Is the Truck Driver or the Trucking Company Liable for a Crash?

Accidents involving commercial trucks are extremely frightening. Due to the enormous weight and size of the vehicles, when they collide with other objects, especially when traveling at high speeds, the damage caused is often more significant than in a collision with a passenger vehicle. 

People involved in track crashes often sustain serious and life-changing injuries, and many of these accidents result in fatalities. In 2019, there were 5,005 fatal accidents involving large trucks and other vehicles across the country, with 71% of deaths being the occupants of the other vehicles.

If you are injured in a truck accident in New York, you need the experienced Syracuse truck accident lawyers at Catalano Law to help you navigate the complexities of New York Vehicle and Traffic Law and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations to ensure you receive the full compensation owed for your injuries.

Who is Liable in a Truck Accident?

Understanding who is liable in a trucking accident is crucial to filing a successful claim and receiving fair compensation. But, determining who is liable for a truck crash can be complex. Several factors must be considered:

According to Section 388 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, all owners and operators of large trucks and trailers can be held liable for an accident. This means that while the driver can be liable, they are not always the liable party or the only liable party.

The Driver:

For accidental work-related driving errors, the trucking company is held responsible for the driver. However, if the driver’s negligent driving actions were not work-related, such as driving under the influence, driving while drowsy, or failing to drive reasonably in accordance with changing weather and traffic conditions, they can be held personally liable.

The Trucking Company:

In general, semi-truck crashes happen while drivers are “on the clock.” If this is the case, the trucking company is responsible for the mistakes of their drivers.

This is known as Vicarious Liability and makes employers responsible for the actions of their employees, even if they had no part in causing the accident. New York law calls this doctrine respondeat superior. This is a very important weapon in a claimant’s armory. One which our highly skilled attorneys can use to make sure you get every penny of the compensation you deserve, since the trucking company is more likely to have enough money to cover your damages than the driver does.

In some cases, the company may try to defer liability by claiming the driver was acting as an independent contractor rather than an employee. However, recent amendments to FMCSA Regulations, 49 C.F.R. §390.5 prohibit trucking companies from doing so by eliminating the distinction between an employee and an independent contractor.

This essentially means that all truck drivers, regardless of their official status, are considered employees, leaving the trucking company liable for paying damages in a truck accident.

The Truck Owner:

If neither the driver nor the trucking company owns the vehicle, but the company hires the vehicle from a third party for the driver to use, the truck’s owner may be liable for paying damages if there is something wrong with the truck that contributed to the crash.

A third-party truck rental agency is responsible for performing regular inspections and maintenance to ensure their vehicles are safe to operate. This could include replacing worn tires, checking the braking system and fluid levels, and ensuring that all electrical components are functional.

The inspection and maintenance of commercial carriers are regulated at a federal level. Failure to adhere to FMCSA standards for truck maintenance leaves truck owners liable in an accident.

The Cargo Loading Company:

In some cases, the accident may have been caused by improperly loaded cargo that shifted in transit, unbalancing the truck and causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle. Cargo instability can lead to serious truck accidents if the trailer jackknifes or rolls while braking.

When Is More Than One Party Liable?

A truck accident may be the fault of more than one party, resulting in multiple parties being held liable for paying damages. The misconduct of the driver or negligence of the loading company may be a factor in determining liability.

The trucking company may be vicariously liable for the negligence of its driver. If the trucking company or the truck owner has ignored or broken federal or state regulations, that may make them liable in whole or in part for any claim for injuries.

For example, perhaps the truck was not maintained properly, in addition to the driver being impaired. In this circumstance, the driver and the truck owner, assuming they are not the same, may be considered jointly liable. The trucking company may have breached regulations by not vetting the driver properly or conducting timely vehicle inspections. This may make them responsible for paying compensation for your injuries.

New York’s 3-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases and the legal complications involved in determining liability in a trucking accident mean you need the best legal counsel possible. Our Syracuse truck accident lawyers at Catalano Law have the experience and skill to pursue your claim successfully.

Get the Legal Representation You Need at Catalano Law

The Syracuse Truck Accident Lawyers at Catalano Law are ready to help you identify the party or parties responsible for your truck accident and ensure they pay for all your accident-related expenses, including medical bills and lost wages.

We will help ensure you receive the full compensation to which you are entitled from all the parties at fault.

Contact us today for a free review of your case.

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