Truck Accident Liability: What You Need to Know
Because of their size and weight, accidents that involve commercial trucks are usually more serious than the average car accident. If a truck collides with a smaller vehicle, the chance of the driver and passengers in that vehicle experiencing a severe or fatal injury is higher than a crash involving two smaller cars.
Determining liability in truck accidents can be a complex undertaking as there are several potentially liable parties, including the truck driver, the manufacturer, and the trucking company.
What Factors Can Contribute to Truck Accidents?
Depending on the cause of the truck accident, several parties may be held liable. Although external factors like the weather may contribute toward a motor vehicle accident, a National Highway Traffic Safety Association study determined that human error causes 94% of accidents. Some of the most common causes of these crashes include:
- Distracted driving, for example, using a cellphone.
- Driver fatigue.
- Driver impairment or driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances.
- Improper vehicle maintenance leading to failure or equipment.
- Improper cargo loading, for instance, if the cargo has been unsuitably secured, it can cause the truck to roll over, which often occurs during turning.
Types of Injuries Caused By Truck Accidents
Besides causing significant damage to property, truck accidents, particularly those involving large trucks, can cause personal injuries, including:
- Broken bones.
- Cuts, bruises, and lacerations.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Spinal cord injuries.
- Loss of limbs.
- First-, second-, or third-degree burns.
- Internal bleeding.
Possible Liable Parties
Truck accidents can involve more than one potentially liable party. Although it can be challenging to do so, establishing who is responsible for the accident is a key part of any legal claim.
Trucking Company Liability
Trucking companies must ensure that only capable drivers drive their vehicles and that the vehicles themselves are fit for the road. Trucking companies may be held liable for an accident if:
- They fail to carry out proper vehicle maintenance and inspections.
- They hire unsuitable staff. Trucking companies must perform background checks on potential drivers before hiring them.
- They do not adequately train their staff.
- They fail to carry out thorough pre-trip safety inspections.
- They pressure the drivers into engaging in dangerous practices. For instance, some trucking companies expect unreasonable delivery times, which forces drivers to disregard safety precautions, including not taking mandatory breaks, speeding, or working too many hours consecutively.
- If they allow trucks to be driven with incorrectly loaded cargo, making it difficult for the driver to control the vehicle. If the truck is carrying hazardous material, it can cause further damage.
A truck manufacturer involved in an accident can be held liable if a malfunction caused the accident. Examples of potentially dangerous malfunctions include brake failure, defective steering mechanisms, and tire blowouts.
The truck driver may also be liable for an accident if the accident occurred because of their actions, whether they are an employee or an independent contractor of the trucking company.
Other parties that could be held liable for truck accidents include:
- The truck distributor or retailer.
- The staff responsible for loading the cargo or supervising the loading.
- The load broker.
- The mechanic.
Although you may think the party responsible for the accident is clear, your truck accident attorney must prove negligence. This involves the following steps:
- Proving Duty of Care: First, your truck accident lawyer must prove that the liable party owed you a duty of care. For example, the driver should not operate the truck in a way that puts other drivers in danger.
- Proving Breach of Duty: Then, your attorney must show that the liable party failed to fulfill their duty.
- Proving Causation: Next, they must prove it, using medical records, witnesses, and other forms of evidence, that the crash caused your injuries.
- Proving Damages: Finally, to receive the compensation you deserve, your lawyer must prove that your injuries resulted in damages.
Types of Damages
Depending on the severity of the injuries you sustain in a truck accident, you may experience significant financial consequences from medical expenses or loss of income, and your insurance company may only cover some of these costs, particularly given that Michigan is a no-fault state.
Michigan state law allows for exemplary damages rather than punitive damages. Exemplary damages award the victims compensation, while punitive damages punish the defendant’s egregious or malicious behavior.
In Michigan, damages are separated into two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are calculable and may include:
- Medical bills.
- Lost wages.
- Property damages.
- Loss of future earnings.
- Long-term care expenses.
- Funeral costs.
Non-economic damages are more difficult to prove and to assign a dollar value to. They may include:
- Pain and suffering.
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
- Loss of consortium.
- Emotional distress.
- Worsening of prior injuries.
Seeking Trusted Legal Advice
Proving liability for a truck accident is a challenging task that requires an attorney experienced in this sort of case. Although the statute of limitations in Michigan is three years, the sooner you begin working with a law firm you can trust, the better, as key evidence may be lost.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, contact Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., one of the leading personal injury attorney law firms in Michigan. We offer a free initial consultation to help you begin your journey to receiving your rightful compensation. Call us today at 866-MICH-LAW (866-642-4529) to arrange a meeting to discuss your case.