Those who survive collisions with commercial trucks are often catastrophically injured and/or permanently disabled. If you are injured in one of these tragic incidents, will you be able to hold the trucking company liable for your injuries and medical costs? How can a truck accident law firm help?
In fact, in 2016, more than 3,900 people reportedly died in accidents with large commercial trucks in this country, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Thousands more sustained severe and/or permanent injuries.
HOW IS LIABILITY DETERMINED AFTER A TRUCK ACCIDENT?
Even when the driver of a truck is obviously the at-fault driver, it can still be hard to determine which party has liability in a legal sense for your damages in a truck collision.
Legal liability in a trucking accident is not always clear. If you become injured because of a truck accident in the Coeur d’Alene area or anywhere in Idaho, you must have personalized and precise legal advice regarding how Idaho law applies to your own truck accident case.
It is imperative for you to consult an experienced Coeur d’Alene personal injury attorney as soon as you can if you’re injured in a crash with a careless commercial truck driver.
WHO HAS – OR WHO MAY SHARE – LIABILITY IN A TRUCK CRASH?
Can a truck business be held responsible for the carelessness of a driver? Can other parties share liability? In an accident involving a commercial truck, one or more of the parties listed here may be liable:
1. a driver
2. a trucking company
3. a truck owner (if distinct from the company)
4. a cargo loader
5. a truck manufacturer (or truck parts manufacturer)
WHAT IS THE LEGAL CONCEPT OF “VICARIOUS” LIABILITY?
A truck business may have direct liability for an accident if the company cuts corners or pushes its drivers to cut corners.
However, a truck company may also have “vicarious” liability, a legal concept that transfers liability to employers for the negligent actions of employees, provided the negligence wasn’t intentional and happened in the “course and scope” of the employee’s employment duties.
For example, if a delivery driver injures someone while en route to a delivery, liability probably transfers to that driver’s employer.
But if that driver injures you while making an unscheduled detour for a personal errand, liability may fall exclusively on the driver, as unscheduled personal errands aren’t in the course and scope of the driver’s job duties.
WHAT IF SOMEONE IS INJURED INTENTIONALLY?
If a truck’s driver intentionally injures someone – for example, in an incident of road rage or a hate crime – it may be difficult to hold the employer liable unless the employer was negligent in doing a background check before hiring the driver.
In some cases, however, a trucking company may have direct liability for a collision if there’s evidence that the company negligently hired an unqualified or clearly irresponsible driver, and the collision was caused by driver behavior related to his unsavory background.
Each case is unique. An accident attorney will need to review the particulars in your own truck accident case before determining which party has liability and before advising you about the best way to move forward.
WHEN ARE EMPLOYERS “VICARIOUSLY” LIABLE?
Whether a truck driver’s employer has liability in a truck accident case will also depend on answers to these key questions:
1. Was the driver a truck company employee or an independent contractor?
2. Was the truck driver’s negligence intentional or accidental?
3. Did the truck driver’s negligence take place within the scope of the driver’s job duties?
Vicarious liability generally does not apply to independent contractors, to a driver’s intentional wrong actions, or to any of a driver’s actions outside the course and scope of the driver’s duties. But even under these circumstances, liability may be attached if the owner knew or should have known that he was hiring a driver or company with a bad safety record.
HOW IS THE TRUCK BUSINESS REGULATED?
The truck industry is regulated by a variety of federal as well as state laws and guidelines. Federal regulations govern, for example, the number of hours that a driver is allowed to drive and the type of cargo that may be transported.
If the truck company or the truck driver has failed to comply with any of these state or federal regulations, and if that failure to comply results in an accident, it may be deemed evidence of negligence.
WHAT KINDS OF INJURIES ARE SUSTAINED IN TRUCK ACCIDENTS?
The injuries that are sustained in truck accidents – for those who survive – can be catastrophic and/or permanent. Survivors frequently suffer traumatic brain injuries, severe spinal cord injuries, multiple bone fractures, internal injuries, and injuries that require amputation.
Injured truck accident survivors almost always need the maximum available compensation to cover long-term medical care – along with their lost wages – and they need an aggressive personal injury attorney who knows what it takes to win that compensation on their behalf.
In a personal injury proceeding, the injury victim (called the “plaintiff”) first must prove, by a “preponderance of the evidence,” that the supposedly negligent party (called the “defendant”) was in fact negligent.
Secondly, the victim must then prove that the defendant’s negligent action (or negligent lack of action) was a direct cause of the accident and the victim’s personal injury.
WHAT EVIDENCE WILL YOUR ACCIDENT ATTORNEY SEEK?
One or more defendants may have liability in accidents that involve commercial trucks. With multiple defendants, a truck accident case can rapidly become complicated. If you are the victim, you will need an accident attorney’s advice as quickly as possible.
According to Coeur d’Alene personal injury attorney Jim Bendell, “Unlike car accident cases, there is a lot of paperwork and information that must be obtained by the plaintiff’s attorney.” This includes but is not limited to:
1. the company safety manuals and procedure manuals
2. details on the drivers’ schedule for the preceding days to determine if he was sleep deprived
3. maintenance records to determine if the brakes, etc. have been properly maintained and inspected
4. the driving record and history of the driver of the truck, including his history of traffic citations
5. state, federal or local government records showing whether the company has previously been fined or sanctioned
6. expert examination of the “black box” after the collision occurred
7. internal company records which may show speeding incidents which were not discovered by law enforcement
IF AN ACCIDENT HAPPENS…
If you are injured in any traffic crash, summon medical help immediately. This is the paramount priority after any accident involving a big commercial truck.
Of course, you should summon the police, exchange insurance information with the other driver, and take as many photos as you can of the vehicles and accident scene.
Speaking to a personal injury lawyer is your second priority. Do it promptly. Once you’ve had a medical examination by a physician or some other qualified healthcare professional, schedule a meeting immediately with a qualified Idaho personal injury lawyer.
The victims of drivers who are negligent have the right under Idaho law to total compensation for all of their accident-related medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, and any other accident-related losses and damages.
Family members of a person killed by a negligent truck collision are also entitled to a variety of monetary damages under Idaho law.
If you are injured by a negligent truck driver, compensation is your legal right. A good lawyer’s help is also your right. If you are injured by someone else’s negligence, exercise your rights. Your future – and your health – may depend on it.