Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident?

June 21, 2023 | David Abels
Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident?

Liability varies from case to case, so no blog can answer this question with a singular answer. An attorney will need to review the facts of your accident, secure evidence, and work with experts to determine who is liable for your truck accident.

Truck drivers, trucking companies, and vehicle manufacturers are among those a lawyer can hold liable for a truck accident. By hiring a truck accident lawyer, you can leave the question of liability to a qualified legal professional. You remain focused on your physical healing with the trust that someone is protecting your legal rights as a truck crash victim.

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Why Truck Accidents Happen? (and Who You Can Hold Liable in Each Instance)

Each truck accident happens for a different reason. When you hire a personal injury attorney, they will investigate and determine the cause of your truck accident. Your lawyer may discover one (or more) of the common truck accident causes, which include:

Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving contributes to more than half of motor vehicle accidents, including truck accidents.

Notable types of aggressive driving include:

  • Speeding, which may be the most dangerous form of aggressive driving
  • Tailgating
  • Changing lanes without adequate clearance
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Running red lights and stop signs

These behaviors pose a documented and significant risk of causing an accident. An aggressive truck driver and their employer are generally liable for accidents resulting from dangerous driving.

Careless Driving

From a legal perspective, careless driving may include aggressive maneuvers. For these purposes, though, careless driving refers to actions you might otherwise call mindless or lazy.

Some examples of dangerous and careless driving practices include:

  • Failing to use a turn signal when changing lanes or turning
  • Allowing a vehicle to veer outside of its lane
  • Going too slow for the pace of traffic or the posted speed limit

Safe driving requires consistent, acute attention to the road and surroundings. Motorists who allow their attention to waver increase the risk that an accident will happen.

Distracted Driving

On average, distracted drivers kill nine people and injure more than 1,000 others daily.

Despite heavily-financed ad campaigns demonstrating the dangers of distracted driving, truck drivers (and other motorists) continue to:

  • Text 
  • Make phone calls
  • Post on and monitor social media
  • Eat food
  • Drink beverages
  • Engage in conversations with others in the vehicle
  • Gaze at the surroundings outside the vehicle

Any act that causes the mind to wander requires the driver to take a hand off the wheel or take the motorist's eyes off the road, which is distracting. The motorist and their employer are generally liable when a distracted driving accident happens.

Drowsy Driving

Truck Accident Lawyer in Chicago, Illinois area

Truck drivers are on the road for long stretches. Those who don’t get adequate sleep, have health conditions that cause drowsiness, take medications, or overwork themselves may become drowsy while driving.

Even if a trucker does not fall asleep behind the wheel, their drowsiness can prove extremely dangerous. A tired driver may react more slowly, fail to project potential accident hazards, and veer outside their lane. In the worst cases, truck drivers fall asleep and cause severe accidents.

Unsafe Trucks or Trailers

Large trucks and the trailers they carry are complex instruments. Truckers, trucking companies, and other parties responsible for trucks and trailers must understand the vessels they drive and carry.

Trucking companies must:

  • Regularly inspect all equipment 
  • Repair damaged or outdated equipment as necessary
  • Decommission equipment that is no longer safe
  • Purchase new equipment to replace equipment that is no longer safe
  • Prioritize safety over profits in every instance

Drivers also must understand and inspect their equipment. When there is a potential safety issue, the driver must report it and take the safest possible course of action to remedy the safety issue.

Trucking companies are generally liable when they or their driver fail to inspect, report, repair, or replace dangerous equipment.

Defective Trucks and Trailers

Some trucks, trailers, and other components are defective when they leave the factory. No matter how closely a trucking company or trucker inspects these defective products, they may be unable to see a flaw.

The manufacturer may be liable when trucks, trailers, or other equipment prove defective.

Some of the most dangerous trucking components (should they contain a defect) are:

  • Tires
  • Brakes
  • Trailer hitches
  • Driveshaft components
  • Airbags

Any defect can contribute to an accident.

Dangerous Road Conditions

Unsafe road conditions can be just as dangerous as a speeding driver or defective vehicle. Some dangerous road conditions include:

  • Potholes
  • Unmarked lanes
  • Uneven surfaces
  • Work crews positioned too close to the roadway
  • Traffic cones, concrete barriers, and other fixed objects positioned too close to the roadway
  • Downed traffic signs
  • Out-of-commission traffic lights
  • Unmarked pedestrian walkways

The nature of a dangerous road condition will determine who is liable. A city or other municipality is among those who can be liable for road conditions that cause an accident.

Intoxicated Driving

About 3 percent of truck accidents involve drunk driving. Truck drivers have a lower threshold for drunk driving than most motor vehicle operators. A truck driver is considered to be driving under the influence if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 percent or greater. This is half of the allowed BAC for non-commercial drivers, as truck drivers transport large and heavy vehicles that can cause major damage and injuries.

Both an intoxicated truck driver and their employer may be liable for a drunk driving accident. An establishment that overserves an intoxicated truck driver may also be liable for accident-related damages.

Failing to Follow Trucking Industry Regulations

Industry regulations govern:

  • How long truck drivers can be on the road
  • When truck drivers must take breaks (and for how long they must take breaks)
  • Which drivers can haul which types of cargo
  • How much cargo can a truck haul
  • How loaders must distribute cargo across a truck’s axles
  • The total weight that a truck can carry before leaving a loading bay

Truckers, trucking companies, and cargo suppliers can be liable for violations of trucking industry regulations.

Consequences of Truck Accidents 

The immediate consequences of truck accidents can be devastating.

In the short term, truck accidents cause:

  • Injuries
  • Loss of life
  • Property damage

These consequences typically affect passenger vehicle occupants, not truck drivers. Specifically, passenger vehicle occupants are far more likely to die in a truck accident than truck occupants.

These immediate consequences generally produce a ripple effect of other consequences. In legal terminology, lawyers refer to a truck accident's immediate and secondary consequences as recoverable damages.

Recoverable Damages for Truck Accident Victims

Fatal and non-fatal truck accidents generally cause different damages, though there are commonalities.

Recoverable Damages in a Non-Fatal Truck Accident

"Non-fatal" does not mean non-serious. The immense physical weight of trucks means that any truck accident can cause serious injuries, even if those injuries are not fatal.

Truck accident injuries may cause:

  • Medical expenses: The cost of injuries rises sharply proportionate to the injury’s severity. Because truck accidents can produce especially severe injuries, you may be facing costly medical bills following your accident.
  • Pain and suffering: Examples of pain and suffering from a truck accident include acute and chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), lost quality of life, emotional anguish, psychological distress, anxiety, sleep problems, and suicidality due to severe injuries.
  • Property damage: Property damage is virtually guaranteed when a truck accident occurs. In addition to vehicle damage, you may also have damage to your cell phone, clothing, and other property.
  • Professional damages: Truck accident victims may lose income, bonuses, promotions, earning power, benefits, and other professional perks due to injuries. Severe injuries may cost a victim their job or career and the fulfillment they get from working.
  • Disability-related costs: Disabling injuries cause lifelong damages. Harm can include in-home caregiver expenses, medical equipment (like a motorized wheelchair), a specialty vehicle, alterations to your home, complete loss of income, and more.

A collision with a large truck can be terrifying. Memories of the collision, as well as symptoms of injuries, can be much to overcome. You may require physical, psychological, and emotional rehabilitation. Your attorney will factor in all economic and non-economic damages as they calculate a fair settlement value.

Recoverable Damages in a Fatal Truck Accident

Because of their weight and size, trucks are more likely to cause death on a per-accident basis. You deserve justice if your loved one passed away from injuries they suffered in a truck accident, and the criminal justice system does not always hold liable parties accountable.

You can get justice for a fatal truck accident through a lawsuit, and recoverable damages may include:

  • Permanent loss of the decedent’s income
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of spousal companionship
  • Loss of parental guidance
  • Pain and suffering (of the decedent)
  • Pain and suffering (of surviving loved ones)
  • Loss of the decedent’s household contributions (including chores, handiwork, protection, bill paying, bookkeeping, and other services)

Every truck accident victim has a unique story to tell. Unfortunately, that story is full of damages, and it will be your lawyer's role to identify and value them.

What to Do After a Truck Accident?

You have likely left the scene of your truck accident, so we won’t cover what to do immediately after the collision.

Even if time has passed since your truck accident happened, you should still:

  • Get a thorough medical exam: You can never get enough medical treatment after a truck accident. Some injuries, including whiplash, may not show symptoms until days after your accident. Doctors must diagnose all of your accident-related injuries and provide a clear treatment plan.
  • Keep all your medical records: Medical records are valuable evidence in truck accident cases. Keep copies of all accident-related medical paperwork, including diagnoses, bills, and images of injuries.
  • Keep a journal of accident-related damages: Keep a record of the emotional and psychological symptoms you’re experiencing. You can take note of any other problems you’re experiencing because of the accident and related injuries, like sleeping difficulties, a depressed mood, and daily inconveniences.
  • Hire an attorney as soon as possible: The sooner you hire a lawyer, the sooner they will protect you from insurance companies and begin fighting for your financial recovery.

Truck accident victims must put their health first. Your hands may be full with doctor's appointments, rehabilitation, therapy, and general rest. If you try to pursue compensation with a lawyer’s help, you may put your health at great risk.

How Truck Accident Lawyers Serve Their Clients?

Truck accident attorneys handle their clients’ insurance claims and lawsuits. Each client has different needs, and a lawyer’s approach will vary from one case to the next.

A personal injury lawyer’s responsibilities in a truck accident case generally include the following:

  • Identifying liable parties: A lawyer must determine who owes their client compensation. Potential defendants, including truck drivers, trucking companies, vehicle manufacturers, and municipalities
  • Obtaining evidence: Securing evidence in a truck accident case can be especially difficult, as your lawyer may need to acquire evidence in a trucking company’s possession
  • Documenting and calculating damages: Your attorney will calculate the exact cost of your damages and document those damages with medical bills, past payment records, expert testimony, and other documentation
  • Fighting for a settlement: Your attorney will represent you in settlement negotiations, demanding that liable parties pay what you deserve
  • Completing any necessary trial: Though trials are not the norm in truck accident cases, some cases require a court case

Your attorney will update you throughout the legal process. They will review any settlement offers you receive and advise whether they are fair. You have the final say over your case, and your lawyer will consider your wishes and interests.

Search for Your Truck Accident Lawyer Today

Gary Annes Attorney for Truck Accident Cases near Chicago
Gary Annes Truck Accident Lawyer in Chicago

Do not wait to hire a lawyer. Most states impose deadlines for filing truck accident cases, and missing the filing deadline can have catastrophic consequences. Further, trucking companies regularly withhold or destroy evidence of liability unless your lawyer sends a demand to preserve evidence right away.

Once you hire a personal injury law firm in Chicago, they’ll start working toward your financial recovery as soon as possible.

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