The Difficulties of Getting Compensation after a Truck Accident
A major problem with trucking accidents is that commercial trucks, and especially tractor trailer trucks, often inflict far more damage and injury during an accident than the truck driver can afford to compensate. This means a negligence claim is only worth as much as the plaintiff can actually recover from the negligent party. The truck driver must actually have resources to compensate the plaintiff, whether it be through insurance, savings, or personal worth.
Since an individual truck driver is unlikely to be able to afford compensation, the plaintiff must look to other potentially responsible parties. This could be the truck driver’s employer (the carrier), or possibly the manufacturers if the equipment contributed to the accident. These parties are likely to have assets or adequate insurance to compensate the victims of the accident.
In order to recover damages from a carrier or manufacturer, the plaintiff must demonstrate that liability rested with them by showing one of the below theories:
- Employer Liability
- Lease Liability
- Negligent Hiring, Entrustment or Retention
- Negligent Inspection, Maintenance, or Repair
- Violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
Respondeat Superior. This Latin phrase simply refers to the legal doctrine of holding employers responsible for the negligence of their employees. Therefore, the employer of the truck driver will be liable for the driver’s negligence in the event of an accident. Some carriers now distance themselves from their truck drivers by hiring independent contractors. In these types of cases, the negligence of the truck driver alone will not be sufficient to hold the employer liable for damages.
In this situation, a carrier leases both a truck and a driver and therefore has ‘exclusive possession’ under the federal regulations. This then becomes the same as Employer Liability and the driver’s negligence flows to the carrier.
Negligent Hiring, Entrustment, or Retention
Carriers have a duty not to hire, entrust, or retain individuals who are unreasonably likely to harm others. This means that if a carrier knowingly hires a dangerous driver, or uses a truck that is not safe to be on the road, they will be liable for any damages caused.
Negligent Maintenance, Inspection, or Repair
Federal regulations require carriers to keep maintenance records and undertake regular inspections of their trucks. If an accident is partially attributable to mechanical failure, the carrier has to produce adequate maintenance and inspection records to evidence that they fulfilled their federal duty. If they are unable to do so, they may be held liable for damages.
Violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
If an interstate carrier violates any of the federal safety regulations and it leads to injury, the interstate carrier will be liable without the need to demonstrate negligence.
Discovering who is at fault after a truck accident can be a difficult and taxing prospect, and that is why you should seek out the help of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. The law firm of Charles J. Argento is here to help you. Contact us today online or by calling toll free at (713) 225-5050. We speak both English and Spanish and look forward to helping you with your case.