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Who Is Liable in a Truck Accident?

The collision of a truck and a car on a large city multi-lane road.

Accidents involving commercial vehicles tend to result in more complex legal proceedings than accidents involving privately-owned autos. If you were hit by a long-haul trucker in a semi, tractor-trailer, eighteen-wheeler, delivery truck, or other large commercial truck, it’s important to identify all parties who may be responsible for your medical bills and other damages. Continue reading below for a discussion of the parties who could be held liable and under what circumstances they can or should be added to your claims. Call a seasoned Southern California truck accident lawyer for advice and assistance after a large truck crash in Los Angeles or Orange County.

Parties Who May Be Liable After a Truck Accident

There are a number of parties who might be held liable after a truck accident. The first (and most important) question is: What caused the crash? If an auto driver ran a stop sign and collided with a semi, then the auto driver is clearly to blame. If, however, the truck driver caused the crash because they were drowsy, distracted, drunk, otherwise driving negligently, or driving a defective truck, then there may be several parties to hold responsible for the accident.

Depending on the circumstances of the accident, several different parties might be solely or jointly liable for the truck crash, including:

  • The truck driver. If the truck driver caused the accident by their own negligence, they are liable for the damage they caused. If they are self-employed and/or otherwise driving their own large truck, then they might be solely responsible.

  • The trucker’s employer. If a truck driver is employed by a freight company or some other business entity, and the trucker was to blame for the accident, their employer could be liable. Employers are liable for the conduct of their employees under the legal doctrine known as “respondeat superior.” So long as the trucker was on the job at the time of the crash, their employer shares liability. Moreover, if the employer’s own negligence directly contributed to the crash–if they failed to hire qualified drivers, failed to conduct proper maintenance on their trucks, failed to train drivers, failed to follow trucking safety regulations, or failed to install and utilize proper safety apparatus–then the employer might be held directly liable.

  • Third-party contractor. Truck accidents are sometimes caused by cargo that is overloaded, unbalanced, or poorly secured. Often, trucks are loaded either by third-party contractors or by the company that hired the truck to make the delivery. If the accident was caused by the negligence of whoever loaded the truck, that party may be responsible for the resulting crash.

  • Truck or auto manufacturer. Truck manufacturers as well as the manufacturers of truck parts and auto parts are responsible for ensuring the products they deliver are safe for use. If the trucking accident occurred because the coupling failed, the engine stalled, the brakes failed, or some other part of the truck malfunctioned, the relevant truck or auto manufacturer—or an outside inspection or repair facility—might be liable for the damage caused.

  • Government agency. Some vehicle accidents are caused by poor road maintenance or design. If the truck lost control because of deep potholes, the municipal or state agency responsible for keeping up the roads knew or should have known about the road hazard, and the government did nothing to fix or warn about the problem, the government might be held liable. Government liability is especially complex and tricky, but there are cases holding government agencies liable for traffic accidents.

  • Another involved party. If the accident was caused by the negligence of another auto driver, a motorcyclist, a pedestrian, or any other party, then that party may be liable. If, for example, a pedestrian runs into the middle of a busy street, causing the truck to swerve and collide with another vehicle, the pedestrian may be liable.

Call Today for Dedicated Representation and Trusted Advice After a Truck Crash in Los Angeles or Orange County

If you or a loved one was seriously hurt or worse in a trucking accident in Los Angeles or Orange County, call Machtinger Law for advice and representation from a diligent, compassionate Southern California truck accident attorney.

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