Almost 4,000 people lost their lives in truck accidents in the United States in 2012. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also indicated another 104,000 motorists were hurt because of involvement in a crash with a truck. Many victims of truck accidents experience costly medical bills and some have their careers derailed due to their injuries. Family members face both emotional and financial devastation following fatal truck accidents.
Victims of truck collisions and surviving family members need to know who can be held accountable for their losses.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for Truck Accidents?
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 70 percent of people killed in truck accidents are in other passenger cars, rather than in the truck. These victims will need to determine if any of the truck driver's actions were the cause of the truck crash. If a trucker was unreasonably careless, violated state laws, or violated any Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), this could result in a truck driver being held liable for collision losses. Victims can pursue a case against the truck driver and recover compensation through a negotiated settlement or a jury's verdict in a personal injury or wrongful death civil suit.
Filing a claim against the trucker may not be the only choice for victims, and it's rarely the best choice. Trucking companies have much more money and much broader insurance coverage than individual truck drivers. As a result, victims may wish to hold the trucking company liable for accident damages.
A victim can pursue a claim against a trucking company by alleging the company itself was negligent or unreasonably careless. A victim can prove a trucking company's negligence by showing the trucking company failed to ensure Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations were followed. These regulations relate to things like truck driver qualifications, truck fleet maintenance, and hours-on-duty which a trucker can drive before needing to take a break. If a trucking company was pressuring drivers to drive more than permitted, was not maintaining its fleet properly, or was otherwise falling short, the victim could prove liability by showing these failures.
Victims can also pursue claims against trucking companies based on the fact the company's employee was negligent. When a trucker employed by the company is driving on duty, he is an agent of the trucking company, and his negligence as an agent is the equivalent of the negligence on the part of the company itself. However, in cases where the trucker is an independent contractor, the question of liability becomes more complex.
Victims will need to explore all possible legal routes for holding trucking companies accountable to ensure there are sufficient funds available to pay for damages. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation no. 387.9 requires $750,000 minimum for most trucks and $5 million minimum liability coverage for trucks transporting HAZMAT material - more than enough to pay for those accidents. However, to recover those funds, the victim needs a skilled advocate to stand up to the trucking companies, their insurance companies and their attorneys and adjusters.