Who is Liable in a Truck Accident?

February 6, 2020

According to the 2018 Georgia Governor’s Office for Highway Safety report, large truck accidents accounted for over 13,000 accidents and 187 fatalities. If you are one of those unlucky people whose life was turned upside down due to a negligent commercial driver, you may be wondering who is liable following a truck accident. The truth is it could be several people and/or companies.

Truck Driver Liability

It was the truck driver who was operating the truck when it caused an injury, so clearly he has culpability. Also, the driver may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he may have been drowsy, his medical condition may have disqualified him from driving, or there may be a host of other reasons he negligently caused the wreck. Ultimately, every person must answer for his or her own wrongful actions. Thus, the truck driver is a liable party.

Trucking Company Liability

First, it’s important to understand the different relationships between the company and the driver.

  1. Company Drivers: This one’s simple. The driver is employed by a trucking company. In this case, the trucking company is legally responsible for the truck driver’s negligence. You might ask, what if the driver was drunk or on drugs? It does not matter. In Georgia, the trucking company is still responsible.
  2. Owner-operators: The truck driver owns the truck but leases it to a trucking company. Does the fact that the trucking company does not own the truck mean it can escape liability? Absolutely not. Federal law has anticipated this exact scenario. Under federal law, the trucking company assumes complete responsibility for the operation of the truck for the duration of the lease

Cargo Loader Liability

In some instances, an accident happens because a load shifts and the truck driver loses control. In those cases, the company which loaded the cargo has liability to the injured person. These claims, however, can be very difficult to win.

The company which loaded the cargo generally loads the cargo the same way every time. If the other thousands of times the cargo was loaded in a particular manner did not cause an accident, what was different this time? Additionally, it is highly likely the cargo loader will blame the truck driver for causing the load to shift instead of the other way around. And it is true, under federal law, a driver must assure himself the cargo is properly distributed and adequately secured before he transports the load.

Additionally, the driver must closely follow load inspection procedures for the duration of his time transporting the load.

Of course, if the load is sealed then the truck driver is not responsible for insuring the safety of the load’s securement.

The bottom line is the cargo loader may have liability for a wreck in some instances, but to find fault the issue needs to be thoroughly investigated.

Truck Manufacturer Liability

When a truck fails to operate as designed or intended, the truck driver may be an innocent victim of faulty equipment. In that case, the manufacturer of the truck will have liability not only to the injured person but also to the truck driver. A products liability suit would have to be brought against the truck’s manufacturer.

Like cargo liability discussed above, it is not often a truck manufacturer has liability for a multi-vehicle collision but it is something the lawyers at HPS Law will investigate.

Insurance Company Liability

In Georgia, an insurance company which provides coverage to a trucking company has liability following a wreck. How so you might ask? The insurer’s liability is not due to negligence. However, the insurer has liability because it has a contract with the trucking company. In the event the injured person has to file a lawsuit, the insurance company may be named a party defendant. This claim is known as a direct action.

How to determine who is liable?

Determining the liable parties following a truck accident can oftentimes be confusing. The only way to get to the bottom of it is to conduct an investigation. The lawyers at HPS have 30+ years conducting thousands of investigations. We are trucking attorneys and we can investigate who is responsible for your injuries. Schedule a free consultation online or call (404) 400-1175. We are here to help.

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