The question of liability is complicated when it comes to truck accident cases.
That is because it is much harder to determine who is responsible for the incident.
Surprisingly, the person responsible may not always be the driver of the truck – and not the driver of the other vehicle involved either.
Truck accident cases typically include multiple parties, from the driver to the owner of the trucking company to the group responsible for maintenance on the truck itself, and gathering the information required to determine liability requires industry expertise.
Each year thousands of fatalities occur because of truck accidents.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), states that in 2014 there were 3,903 fatalities associated with truck accidents and an estimated 111,000 injuries.
While these tragic accidents are on a decline, according to the same publication by NHTSA, the numbers should be lower, and most of these accidents are preventable.
An individual injured in a truck accident is likely to encounter catastrophic injuries. Those injuries may impact them for the rest of their life, and even reduce their overall life expectancy.
Therefore, determining liability and holding those responsible is critical.
The Unique Laws Governing Truck Accidents
There are federal laws and regulations, which govern the trucking industry as a whole. Also, there are state-level legislations that influence how trucking companies and drivers must act within the state.
Both of these unique sets of laws and regulations must be considered by Mesa lawyers when determining responsibility for an accident.
1. Federal Laws Governing Trucking Companies And Drivers
The federal statutes, in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, require all trucking agencies and drivers to meet specific standards. These regulations may also determine who is at fault (and responsible) for any accidents.
The industry is overseen by several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
2. Arizona Laws Governing Trucking Companies And Their Driver
In addition to federal regulations, Arizona state has employed their laws for trucking companies and their employees. These laws cover different facets of driving and operating on the roads within the state.
ARS 28-709, for example, requires all truck operators not to exceed 65 miles per hour on the roadway.
ARS 28-1095, on the other hand, requires that drivers do not use a semi-truck or trailer that exceeds 28 feet and six inches in length. This same law does allow drivers to pull up to two trailers, as long as they do not exceed a total length of 57 feet.
How Trucking Laws Help Determine Liability
Trucking laws are critical when determining responsibility and liability in a truck accident case. These laws enforce a culture of safety, but also define trucking companies and their employees levels of liability (as well as their duty of care).
Therefore, a company or driver that violates federal or state safety laws and regulations has breached their duty of care. For an injury lawsuit, this is a critical conclusion that must be proven in court to establish liability and hold the plaintiff(s) responsible.
How Mesa Lawyers Determine Liability In A Truck Accident Case
Determining liability requires an attorney to look at all potential parties involved. These parties could include:
- The driver
- The owner of the truck or trailer
- The individual that leased the truck
- The manufacturer of the truck
- The manufacturer of the truck’s components (e.g. air brakes)
- The shipper or loader
- The company responsible for maintaining the truck
The circumstances of the accident would ultimately determine which parties may be responsible.
For example, the driver was unable to properly stop the truck because it was loaded past its capacity; therefore, the brakes were no longer able to stop the truck safely. The driver was unaware of the incorrect loading, but the shipper that loaded the truck was aware they went over the weight limit. In this instance, the shipper/loader would be responsible – regardless of whether they were driving the truck.
Using that same example, the truck driver was following too close to another vehicle and rear ended them. Had the driver not followed as closely, and the shipper loaded the truck appropriately, the truck would have come to an appropriate stop. As a result, the driver would be held responsible as well as the shipper for overloading the vehicle.
Can Trucking Companies Skirt Liability?
Trucking companies will often attempt to avoid their liability under respondeat superior. This is where employers are held responsible for the actions of their employees.
In the case of a truck accident, the trucking company may create distance between themselves and their drivers.
They do so by hiring drivers as independent contractors. Using contractors, instead of employees, helps limit the liability of the company itself. In this case, the company could argue that the driver was not their employee; therefore, respondeat superior doesn’t apply.
Also, if the driver rents or uses their own truck, the trucking company could state that they don’t own the equipment; therefore, they aren’t responsible for the operation or maintenance of that truck.
Mesa Area Lawyers Can Help Determine Liability
Anyone involved in a truck accident should contact a Mesa personal injury lawyer immediately. Because there are complex laws that dictate who is responsible and there are multiple parties at play, an attorney needs to assess the case as soon as possible.
Those injured in truck accident cases will likely have long-term, catastrophic injuries. The Mesa lawyers at Tobler Law, P.C. can help with compensation for medical costs, lost wages, permanent disability, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Schedule a consultation with an attorney today at 480-898-9700 or fill out an online contact form.