Who Is Liable if I Sustain an Injury in an Accident With an 18-Wheeler or Commercial Vehicle?
Recovering compensation after an accident with an 18-wheeler or other commercial vehicle can be a complex process. There are many parties whose conduct may have opened themselves up to liability, and it’s important to include any and all potential defendants in your claims. If you omit the proper party, you risk the identified defendants kicking the case down the line to the next person and facing an endless line of “it wasn’t my fault.” Below, we discuss the parties who can be liable for personal injury after a serious truck crash. If you’ve been in a truck accident or commercial vehicle crash in Southern California, call a knowledgeable Los Angeles truck accident lawyer at the Morris Law Firm for advice and representation.
The Driver and Their Employer
The majority of traffic accidents, including accidents involving large trucks and commercial vehicles, are caused by driver error. The risks of driver error are heightened by drowsy driving, distracted driving, drunk driving, aggressive speeding and other maneuvers, and any other negligent conduct. When a truck driver or other commercial driver causes an accident through their negligence, they are personally liable for the results of their conduct.
If the truck driver was self-employed, then the driver is personally responsible, although if they have a personal driving business then that business (and business insurance) may be implicated. If the driver was employed by a freight company or other transportation business, their employer may be held liable for their on-the-job conduct. A trucking company can be held “vicariously liable” for the actions of its agents so long as the accident occurred in the course of duty. If the driver was “off the clock,” then their employer might not be liable, but if the accident occurred during a delivery, then the employer is almost certainly liable. Businesses carry general liability insurance to cover instances in which they are sued for causing injury to third parties.
Additionally, there may be grounds to hold the employer “directly” liable for your accident. If the accident was caused by the negligence of the freight company or commercial employer, they could be directly liable for the resulting damage. The employer may be negligent if they, for example:
- Failed to properly maintain their trucks/commercial vehicles
- Failed to properly train their drivers
- Failed to conduct background checks and/or otherwise hire qualified drivers
- Failed to install, use, and train drivers regarding proper safety equipment
- Encouraged truck drivers to ignore “hours of service” regulations, which limit how many hours a long-haul trucker can drive between rest breaks
If your accident was caused by an unqualified or untrained driver, a faulty truck part, or a drowsy trucker, and the employer’s negligence contributed to that hazardous condition, the employer could be directly liable for your injuries.
In addition to the truck driver and their employer, there are several other parties who may be held liable in a large truck crash, depending on the circumstances. Any party whose negligence directly contributed to your accident may be held liable. Other parties who may have been involved in a truck accident include:
- Truck manufacturer. If the accident was caused by a defective truck part or a defective auto part in your vehicle, then the manufacturer of that part and/or the manufacturer of the entire vehicle could be held liable for damages caused.
- Contractors. Truck accidents are often caused by imbalanced loads, unsecured loads, or simply being overloaded. Improper loading can cause a trucker to lose control of the vehicle. While the freight company bears responsibility for ensuring the load is safe and secure, trucks are often loaded by some other party–a third party contractor or the company hired by the trucking company to deliver goods. If employees of that contractor or other third party loaded the truck improperly and that leads to an accident, they could be liable for their role in causing the crash.
- Government agency. If an accident was caused by a pothole or other road maintenance issue, or if it was caused by poor highway design, then the municipality or state agency responsible for designing or maintaining that stretch of road might be liable for accidents that result. Government liability is much more complex and requires jumping through additional administrative hoops.
If you were injured in a traffic accident in Los Angeles, you need dedicated, professional legal help to protect your rights. Reach out to a California truck accident attorney at Morris Law Firm to find out if you have a claim for damages. Morris Law Firm will give you a personalized evaluation and help you figure out your legal rights and next steps. Call us today at 747-283-1144 for a fast response or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.