Depending on the nature and severity of a trucking accident, you may need to file a claim to help recover money for medical bills and lost wages. However, before you can make a claim for such expenses, you must be able to demonstrate that the truck driver or trucking company was responsible for the collison. In order to do this you must first identify the cause of the collision. There are many, many different factors that can lead to a collision and often times there are a number of responsible individuals and companies. The following are a few examples of the more common causes of truck accidents and the parties that may be held liable.
Truck Driver Error
According to a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), error on the part of the truck driver is the primary cause of commercial truck accidents in the United States. Truck drivers can be negligent in many ways that put others at risk and the following are only some of the common driver errors that lead to collisions:
- Distracted driving — Driving a truck can be a lonely and boring job and many truck drivers look for ways to entertain themselves. Unfortunately, activities such as reading, using a handheld mobile device, talking on the phone, talking to passengers, communicating over a CB radio, and more can cause serious distractions that cause accidents.
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol — It is against the law for truck drivers to drive with a blood alcohol content over 0.04 percent or with any amount of illegal drugs in their systems. Unfortunately, substance abuse can be a serious issue among truck drivers and that can lead to intoxicated driving.
- Fatigued driving — Driving more hours than allowed by the FMCSA regulations can lead to fatigue, lack of concentration, and even drivers who nod off behind the wheel.
- Driving with health issues — If a driver knows they are at risk for serious health events including seizures, heart attacks, or mental health breakdowns, they can cause devastating injuries if an adverse health event happens while they are on the road.
- Aggressive driving — Truck drivers are often in a hurry and can become impatient with other drivers on the highway. Tailgating, dangerous lane changes, and intimidating actions are all aggressive driving behaviors that can cause collisions.
- Violating traffic laws or FMCSRs — Traffic laws and trucking regulations are in place to keep motorists safe and anytime a truck driver violates a law, they may cause an accident and be liable for any injuries that result.
- Not taking caution in adverse weather — Because trucks are larger and heavier, they often have more traction in snow, ice, or rain. However, truck drivers should take caution in adverse weather to avoid losing control and causing a crash.
Negligence on the Part of the Trucking Company
While trucking companies can often be held liable for the negligence of their drivers, other trucking employees can also act in negligent ways, including the following:
- Negligent hiring — Trucking companies should always take care to ensure they hire qualified and safe drivers. If a company hires a driver who is not properly licensed or has a poor driving record, the company may be liable for negligent hiring.
- Inadequate drug and alcohol testing — Companies are expected to perform random drug and alcohol tests on drivers, as well as test drivers after accidents that caused injuries or death. If a trucking company fails to do so or does not properly discipline a driver who fails a drug or alcohol test, it can be found negligent.
- Failing to maintain the fleet — Trucking companies have a duty to properly inspect, repair, and maintain all of the trucks in their fleets that are in operation. If a truck is inadequately maintained, parts may fail and may lead to serious accidents.
- Encouraging unlawful behavior — Believe it or not, some trucking companies may encourage drivers to engage in behavior that goes against the FMCSRs or local laws. Whether they set unrealistic expectations for drivers that cannot be achieved lawfully or they outwardly encourage violations in favor of money, doing so often leads to liability for accidents.
- Cargo-loading errors — Trucking companies can also be held liable if their cargo-loading teams do not properly load trailers. Overloading a truck can make the trailer too heavy and can make it difficult for drivers to slow down or stop. Failing to properly secure cargo can cause cargo to shift and can cause a trailer to tip over. Underloading of liquid cargo in tanker trucks can also cause problems and can lead to rollover accidents.
Some truck accidents are caused because of inherent defects in the parts on a truck, such as tires, axles, couplings, or brakes. In such cases, the manufacturer that produced and sold the defective truck part can be held liable for all of the damage and injuries that resulted from the accident.