Who Can be Sued in a Trucking Accident Lawsuit?
Trucking accidents cause some of the most serious injuries on the roads of Virginia and elsewhere. Often drivers or passengers in smaller vehicles sustain terrible injuries or fail to survive the crash. The issue of which parties can be sued after a commercial vehicle accident is more complicated than after a car wreck.
As experienced Hampton-based trucking accident attorneys, we are often asked who can be sued in a trucking accident lawsuit. The answer is not always straightforward and can involve multiple parties.
A lawsuit may be brought against a number of parties after a trucking wreck depending on the nature of the accident. Even when a truck driver is clearly to blame for the accident with injuries, liability may not end there. Under the law of "respondeat superior,” an employer trucking company can be held liable for the actions of its drivers as long as they are in the scope of his or her employment and not deliberate.
For this reason, lawsuits involving commercial vehicles often lead to larger settlements and jury verdicts than those involving private vehicles. Trucking companies typically have more insurance coverage available.
Suing for Wrongful Death After a Virginia Tractor-Trailer Accident
Wrongful death lawsuits are often brought after tractor-trailer accidents. Our trial lawyers take on these cases in Virginia and across the country. Tractor-trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. When these behemoths crash into smaller vehicles, the occupants of cars can suffer serious and fatal injuries.
Most fatalities in large truck crashes are the occupants of passenger vehicles, states the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Trucks often weigh 20 or 30 times as much as passenger cars and have greater ground clearance. Crashes in which smaller vehicles underride trucks may often cause terrible and fatal head injuries to those in cars and SUVs.
Heavy big rigs also take a long distance to stop. Loaded tractor-trailers take 20-40 percent longer than cars to stop. On wet and slippery roads, tractor-trailers can take even longer distances to stop, particularly if there is a maintenance issue with their brakes.
Truck driver fatigue is another serious issue on the highways of Virginia and elsewhere in the United States. Federal hours-of-service regulations are intended to protect other road users but are often criticized for being too lax. Truckers can drive up to 11 hours at a stretch. Many violate the hours-of-service regulations.
If you lose a loved one in a trucking accident or are seriously injured, it’s important to hire an experienced Virginia trucking lawyer to identify which parties can be sued and how to maximize your payout.
Identifying Which Parties can be Sued in a Trucking Accident Lawsuit
Parties a lawsuit can be brought against include the following. Often more than one party can be sued.
1 The truck driver
Truck drivers cause most big rig wrecks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study linked driver error to 87 percent of 963 18-wheeler crashes studied.
2 A Trucking Company
A trucking company may be held liable for the actions of its drivers in many cases. As well as the doctrine of "respondeat superior" which is a Latin phrase meaning “let the superior make answer,” a trucking company may have failed to carry out a thorough background check for medical issues, past DUIs or other traffic convictions.
3 The Owner of a Truck or a Trailer
The owner of a truck or trailer may be named in a lawsuit. In some cases, trucks are poorly maintained. A failure of tires or brakes can cause a trucking wreck with injuries or deaths.
4 Loading Companies
Specialist loading companies are used for tractor-trailers. They must comply with exacting federal regulations to make sure trucks are not overloaded and unbalanced. If a truck tips over and causes an accident or the cargo spills onto the road causing injuries or deaths, a loading company may be sued.
5 A Freight Broker
A freight broker is the middleman in a trucking contract. If a company wants to ship goods it will use the services of freight broker. The broker may be sued for failing to exercise due diligence if it hires a trucking company with a bad safety record.
6 The Manufacturer of a Truck or a Part
A defect on a truck may cause a serious accident. Faulty brakes and tires cause many big rig wrecks. A vehicle manufacturer or a tire company may be named in a product liability action.
7 A Maintenance Facility
If a truck was poorly maintained or a serious defect was missed, a repair shop or a maintenance facility may be held liable for injuries or deaths.
What Damages Can Be Claimed in Trucking Accidents in Virginia?
A truck accident victim may be eligible to recover damages for their losses, including:
1. Past and present medical expenses;
2. Past and present pain and suffering;
3. Lost income
4. Reduced lifetime earnings due to injuries
5. Property damage
6. Punitive damages such as when a trucker was driving drunk.
7. Loss of household services.
Contact an Experienced Trucking Accident Injury Lawyer Today
The Lawyers at the Smith Law Center have won large verdicts and settlements for car drivers and passengers who were injured by truck drivers and for truck drivers. See our results page for more details and call us at (757) 244-7000.