Semi-truck accident claims are often more complex than other accident claims due to liability issues and the severity of the injuries.In fact, determining liability in a semi-truck accident may require an extensive investigation. And in many circumstances, parties other than the truck driver and the other driver involved may hold liability. At the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook, we always rigorously investigate our clients’ truck accident claims to identify all of the parties that may hold liability so that we can maximize the recoverable damages. To learn more about the process of determining liability in a semi-truck accident, please scroll down.
Liability in a Semi-Truck Accident
When a semi-truck accident occurs, it’s not always clear who is responsible. Sometimes victims automatically assume that the semi-truck driver is fully at fault and that their claim will be relatively straightforward. However, this is rarely the case. Trucking companies must carry insurance policies with very high policy limits due to the severe injuries that can be caused by trucking accidents. And insurance companies often aggressively litigate against injury claims because large amounts of money and severe injuries may be involved.
In addition, sometimes multiple parties are partly at fault for an accident, so it’s important to identify every potentially liable party and name each one as a defendant to the lawsuit. If you fail to name a party that contributed to your accident, you won’t be able to recover damages for that party’s percentage of fault (which is allocated by a jury).
Who Might Be Liable for Causing a Semi-Truck Accident?
Beyond the drivers of the vehicles involved, several other parties are sometimes partially or fully liable for causing a semi-truck accident:
Trucking Carriers and Leasing Companies
Trucking carriers are vicariously liable for the negligence of the drivers they employ when the drivers are working in the course and scope of their jobs. This means that when you sue a driver for causing your injuries and losses, his or her employer will also be named in the lawsuit and will likely be responsible for paying damages to you.
Trucking companies may also be liable if their negligence contributed to the accident. For example, if a company negligently hired, retained, or supervised an at-fault driver who is unfit to drive, the company may be held directly liable. A company may also be held liable if their negligent training of a driver caused a collision. Additionally, if a company failed to inspect and maintain its trucks to keep them in good condition, the company may be held liable for negligence.
Some trucking companies lease their fleets from third-party companies. In these cases, the leasing companies may hold some liability in a semi-truck accident.
Third-Party Companies Responsible for the Semi-Truck’s Maintenance or Repairs
Many trucking carriers use third parties to complete repairs on their fleets. If the accident happened because of poor maintenance or a faulty repair, the third-party company that failed to properly maintain and repair the truck may be liable.
Distribution Centers and Equipment Manufacturers
Distribution centers and parties responsible for loading semi-trucks may be liable when an accident is caused by improper loading or unsecured loads. Equipment manufacturers may be liable in accidents that were partially caused by defective parts that failed. For example, if the truck had defective brakes, the brake manufacturer may be liable if the brakes failed and contributed to the accident.
Agencies Responsible for Maintaining Roads
Some accidents are partially caused by poorly maintained roads. If road conditions contribute to an accident, the agency responsible for maintaining the roads may be held liable.
Why Determining Liability Is Important
Determining liability in a truck accident is important for several reasons. When truck accidents happen in Arkansas, a modified comparative fault standard is used under Ark. Code Ann. § 16-64-122. Under this statute, juries consider the fault of the parties that are involved in the accident. If it determines that the plaintiff is less than 50 percent at fault, the plaintiff will be able to recover damages that will be reduced by the percentage of fault that is attributed to him or her. If the plaintiff is deemed to be 50 percent or more at fault, the plaintiff will not be able to recover any damages.
Under Ark. Code § 16-61-201 et. seq., Arkansas also allows contribution among the tortfeasors. This means that the jury will determine how much fault to assign to each of the various parties named as defendants in the lawsuit. If you fail to name a party that the jury determines was partly to blame, you will not be able to recover the percentage of damages allocated to that party.
Oklahoma has a similar modified comparative negligence statute at Okla. Stat. tit. 23 § 13 & 14. Like Arkansas, plaintiffs in Oklahoma truck accidents can only recover damages if their fault is less than the combined fault of the defendants. Under Okla. Stat. tit. 12 § 832, Oklahoma also allows contribution among the tortfeasors when multiple parties are to blame.
Contact the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook
Determining liability in a semi-truck accident can be complicated. If you have been seriously injured in a collision, the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook can help. Call us today at 479-783-8000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.