Of the nearly 160,000 people injured in truck accidents in 2019, only 46,000 of them were truck drivers. Vehicle occupants and non-occupants made up the remaining 114,000. A collision with a commercial carrier often results in serious injuries but pursuing the damages for the losses is a complicated endeavor. Multiple parties may be liable when a truck is involved in an accident. Determining liability requires the skills of an attorney experienced in handling these types of cases. At Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, we have the experience and knowledge you need to pursue the compensation you deserve.
Legal Responsibility for Truck Operation Safety
The driver isn’t the only one responsible for an 18-wheeler’s operational safety in the trucking industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration implements regulations that the industry must comply with. The rules filter down the entire chain of entities and individuals that could play a role in driving safety for big rigs. The FMCSA law for driving commercial motor vehicles provides that motor carriers, its agents, officers, employees, and representatives are all responsible for the maintenance, management, driving, and operation of a large truck. Additionally, they are responsible for ensuring that anyone they hire is qualified, trained, supervised, and informed of their legal obligations for safe driving.
The federal law establishes eight safety categories, many of which may be applicable when a truck operates on roadways. A truck accident attorney investigates whether any of these laws were violated and who is responsible for the violation. Violations of any of the following sub-chapters could lead to an accident that results in injuries:
- General operating prohibitions: Driving while intoxicated or fatigued, speeding, not conducting required vehicle inspections, and driving a commercial motor vehicle that has one or more parts that aren’t in good working order
- Following special railroad crossing rules: Failure to stop or slow down as required, depending on CMV cargo and classification
- Engaging in prohibited electronic device usage: Using a hand-held device while driving or texting while driving
If the driver violates any of these rules, multiple parties may be implicated in failing to comply. Additionally, state and local jurisdictions may have their own regulations that truck drivers also must follow.
Financial Responsibility Provisions
The FMCSA also requires motor carriers to demonstrate sufficient financial responsibility to pay for damages from an at-fault accident. Motor carriers must obtain insurance or a surety bond for each CMV in operation. Property transport vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds need a minimum of $750,000 in liability protection. Any vehicle that carries hazardous materials must have either $1 million or $5 million minimum liability protection, depending on the cargo classification. Though a motor carrier may have the required coverage, the insurer will not likely willingly agree to a fair settlement if they can get away with paying less. Jason Stone Injury Lawyers aggressively pursue compensation, and we don’t shy away from negotiations and confrontations with the insurance companies.
Truck Accident Causes
Several factors can contribute to a truck accident. While people often assume that truck driver negligence is always to blame, this is not necessarily the case. The FMCSA conducted a large-scale study during which it analyzed what caused the collision for 141,000 large trucks involved in injury or fatality accidents. The study results indicated:
- The driver moving out of their travel lane caused 32% of the accidents
- Drivers losing control of the vehicle because they were driving too fast for conditions, the cargo shifted, vehicle systems failed or road conditions were bad caused 29% of the accidents
- The driver rear-ending the vehicle in front of them caused 22% of the accidents.
Additionally, driver error led to 68,000 trucks being involved in injury or fatality crashes. Vehicle issues in 8,000 CMVs led to injury or fatality accidents. Environmental conditions were the primary factor in accidents for 2,000 trucks involved in collisions.
Potential Parties Liable in a Truck Accident
Even when it appears that the truck driver caused the accident that led to your injuries, reconstructing the chain of responsibility takes a deep understanding of the trucking industry and its associated laws. None of the at-fault parties will step forward and admit fault, so gathering the right evidence is critical to the outcome of your case. At Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, we assess each potentially responsible party to determine which individuals and entities are liable in the accident leading to your injuries. Liable parties may include:
- The truck driver: As the FMCSA study indicates, truck driver negligence is often one factor contributing to collisions.
- The motor carrier: The trucking company may be liable if the driver was in its employ, as employers are responsible for their employees’ actions. However, the entity is not responsible for the actions of an independent contractor. The carrier may also hold responsibility for inadequate training, not maintaining safe vehicles, failing to follow regulations or establishing unreasonable driver expectations.
- Shipping companies and cargo loaders: The company that ships and loads the cargo could be liable in truck collisions. Often, this is the case when cargo is improperly loaded, causing it to shift or fall off the truck.
- Mechanics: If the driver and the trucking company followed the required maintenance protocol and a mechanical failure in the truck caused the accident, the mechanics who worked on the truck may hold some liability for the accident.
- Manufacturers: Mechanical failures on a semi are not always the results of inadequate maintenance. Sometimes, the issue is with the truck or the part. Poor design or quality control can lead to dangerous failures, such as tire blowouts and break-line failures. The truck or part manufacturer may be responsible for the accident in these instances.
An experienced attorney in truck accident cases examines the evidence from every angle to determine which parties are at fault. It is possible to sue any responsible parties as long as your case meets the state’s legal requirements for filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Personal Injury Lawsuit Legal Guidelines
Whether you can file a personal injury lawsuit depends on your state’s legal guidelines and the facts of your case. Massachusetts is a no-fault car insurance state, meaning that every driver must file a claim with their own insurance company after an accident, regardless of who is at fault. However, if your case meets specific criteria, you can file a personal injury lawsuit. To file, your reasonable medical expenses must exceed $2,000. You can also file if you sustained severe injuries — including broken bones — disfigurement, disability or hearing or vision loss.
Modified Comparative Negligence
If you sue any of the responsible parties, the outcome of your case rests on Massachusetts’ modified comparative negligence law. If the court finds that you are 51% or more liable for the accident that caused your injuries, you cannot collect any damages. If your liability is lower than this threshold, you receive a percentage of the damages awarded based on the liability percentage assigned to the responsible parties.
Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers in Massachusetts
Jason Stone Injury Lawyers know how hard it is to pursue a legal claim for a truck accident. The financial, physical and emotional repercussions are overwhelming and devastating. We can relieve you of some of your burdens and help you recover your losses. With our Stone Cold Guarantee, we don’t get paid until you settle your case. Contact us today for a free consultation. There’s no obligation, just information.