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Who Is Responsible in an Accident With an 18-Wheeler?

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When you’re involved in an accident on the roadway, the results can include damages to your vehicle and injury to your person. How serious those damages and injuries are depends on the severity of the collision, and wrecks involving large trucks can often do a lot of damage to the other vehicles and people in the incident.

If you’re the victim of an accident involving an 18-wheeler or other large truck, you have a right to seek compensation for your losses. However, these cases can be complex, and just knowing who is liable and who you should file suit against can be a challenge. Working with a truck accident attorney can help you lay the foundation for a stronger truck accident claim—starting with ensuring that you’re including all the right parties when you file.

Who Might Be Held Liable in a Tractor Trailer Accident?

Many people and businesses might be involved when it comes to truck accident cases. Who, exactly, might be held liable depends on the factors of the case.

Some parties that might be held responsible for an 18-wheeler accident include:

  • The driver. If the driver has acted in a way that is negligent, they may be held liable separately from the company they are driving for. Some potential acts of negligence on the part of a driver can include driving when they know they are exhausted, not obeying traffic laws, or failing to drive in a way that is safe given the specific conditions or situation of the event.
  • The trucking company. In many cases, the trucking company may hold the insurance policy involved in the case, which means you would have to sue them as part of seeking compensation. In some cases, the trucking company may actually be at fault because they didn’t maintain the truck correctly, didn’t vet the driver well when hiring them, didn’t provide appropriate training, or required drivers to operate outside of best practices. For example, if a trucking company required a driver to operate too many hours in a week, they might be held liable for an accident.
  • The manufacturer of the truck. If you can show that the truck had a defect of some sort that caused or was a factor in the accident, you may be able to name the truck manufacturer in a claim for damages. The same is true for any company that is responsible for manufacturing parts for the truck or repairing the truck, such as a third-party mechanic. However, the further you get away from the actual truck company, the more difficult it may be to prove liability.
  • The company that loaded the truck. If the cargo or how it was packaged or loaded was a factor in causing the accident, the freight shipper and loader may be at fault. For example, if cargo is not weight-balanced appropriately, it can lead to issues maintaining safety on the road. 

What Are Some Common Reasons for Accidents Involving 18-Wheelers?

The factors of each individual accident help determine who might be held liable, and different incidents can be more or less complex. For example, rear-end collision liability is often (but not always) easier to prove than other types of liability. 

According to large truck crash statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, almost 5,000 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in 2020 alone. That doesn’t include thousands of other incidents that didn’t include fatalities. Some common reasons for large truck accidents include:

  • Driver fatigue. Truck driving takes a lot of concentration. When drivers are too tired, they often fail to operate their vehicles in the safest manner.
  • Traffic violations. Speeding is one of the most common factors in truck accidents. Failure to yield, failure to obey traffic signals, and improper lane changes are some others.
  • Distracted driving. Driving while texting, engaging with radios or other devices, or being otherwise distracted leads to a large number of truck accidents. 
  • Mechanical failures. Lack of maintenance on brakes, tires, and other truck parts can lead to failures on the road that cause accidents. 
  • Poorly loaded cargo. When cargo is loaded incorrectly or isn’t well secured, it can move around, causing the truck to swerve on the road or otherwise not respond to handling well.
  • Drunk or intoxicated driving. Drivers who are intoxicated—whether because they had too much to drink or abused drugs before driving—cause a number of serious truck accidents annually. 
  • Lack of training or experience. It takes skill and knowledge to safely operate a tractor-trailer or 18-wheeler. Without these things, drivers can cause accidents because they fail to act in the proper manner on the road.

Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer About Your Truck Accident Case

Of course, not every accident involving an 18-wheeler is the fault of the driver, the trucking company, or one of the other entities named above. Some may be the fault of other drivers on the road or factors outside of a trucker’s control. If you are injured in an accident involving an 18-wheeler, you’ll need to work to make your case and prove liability.

Truck accidents can be complex. Start by identifying the right parties so you can better make your case. Reach out to Jarrett & Price, trial attorneys, to find out how we can help support a more positive outcome for your truck accident claim.

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