Complexity Makes Responsibility Hard to Determine
In 2017, 4,889 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal accidents, an increase of nine percent over the previous year, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Who is responsible for all these serious accidents?
Determining liability for a Colorado accident involving a commercial truck is typically very complex because there are a number of different parties who could potentially be held responsible.
While most truckers are safe drivers, some drive recklessly, when they are tired, or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Truck drivers have the same responsibilities as the drivers of other vehicles, and when they cause an accident through irresponsibility they can be held liable for any subsequent injuries. But to receive compensation for damages, an injured person must prove that the driver was negligent in the operation of the truck. If the driver broke the law, this can automatically establish negligence under the legal theory of negligence per se.
Trucking companies sometimes have unrealistic expectations for their drivers, saddling them with overloaded schedules and improbable pick-up and delivery deadlines. When trucking companies make unworkable and dangerous demands of their drivers, they can be held responsible for the damages sustained in a commercial truck accident. Trucking companies are liable for the drivers they hire, and can be held responsible for accidents involving drivers who are found to be:
- Poorly trained
- Negligently hired
- Suffering from fatigue
- Violating safety standards.
Federal rules state that a trucking company that leases a vehicle and driver (an owner/operator lease) must have exclusive possession, control, and use of the leased vehicle. Courts have relied on this requirement when holding trucking companies liable for accidents caused by the negligence of a leased driver.
One of the main causes of accidents involving large commercial trucks is overloading or improperly loading cargo trucks. When a truck is improperly or unevenly loaded, it may exceed legal weight limits and potentially cause mechanical issues that can lead the driver to lose control of the truck. If cargo is unsecured, it could fly off the back of the truck and hit other vehicles or land on the road and cause a hazard. Unsecured cargo can also shift around, unevenly distributing the weight and causing the truck to flip over.
Truck and/or Part Manufacturers
Defective trucks or parts sometimes lead to serious trucking accidents, but according to the FMCSA’s Motor Vehicle Code, commercial vehicles must perform in a manner that protects the public from the unreasonable risk of an accident. A defective truck is one that is considered unreasonably dangerous because of a flaw or deficiency in its design, manufacture, or marketing. Some of the most common types of truck parts that could be found defective include brake systems, tires, steering mechanisms, and fuel tanks. If a truck’s poor design or faulty part led to an accident, the injured parties could be eligible to pursue compensation from the manufacturer.
Truck accidents frequently result in severe harm. If you suffered serious injuries in an accident involving a commercial truck, contact Colorado personal injury attorney for a free initial consultation.