Dissecting Truck Accident Liability in California
If you are involved in a trucking accident, your thoughts will likely immediately shift to potential legal liability. There is a common assumption that the drivers of trucks involved in trucking accidents are solely liable for damages. However, this is not always the case. Let’s take a look at potential legal liability for trucking accidents.
Potential Liability Stemming From a Trucking Accident
The aftermath of a trucking accident goes a long way in determining which parties are liable and the extent of their liability. It is quite possible the truck driver is fully liable for the accident. However, there is also the potential for one or several other drivers to be partially liable. An in-depth review of the truck cab, trailer, the big rig’s load and the damage to the vehicles involved in the accident will help piece together the puzzle of legal liability.
Keep in mind, big rig truck drivers have more control over the cab than the trailer. What matters most is whether the driver acted in a negligent manner and whether one or several other parties’ negligence contributed to the accident. In many cases, truck driver err is the primary cause of the accident. Oftentimes, truck drivers fail to maintain adequate control over the trailer, resulting in a rollover, wide turn or jackknife accident.
There is also the potential for the truck driver to be found legally liable if an override accident occurs. This type of accident takes place when the truck driver does not view a vehicle in the big rig’s blind spot and the trailer’s underside smashes against that vehicle’s top, potentially resulting in the vehicle becoming trapped below the truck.
Aside from driving safely, truck drivers are also challenged with properly inspecting their truck prior to departure and also at specific intervals while driving. Such inspections must entail an analysis of the trailer, its tires, brakes and all coupling components that link the cab and the trailer. Even the cargo should be inspected. If the driver fails to adequately inspect such elements or if he or she overlooks a truck part that is malfunctioning or otherwise defective, there will likely be resulting liability stemming from the accident.
What About the Trucking Company?
Plenty of truck drivers work for an overarching trucking company yet some are independent contractors. Others own their own trucking business. However, there are some situations in which the trucking business owns solely the trailer. If the trailer is owned by the trucking business, that business is legally responsible to guarantee the trailer is capable of hauling cargo in a safe manner. Failure to ensure such safe transportation opens the door for legal liability.
Third-party mechanics and providers of truck maintenance also have the potential to be legally liable in the aftermath of a trucking accident. If the mechanic or provider of maintenance fails to adequately prepare the truck for trips by overlooking necessary repairs or failing to replace broken/worn parts, he or she can be sued by the victim of the crash and be found legally liable for damages. Furthermore, the trucking business is legally responsible for hiring and employing qualified drivers. If the company does not fulfill this obligation, the company can be found legally liable for the victim’s injuries as well as all related damages.
Can the Shipping Company be Found Legally Liable for the Accident?
In short, yes, it is possible for the shipping company to be found legally liable for a trucking accident. Though the driver of the big rig is responsible for inspecting his or her haul at specific points in time, the shipping company that loaded up the truck has a legal duty to guarantee the freight is positioned properly on the truck.
The shipping company also has a legal duty to ensure the cargo is properly secured. The failure to properly secure cargo greatly increases the chances of a cargo spill accident, jackknife accident and rollover accident, ultimately rendering the shipping company legally liable for resulting damages.