Commercial Truck Accident Lawsuits
Last updated Monday, August 28th, 2023
A crash with a tractor-trailer can be a big, bad bummer. Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stays on top of safety, pileups continue. These collisions are no mild fender benders. Walking it off is rarely an option – walking at all may be a challenge and that’s why we have truck accident lawsuits.
Have you been involved in a truck accident? You may still be in shock. Filing a lawsuit may be the furthest thing from your mind.
Our team at Shuman Legal® understands you have obligations. You need time to recover. What don’t you need? Expenses racked up because of someone else. You need experience so you get compensated to the max.
What is a Truck Accident Lawsuit?
When you’re in a serious accident, you may be advised to file a lawsuit. This phrase may need defining. What does the average personal injury lawsuit involve?
Legal action is taken during a truck accident lawsuit. Financial justice is sought. Cases head to court. Steps could include:
- Filing the complaint. This document lists how the defendant’s actions caused an accident. Your injuries will be explained. Any damages you’ve suffered will also be described.
- Noting the defendant’s answer. The party at fault must respond to the complaint by a deadline. Called the answer, this response share’s the defendant’s side of the story.
- Discovery. Parties request information from one another. Written questions, known as interrogatories, are asked. Documentation to back your case is requested.
- Attempting to reach an agreement. The time and money that go into holding a trial can snowball. Trying to resolve your dispute outside of the courtroom is advisable. A settlement may result from mediation or other attempts at resolution.
- Going to trial. If parties can’t agree to terms, the lawsuit ends up in court. This process can be lengthy. Attorneys need ample prep time. A verdict is decided. A judgment is entered.
Who Can be Legally Responsible in a Trucking Accident?
A fault is not so difficult to establish in passenger car collisions. Big rigs are different. Commercial motor vehicles are huge. A misfire can happen six ways from Sunday. If anything fails on a semi-truck, the price could be paid in lives lost.
If more than one reason caused a crash, each party can be sued. Who may be named in a commercial truck accident lawsuit?
- Dispatch Company
- Freight loader(s) and/or owner(s)
- Group responsible for vehicle repair and maintenance
- Manufacturer of truck and/or truck parts
- Semi-truck owner
- Trucking company
What is Truck Driver Liability?
Operators can be held responsible for accidents when they’re in the wrong. Industry safety standards may not have been followed. Worse yet, these rules may have been ignored. Common ways commercial motor vehicle operators may be to blame in an accident include:
- Driving at unsafe speeds
- Continuing on dangerous roads or in inclement weather
- Hauling improperly secured loads
- Illegally using drugs and/or alcohol
- Not complying with Hours of Service (HOS) rules
- Operating tractor-trailers that are in disrepair, have failed inspections, and/or were not routinely maintained
- Purposefully carrying too much weight
- Recklessly driving
Is the Trucking Company Liable in an Accident?
Every accident is different. But yes, there are certain scenarios where the company itself can be considered at fault.
Was the driver on duty when the crash happened? Did the employer stand to benefit from the driver’s efforts? If so, the employer may be held accountable. The court may ask:
- Exactly what job was the employee asked to do?
- What other duties must employees do? Can drivers complete these tasks as time permits?
- Where was the driver headed when the accident occurred? For what purpose?
- When and where did accident take place?
Collisions caused by driver error may be traced back to employers. Trucking companies could be ultimately responsible if they’re:
- Assigning tiring runs. Some trucking companies literally expect employees to go the extra mile. Just because operators are allowed to drive more than the regular nine to five, doesn’t mean they should.
- Failing to train drivers well enough. A few weeks of driving a supersize truck may provide only the basics. New operators need to perfect their skills before heading out onto the open road.
- Making poor hiring choices. Details need to be checked before a prospective driver gets behind the wheel. The Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) should be current. A history of drug use on the job, driving while under the influence or reckless driving are red flags that shouldn’t be ignored.
- Shirking management duties. Supervisors need to stay on top of tasks. Veteran drivers must still comply with safe driving practices. Logs need to be verified. Trucks need regular maintenance and inspections. Issues should be handled promptly.
Is the Truck Driver an Employee or a Contractor?
It’s important to find out this information. This gray area varies with each case.
- Drive assigned routes
- Don’t have a choice in which freight to haul or jobs to do
- Generally, work for the employer only
- May need to wear company uniform
- Must comply with employer’s rules
- Receive benefits on top of wages
- Usually, drive during specific times
- Are able to refuse loads, runs, and/or routes
- Can set their own hours
- Can wear whatever they like
- Drive personal truck
- Get paid by the route
- May book jobs with other companies
- Pay for insurance and gas
- Take care of truck repairs and maintenance
How do Multiple Defendants Affect a Truck Accident Case?
There could be more than one party to blame for a crash. Responsibility is doled out to each defendant accordingly. If a driver slammed into you on icy roads there may be several parties named in the lawsuit.
The dispatch company routed the operator through inclement weather. The local government did not close the highway or make it safe enough for travel. Depending upon the situation, the driver might also be sued. Each of these defendants shares blame for causing the accident.
What Are the Federal and State Trucking Regulations?
When you hire an experienced Chicago truck accident attorney, you don’t have to answer this question. A legal professional knows truckers must meet federal and state mandates.
Did the defendant(s) break laws during or shortly before your accident? If so, a favor could be on your side. Proving an industry violation can spin the case your way.
Getting a sizeable settlement isn’t difficult when you know exactly what you’re doing. Shuman Legal knows trucks. We understand that the bigger the vehicle, the more insurance that’s required. Translation: Truck owners have better coverage so they can pay you what is asked.