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Potentially liable parties in a truck accident case

Sometimes, the cause of an accident seems obvious. For example, a driver looks down at a cellphone and hits the vehicle ahead. However, there are also times when the circumstances leading to the crash are much more complex, particularly when those circumstances involves a commercial vehicle.

Determining all liable parties in a commercial truck accident may involve extensive investigation.

The trucking company

If the truck operator is an employee of the company, the name of the motor carrier and its license number should be in plain view. This indicates the carrier holds liability for the driver's acts, as well as for any issues stemming from the condition of the truck.

Issues such as schedules or dispatches that pressure a driver to speed or violate hours-of-service regulations may indicate company liability. The company could also be on the hook if it used negligent hiring practices, the driver has insufficient training to be on the road or the driver has numerous traffic violations on his or her driving record. However, liability would be dependent on evidence that the issue overlooked during hiring the driver was also the issue that led to the accident.

The driver

It may be the driver is an independent contractor rather than an employee. This could make the case much more complex, depending on how much control the contracting company has over the actions of the driver, and whether the driver owns the truck or leases it.

The driver may hold liability if he or she acts outside the scope of his or her employment when the accident occurs. If the act that led to the collision was intentional or criminal, such as road rage or impaired driving, then the driver may become solely liable, depending on the particular circumstances. 

Other parties

There may be many entities or individuals who also participate in the transporting of goods on a tractor-trailer. For example, there could be a design or manufacturing flaw in a critical component of the vehicle, such as the tires, that would implicate the manufacturer. A separate company may be responsible for loading the goods on the trailer. Improper loading techniques can cause shifting and imbalances that lead to a rollover accident. There could even be liability on the part of the municipality or other entity responsible for the road conditions if these played a part in the collision.

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