Who Is Liable in a Truck Accident?

truck accident with van

Commercial trucks are an important part of the New York and national economies. Eighteen-wheelers and other large trucks are, nevertheless, dangerous. If anyone involved in the delivery process acts negligently–from the truck manufacturer all the way to the truck driver–a catastrophic accident can occur.

Below, we discuss the various parties who may be liable after a truck accident, depending upon what factors contributed to the crash occurring. If you were hurt in a large truck crash in New York, call a dedicated Bronx truck accident attorney at the Kohn Law Firm for advice and assistance.

Individual Truck Drivers

Individual truckers may be held liable for accidents if their own negligence contributed to the crash. Truckers are held to high standards of responsible driving because they operate massive, deadly machines. If they made a mistake, especially through negligence, they can and should be held liable for the consequences of their actions.

Truck driver liability may arise when for example:

  • The trucker was driving while intoxicated, drowsy, fatigued, or distracted;
  • The trucker was flouting federal hours of service regulations, which limit how many hours a long-haul trucker can operate between rest breaks;
  • The trucker was speeding, passing on the right, passing on the shoulder, or engaging in other dangerous maneuvers;
  • The trucker was otherwise skirting safety rules and traffic regulations.

If the driver owns their truck and they were working on their own behalf, your options for liability may be limited to the driver. If they were working for a trucking company, however, you may have additional sources of compensation.

Freight Companies

Assuming the truck belongs to a fleet and is operated by a trucking company, then you may be able to hold the company liable for the harm you have suffered. Freight companies and other employers are liable for the actions of their employees through the legal concept known as “respondeat superior.” If a trucker caused the crash through their negligence, and they were on the job at the time of the accident, you can hold the employer liable for your damages.

You can also hold the trucking company liable for its own actions that contributed to the likelihood of a truck accident. If the accident was caused, in part or in whole, because of poor truck maintenance, failure to train drivers, lack of safety precautions, failure to follow federal trucking regulations, negligent hiring, negligent supervision, or anything else that was the direct fault of the trucker’s employer, you can hold the trucking company liable.

If their conduct was especially egregious–if they knowingly cut corners to save money while putting everyone on the road at risk of a catastrophic accident–you might even be able to seek punitive damages.

Vehicle Manufacturers

Many large truck accidents occur because of a problem with the truck itself. Semis and other commercial trucks are massive machines that require precision operation, and anything that causes the driver to lose control can lead to a catastrophic accident. Some common truck defects that can lead to accidents include:

  • Brake problems
  • Engine failure
  • Tire failure or blowout
  • Oil leaks
  • Electrical shorts
  • Overheating
  • Coupler malfunction
  • Clutch or suspension issues

If a mechanical failure led to your truck crash, and that defect arose during the manufacturing process, then you can hold the truck manufacturer liable for your damages.

Other Parties Involved in the Trucking Process

Under certain circumstances, other parties involved in the trucker’s delivery may share the blame for a commercial truck accident. If the accident occurred because the truck driver lost control of their vehicle, for example, and it turns out the truck bed was loaded improperly, some other party might be to blame. If some third-party contractor was involved in loading the haul, and either the truck was overloaded, the haul was unsecured, or the truck trailer was unbalanced, then that other party may be held liable for the accident.

An experienced truck accident attorney can conduct a thorough investigation and evaluate all steps of the trucker’s trip to determine who may be held liable and how best to prove fault.

If you or someone you care about has been hurt in a New York truck crash, find out if you’re entitled to monetary damages for your injuries by contacting the experienced, effective New York traffic accident lawyers at the Bronx offices of the Kohn Law Firm for a free consultation at 718-409-1200.

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