Call Today For Your Free Consultation
No Fee Unless We Win (941) 954-4000

Is the Truck Driver or Trucking Company Responsible for an Accident?

October 11, 2023 Legal Team
truck driving on a highway with the caption: who is liabile in a truck accident

Accidents involving large commercial trucks are on the rise in the United States, increasing by 49% in the last decade. When large, heavy commercial trucks collide with smaller passenger vehicles, catastrophic injuries often result, with the motorists in the smaller car at a significant disadvantage. Injury victims may also face a disadvantage when they make a claim against the at-fault party in a truck accident. Trucking companies have powerful insurance companies that often prioritize profits over paying out on a valid claim. In order to successfully negotiate a settlement for damages or prove an at-fault party liable for damages in a lawsuit, an injury victim’s attorney must identify the at-fault party, prove that their negligence caused the accident, and show evidence of damages—the expenses and pain and suffering caused by the injury.

Proving liability in a truck accident can be complicated since the at-fault party could be the driver, but it’s sometimes the trucking company itself. The skilled truck accident attorneys at Shapiro | Delgado | Hofmann located in Sarasota and Bradenton can meticulously investigate the circumstances surrounding your case, gather crucial evidence, and determine the responsible parties to ensure you receive the compensation you rightfully deserve.

Investigating a Truck Accident to Determine Fault

When making a claim for damages after a truck accident, the injury victim is responsible for proving liability—legal responsibility for the accident. It usually takes an experienced truck accident attorney to examine the details of the accident to determine who is at fault. Investigating a truck accident requires carefully scrutinizing all aspects of the accident by doing the following:

  • Viewing photos and traffic camera videos
  • Searching for any available video from nearby surveillance cameras
  • Studying the police report
  • Reviewing eyewitness testimony
  • Consulting with accident reconstruction specialists

Once an attorney determines the cause of the accident, it’s easier to identify the party liable for the crash. Liability most commonly lies with the truck driver or the trucking company.

Common Causes of Truck Accidents

Trucks make up 9% of registered vehicles on the road, but they’re responsible for 10% of traffic fatalities. Common causes of truck accidents include:

  • Fatigued drivers or drivers working beyond the legal limits on their driving hours
  • Distracted driving
  • Speeding
  • Unsafe lane changes (commercial trucks have extended blind spots)
  • Wide turns
  • Long stopping distances
  • Driver intoxication
  • Unbalanced loads
  • Mechanical or equipment failure, including tire blowouts, trailer door openings, brake failure, and other maintenance or equipment problems

Legal liability for a truck accident depends on how the accident occurred.

Is the Driver or Trucking Company Liable for Damages After an Accident?

Depending on the cause of the accident and the driver’s actions leading up to the accident, either the driver or the trucking company may be responsible for damages. When a driver works as an independent contractor, they are not employees of a trucking company, but instead, they work through contracts with freight companies. Independent contractors who cause an accident are liable for the damages to injury victims. Compensation for damages is usually paid through the driver’s liability insurance.

If the driver is an employee of a truck company, the company itself is often responsible for damages through the law of vicarious liability. This law states that an employer is legally liable for the actions of on-the-job employees, including commercial truck drivers.

Other Possible Liable Parties in Truck Accidents

The truck driver or trucking company is most commonly liable for damages in an accident, but sometimes the investigation reveals another liable party or one that shares liability. Other liable parties named in truck accidents include the manufacturer of a defective truck part, a freight-loading company, or a truck maintenance company. In some cases, a third-party driver may be at fault.

Because law enforcement agencies focus more resources on criminal investigations, an injury victim often requires an experienced truck accident attorney to recover compensation for their damages.