Who Can Be Held Liable for a Truck Accident?
One of the biggest questions after a major truck accident is who is at fault.
In Georgia, any party that contributed to an accident can potentially be held liable for the damages. If multiple parties contributed fault, then each party will be responsible for their portion of the damages.
This issue becomes particularly complex in commercial truck accident cases. Many different parties might bear liability for the crash. Common liable parties include:
- The truck driver
- The truck driver’s employer
- The company that owned the truck
- The company that leased the truck
- The company that manufactured any part on the truck or the trailer
Determining who is ultimately liable for damages requires an investigation of the circumstances that caused the accident. Anyone who’s been hurt can reach out to a nearby truck accident lawyer in Atlanta. They can get help and additional resources for investigating their accident, gathering evidence, and seeking the maximum amount of compensation from all liable parties.
Contact the Law Offices of Andrew E. Goldner today to discuss your legal options during a free, no-obligation case review. Call 404.869.1580 or contact us online to schedule your free appointment now.
Determining Liability After a Truck Accident
In most personal injury cases, including those that involve truck accidents, negligence serves as the primary legal basis for seeking compensation.
Establishing negligence requires four main provings:
- The defendant had a duty of care that normally protects the injury victim (plaintiff) from harm
- The defendant committed a breach in their duty of care
- The breach directly caused an injury
- The injury resulted in damages
In an accident involving only the negligence of the truck driver, it can be easy to discover how these four main components line up. Here is an example of what facts might be used to establish the four parts of negligence:
- The truck driver had a duty of care to not drive over the speed limit on the interstate
- The driver exceeded the speed limit by over 20 mph
- The driver’s speeding was determined to be a predominant cause of the collision, causing an injury to another driver
- The hurt driver had hospital bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages as a result of their injury
Why Isn’t the Truck Driver The Only One Liable for the Accident?
In any personal injury case involving the actions of employees, the employer assumes liability. This is because the legal doctrine of respondeat superior, roughly translated from Latin as “let the master answer.” Respondeat superior states that employees are immune from liabilities arising from them acting within the “scope of employment.” They transfer that liability to their employer instead.
Because of this legal doctrine – which has been established and reinforced over centuries of case law – any mistakes committed by a truck driver during the act of transport can fall onto their employer. Thus, proving that the truck driver was negligent often equates to the carrier company being negligent.
Independent Contractor Misclassification
A decade ago, many carriers sought to avoid liability by classifying their truck drivers as independent contractors. Time and time again, injury victims were able to prove that these contractors were actually misclassified employees.
Policy changes in New Jersey and other states increased the penalties for such actions. Therefore, it is less likely now that a carrier would qualify a driver as an independent contractor unless they gave that driver certain established freedoms.
Signs that a contractor may actually be an employee include:
- They operate a rig leased or owned by the carrier
- They are required to wear a uniform
- They must attend mandatory trainings
- They have their pay set according to the carrier
- There are requirements for what work they must accept or how the work is performed
When the Truck Driver Might Be Liable (And Why the Carrier May Still Share Fault)
There are only two situations where a truck driver might be wholly liable for the damages they cause.
The first is if the employee was intentionally reckless or causing harm in a manner that was not foreseeable by the employer, although the latter can always be debated. The second situation is if the driver is a 100% independent owner-operator, in which case they must carry their own commercial liability policy.
Even in situations where the carrier alleges one of these two defenses, actions taken by the carrier could show that they still contributed some or the majority of negligence.
For example, if an owner-operator was found to have been extremely drowsy and under the influence of illegal stimulants at the time of the accident, an Atlanta truck accident lawyer can investigate whether the employer performed the due diligence necessary to reduce the risk of these actions.
The carrier may have neglected to review the owner operator’s federally-required drug screenings, or they may have pressured the driver to complete the route in an unreasonable time frame that required a violation of the hours of service laws to complete.
When Other Parties Might Be Liable
A truck accident injury victim might hold a maintenance contractor or owner of equipment responsible if the truck cab, trailer, or their vital components have not been regularly inspected and repaired in compliance with federal rules.
If any component of the truck or trailer was determined to have either caused the accident or worsened its effects, the manufacturer of the product can potentially be held liable for their contributed portion of fault.
Other Possible Liable Parties
Any party whose breach in their expected duty of care led to the collision could be held liable in part or in full for the resulting damages.
Some examples of other liable parties can include:
- The business that loaded the trailer improperly prior to pickup
- The owner of a roadway that had a hazardous condition they failed to address or adequately warn others about
- Another driver involved in the accident who either caused or contributed to the accident circumstances
- The manufacturer of your vehicle or its components if any were determined to have either contributed to the accident or failed to prevent injury in the expected way
Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer to Help You Seek Compensation From All Liable Parties
The Law Offices of Andrew E. Goldner has handled many cases like yours. We are not afraid to rigorously investigate and pursue all potentially liable parties. If your case cannot result in a reasonable settlement offer, we will be prepared to take all defendants to court and present your case to a judge or jury.
Most importantly, we offer contingent agreements, meaning you don’t owe us any fees until we can recover compensation for you.
Find out about your legal options – and who might provide the compensation you desperately need after your truck accident – when you call 404.869.1580 or contact us online to schedule a free, no-risk case evaluation.