Accidents involving commercial trucks can cause great harm due to a truck’s size, weight and cargo. Liability is highly complex in truck accidents compared with passenger car accidents, with their own unique set of laws and challenges. If you have been involved in an accident with a semi-truck or other commercial truck, learn about who may be liable and how an experienced attorney can help prove liability.
Many Potential Parties Could be Liable in a Commercial Truck Accident
Unlike a private vehicle, a truck and its cargo pass through many hands. It can be harder to prove liability because so many people and companies are involved. These include:
- Truck driver
- Trucking company
- Owner of the truck, if different
- Company using the trucking company’s services
- Cargo loaders and inspectors
- Mechanics responsible for truck inspections and repairs
Parties that could be liable in a truck accident will depend on whom the driver works for, who owns the truck, and the relationship between the driver and the trucking company — such as whether the driver is an independent contractor or an employee of the company. It can also make a difference whether the truck had a loaded trailer, empty trailer or no trailer at the time of the accident.
If the commercial truck was transporting cargo, more parties could become involved, such as the cargo shippers, loaders, freight forwarders or consignees, all who may be liable if the collision was caused by the cargo in any way.
If the accident was a result of an improperly maintained truck, then any maintenance or repair companies involved could also share liability for the accident.
Regulations Governing Truck Driving Safety
Commercial truck drivers are required to carry a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Applicants must have an operator’s license, pass vision requirements, a knowledge test and a skills test to obtain any of the three classes of CDLs in Florida.
Drivers must abide by the following rules when driving, as set forth by the Florida Commercial Driver License Manual:
- Continuously review and inspect their vehicle and submit inspection reports.
- Eliminate all distractions before driving.
- Remain aware and cautious around potentially distracted drivers on the road.
- Adhere to “hours of service” requirements stating how often they must take a break or sleep.
Failure to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and other legal requirements as stated in the Florida Motor Vehicles Statues can increase the chance of a driver being found liable for a truck accident.
Just as the driver must follow certain requirements, so must the trucking company and cargo company. There are weight limits for the cargo, and even stricter federal regulations for a truck carrying hazardous waste. A trucking company may be liable through “vicarious liability,” the legal theory that employers are responsible for their employees’ actions during the regular course of business.
How is Liability Determined in Truck Accident Cases?
As we have said, determining liability in commercial truck accident cases is a challenge. If the driver, trucking company, or any other party clearly broke a law, proving negligence is more straightforward. Other transgressions require more research to prove.
A legal team will look for violations of any laws or industry regulations and may work to uncover relevant information such as:
- Any photos or other evidence collected at the scene
- Driver service records
- Drug and alcohol screening results
- Records of the cargo
- Truck inspection history
- Vehicle data like security camera footage and GPS data
- Weight tickets and delivery documents
- Testimony of witnesses
In some cases, the trucking company and a manufacturer share liability due to faulty equipment or cutting corners in some way. Your legal team may call upon an expert witness to illuminate standard industry practices or other specifics that relate to liability.
Trucking Companies Have Immense Financial and Legal Resources
Trucking companies carry large amounts of insurance coverage, sometimes millions of dollars’ worth. Their insurance companies will aggressively defend claims when one of their trucks is involved in an accident, especially one where death or life-altering injuries occurred.
The trucking company itself is also likely to have access to immense financial and legal resources. Larger companies, in particular, have resources specially set aside to address any truck accident injury settlement or court case.
The goal of the trucking company and its insurance carrier is to settle the case by paying out the smallest amount possible. As the victim of a trucking accident, your attorney will almost always advise against accepting the first settlement offer. By accepting the first offer, you may be forgoing your right to full compensation.
Matthews Injury Law Specializes in Florida Truck Accident Cases
Truck accidents can result in serious injury or wrongful death, destroying lives, sometimes due to an easily avoidable error. Truck crash victims benefit from the guidance of a truck accident lawyer that specializes in these cases.
Matthews Injury Law has a team of experienced lawyers ready to help you if you have been the victim of an accident. Our lawyers have taken truck crash cases to trial for injured plaintiffs, and for defendant trucking companies and drivers. You should know if your attorney is experienced in handling truck crash cases through trial – because the trucking company certainly will.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck collision in Tampa, Sarasota or another area in Florida, Matthews Injury Law can help you get the settlement you deserve. To request a free consultation, reach out to us today.
*The information on this page was either written or reviewed for accuracy by attorney Marc Matthews. Marc is a managing partner at Matthews Injury Law and has won seven- and eight-figure verdicts and settlements for truck accident victims in Florida. He has handled trucking cases throughout the state and the nation.