Utah Truck Accident Liability
If you were injured in a truck accident, you could be entitled to recover compensation for medical expenses, lost income, and other losses you suffered. But first, you will need to be able to identify who can be held liable.
In truck accidents, there can be many potentially liable parties. At Swenson & Shelley, we have extensive experience investigating these complex crashes to determine who should be held responsible. Contact us today for a free consultation on your case.
The vast majority of truck accidents are caused by driver negligence. Some common examples of truck driver negligence include:
- Distracted driving ─ Common driving distractions include texting, eating and drinking, personal grooming, reaching for fallen items, adjusting the radio or GPS, and daydreaming. Any activity that distracts a truck driver from the road can ultimately contribute to an accident.
- Speeding ─ Truck drivers are frequently in a rush to get to their destinations. Because they must meet strict deadlines, truck drivers sometimes violate the speed limit. Truck drivers also sometimes fail to adjust their speed to accommodate hazardous conditions like rain and snow. Due to their massive size and weight (18-wheelers can weigh up to 40 tons when carrying cargo), trucks require more distance and time to slow down or stop when they encounter obstacles. Truck drivers who speed may not have adequate time to react if they come upon a road hazard.
- Reckless driving ─ Reckless driving occurs when a truck driver disregards the rules of the road and the safety of other motorists. Reckless driving that can lead to devastating truck crashes can include unsafe lane changes, swerving between lanes, failing to yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic or crossing pedestrians, ignoring stop signs and red lights, and neglecting to check blind spots.
- Drunk or drugged driving ─ Alcohol and drugs cause physical and mental impairment, and driving under the influence can easily result in a truck accident. Some types of prescription drugs can also cause impairment and limit a truck driver’s ability to react to traffic hazards.
- Driver fatigue ─ Truck drivers spend long hours on the road sitting in one position, which can cause drivers to become overly tired while working. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has regulations, known as hours of service regulations, that are specifically designed to combat driver fatigue. However, drivers sometimes exceed their hours of service limits. Fatigue can produce symptoms such as a limited ability to concentrate and delayed response times. In the worst-case scenario, a truck driver can doze off and lose control of their vehicle.
Although truck drivers are often liable, other parties can also be at fault for crashes. Any party that contributes to a truck accident can be held liable for compensating you if you suffered serious injuries.
Trucking companies can be held responsible for accidents if an investigation reveals that their negligence was a contributing factor. Trucking companies can be negligent in numerous ways:
- Hiring unqualified drivers ─ Trucking companies are required to properly vet all candidates during the hiring process. If the trucking company hires an inexperienced driver, they could be held responsible if the driver gets into an accident.
- Failure to provide sufficient training ─ The trucking company could also be held liable for an accident if they neglected to provide adequate on-the-job training to new hires or failed to properly supervise each of their drivers to ensure compliance with FMCSA regulations and other laws.
- Hours of service violations ─ If the trucking company pressured a truck driver to violate the FMCSA’s hours of service regulations so that they could make more deliveries, and the driver subsequently became fatigued and caused an accident, the trucking company could be partly liable.
- Failure to properly maintain trucks ─ If a trucking company neglected its maintenance duties and failed to perform regular inspections on the truck involved in the collision, they could be partly responsible.
These are just a few of the scenarios in which a trucking company might be held accountable for a crash. At Swenson & Shelley, our experienced Utah truck accident lawyers have the resources to conduct an investigation into your wreck to determine whether the trucking company should be held liable.
Truck’s Owner (If Separate from Driver and Trucking Company)
Sometimes, trucking companies lease their vehicles from a third party that owns the truck. Depending on the arrangement between the trucking company and the truck’s owner, the owner might be responsible for inspection and maintenance duties. If they fail to carry out these duties or provide a defective vehicle to the trucking company, they may be partly at fault for a crash.
Shipper or Cargo Loader
Cargo loading companies can also be held liable for truck accidents if the crash occurred because of improperly secured or unsecured cargo. In addition to properly securing a truck’s cargo, loaders are responsible for evenly distributing the cargo throughout a truck’s trailer so as not to throw off the truck’s center of gravity.
If cargo shifts inside a truck’s trailer or becomes unbalanced, it can cause the truck to roll over. Unsecured cargo atop a flatbed or open-air trailer can be even more dangerous since it can spill into the road and cause collisions with nearby vehicles.
If poorly secured cargo contributed to a crash, the cargo loading company might be liable.
Truck Maintenance Company
Some trucking companies outsource their maintenance and inspection responsibilities to a third-party company. This company is responsible for maintaining the truck, performing necessary repairs and tune-ups, and ensuring that the vehicle is regularly serviced and inspected. If the truck maintenance company failed to fulfill these obligations and an accident occurred as a result, they could be held liable.
Truck Part Manufacturers
Truck part manufacturers can be liable if they designed or manufactured a defective truck part that led to an accident. Truck parts that could be defective include:
- Fuel tanks
- Underride guards
- Lighting systems
- Steering devices
You will need a qualified attorney to determine whether a defective truck part caused or contributed to a crash. Only a thorough, independent investigation can identify the true cause of a truck accident.
Some truck accidents are the fault of another motorist. For instance, if a motorist suddenly cuts in front of a large truck, the truck driver may slam on their brakes, which could result in a jackknife accident that impacts multiple drivers. In that case, the motorist who initially caused the accident could also be responsible for reimbursing you and any others involved.
Truck accidents can be complex, but when multiple vehicles are involved, identifying the at-fault party can be especially tricky. That’s why it is crucial to hire a qualified attorney to handle your Utah truck accident case.
Government Entities Responsible for Roadways
If a truck accident occurred because of a poorly maintained roadway, the government could be liable. Cracked pavement, potholes, missing guardrails, faulty road design, and other road hazards can contribute to truck accidents. Bringing a claim against a government agency can be tricky. You should speak with a truck accident lawyer who has experience bringing claims against government entities to learn your legal options if you suspect a dangerous road condition was a factor in your crash.