If you are the victim of a trucking accident, the questions of who is responsible and what actually caused the accident are often much more complicated than in a simple motor vehicle accident. There can be many players involved. From the driver to the owner of the truck, to whom the owner is driving on behalf of. Getting all necessary information about what went wrong and who may be liable often requires some industry know-how.
Understanding the common reasons for trucking accidents and the relationships among the persons and entities connected to the truck, the trailer, and the load, will help you determine whether you have a valid claim and how you will present your case.
Truck Accident Statistics
For the past twenty years, the occurrence of trucking accidents have risen 20%. According to the Federal Motor carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in 2002, nearly 5,000 people died and 130,000 people were injured in accidents that involved trucks on the road. And due to the size of these vehicles the relatively small number of incidents involving them on the road masks the fact that their sheer size cause typically much more damage than an average car on the road.
Who is responsible if I am involved in an accident with a commercial truck?
That can be a complicated answer. Because there are a series of “hands” that led to the truck being on the road in the capacity of a commercial vehicle, the party responsible for your damages may be a number of persons or entities. First of all, the driver is certainly one of the chief targets for a personal injury claim. Additionally, the owner of the truck or trucking company bears responsibility for any negligence or incompetence on the part of the driver (often called vicarious liability) that led to your injuries. Also, the company that leased the truck or trailer from the owner often bears a level of responsibility for damages caused. In the case of a defective vehicle, even the truck’s manufacturer and/or designer may be held responsible for damages and, in the case of improper loading of shipments, the shipper (or loader) may be held responsible for damages. It’s important to seek the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney familiar with the federal motor carrier safety administration regulations like those at Panio Law Offices to determine just who may be the subject of a personal injury claim and what damages may be recoverable.
But if the trucking company has leased the vehicle to an independent contractor who may or may not have the funds or insurance to cover damages, may I still pursue damages with the owner?
Quite possibly. Federal and state laws and regulations hold companies owning a trucking permit responsible for all accidents involving a truck that carries its placard or name. As long as that placard or name is visible, there is high likelihood that the owner may be held responsible. Furthermore, if the trucking company controls the means, methods, and manners in which the driver carries out his/her duties, a court may find that the so-called independent contractor is an employee for purposes of legal liability.
If it is discovered that an equipment problem led to the accident in question, who is responsible for the resulting injuries?
Typically, manufacturing mistakes (defective vehicle design or parts) will find responsibility placed on the manufacturer of the vehicle in question. However, many mechanical causes for truck accidents stem from a failure to properly maintain the vehicle appropriately. Some examples of this include break failure, tire blowouts due to wear and tear, and transmission failure. Commercial truck owners and drivers have a responsibility to maintain their vehicles on the road. So when the defect or mechanical error results from a lack of proper maintenance, the owner, trucking company, and/or leasing company may be held liable for damages.
Again, it’s very important that anyone who finds themselves the victim of a trucking accident see medical attention first and also contact an experienced personal injury attorney like those at Panio Law Offices. We understand Illinois personal injury law and what it takes to win the highest awards for our clients. Call us at 800.799.7561 if you have questions about a personal injury case. We can help.