Accidents involving commercial trucks may not be common. However, the collisions have life-changing effects on all individuals who are involved. Whether a truck collides with other vehicles or hits pedestrians, truck accidents are fatal. However, if you survive the collision, you could escape with severe injuries and sometimes permanent disability. Most collisions often result from negligence, and establishing the liable party in your accident may be crucial in recovering compensation for your injuries.

Trucking accidents are complex since it is challenging to determine whether the trucking company or the driver is financially responsible for damages resulting from the accident. The complexity of truck accidents makes it crucial to have a dedicated truck accident attorney by your side as you navigate the claim process.

If you are a victim of trucking accident injuries and seek compensation in a personal injury claim, it would be wise to seek legal guidance from the Truck Accident Injury Attorney. Our group of competent attorneys has extensive experience to ensure all our clients in California recover the much-deserved compensation.

State and Federal Regulations Impacting Liability for Commercial Trucking Accidents

Trucking accidents are often a result of trucking companies and drivers violating one or more rules set for them by the state and federal bodies that govern their operation. These laws often stipulate the required conduct for drivers and trucking companies. Therefore, if you or your loved one suffers injuries from a commercial truck, it is crucial for you and your personal injury attorney to have an in-depth understanding of the trucking rules. This will help you understand the element of negligence for the accident and establish the liable parties.

Trucking regulations are governed at the state and federal levels and are aimed at ensuring public safety. Restrictions on transportation not only apply to big commercial trucks but other vehicles designated to carry heavy loads. As a result of the expectation to follow the rules, it can be challenging to identify an individual liable for breaking the rules and causing a truck accident. Some of the regulations that could impact liability for trucking accidents include:

Licensing requirements

Commercial truck drivers are required to have a valid commercial driver’s license before operating a big truck. A driver must meet these requirements before the state issues them with a commercial driver’s license:

  • Have a clean driving record

  • One must be at least twenty-one years

  • Driver must pass a medical and physical test

When a driver passes the above requirements, they may then be allowed to operate the commercial trucks.

Hours of Service

The regulations on hours of service help govern the number of hours that a truck driver must operate. This helps eliminate the risk of fatigue for drivers. Driver fatigue is a significant contributing factor to a truck accident. Some of the regulations on hours of service include:

  • A driver must not exceed fourteen hours of driving after reporting on duty

  • Truck drivers must not drive beyond sixty hours a week

  • If a driver operates for up to seventy hours, they can only resume driving after taking a thirty-four-hour rest.

To ensure that drivers comply with the hours of service rules, a trucking company must install the electronic logging device on each vehicle. The device is connected to the engine and can offer accurate records of driving time.

Drug and Alcohol Testing for Commercial Drivers

When operating a commercial truck, a driver must not have a blood alcohol content exceeding 0.02%. Also, drivers must not carry alcohol on the truck unless it is part of the cargo. Drunk driving is a serious issue that causes most road accidents. Imposing a BAC limit for truck drivers helps reduce the occurrence of accidents.

Securing Cargo

Unsecured cargo or overloaded vehicles could cause an imbalance in the trucks and result in a collision. Therefore, regulations on securing cargo require that cargo be secured correctly depending on its nature.

Trucking accidents cause serious injuries that could have lifetime effects. Since most accidents result from a violation of the above regulations, discovering the type of violation that occurred may be challenging. It is crucial to understand that liability could be shared between a driver and the trucking company depending on the circumstances that led to the accident.

Driver Liability in a Truck Accident

Driver conduct is a significant contributing factor to the occurrence of truck accidents in California. Immense pressure from trucking companies to meet deadlines could cause drivers to ignore safety rules and cause accidents. When a driver’s poor conduct caused an accident in which you were injured, you can file a lawsuit against the driver to claim compensation. 

If a truck driver causes an accident while acting on the scope of their employment, they may not be financially liable for the damages resulting from the accident. Even when the fault lies on the driver, financial responsibility may be transferred to the trucking company. Sometimes, driver conduct is a direct result of the trucking company’s rules and demands. Therefore, shared fault between a truck driver and their employer is common in truck accident lawsuits. 

However, in some situations, the driver may be held financially liable for the damages, especially when they acted out of negligence. For example, when a driver was an independent contractor required to maintain their vehicle insurance and is not an employee of the trucking company, they may carry financial liability for an accident. On the other hand, when a trucking company employs a driver, the company is expected to ensure the driver and the vehicle. Therefore, any damages resulting from the truck accident will be the company’s responsibility.

Also, if a truck driver is also the truck company’s owner, the court could hold them responsible for the injuries resulting from a trucking accident. Sometimes, a driver may be entrusted with the truck but goes further to use it for personal reasons that are not covered within the scope of employment. If an accident occurs under these circumstances, the driver may be held financially liable for the accident.

Another instance where a truck driver could shoulder the financial liability for a truck accident is when they make negligent decisions on the road, including:

  1. Driving under alcohol or drug influence. Drunk driving is one of the most dangerous behaviors on the road. When operating a large truck, there is potential for danger even before you add in the aspect of intoxication. Alcohol changes the way a driver interacts with everything around them. A drunk driver’s focus may not be entirely on the road, and their reaction to driving emergencies may be slow. Drunk driving is a personal choice, and a driver whose blood alcohol content exceeds the legal limit will be financially liable for the accident injuries.

  2. Over speeding. Trucking accidents are more catastrophic when compared to accidents involving passenger vehicles. The danger of causing a truck accident is more significant when operating over the speed limit. When speeding is a result of faulty brakes or other issues with the vehicle, the trucking company will be held financially responsible for the damages. However, when a driver speeds for personal reasons, they can shoulder the financial liability of your claim.

  3. Distracted driving. Commercial drivers must put all their attention on the road to ensure they drive safely. However, long working hours could take their attention off the road resulting in catastrophic collisions. There are several types of distractions that you could prove when establishing driver liability for your accident. Texting and mobile phones are a leading cause of distractions and are viewed as recklessness when you pursue compensation for your injuries.

  4. Failure to yield the right way. Trucks are huge and heavy vehicles. When the truck driver fails to respect traffic rules, they may result in serious collisions. A driver who fails to yield the right way is considered negligent and can hold financial responsibility for the truck accident damages.

  5. Driver fatigue. Long working hours could cause driver fatigue which is as dangerous as drunk driving. A tired driver could fall asleep while driving and crash into other vehicles or obstacles. Driver fatigue may be a result of working long hours without rest. In this case, both the drier and the trucking company may hold financial responsibility for the accident.

When is the Trucking Company liable For Truck Accidents?

When you suffer injuries in a truck accident, many people assume that the truck driver is automatically responsible for the accident. However, a trucking company could be held liable for the conduct of its employees. When you want to prove a company's liability from the driver's behavior, it must be clear that:

  • The driver was an employee of the alleged company. If the driver is an independent contractor, the company cannot take responsibility for its conduct.

  • The driver was acting within the scope of employment. It can be challenging to establish what scope of employment covers. However, identifying the driver's intent at the time of the accident compared to what they were instructed to do can be helpful.

Trucking companies have a responsibility to follow different federal and state laws on truck operation and maintenance. Therefore, trucking companies may recklessly or intentionally violate safety and transportation regulations to decrease expenses and increase profit margin. You can file a compensation claim against a trucking company for your injuries if you believe their negligence caused the accident. Some of the circumstances where a trucking company could be found liable for your damages after a truck accident include:

Overloading of Vehicles

Overloaded commercial trucks contribute significantly to fatal accidents putting the driver and other road users at risk. Many trucking companies may be tempted to overload their vehicles to reduce the trips and increase their profit. Trucks are heavy vehicles making it to maneuver even when ferrying the recommended weight. 

An overloaded truck is more challenging to steer and could cause a collision. When operating an overloaded vehicle, the driver's control is diminished, and the chances of colliding with other cars. Also, too much pressure from the excess cargo can cause the tires to wear out and increase the risk of sliding off the rods. If a commercial truck was overloaded at the time of the accident, the trucking company might be named a liable party in the accident.

Allowing Drivers to Carry Unbalanced Cargo

In California, some regulations prohibit trucking companies from ferrying unbalanced cargo. This is because of the instability and risk caused by the imbalance. For example, suppose a truck is involved in an accident as a result of unbalanced cargo. The trucking company may be held liable for the accident.

Encouraging Drivers to Violate hour restrictions

When a truck driver operates for a long time without rest, they are bound to be fatigued and may fall asleep on the wheel. A drowsy driver poses a risk similar to that of an intoxicated driver. However, most of these drivers violate hour restrictions while following instructions from their employers. Therefore, both the driver and the trucking company may be financially responsible for an accident resulting from working long hours. 

Poor Maintenance of Trucks

The laws governing truck operations require trucking companies to always keep their vehicles in a roadworthy condition. Due to the heavy loads and long-distance travelled by commercial. Trucks and vehicle parts are likely to wear out often. Therefore, a trucking company should ensure that trucks undergo regular inspection and repair. A trucking company with poor vehicle maintenance could put the truck driver and other road users at risk.

The basis of accidents that result from faulty vehicle parts is often a consequence of poor vehicle maintenance. Failure to properly maintain theory vehicles could cause the trucking company to shoulder the liability for truck accidents.

Employment and Retention of Under Qualified Drivers

Federal laws have regulations on individuals who wish to work as truck drivers. If trucking companies follow the rules, they are expected to hire qualified and highly skilled drivers. Also, physical and medical tests are essential before hiring the driver. Trucking companies may attempt to outsource cheap labor by hiring unqualified drivers. Operating a commercial truck requires skills and experience. Therefore, if an unskilled driver causes a truck accident, the company may be held liable for the accident.

Poorly Conducted Training Practices

It's a requirement for trucking companies to correctly assess and train their drivers before allowing them to operate. Commercial trucks are heavy vehicles and may require skill to operate. Therefore, failure to correctly prepare the drivers could risk their lives and other road users.

Shared Liability in Truck Accidents

Both the trucking company and the driver have a set of responsibilities to ensure the truck is safe to operate. In California, liability for an accident is dependent on the percentage of fault for the accident. Therefore, when you or a loved one is injured in a truck accident, you may be able to hold both the driver and the company responsible for your injuries.

When there are multiple defendants in your truck accident lawsuit, they will all be liable for your injuries based on the percentage of fault. Many defendants will always deny their involvement in your accident when you attempt to seek compensation. Therefore, legal guidance from a competent truck accident attorney is crucial as you navigate the suit.

Establishing liability for a truck accident can be complicated since the regulations governing trucking operations are complex. Whether liability falls on the truck driver, the company or both, it is always based on negligence. Before you can recover compensation from one or multiple liable parties, you must establish these elements:

  • Duty of care. Duty of care is the responsibility that each individual has to ensure the safety of other people. When establishing a shared liability, you have to prove that both the driver and the trucking company owed you a duty of care.

  • Breach of duty. For each defendant in your case, you must prove that their actions placed you and other road users at significant risk of injury.

  • Causation. Before the court can hold a defendant financially responsible for your losses from a truck accident, your injuries must have been a direct consequence of their actions.

Find a Truck Accident Injury Attorney Near Me

Due to their relative weight and size, truck accidents cause more significant damage than collisions involving smaller vehicles. In most cases, passengers from other vehicles or pedestrians who fall victim to truck accidents will suffer severe and life-changing injuries. In addition, damages resulting from a truck accident can take a toll on your finances. This is because of the extensive treatments and time required for these injuries to heal.

When you or a loved one is injured in a truck accident, you can recover compensation for the losses you incur by filing a civil suit against the liable party. However, the court requires that you establish liability for the accident to form a basis for your compensation. 

Finding a competent commercial truck accident attorney is crucial when establishing liability and seeking compensation for truck accident injuries. If you are seeking compensation for a truck accident in California, we invite you to contact Truck Accident Injury Attorney today for legal guidance and representation in your claim. Call us today at 619-754-7667 to discuss the details of your claim.