Truck accidents can cause catastrophic injuries, lifelong disabilities, and years of financial instability. Victims may want to sue in order to recover compensation for these losses, but they may not know exactly who to sue, considering many truck drivers are employed by large corporations. This begs the question: can you sue a trucking company after an accident? The short answer is yes, but it’s complicated. Without strong legal representation, it can be nearly impossible to recover the damages you need from these large corporations.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a semi-truck accident, it’s important to seek expert legal counsel so that you can receive the proper compensation you deserve. The Albany trucking accident lawyers at Bailey, Johnson & Peck are prepared to help you pursue compensation from the responsible party or parties in your truck accident case. Call us at 518-456-0082 to schedule a free legal consultation with a member of our experienced team.
Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents
Like all other motor vehicle accidents, semi-truck accidents occur under various different circumstances. Some of the most common causes of trucking accidents include:
- Driver fatigue
- Driver inattention
- Reckless driving
- Lack of proper training
- Equipment malfunctions
- Poor cargo loading
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Failure to obey road signs
Possible Liable Parties in a Trucking Accident Case
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, there are various parties who could be held liable for a truck accident in a personal injury case. Some potential negligent parties include:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company that hired the driver/owned the truck
- The truck manufacturer
- The loading dock workers who loaded the truck
In some cases, multiple parties can share the blame for the accident and can all be held partially responsible for damages. An experienced truck accident attorney will be able to examine the circumstances of the accident and determine who is liable for the incident so that victims can file a truck accident lawsuit against them.
When Can You Sue a Truck Driver for an Accident?
In some truck accidents, the truck driver is primarily to blame for the accident, making them at least partially liable for the damages caused by the accident. It depends on the circumstances surrounding the case, however. Below are some instances in which truck drivers can be sued for negligence after a truck accident.
Fatigued, Distracted, or Intoxicated Driving
Driver fatigue is incredibly dangerous, especially for those driving large commercial trucks. Semi-truck drivers also tend to drive for hours and hours on end, sometimes through the night. This can make it easier for them to fall asleep behind the wheel or become so fatigued that they can’t focus on the road.
Truckers can also become distracted while driving and may take their eyes and attention away from the road at times. Things like eating, texting, or messing with the radio can all distract a driver and cause a serious accident.
Similar to people who drive passenger vehicles, some people who drive commercial vehicles decide to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. In addition to being illegal, this kind of action is incredibly reckless and dangerous. It puts the driver themselves, as well as others on the road, at a high risk for injury or even death.
If you were involved in a trucking accident as a result of fatigued, distracted, or intoxicated driving, you may be able to sue the individual truck driver for compensation.
Speeding or Committing Other Traffic Violations
Truck accident victims may also be able to file a lawsuit against the truck driver if the truck driver caused the accident by speeding or otherwise violating traffic laws. Accidents involving semi-trucks can be devastating, and when they occur at high speeds, the results can be much worse. That’s why it’s important for victims to hold the negligent truck driver responsible for their actions in a truck accident lawsuit.
Aggressive or Reckless Driving
Just like other car accidents, trucking accidents can be caused by aggressive or reckless drivers. Trucks have larger blind spots than passenger vehicles, so when they are close to other drivers, they may not even notice. That makes it much easier for semi-truck drivers to cause serious accidents by swerving in and out of lanes or tailgating other vehicles.
Additionally, it goes without saying that semi-trucks are larger and heavier than passenger cars, so it takes them a lot longer to slow down or stop. Aggressively driving right behind other vehicles can drastically reduce the amount of time that they will have to slow down if the vehicle in front of them slows or stops. In this kind of truck accident case, the truck driver would most likely be found responsible for the accident and liable for any damages.
When Can You Sue Trucking Companies for Accidents?
Commercial motor vehicles like semi-trucks are often owned and maintained by a trucking company. The company is also responsible for vetting, training, and hiring their drivers and cargo-loading personnel. Because they are in charge of so many different aspects of their business, trucking companies can sometimes be the primary cause of a truck accident. Below are some instances in which victims can file a truck accident lawsuit against a trucking company.
Improper Cargo Loading
Semi-trucks and tractor-trailers often carry cargo, and it’s important that the cargo is properly loaded and secured so that it can safely reach its destination. Improperly loaded cargo can fall off the truck, blocking the road and potentially striking other vehicles. Additionally, if the cargo makes the trailer back heavy, it can negatively impact the driver’s ability to handle the vehicle and cause the truck to fishtail.
In these cases, the truck company in charge of hiring and training the people who loaded the cargo may be held liable for any auto accident caused by cargo problems.
Poor Truck Maintenance
Commercial vehicles like semi-trucks are often used for extensive periods of time, which can cause significant wear and tear. Over time, small problems can cause massive mechanical issues, which can easily lead to a trucking accident. If truck companies fail to inspect their vehicles and properly maintain them, and one of their trucks is involved in an accident because of a mechanical problem, the company could be sued for damages.
Hiring Illegal or Poorly Trained Drivers
The trucking industry in America is vast and growing, but because the risks of driving such large vehicles are so high, trucking companies have to be careful who they hire. If a trucking company does not properly vet or train its drivers, it may be partly responsible for any semi-truck accident its untrained or undertrained drivers cause.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which creates and enforces commercial motor vehicle regulations, has a list of required procedures for drug and alcohol testing programs for transportation companies. If a trucking company fails to properly and routinely conduct these tests, it may be held partially or fully liable for any truck accident caused by an intoxicated employee.
New York Comparative Fault Laws and How They Impact Truck Accident Cases
Comparative fault is a legal doctrine that dictates how much compensation a person can receive in a personal injury lawsuit based on how much they contributed to the accident. If the victim was partially to blame for the accident, they could have their maximum compensation reduced depending on the percentage of blame that the court assigns them.
For example, let’s say a tractor-trailer is going down the interstate when the door at the back of the truck flies open, causing their cargo to spill out onto the road. There’s a car behind the truck driving a reasonable distance, but the driver is looking at their phone when the truck loses its cargo. The person driving the car crashes into some of the cargo, suffering injuries, and they sue the truck company for the improperly loaded cargo.
In some cases, the trucking company could be found 100% responsible for the accident and have to pay the victim for 100% of their losses. However, since the victim in this case was looking at their phone and didn’t see the cargo in front of them, the court may decide that the car driver was at least 15% to blame for the accident. In this case, the trucking company would only have to pay for 85% of the victim’s damages.
New York is one of the few states in the country that employs pure comparative fault, which states that victims can pursue compensation for damages, even if they are 99% to blame for the accident. In other states, the victim can only be 50% or less at fault in order to receive any compensation. This means that if you are in any trucking accident, you may be able to recover compensation, regardless of how much your actions contributed to the incident.
How Trucking Company Insurance Policies Can Complicate Your Lawsuit
Large trucks have a large capacity for harm, and insurance companies know this better than just about anyone. Many truck accidents cause damages that exceed people’s personal injury protection insurance, which is why so many semi-truck accident victims have to request compensation from the negligent party’s insurance company.
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses, and they will do what they can to protect their profits, even if that means offering accident victims unreasonably low settlement amounts. Hiring a truck accident lawyer can help significantly increase your chances of receiving fair compensation.
Semi-truck accident lawyers will know how to negotiate with insurance companies in order to receive a fair settlement offer. If the insurance company can’t provide a reasonable settlement amount, that lawyer can help victims file a truck accident lawsuit in hopes of receiving enough compensation to cover the victim’s losses.
Common Trucking Accident Injuries
Even at low speeds, large truck accidents can cause serious injury and even death. A truck accident victim may experience injuries, such as:
- Internal bleeding
- Organ rupture
- Broken bones
- Spinal column injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Partial or full paralysis
- Damage to muscles and joints
- Head injuries like traumatic brain injuries
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Trucking Accident Damages
A semi-truck accident can cause significant damage to people and property, and in many cases, victims are left suffering from those damages for the rest of their lives. In a personal injury claim, a truck accident law firm could help a victim recover compensation for both their tangible losses, like medical expenses, as well as their intangible losses, like emotional distress.
In a truck accident claim, a victim may be able to recover compensation from the negligent party for economic damages, such as:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Lost future earnings
- Past and future rehabilitation costs
- Counseling costs
- Funeral expenses, in the event of a wrongful death
In a truck accident case, the victim could also receive financial compensation for their non-economic damages, such as:
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of quality of life
- Physical pain and suffering
Call Albany Semi-Truck Accident Lawyers at Bailey, Johnson & Peck Today
If you have suffered from serious injuries as a result of a semi-truck accident, you deserve compensation for your past and future losses. Luckily, the skilled attorneys at Bailey, Johnson & Peck are here to help you pursue fair compensation from the other parties involved in the truck accident. Call us at 518-456-0082 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with an experienced legal professional today.