parties might also be liable in a truck collision. For example, recruiting companies, background check companies, third-party pre-employment drug testing clinics, leasing companies that own the trucks, third-party maintenance and repair shops, dispatching companies, and others that participate in the operation of a fleet might be liable for an accident if their negligence contributed to its cause.
Manufacturer of the truck or the truck’s components
Some accidents involving large trucks are caused by defective parts or systems. For example, an accident might result when the steering system fails, a tire blows out, or the brakes fail. While these types of issues might be caused by inadequate maintenance, they might also occur when the component or system was defective at the start. Defective trucks or components that result in accidents might form the basis of product liability claims against the manufacturers and others involved in the chain of distribution.
Governmental entities may be responsible for some truck collisions. For example, entities responsible for maintaining the roads might share responsibility for a truck accident when the road hazard contributes to an accident. Third-party contractors that work for the government might also be liable for truck collisions.
Talk to an experienced Philadelphia truck accident attorney
Truck collisions are among the most severe and complex motor vehicle accidents that can occur. If you have been seriously injured in an accident with a commercial truck or have lost a close family member in this type of collision, you should reach out to a Philadelphia truck accident lawyer at Raynes & Lawn as soon as possible. Call us at 1-800-535-1797 to request a free consultation.
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