Truck Accident Liability: Rules and Regulations

Truck accident liability can be complicated, but it’s an essential part of any trucking case. To maximize your recovery when you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, it’s important to determine all parties who can be held liable.

An experienced Houston, Texas truck accident lawyer at Pierce | Skrabanek can help you better understand who can be held liable and why. We always seek the maximum compensation allowable by law for our clients in Texas.

Truck Accident LiabilityWho Can Be Held Liable For Truck Accident Injuries or Death?

The truck driver behind the wheel of a semi truck isn’t the only one who can be held liable in a crash. Trucking companies are responsible for the actions of their employees within the scope of their work. They are tasked with properly training employees, hiring qualified people and enforcing safety rules, among many other things.

While the truck driver and the trucking company are often the ones found liable, an experienced truck accident lawyer can prove the following parties to be liable as well:

  • The owner of the truck. If an accident involves a commercial vehicle (waste management, UPS, FedEx, etc.), the owner of the vehicle can be held liable if the owner’s actions – or lack of actions – contributed to the crash.
  • The owner of the freight. Proving truck accident liability of a freight owner is sometimes tricky, and that’s why you will need the help of a trucking accident attorney.
  • Manufacturer of the truck. A defective part or design flaw in a truck that is involved in a semi truck crash means the manufacturer may be held liable.
  • Thirdparty maintenance companies. If an outside company was tasked with maintaining a truck, it can be held liable for trucking accidents that occurred because of poor maintenance.

Theories of Liability

Here are some of examples of theories of liability our truck accident attorneys use to establish liability in a truck accident:

Employer Liability

When the driver is an employee of the trucking company, the motor carrier is responsible for the driver’s actions when he or she is acting in the scope of employment.

Lease Liability

Federal regulations mandate that trucking companies who lease vehicles to drivers have “exclusive possession, control and use” of the leased vehicle. Courts use this ruling to establish that companies who lease trucks to drivers can still be held responsible for the negligence of the driver operating the leased truck.

Negligence in Hiring

Trucking companies can be found liable if they hire a driver that it should have known was incompetent at the time of his or her hiring. The companies are responsible for hiring qualified staff and offering proper training.

Actions Against Insurers for Negligent Hiring

Many smaller trucking companies rely on insurance companies to evaluate driver qualifications. Companies submit information on potential drivers to insurance providers, who will then let the trucking company know whether they will insure the driver. While insurance companies are not bound by federal or state law to screen drivers, they can be held responsible if they fail to reject an unqualified or incompetent driver.

Broker Liability

Brokers don’t ship cargo, but rather arrange for the transportation. Brokers can also be held liable if they fail to properly screen drivers.

Negligent Inspection, Maintenance or Repair

Federal regulations require motor vehicle carriers to inspect, maintain and repair all vehicles under their control. A failure to maintain a vehicle can result in liability.

Violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations

Federal guidelines on safety regulations for motor carriers are very specific and must be adhered to at all times. Any failure to do can be used to establish liability in a truck accident case.

Shipper Liability

Improper loading of cargo onto a truck can result in the shipping company being held liable.

Driver Fatigue

Federal regulations prohibit truck companies from letting drivers operate trucks when they are too fatigued to drive safely. Truck companies that do not keep accurate driver logs can be held liable for trucking accidents caused by tired drivers.

Commercial Driver’s License Manual

In addition to federal regulations, Texas and other states have their own CDL manuals that drivers and trucking companies must adhere to.

Spoliation of Evidence

If a trucking company destroys or fails to keep accurate records, it can be held liable.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are damages awarded to punish the defendant and give the plaintiff compensation for intangible damages. It can be sought if a trucking company demonstrates not only negligence, but also recklessness and a lack of regard for the consequences of its actions.

Interstate Trucking Insurance Liability

Where a truck accident occurs plays a huge role in determining where the costs will fall. Laws vary from state-to-state, so speaking with an experienced truck accident lawyer is critical to securing compensation for your case.

Vehicles that fall under the interstate truck category are those that typically travel across multiple states. When this is the case, they are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Some of these trucks include:

  • FedEx trucks
  • UPS trucks
  • Trucks from department stores
  • Logging trucks

Proving Liability and Damages

Once an attorney determines who may be liable for the truck accident that injured you, then it’s time to prove it. This will mean determining a theory of liability and collaborating with medical experts and others necessary for building a strong case for compensation.

Laws and Regulations Applying to Truck Drivers

Here are some of the most important laws you should know pertaining to truck accident liability for truck drivers:

Licensing Requirements

Truck drivers are allowed to have just one license from their home state. This license can only be issued after truck drivers pass skill and knowledge tests.

Special Training and Physical Requirements

Truck drivers must be specially trained for their jobs and must pass a physical exam every two years.

Controlled Substances

Truck drivers cannot operate trucks under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs, and they also cannot carry alcohol with them unless it is cargo.

Hours of Service

Per FMCSA regulations, truck drivers can drive a maximum of 11 hours per 14-hour workday. Drivers must then take a 10-hour break and maintain logs of their time behind the wheel.

Laws and Regulations Applying to Trucks

Some truck laws most critical to truck accident liability:

Securing Cargo

  • Cargo must be tied down or secured properly as to not become loose or risk falling off the vehicle. This can pose an enormous danger to other drivers on the road.

Required Vehicle Markings

  • Trucks are required to display their Department of Transportation-issued number, HAZMAT markings and other identifications.

A Texas Truck Accident Attorney Can Help You

When establishing truck accident liability, every case is complicated and different in its own way. The truck accident attorneys at Pierce | Skrabanek in Houston are here to help guide you and win your case.

Call us today at (832) 690-7200 or 855-400-4714. Our consultation is free. Our lawyers are committed to helping Texas truck accident victims.