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Trucking Accidents: Common Causes and Liability

Often, the cause of and responsibility for a trucking accident are not always as clear as in a typical car accident.

Even though large trucks are only responsible for 3% of injury-causing motor vehicle accidents, these accidents can cause significantly more harm than other automobile accidents. This is due to the heavy weight of their load and the size of the vehicles themselves. If you are involved in a truck accident, it is important that you understand the following:

Who is involved and Who is Responsible?

Trucking accidents typically include a complex network of involved parties. This commonly includes:

  • The driver of the truck
  • The owner of the truck
  • The company (or person) who leased the truck/trailer
  • The company who loaded the cargo
  • The manufacturer of any/all aspects of the vehicle

Determining liability in a trucking accident can be difficult, as each player may try to shift liability to another. In past years, trucking companies have tried to distance themselves from the driver, or parties responsible for cargo, by adding a layer of leasing into their ownership. This way, the trucking companies can claim they weren’t responsible for how the truck was packed or operated. To protect all parties involved, an abundance of federal laws and regulations have been established in attempt to clearly delineate responsibility.

Once the involved parties have been identified you may begin to understand how and why an accident occurred. Due to new inspection regulations and devices, a substantial amount of data is recorded during a trip. This can help to alleviate the pressure on all parties to remember specific details of an accident.

There are two tools that can help to establish the factors involved and incidents that occurred leading up to the accident:

  • Certified Truck Inspector’s Report
    Because of the large possibility for error or loss of information, federal and state regulations now require that any truck/trailer which was involved in an accident be inspected by a certified professional before it is removed from the scene of the accident. An inspector’s report covers topics such as condition of the truck and its parts and recreation of the driving atmosphere. These reports are not typically part of the police investigation but if you reach out to the appropriate government agencies, you access it in case of any litigation that may arise.
  • Data from Devices
    The trucking industry has recently employed devices, similar to “black boxes” in commercial planes, which record information such as the speed of the truck at the time of the accident; the driver’s speed patterns; if/when the driver employed their brakes; and the length of the driver’s trip. Many companies also use inclinometers which record information about the slope of a truck’s path and the level of precaution the driver took when rounding corners. This data can be instrumental in understanding how and why an accident occurred.

What Could Have Caused the Accident?

  • Driver Error
    Unfortunately, a large majority of trucking accidents are the result of driver error such as fatigue, inattention, distraction or even drug/alcohol use. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that drivers of large trucks are 10 times more likely to be the cause of an accident than factors like road conditions, mechanical failures or weather conditions. Drivers who are impaired by any of the previously stated factors make poor speed and breaking distance judgments, take unnecessary risks and are typically unable to react quickly enough to roadway changes.
  • Equipment Problems
    In some cases, equipment failure can be the cause of trucking accidents. This includes situations such as design flaws in elements of the truck, manufacturing mistakes and defects or, the most common, poor maintenance of the equipment. Failures due to poor maintenance are easy for the drivers/truck owners to prevent, simply by ensuring that the truck is properly inspected and updated at timely intervals.

What should I do after a trucking accident?

Determining liability for a trucking accident is difficult to navigate alone, especially if you have been seriously injured from the wreck. Hiring a lawyer with significant experience and industry expertise is essential to obtaining a successful outcome for your case.

The lawyers at Murnane and O’Neill have years of experience representing the victims of trucking accidents. Contact us online to speak with a personal injury lawyer about your individual claim.