When a truck accident occurs, both the truck driver and the trucking company may be held liable for any damages caused by the collision.
How Truck Drivers Cause Crashes
Mistakes made by truck drivers may result in jackknifing, head-on collisions, or sideswiping another vehicle. Some of the most common causes of truck accidents include:
Driver fatigue. There are federal regulations intended to prevent driver fatigue, but exhausted truck drivers are still on the road. Truck drivers may sometimes falsify their logs in order to spend more time driving, resulting in driver fatigue. When a truck driver falls asleep at the wheel, the consequences can be devastating.
Driving under the influence. Truck drivers sometimes take stimulants in order to spend more time on the road without falling asleep. Others may take prescription drugs that cause drowsiness or slow down reaction times.
Speeding. Speeding may be the most common cause of truck accidents. Trucks require more braking time than passenger vehicles, and they can damage numerous other vehicles when the driver loses control while traveling too fast around a curve.
Distractions. Like passenger vehicle drivers, truck drivers are also sometimes distracted by their use of cell phones. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines distracted driving by addressing mobile devices this way:
- ·No Dialing Reaching
- ·No Texting
- ·No Reaching
- ·No Holding
- ·No Reading
How Truck Companies Cause Crashes
Even in those instances where the truck driver is clearly at fault for the accident, the company he drives for may also be held liable. Employers are liable for the wrongful acts committed by their employees when those acts were unintentional and occurred during the course of employment. In addition to being vicariously liable, a trucking company may also be directly liable due to:
- Negligent hiring. If a trucking company should have known that a driver was incompetent at the time he was hired, the company may be guilty of negligent hiring. If so, it may be held liable for any collisions caused by the drivers it hires. The company has a responsibility to ensure that a driver is competent to operate his vehicle by verifying that he has a commercial driver’s license, performing driving background checks, and providing the proper safety training.
- Negligent truck maintenance. Many truck accidents occur due to the mechanical failure of parts. Federal regulations mandate the regular inspection, maintenance, and repair of trucks by trucking companies. The company must maintain records of all work performed on a vehicle, and it may be held liable for any injuries caused by its failure to properly inspect, maintain, or repair the equipment under its control.
- Violation of hours of service regulations. Federal regulations limit the number of hours a driver can be on duty during any day or week, and drivers are required to maintain daily logs of their work activity. Trucking companies must review these logs to ensure compliance with maximum hours of service regulations. If the company permitted the driver to violate hours of service requirements and the driver caused an accident due to fatigue, the company may be held liable.
Truck Accident Investigation
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, your attorney may conduct an investigation to gather the evidence needed to support your case. The FMCSA requires trucking companies to maintain a driver qualification file (DQF) on all drivers. This information can be very useful in establishing liability on the part of the driver and the trucking company. A few of the many pieces of information that must be included in a DQF are:
- Driving records, including any accidents involving the driver
- The driver’s employment history
- Drug and alcohol test results
- Copies of licenses
- Vehicle maintenance records
- Records of service hours and annual reviews
- Any medical certifications
You Need an Attorney
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Truck accident cases are frequently complex, and you need experienced representation to help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the truck accident attorneys of Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, PLLC by using the form on this page.