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Who Can be Held Liable for a Truck Accident?

Commercial trucks are a common sight on Indiana roadways. Each year, 724 million tons of freight travel through Indiana, making it the fifth busiest state for commercial freight traffic. Unfortunately, increased commercial truck traffic brings increased danger. In fact, in 2020, 12,841 large trucks were involved in collisions on Indiana’s roadways.

Commercial truck accidents can result in devastating injury or death, leaving accident victims swimming in insurmountable debt. Luckily, victims can pursue a claim for these damages. However, you must be able to determine who is liable for a truck accident before filing a claim.

If you were a victim of a commercial trucking accident, it’s important to consult with a seasoned truck accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible. At Gerling Law, we have extensive experience establishing liability and have navigated numerous challenging truck accident cases from start to finish. We are familiar with insurance companies and their tactics and are ready to fight for your rights every step of the way.

Determining Liability After a Truck Accident

Though fault might seem evident in a commercial truck accident, proving who is liable for a truck accident isn’t always easy. Victims often think the driver must be to blame, but other parties may potentially be held liable.

Commercial truck accidents differ from crashes involving passenger cars. For instance, trucking companies typically employ the truck driver involved in the crash. And larger trucking companies sometimes skimp on safety measures to save costs. Or a driver may unsuspectingly drive a truck with a defective part that gives out, resulting in an accident.

Depending on the reason for the accident, the numerous parties in Indiana that may be liable for a truck crash include the following.

Truck Drivers

Truck drivers are responsible for inspecting their commercial vehicles to ensure that they’ve been adequately maintained and that their cargo has been loaded correctly. If a maintenance failure or cargo shift causes a truck accident, the trucker may be partly responsible for the crash. Driver error is also the leading cause of commercial truck accidents. Though most truck drivers exercise extreme caution behind the wheel, others are guilty of negligent behavior. Examples of negligent behavior include:

  • Drunk driving;
  • Driving under the influence of street drugs and prescription medications;
  • Falling asleep at the wheel or fatigued driving;
  • Texting while driving;
  • Speeding or driving too fast in dangerous conditions;
  • Reckless or aggressive driving, including cutting other drivers off, swerving, tailgating, or making other hazardous maneuvers; and
  • Disregarding traffic signs and signals.

If a truck driver engages in any of these dangerous behaviors, they will probably be liable if their actions result in an accident.

Passenger Vehicle Drivers

A noncommercial, smaller passenger vehicle can cause a collision involving a large commercial truck. When a passenger vehicle directly or indirectly causes an accident, the driver may be liable. For example, a driver who makes a careless lane change and collides with a truck that then hits you may be liable. Likewise, a driver making an illegal left turn that causes a truck to swerve out of the way and hit you may also be liable, even if that car never collided with the truck.

Truck Owners

The driver of a truck or the trucking company the driver is driving for does not always own the vehicle. Some companies and drivers rent trucks or hire out, so the truck owner may be a separate party. No matter who is driving the truck or whose cargo the truck is carrying, the truck owner has a responsibility to perform regular inspections. This includes maintaining fluid levels, ensuring engine function, and completing other duties that ensure the vehicle’s safety. If the owner neglects to uphold these duties, they may be liable for an accident if it directly results from these failures.

Trucking Companies

Accidents may occur when commercial truck companies fail to train drivers properly or inspect and maintain their vehicles. They must also follow all rules and regulations or risk liability. Other common trucking company violations include;

  • Hiring under or unqualified drivers;
  • Allowing drivers to operate commercial trucks without the appropriate license;
  • Pushing drivers to stay on the road longer than is safe or the Federal Motor Carrier Association (FMCA) allows; and
  • Pushing drivers to use stimulants so they can drive longer.

Unfortunately, commercial truck drivers often work for companies that promote dangerous driving by prioritizing profits over safety.

Cargo Loaders

Accidents can occur when cargo loaders fail to inspect and secure cargo correctly. Improperly loaded cargo can shift during transportation, causing an imbalance that makes driving challenging, leading to an accident. Or it can fall off a truck and get lodged in the roadway or hit another vehicle. Overloaded cargo can also result in a tire blowout, loss of vehicle control, and brake and transmission failure, leading to catastrophic damage.

Truck and Parts Manufacturers

A truck part can sometimes be manufactured with a defect. And that defect can lead to an accident. For example, if a truck’s faulty brakes give out on the highway and it leads to a collision, the brake manufacturer or distributor may be liable.  

These are just some of the parties that may be liable for a truck-involved accident. When determining who is more responsible for a semi-truck accident, keep in mind that multiple parties may be at fault. But because parties often blame each other and establishing fault can be complicated, working with a skilled truck accident attorney is essential to accurately determine liability.

Gerling Law Can Help You with Your Truck Accident Claim

At Gerling Law, our experienced truck accident advocates can help you determine which party or parties caused your accident so you can proceed with a claim. We will thoroughly investigate your accident and answer all critical questions so you can obtain justice. If you were injured in an Indiana truck accident, Gerling Law is fully prepared to negotiate a settlement or take your case to trial so you collect the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 866-751-5172. We offer free consultations and don’t charge a fee unless you win.

Author Photo

Gayle Gerling Pettinga

Born and raised in Evansville, Gayle is a respected, experienced lawyer and a valued community leader. She graduated near the top of her class at Indiana University’s prestigious Maurer School of Law. She’s practiced law with one of the largest firms in Indianapolis as well as one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. And that means she knows how big law firms and big companies think and how they operate – and she will put that knowledge to work for you.

Gayle has received numerous awards and honors including Martindale-Hubbell — Peer Review Rated: AV®, American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 10 Best Attorneys in Indiana for Exceptional and Outstanding Client Service, and YWCA Evansville 100 Years, 100 Women Honoree, 2011.

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