Truck accidents are notoriously complex because of the difficulty of determining whether the truck driver or the trucking company is financially liable for damages related to the accident and injuries. Depending on the situation the truck driver might be personally liable for damages or the trucking company might be liable.
If you have suffered injuries in a truck accident in the Greater New Orleans area, it’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced truck accident lawyer who can advise you on the best path to recover maximum compensation for injuries and losses related to the accident. Until you have time to meet with an attorney, the following information will provide a broad understanding of liability in truck accidents.
When Are Truck Drivers Liable for Damages from a Truck Accident?
Truck drivers who are acting within the scope of their employment when a truck accident occurs are typically not financially liable for damages unless they purposefully caused an accident. Even if a truck driver is at fault, liability will typically fall with the trucking company. However, situations do exist where a truck driver might be financially liable for damages related to a truck accident. They include:
- The driver is an independent contractor required to carry his or her own insurance and is not technically an employee of the trucking company.
- The driver made deliberate, negligent choices behind the wheel. For example, if the driver was careless, speeding excessively, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she might be liable.
- The truck driver was using the truck for personal reasons outside the scope of employment.
- The truck driver is an owner/operator, so essentially the driver and the trucking company are the same people.
When Are Trucking Companies Liable for Damages from a Truck Accident?
Trucking companies have a legal obligation to comply with various state and federal laws concerning truck maintenance, operation, hiring, and training. Failure to comply with those rules often opens them to liability when one of their drivers is involved in a truck accident. The most common factors that make a trucking company liable for a truck accident include:
Poor Truck Maintenance
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is responsible for regulating the trucking industry, requires trucking companies to keep their trucks in a roadworthy condition. Trucking companies must conduct regular inspections and require their drivers to inspect trucks, as well as making immediate repairs and performing preventative maintenance.
Trucking companies that have poor maintenance practices put their drivers and those who share the road at risk for accidents and injuries. This is especially true when a mechanical breakdown occurs at a critical time during operation. Examples of truck features that can lead to dangerous and deadly truck accidents when not properly maintained include:
- Tires must be rotated and worn tires must be replaced to prevent dangerous tire blowouts.
- Failure to fill and replace fluids and other components of braking and steering systems can cause a trucker to lose control.
- Windows, mirrors, and lights must be in working order so truck drivers can react appropriately to those around them, and those who share the road can see the truck.
If a truck accident occurs because of a mechanical breakdown, and the accident could have been prevented with proper maintenance, the trucking company could be liable for damages related to the accident.
Hours of Service (HOS) Violations
The FMCSA has implemented mandatory regulations concerning how many hours a truck driver can drive each day and each week. These Hours of Service (HOS) regulations also dictate mandatory breaks before a driver can get back on the road. Trucking companies must enforce these rules, or they face fines and other penalties. In recent years, the FMCSA has also required trucking companies to install electronic logbooks in trucks to force compliance with HOS regulations.
However, some trucking companies have found ways to circumvent the logbooks and force drivers to go over their maximum allowance of hours, putting fatigued truckers on the road that cause accidents. Trucking companies who force or encourage drivers to violate HOS regulations might be liable for damages from a truck accident if a drowsy driver falls asleep at the wheel.
Poor Hiring Practices
Trucking companies have a legal responsibility to hire safe drivers who have the qualifications necessary to operate a specific truck. Companies with poor hiring practices open themselves to liability for damages if a driver causes an accident. Some examples of negligent hiring practices include:
- Hiring a driver without the mandatory Commercial Drivers’ License (CDL).
- Failing to conduct a background check of a driver’s driving record.
- Hiring a driver who has negative marks on his or her driving record such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Trucking companies typically employ workers who load their trucks. Loading a truck requires more than simply throwing the cargo on a flatbed or in the back of a semi-trailer. Each truck and trailer has specific weight and balance requirements and FMCSA rules require loaders to properly secure cargo so it does not shift during transport. Trucking companies that fail to properly train their employees to load and secure cargo, or employees who make negligent mistakes that lead to a truck accident from load spillage, can be held liable for damages.
Get the Legal Help You Need After a New Orleans Truck Accident
Truck accident injuries are among the most dangerous and costly injuries people can suffer in a traffic accident. A fully loaded semi-truck weighs up to 80,000 pounds, which leads to a forceful impact that causes major property damage and a higher likelihood of life-threatening or fatal injuries. You should not have to suffer financially in the wake of a truck accident. The skilled legal team at Alvendia, Kelly & Demarest have extensive experience advocating for truck accident victims to get the compensation they deserve for their injuries. Contact us today online or at 504-200-000 for a free consultation to discuss the details of your truck accident and the way your injuries have impacted life.