Commercial drivers travel thousands of miles each day and play a vital role in keeping our economy running smoothly. However, if they cause an accident, the consequences can be devastating.
Victims of truck accidents are often left with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), spinal injuries, organ damage, disfigurement, and other serious conditions. Their claims are also much more complex than a typical car accident case, which makes seeking assistance from an experienced truck accident attorney vital. If you’ve been injured in a trucking accident, contact the personal injury lawyers as soon as possible to learn about your right to recovery.
Potential Causes of Truck Accidents
Trucking accident cases can have multiple contributing factors. These include:
- Driver inexperience
- Driver fatigue
- Distracted driving
- Impaired driving due to drug or alcohol use
- Medical emergencies related to the driver’s health conditions
- Poor weather conditions
- Overloaded trucks
- Improperly loaded trucks
- Loose cargo
- Aggressive driving
- Poorly maintained vehicles
- Faulty or defective tires, brakes, or safety systems
- Design flaws in the truck itself
The investigating officer’s report can help uncover potential causes of the trucking accident. Records from the trucking company regarding vehicle maintenance, hiring practices, and driver work hours may also prove useful.
In the United States, trucking companies are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Violations of FMSCA regulations show a clear pattern of negligence, but you will need an attorney who is experienced in handling trucking accident claims to locate the information you need to build your case.
Respondeat Superior in Trucking Cases
Issues of respondeat superior arise in trucking cases often, as the industry has grown to foster the division of assignment in planning/scheduling truckload deliveries. Rarely is there a company in the industry that acts as a full scale operation from contracting with buyers, sellers, shippers, carriers, to the delivering of a haul to the targeted destination. Modern trucking business models include division of process segments and often the leasing of equipment.
Trucking companies often hire independent contractors to complete deliveries. Many saw this practice as an attempt to insulate carriers from liability, and in the 1950’s, the Interstate Commerce Commission was authorized to adopt regulations that would govern the act of leasing equipment in such a manner. The court in Brannaker v. Transamerican Freight Lines, Inc., 428 S.W.2d 524, 528 (Mo.1968) provided commentary on the ICC’s action:
“Insofar as we are immediately concerned, one of the principal abuses that developed ... was the practice whereby authorized motor carriers leased equipment from others and engaged the owners or someone for them to drive and operate the equipment as independent contractors to transport cargo for the authorized carriers. The leases were usually for a single trip or for short duration and the independent contractors were often unreliable. This practice created economic abuses and legal problems which brought on legislation and regulations designed to prevent the authorized motor carriers from delegating the performance of their franchise duties to independent contractors and from engaging in ruinous competition and evading their public responsibilities.”
As indicated by Brannaker, one of the practical impacts of the ICC’s action was that in instances of the lease agreement arrangement, the carrier-lessee would become liable for the negligent acts attributable to the owner-driver of the leased equipment, in the same manner that it would would be responsible if one of its own drivers had committed the same act operating the carrier’s equipment. Id.
Once the cause of the accident has been determined, the next step is to see who is legally liable
for the damages. The liable parties may include the:
- Driver of the truck
- Company that owns the truck
- Company that hired the trucker
- Cargo loader
- Manufacturer of a defective truck part
Detaining liability can require several steps. For example, companies are generally not liable for the acts of independent contractors. Large trucking companies often hire independent contractors who perform many of the same duties as an employee but receive none of the associated privileges. As an injured victim, you’ll need an attorney to determine how the trucking company’s business practices can affect liability for your damages.
Depending upon the circumstances of the accident, there may be more than one potential defendant in your case. This can be beneficial because multiple defendants make it less likely that your damages will exceed available insurance policy limits.
In any personal injury claim, damages can be divided into two general categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are those with a cost that can be verified by existing documentation or via expert testimony. Common economic damages in a truck accident case include:
- Past medical expenses, such as ER visits, diagnostic tests, surgery, and follow-up care
- Anticipated future medical care related to a permanently disabling injury
- Lost compensation while the injured person is unable to work due to your injuries
- Impaired of earning capacity if the injuries are permanently disabling and will affect your ability to continue working
- Necessary medical travel and treatment time
Non-economic damages are typically represented by things that are non-monetary in nature and more difficult to affix a figure to. Non-economic damages are broadly referred to as pain and suffering, but may include:
- The physical pain of your injuries
- Emotional and mental injuries such as fear, insomnia, grief, worry, and even the loss of the enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish leading to post-traumatic stress disorder
- Inconvenience for the injury
- Impact on lifestyle and activities previously enjoyed
Schedule a Consultation to Discuss Your Case
The attorneys at Fletcher Law Office have a wealth of experience handling trucking cases and interpreting complex FMCSA regulations. Regardless of the size or severity of the case, you can be assured that we’re committed to helping you maximize your recovery. Contact us today to request a complimentary, no-obligation initial consultation.