It’s often unclear who is liable for the resulting damages and injuries when a truck accident occurs. While the truck driver may be directly at fault in the crash, the trucking company that employs the driver or owns the truck may also be responsible in many cases.

Understanding when and how a trucking company can be liable for an accident is important for anyone in a truck crash, as it can significantly affect the outcome of a legal claim. Corporations often have significantly greater insurance coverage, which increases the compensation available to severely injured accident victims.

A truck accident lawyer can examine your crash and identify when a truck company shares liability. Below are some scenarios in which a trucking company may be responsible for an accident and what you should do if you find yourself in this situation.

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Vicarious Liability

First, a trucking company does not have to do anything wrong to share liability for a truck accident. If a truck driver is negligent, the company can be vicariously liable for the driver’s conduct if either of the following are true:

  • The company employs the driver
  • The company owns the truck
  • The company otherwise allowed the driver to operate the truck

In such situations, the driver is an agent of the trucking company, so the company will share liability for any harm the driver causes. A truck accident attorney will know when to hold a trucking company vicariously liable for your injuries and losses.

Negligent Hiring, Training, and Supervision

Another way a trucking company can also be liable for an accident is by failing to properly hire, train, or supervise its drivers. Trucking companies have a legal duty to ensure that the drivers behind the wheel are qualified, competent, and safe to operate large commercial vehicles on public roads.

This duty begins with the hiring process, where companies must conduct thorough background checks and verify that potential drivers have valid commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) and clean driving records. If a company hires a driver with a history of accidents, traffic violations, or other red flags without addressing these issues, it may be liable for negligent hiring if that driver goes on to cause an accident.

Once hired, a trucking company is responsible for providing sufficient training to ensure its drivers possess the necessary skills and knowledge for safe driving. This training should cover topics such as:

  • Safe driving techniques for large trucks include proper braking, turning, and lane changes.
  • Defensive driving strategies to help drivers anticipate and avoid potential hazards on the road.
  • Proper cargo loading and securement to prevent shifting or spilling loads.
  • Hours-of-service regulations and the importance of getting enough rest to avoid fatigued driving.

If a trucking company fails to provide comprehensive training to its drivers, and an accident occurs due to the driver’s lack of knowledge or skill, the company may be held liable for negligent training.

In addition to proper hiring and training, trucking companies have an ongoing duty to supervise their drivers and ensure that they follow safe driving practices and company policies. This may involve regular performance evaluations, random drug and alcohol testing, and monitoring drivers’ hours-of-service logs to prevent violations.

If a trucking company becomes aware of a driver engaging in unsafe behaviors, such as speeding, reckless driving, or violating hours-of-service rules, but fails to take appropriate disciplinary action, it may be liable for negligent supervision if that driver then causes an accident. A truck accident attorney can review records to determine if violations occurred.

Negligent Maintenance and Equipment Failures

Trucking companies are also legally responsible for ensuring that the vehicles in their fleet are properly maintained and safe to operate on public roads. This includes regular inspections, repairs, and replacements of key components such as brakes, tires, lights, and steering systems.

If a trucking company fails to keep up with necessary maintenance or ignores known safety issues with its vehicles, and an accident occurs due to a mechanical failure or defect, the company may be liable for negligent maintenance.

Some common examples of maintenance-related issues that can lead to trucking company liability include:

Failing to Perform Routine Inspections and Repairs

Close-up of a truck driver's hands on the steering wheel, driving in sunlight, emphasizing focus and responsibility.

A trucking company must regularly inspect and maintain its vehicles to prevent accidents due to mechanical failures, fulfilling its critical responsibility for safety. This responsibility entails performing routine inspections on essential components like brakes, tires, lights, and steering systems and doing necessary repairs or replacements when issues arise.

Failing to perform these routine inspections and repairs can lead to serious safety hazards on the road. For example, if a truck’s brake pads can wear down to a dangerous level without being replaced, the driver cannot stop the vehicle in time to avoid a collision. Similarly, if a truck’s tires are not regularly rotated and replaced when worn or damaged, the risk of a blowout or loss of traction increases significantly.

Trucking companies that neglect to perform routine inspections and repairs on their vehicles may be held liable for accidents resulting from these mechanical failures. They are legally obligated to ensure that their trucks are safe to operate on public roads and to promptly address any known issues.

To avoid liability for accidents caused by poor maintenance, trucking companies should:

  • Develop and follow a regular inspection and maintenance schedule for all vehicles in their fleet based on manufacturer recommendations and industry best practices.
  • Train their drivers to conduct pre-trip and post-trip inspections of their vehicles and to report any issues or concerns to maintenance staff.
  • Maintain detailed records of all inspections, repairs, and maintenance performed on each vehicle, including the date, nature of the work, and any parts replaced.
  • Immediately address any safety issues or defects that inspections or drivers identify, and keep vehicles out of service until executing the necessary repairs.

By prioritizing routine inspections and repairs, trucking companies can significantly reduce the risk of accidents caused by mechanical failures and demonstrate their commitment to safety on the road.

Not Addressing Safety Recalls or Manufacturer Defects

Another way trucking companies can be held liable for accidents is by failing to address safety recalls or manufacturer defects promptly. When a truck manufacturer or government agency issues a recall notice for a particular vehicle or component, they have identified a safety issue that can increase the risk of accidents or injuries.

Trucking companies are responsible for staying informed about vehicle recalls and promptly addressing the issue. This may require trucking companies to bring affected trucks to a dealership or authorized repair facility for necessary repairs or replacements or, in some cases, to remove the vehicles from service until they resolve the issue.

Failing to address safety recalls or manufacturer defects promptly can expose trucking companies to significant liability in the event of an accident. Suppose an investigation reveals that a recalled component or defective part contributed to the crash, and the company had not taken appropriate action to fix the issue. In that case, they may be responsible for any resulting damages or injuries.

To minimize their liability exposure, trucking companies should:

  • Regularly monitor recall notices and safety alerts from truck manufacturers, government agencies, and industry organizations.
  • Develop a plan for addressing any recalls or defects affecting their vehicles, including procedures for notifying drivers, scheduling repairs, and documenting the work performed.
  • Prioritize recalls and defects based on the severity of the safety risk and the availability of replacement parts or repair solutions.
  • Keep detailed records of all recall and defect repairs performed on each vehicle, including the date, nature of the work, and any parts replaced.
  • Train their drivers to identify and report potential safety issues or defects with their vehicles.

By proactively addressing safety recalls and manufacturer defects, trucking companies can help prevent accidents and protect themselves from liability in the event of a crash.

Allowing Trucks to Operate with Known Mechanical Problems

In some cases, trucking companies may be aware of mechanical problems with their vehicles but still allow them to operate on the road. This can be a serious safety hazard and expose the company to significant liability in the event of an accident.

Here are some known mechanical problems that truck maintenance teams must fix before allowing a truck to operate:

  • Faulty brakes or brake components
  • Malfunctioning steering systems
  • Broken or inoperable lights or signals
  • Leaking fluid lines or hoses
  • Excessively worn or damaged tires

If a trucking company allows a vehicle to operate with any of these or other known mechanical issues, the driver, other motorists, and the general public are at risk. If a company knows about a mechanical failure and an accident occurs, it may face significant legal and financial consequences for negligence.

Failing to Keep Accurate Records of Maintenance and Repairs

Proper record-keeping is essential for trucking companies to demonstrate their commitment to safety and compliance with federal regulations. This includes maintaining accurate and up-to-date records of all maintenance and repairs performed on each vehicle in their fleet.

Failing to keep accurate records of maintenance and repairs can expose trucking companies to significant liability in the event of an accident. If an investigation reveals that a mechanical failure contributed to the crash, and the company cannot produce evidence of regular inspections, maintenance, or repairs, it can be responsible for negligent maintenance.

In addition to increasing liability exposure, failing to keep accurate maintenance records can result in violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and lead to fines, penalties, or even the suspension of a company’s operating authority.

To avoid these consequences and protect themselves from liability, trucking companies should:

  • Develop and implement a system for documenting all inspections, maintenance, and repairs performed on each vehicle in their fleet.
  • Ensure all records are accurate, complete, and up-to-date, including the service date, nature of the work performed, replaced parts, and personnel involved.
  • Maintain records in a secure and organized manner, either electronically or in paper form, and ensure they are easily accessible for review by management, safety personnel, or regulatory authorities.
  • Regularly audit maintenance records to ensure compliance with company policies and federal regulations.
  • Provide training to maintenance personnel on proper recordkeeping procedures and the importance of accurate documentation.

There are many ways trucking companies can be negligent regarding truck maintenance, and proving such negligence is complicated. You need a truck accident attorney with the resources to investigate into these technical matters to identify such negligence on the part of the company.

Inadequate Insurance Coverage

Gavel resting on a stack of money with a calculator beside it, symbolizing legal financial evaluations.

Sometimes, trucking companies fail to maintain adequate insurance coverage. Federal law mandates that trucking companies maintain minimum liability insurance to cover damages and injuries their drivers might cause, with the required amount depending on the type of cargo they carry.

If a trucking company fails to maintain the required insurance coverage, and an accident occurs, the company can be directly liable for any damages exceeding the available insurance funds. This can put accident victims in a difficult position, as they may have to pursue compensation directly from the company, which can be a complex and time-consuming process. Having representation from a highly experienced truck accident lawyer is necessary.

What to Do If You’ve Been in a Truck Accident

Some key actions to take include following a truck accident include:

  • Seek medical attention: Even if you don’t think you’ve suffered a severe injury, getting an evaluation by a medical professional as soon as possible after the accident is crucial. Some injuries, such as concussions or internal bleeding, may not be immediately apparent, and prompt treatment can be critical for your health and your legal claim.
  • Report the accident: Notify law enforcement about the accident immediately. State the basic facts truthfully, but avoid admitting fault or apologizing, as others can hold these statements against you in a legal claim.
  • Contact an experienced truck accident attorney: Trucking accident cases can be complex and involve multiple parties, including the driver, trucking company, insurance providers, etc. Working with an attorney with experience handling these cases can help ensure your rights are protected and you have the best chance of recovering the compensation you deserve.

Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today

Determining liability is necessary to seek compensation for your losses from a truck accident. While the truck driver may be the most obvious party to hold responsible, the trucking company that employs them may also be liable in many cases.

From vicarious liability for the driver’s actions to negligent hiring, training, and supervision practices, there are numerous ways that a trucking company’s actions or inactions can contribute to an accident. Trucking companies also have a legal duty to ensure their vehicles are properly maintained and comply with all federal safety regulations.

If you’ve experienced a truck accident, don’t navigate the complex legal process alone. Contact an experienced truck accident attorney today for a free consultation and case evaluation. With the right legal team, you can focus on your recovery while your personal injury attorney works to hold all responsible parties accountable and seek the compensation you need to move forward with your life.

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