If you are a victim of a trucking accident, 18-wheeler accident, or tractor-trailer accident, several questions may immediately pop in your mind. You may be wondering who is responsible for the damage caused by the truck accident, who caused the accident, and how can you recover for your damages and pain due to the accident. These are some things to consider if you are involved in a crash with a tractor-trailer, 18-wheeler, commercial truck or any type of business vehicle.
Understanding the common reasons for trucking accidents is necessary to help you determine whether you have a valid personal injury case or a valid property damage case. Connecting the dots between the truck driver, the trucking company, the entity responsible for the load the driver was carrying at the time of the collision, and the federal laws governing commercial vehicle crashes as drafted in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act must be considered. Usually, these situations involve dealing with a motor vehicle accident attorney and/or a truck accident lawyer to determine the necessary compensation and/or medical treatment you may require after your trucking injury.
Statistics show that over the past two decades the number of truck-related accidents has increased by over twenty percent (20%). Based on data collected by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were 130,000 injuries and 4,897 fatalities that involve large trucks in 2002. Although large trucks cause a minimal percentage of accidents in total, (a mere three percent (3%) compared to ordinary traffic), they cause greater harm and involve more complexities due to their large size and heavyweight. These accidents also cause greater property damage and cost significantly more financially if the truck accident results in serious injuries or death. Basically, trucking accidents, tractor-trailer accidents, and 18- wheeler accidents are very serious and should only be handled by an experienced Atlanta truck accident lawyer.
What are the Laws for Trucking Accidents?
Federal law governs the trucking industry and ensures that trucking companies, brokers, freight shippers, and their drivers adhere to a standard code of conduct that holds them responsible for safe driving while on highways or any other roadways. The federal regulations that govern the trucking industry can be found in title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
In addition, several agencies regulate truck drivers and trucking companies. These regulatory agencies include the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Every state also has a department of transportation that has in-state regulations for the trucking industry.
Who is Responsible for a Trucking Accident?
Different players may be held responsible for a victim’s injuries and property damage sustained due to a truck crash. The responsible parties may include the following:
-The Truck Driver (regular employee or independent contractor)
-The Owner of the truck or trailer (trucking company)
-The Lessor (person or company that leased the truck)
– Broker (person who facilitates the truck driver’s route and load)
-The Manufacturer of the Vehicle (for accidents associated with equipment failure, unregulated tires, faulty brakes etc.)
-The Shipper or Loader of the truck’s Cargo (for cases that involve improper loading)
All the players mentioned above have often argued over which of their insurances will ultimately compensate the victim for his/her personal injuries or damages. An example of the blame game that occurs after a trucking accident is when the truck company denies liability for the truck accident and then blames the manufacturer of the truck for installing faulty brakes on the vehicle. Subsequently, the manufacturer of the truck tires will then point the finger to the lessor for failing to maintain the truck brakes in a good working condition. This trucking company run-around is very common when dealing with trucking accidents and the associated property damage and injuries.
Can Trucking Companies Avoid being Liable?
There have been cases where truck companies whose tractor-trailers, eighteen wheelers or commercial vehicles were involved in truck accidents that were deemed not to be their fault. Truck companies can be absolved from liability in some of the following situations:
The trucking company hires independent contractors to distance themselves for being liable for any damage the truck operator may cause.
In most cases, the truck company provides a placard that contains their name and department of transportation number that are necessary to operate the truck. The placard will be affixed on the truck’s doors and it will seem as if the company owns the trucks and everything that comes with it. However, if a driver is involved in an accident under this circumstance, the truck driver will state that the driver was not employed by the company to avoid being sued for driver-related errors.
The trucking company will state that they are not the owner of the equipment or accessories that were involved in the trucking accident to avoid liability for maintenance errors.
Luckily, federal laws and regulations have put a stop to this runaround. Under the new law and regulations governing trucking accidents and associated personal injuries, truck companies will be held liable for all accidents involving the truck, trailer, or any associated equipment so long as the placard described above displays the truck company’s name. Also, when it comes to the truck driver or operator, he or she are considered the responsibility of the trucking company even if they hired the driver or operator as an individual contractor.
In conclusion, trucking laws are geared to keep drivers safe. Now that you know all the variables about trucking accidents, it’s important to contact an experienced Atlanta trucking attorney or personal injury lawyer to discuss any potential injury claims. The attorneys at Council & Associates LLC have a wealth of experience in helping recover damages for those who were injured a trucking accident.
Lashonda Council Rogers is a Personal Injury Attorney who practices in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from Howard University School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Lashonda Council Rogers believes her personal approach is the best way to defend her clients. Learn more about her experience here.