According to the Washington State Department of Travel, there were 6,213 accidents involving heavy trucks in Washington throughout 2021. Almost 700 of these accidents likely caused an injury. Heavy trucks also caused 70 deaths in 2021. For the last ten years, the number of heavy trucks involved in accidents has remained consistently high. Further, the crash numbers for 2022 look to be continuing this trend.
The effects can be devastating if you are in an accident with a commercial truck. The sheer size of a semi-truck can lead to immense damage and severe injuries. To make matters worse, it can be hard to determine who can be held liable in a truck accident. Trucking accidents are often more complicated than other motor vehicle accidents. Many different parties could ultimately be responsible for the mistake that caused the accident. Determining who is liable for a truck accident can often require an in-depth investigation. During the investigation, different parties have a strong incentive to shift blame. If you are the victim of a trucking accident, it is vital to work with an attorney. An attorney will advocate for and protect your rights throughout the entire process.
Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident?
Many parties are involved in ensuring the safe shipment of goods and the safe operation of heavy trucks. Given the diffuse responsibilities, it can be challenging to determine who is ultimately liable.
An in-depth investigation into what caused the accident is necessary to determine who is liable for a truck accident. There are many diverse causes of heavy truck crashes. Causes range from driver negligence to improper company procedures or even manufacturer defects. A mechanical issue or a defective strap can cause a truck to crash. Improper inspections or unduly heavy workloads can also contribute to a trucking accident. Frequently, more than one of these factors is at play.
Washington law uses the concept of negligence to determine who is at fault for injuries caused by a truck accident. Any party whose failure to exercise reasonable care contributed to the accident might be liable for damages. It is also possible that the failures of multiple parties contributed to the crash. The courts may hold them jointly liable if numerous parties share the blame.
Possible Liable Parties After a Truck Accident
Understanding who is responsible for a truck crash requires a general knowledge of the different parties involved in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle. Knowing how each party can contribute to the factors that lead to a crash is also essential.
The truck driver is the most apparent party responsible for a commercial vehicle accident. Truck drivers are responsible for ensuring that they are operating their trucks safely. Safe operation of a commercial truck includes ensuring proper maintenance of the vehicle. Drivers are also responsible for making sure cargo is loaded correctly. Failure to comply with any of these duties can make the driver liable for an accident. Further, truck drivers can be held liable for driving under the influence, fatigued driving, distracted driving, and violating traffic laws.
Trucking companies have their own set of responsibilities. First, they must ensure that their drivers are adequately trained and qualified to operate a commercial vehicle. Second, trucking companies must have processes to ensure that their drivers use their vehicles safely daily. The company may also be liable for maintenance issues if the company owns the truck. Common practices leading to liability for a trucking company include cutting corners, improper inspections, and setting overly demanding schedules for drivers.
Owner of the Cargo
Trucking companies often work as contractors for other companies. Sometimes the responsibility for loading cargo lies with the owner of the cargo. In these instances, the cargo owner can be liable for failing to exercise a reasonable standard of care.
Truck or Parts Manufacturers
Truck manufacturers are sometimes liable when a component failure leads to an accident. Common defects include break failures, faulty steering columns, and tire blowouts. The manufacturer might be responsible when a defective part causes a truck crash.
Truck Maintenance Companies
Maintenance companies are responsible for the work they do in maintaining a truck. Much of their work is critical to the safe operation of the motor vehicle. Truck owners often do not know if a maintenance company properly fixed a damaged truck. The maintenance company could be liable if shoddy maintenance work causes a heavy truck to crash.
Vehicle inspectors are responsible for ensuring that trucks are taken off the road if the trucks fail to meet safety standards. Sometimes vehicle inspectors pass a truck that clearly should not be on the road. If a vehicle inspector passed a truck that should have failed inspection, they might be partially responsible.
Government agencies are responsible for the maintenance of roadways and vehicular infrastructure. Under rare circumstances, a government agency’s failure to maintain a safe roadway can result in liability.
Multiple Party Liability for an Accident with a Semi-Truck
Sometimes the negligence of more than one party contributes to the same accident. For example, what happens if a truck driver crashes while breaking traffic laws, but the trucking company had them working long hours in violation of federal regulations? Is the truck driver liable or the truck company in a trucking accident like this? The answer is that both can be.
The courts might apply the standard of joint and several liability depending on the circumstances. This standard means that each party is responsible for paying the total amount of damages independent of the other party.
The court can also apportion blame between the parties. Each party is responsible for their own share of the damages when this happens.
If You Have Been Injured in a Trucking Accident, We Can Help
We at Brett McCandlis Brown & Connor can help with everything from the courts to the medical providers and insurance companies. Our dedicated attorneys will concentrate on your financial recovery so you can focus on recovering both physically and emotionally. At Brett McCandlis Brown & Connor, there are no upfront costs. We get paid only when you do. Contact us and never settle for less, no matter where you live.