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Who’s Liable for Trucking Accidents?

Published on Jun 18, 2014 at 8:11 am in Trucking Accident.

If you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck, you might think you can resolve it simply with the insurance company for the trucking outfit; unfortunately, most cases are far more complicated. Even though the truck that caused your accident displays a placard label from Acme Company, there may in fact be many parties that could be liable.

For example, a motor carrier might be leasing the truck from the owner of the equipment.

They will have entered into contracts dividing liability between each party for certain events, and stating which party is responsible for carrying the liability insurance. And there may likely be other players as well.

Potential Liable Parties in a Trucking Accident

It’s crucial when dealing with an accident involving a commercial truck that you identify all of the responsible parties. The parties may try to point blame at each other and give you the run around, unless you know how to approach them. For a typical commercial truck on the highway, these are some of the potential players:

  1. The owner of the truck
  2. The company that leases the truck
  3. The driver of the truck (who may or may not be directly employed by the owner or lessee)
  4. The company that loaded the freight, if improper loading contributed to the accident
  5. The company that made any parts of the truck that might be to blame, such as the brakes, tires, etc.

Even in cases where the investigation points to a clear understanding of the accident – say faulty brakes and partial fault on the part of the driver for speeding – getting compensation can be tricky. The trucking company operating the truck may not own the truck, so they could claim it was the owner’s responsibility to check and maintain the brakes. The truck’s ultimate owner could say that it was in fact the manufacturer of the brakes that made a defective product and is responsible for their failure. The driver may be an independent contractor and not a direct employee of the trucking company, and the company may claim it’s not liable for any error from its driver.

It’s not uncommon for the insurance companies of the various potential defendants to try to remove themselves from liability. It’s important to work with an experienced attorney who understands how federal law applies responsibility to companies with a trucking permit that displays their placard, regardless of how they may have crafted leases to try to shift liability to others.