Who Is at Fault in a Semi-Truck Accident Bohn & Fletcher, LLP

While semi-trucks remain vital to the transport of all kinds of goods across the country, they also create a considerable accident risk to other people on the roadways. In 2017, nearly 5,000 accidents involving semi-trucks and buses resulted in fatalities. In fact, 116,000 big truck and bus accidents left victims with severe, life-altering injuries. Sadly, most of the lives lost in those accidents were the occupants of passenger vehicles, not the truck or bus drivers or their passengers. In many cases, the victims were innocent of any wrongdoing.

Injuries Caused by Big Rig Accidents

Semi-trucks, big rigs, tractor-trailers—no matter what you call them, they all have the potential to cause serious injuries when an accident occurs. Their size, weight, build, and the way that they were created to carry many goods make them dangerous vessels on American roads even when all other conditions are perfect. The types and severity of injuries will vary by accident and can range from bruises and road rash to the loss of limbs and paralysis.

Possible injuries sustained in a tractor-trailer accident include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Open and closed head injuries
  • Penetrating brain injuries
  • Concussions
  • Amputations
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Crush injuries
  • Back and neck injuries
  • Burns
  • Broken bones
  • Organ trauma
  • Internal bleeding
  • Death

Who Pays for Your Injuries?

Even one of these injuries can lead to enormous medical bills. If you are like a vast majority of Americans, you can’t pay for these bills on your own, even with auto and medical insurance. Even if you could pay for these bills, you should not have to when you did not cause the injuries. The question remains, who is liable for paying for your injuries and damages, and how do you go about holding them accountable?

You may need to file a personal injury claim to pursue this compensation from the parties who are responsnible. It is not uncommon for those parties and their insurance companies to refuse to pay. This is why it is a good idea to have a truck accident lawyer on your side.

Respondeat Superior and Semi-Truck Accidents

Respondeat superior is a Latin term that means, “let the master answer.” In the legal realm, respondeat superior means that employers bear the liability for the actions of their employees when they are working under the scope of their regular job responsibilities. Under this logic, the trucking company that employs the truck driver who caused your accident is liable for your damages.

This legal premise assumes that the employee did not commit the acts that led to your crash intentionally. If a truck driver deliberately caused an auto accident, respondeat superior would not apply. There are other situations in which it would also not apply. When you work with an experienced semi-truck accident lawyer, they can help you effectively pursue a claim against the appropriate parties.

Is the Trucking Company Liable?

Do not assume that respondeat superior automatically applies in your case. However, if it does, you may have a better chance of recovering the compensation you deserve. This is because trucking companies usually have more assets and higher limits on their insurance policies than individuals. There may, however, be other parties that are liable for your accident. For example, the following scenarios and many more could exist in your case:

  • The truck driver is an independent contractor working for the trucking company. In this situation, the truck driver bears all the responsibility, and it is unlikely that the trucking company is liable for your damages. Typically, these drivers have their own trucks, and they are responsible for maintaining them. These contractors should carry their own insurance policies.
  • The driver is employed by the trucking company but caused the accident “off the clock” while taking care of personal matters. In this case, the trucking company may not necessarily be on the hook for the damages caused by the truck driver.
  • The truck driver is employed by the trucking company and caused the accident while performing the duties of his/her employment. Under these circumstances, the trucking company often assumes responsibility for the accident that allows a straightforward resolution and determination of liability.

Other Potentially Liable Parties

Sometimes it is not only the truck driver or the trucking company who could be liable. Other potentially liable parties could include the cargo loader who failed to properly secure a load in the truck, the tractor-trailer manufacturer who allowed a defective vehicle on the roads, or even the manufacturer or the truck’s parts. If poor road conditions or a faulty traffic light could have caused the accident, there may be municipalities liable as well.

Why Liability Matters

While it may seem like a blame game, determining all parties who were at fault for your accident is an essential part of your claim. It is the responsibility of those liable for your damages and injuries to make you whole again. To receive compensation, you must pursue compensation from the at-fault parties. A successful personal injury claim arising from a truck accident will prove that the defendant(s) owed you a duty of care and failed to meet that duty of care. Additionally, you or your attorney must prove that you suffered damages as a result of their negligence.

Your damages might include:

  • Lost wages
  • Past and future medical bills
  • Decreased future earning capacity
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distres

Do You Need a Truck Accident Attorney?

Yes. Liability issues can be extremely complex, and that is why many big rig accident victims turn to a truck accident attorney who can investigate their case to determine who is really at fault. If the liable party is not named as a defendant in your case, you may not receive any compensation at all. By working with an attorney, you can ensure that your compensation is maximized and the right parties are held liable. A lawyer can answer your questions and instruct you as to your next move after your accident.

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