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Who is Liable for a Semi-Truck Accident?

G. Aldrich Law July 8, 2022

There are few things more traumatizing than being involved in a semi-truck accident. Tragically, these accidents often leave victims severely injured, or in some devastating cases, end up taking a life. This leaves the loved ones in the terrible position of deciding what to do next and wondering who can be held liable in a semi-truck accident.

If you or someone you love was involved in a traumatic accident and you want to learn more about your options for filing a personal injury or a wrongful death claim, contact us G. Aldrich Law today. We have offices in Lakeport and Woodland Hills, California but can help people all over Lake County, Los Angeles County, Colusa County, Riverside County, and surrounding Northern and Southern California counties. You and your family deserve compensation, and your story should be heard. We can help.

Assessing Liability

A truck accident is different from other auto accidents because multiple parties can be held liable, and a thorough investigation should be done to determine who’s responsible. It’s also worth noting that liability can be shared between multiple parties. 

  • Truck driver: In some cases, the truck driver themselves will be held liable if the accident was caused by driver error or negligence. This could mean that the driver was simply inattentive on the road or that they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

  • Truck company: Liability can also lie with the company that employs the driver. For example, the company may have not followed state law about how many hours a driver can work, or perhaps they failed to perform routine maintenance. However, if the truck driver was an independent operator, the liability would fall to them.

  • Truck manufacturer: If the truck failed to operate correctly due to a faulty or malfunctioning part, the truck or parts manufacturer could take on responsibility. 

  • The person who loaded the cargo: When loading cargo in trucks, it’s important to achieve a balanced load. If not, when the driver attempts to turn or needs to break suddenly, the load could cause the truck to tip or steer off course. In these cases, the fault would lie with the person who packed the container instead of the driver.

  • Maintenance personnel: Semi-trucks have to go through routine maintenance to ensure they’re safe to be on the roads. If the person conducting the check disregarded an issue or failed to fix it, they could share in the liability. 

  • The driver of the car: Lastly, not every 18-wheeler accident is the fault of the truck. In some cases, the driver of a car can be at fault, too. Perhaps they didn’t signal a turn or failed to give the truck enough room to pass. 

Factors in Determining Liability

When you file a personal injury lawsuit and work with a truck accident attorney, they’ll need to perform a thorough investigation of the incident and many factors can determine liability. The first component will likely be the truck driver themselves, as driver inattention is the number one cause of most traffic accidents. Driver fatigue is very common among long-haul truck drivers and this can lead to falling asleep at the wheel. The driver may also not have received adequate training and was therefore not qualified to operate the truck. In these instances, it’ll often be the trucking company who’s found liable since they’re the ones who administer and regulate training.

The other major component that determines liability will be the role of the car driver. Most often when the driver is at fault it’s because they tried to overtake the semi-truck on a freeway without giving them enough room.

Lastly, the bulk of liability may be out of the hands of the drivers and instead be due to hazardous road conditions. If there was heavy rain, fog, or snow that obstructed visibility, it could cause both vehicles to crash.

What Steps Should I Take Next?

If you were the victim of an accident, the first step to take is to get yourself to safety and make sure anyone else who was involved is getting immediate medical care. You should then exchange information with the truck driver and cooperate fully with any investigation that is taking place. You should also ask for a copy of the police report and keep this with your evidence, including any photos or videos and contact information from witnesses. You will then need to start an insurance claim and contact a personal injury attorney. 

If you’re representing a loved one who was incapacitated or lost their life in a semi-truck accident, you should contact a lawyer immediately. You have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit, but you’ll need plenty of evidence for your case. The longer you wait to begin this process, the harder it will be to receive fair compensation.

Personalized Legal Advocacy

If you’re in the Lakeport and Woodland Hills, California area and would like to speak with an experienced attorney about a recent semi-truck accident, give us a call at  G. Aldrich Law. For nearly 15 years, we’ve been helping our community with their personal injury and wrongful death claims. We’re ready to help you move forward.