Who Can Be Held Liable After a Truck Accident?
Determining who can be held liable after a truck accident is critical to recovering fair compensation. Although each case is unique, liability often falls on one or several of the following parties.
The Truck Driver
As common carriers, truck drivers are held to a greater duty of care for others’ safety than drivers of cars and other smaller vehicles. If their negligence is responsible for causing a truck accident in Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia truck accident lawyer may be able to find that the driver is personally liable for resulting damages. Some common examples of truck driver negligence include:
- Drowsy Driving: Truck drivers spend long hours on the road without a reliable sleep schedule. Federal laws strictly limit the number of hours a truck driver can be on the road, but these rules are not always followed.
- Distracted Driving: A truck driver can easily become distracted after spending hours on the road. However, a catastrophic accident can happen within seconds if they are not paying attention to driving (e.g., cell phone use, drinking or eating, reaching for an item, adjusting GPS, etc.)
- Reckless Driving: Being constantly in a hurry to meet tight deadlines can lead to reckless driving behaviors, such as speeding, sudden lane changes, failing to signal, braking abruptly, etc.
- Driving While Impaired: Truck drivers sometimes drink on the job or resort to stimulants to help them stay awake for more extended periods.
- Unaddressed Maintenance Issues: Truck drivers have an obligation to inspect their vehicles before driving, but many fail to ensure their vehicles are maintained properly.
The Trucker’s Employer
Commercial trucking companies also owe a high duty of care to prevent harm to others on the road. They are responsible for hiring qualified and responsible drivers, providing adequate training for their employees, adhering to safety standards and practices, maintaining their vehicles, and ensuring the trucks are not overloaded and loaded correctly. Unfortunately, many trucking companies cut corners and prioritize reducing their costs over road safety. When a trucking company’s negligence contributed to a collision, they may be fully or partially liable for a car accident.
The Owner of the Truck
When the truck owner is different from the driver or trucking company, they may be partially or entirely liable for a collision. Under federal trucking laws, truck owners have a duty to properly maintain, repair, keep an up-to-date maintenance record, and inspect the vehicle regularly to ensure it is safe for use. If they fail in their duty, leading to an accident, the owner can be liable.
If a truck’s design is inherently dangerous or the vehicle has a defective part that causes a collision, the truck’s manufacturer or part manufacturer may be liable for damages. An example of a design defect is a truck that is abnormally tall, making it significantly more prone to rollover accidents. Examples of part defects include defective tires, brake failure, electrical issues, and more.
Truck Maintenance Company
The truck owner, driver, or company may hire a maintenance company to ensure their vehicles receive necessary maintenance. If their mechanics perform negligent repairs, such as installing faulty parts or making wrong repairs, they might be partially responsible for a collision.
Other Potential Parties
In most truck accident cases, the truck driver and their trucking company share responsibility. However, there are other third parties that can potentially be liable, such as a cargo loading company if improperly loaded cargo was responsible for causing a crash, a third driver, or a government agency for dangerous road conditions.
Is There a Damage Cap to Truck Accident Cases?
There are no damage caps in Pennsylvania in truck accident cases unless the claim is against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or an employee of the State. That means how much compensation you recover for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering is at the discretion of the jury.