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Is the Trucking Company or Driver Liable in a Truck Accident?

close up of a car crashed into a semi-truck bumper

Determining Truck Crash Liability

Although less common than car crashes, collisions involving large trucks and commercial vehicles can have devastating consequences for the people involved. Not only are these trucks significantly larger than the standard passenger vehicle, but they also require more stopping distance and care behind the wheel.

When involved in a truck crash and choosing to pursue legal action, your attorney will look to determine who the liable parties are. Fault can be placed on several parties in these instances, and it's important to understand how that may vary depending on the circumstances of your accident.

Is the Driver At-Fault?

Truck drivers have a responsibility to maintain safe driving behaviors that any other motorist must uphold, including:

  • Pass a driving and knowledge test.
  • Obey traffic laws and signs.
  • Keep a proper lookout.
  • No driving under the influence.

Considering this, truck drivers who engage in negligent actions, such as driving while fatigued or under the influence, using handheld electronic devices, or driving recklessly may be held liable for the damages caused in a collision.

Electronic Logging Devices

Trucking companies also began implementing new logging policies in 2017, mandating the use of the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) that automatically tracks and records specific data—including engine hours, miles traveled, and driver information. Although these devices can be on wireless, they must be mounted during operation to ensure proper use. Along with this, the data is to be kept for a minimum of six months.

The use of an ELD is crucial, as it provides tangible evidence and information regarding a truck driver's performance, which may indicate that they were driving negligently.

When is the Trucking Company is At-Fault?

For certain truck crashes, the trucking company themselves may assume partial or total liability. In many cases, the truckers are employees of the trucking companies, which means the companies may be held liable for any negligence of their employees that occurs on the job. In legal terms, that is called respondeat superior or vicarious liability.

However, in many cases, the trucking companies have violated safety rules and may also be liable for their negligent corporate conduct. In these cases, it often has to do with whether a policy, action, or instruction from the company caused the driver to act recklessly or negligently. This may include:

  • Harsh delivery deadlines may encourage inadequate rest times.
  • Failure to enforce duty hour requirements.
  • Failure to inspect or maintain trucks.
  • Lack of training.
  • Failure to do proper record checks of hired drivers.

The way cargo is loaded or secured on the truck may also put the liability on the trucking company, as this often indicates a lack of care or training on the company's part. 

Trucking companies may also contract their workers through a third-party entity or lease their trucks in some cases, potentially placing the liability on another.

Third Party Liability

When hiring a contractor or leasing a truck from another company, a third-party entity is introduced into the equation and could potentially assume liability for any injuries resulting from a wreck. When this third party fails to appropriately maintain their vehicles, load cargo, or train/background check their drivers, it could put other motorists at risk of an accident.

Alternatively, another passenger vehicle could be responsible for your collision with a truck. If this car initially caused the first collision, they could be found responsible for both crashes that occurred.

Since multiple parties could be held liable for a truck crash, it is crucial to work with an attorney with experience in truck accident litigation to ensure that your rights are protected.

North Carolina Truck Accident Attorneys

Butler Daniel of Daniel, Holoman & Associates LLP has extensive experience on both sides of truck accident litigation. As a former truck crash/insurance defense attorney, he has seen how the other side handles these cases and uses this experience when advocating for the rights of victims.

When choosing to pursue legal action for your collision with a large truck or commercial vehicle, trust the team with over 35 years of combined experience and more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts. Call (866) 380-2281 to schedule your free consultation today.