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Theories of Liability in a Truck Accident Case

It is well-known that accidents involving an 18-wheeler, semi-truck, or large commercial truck can produce dire consequences. Big rig trucks are significantly larger (in size and weight) than most private-passenger vehicles driven on the road. When a truck collides with a smaller car, occupants of the smaller car can suffer serious injuries that require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. While this is certainly true for impacts that occur at high speeds, the same can be said for impacts at low speeds, considering the size differential.

Of course, trucking accident victims should call the police to the scene and seek medical treatment for their injuries and pain. But what happens after that? How can a victim get reimbursed for medical bills, time off work, and other losses suffered? For many people, the only way to recover such losses is by asserting a claim against those responsible for the collision. If a commercial truck driver was at fault, a victim may be able to recover under a variety of legal theories.

Driver Negligence

This is the most common form of recovery. Interstate truck drivers, like all other drivers, must follow the rules of the road. When a driver breaches a legal duty owed to another driver or passenger, negligence can be established. Common forms of negligence include speeding, texting while driving, not paying attention to the road, and disregarding traffic signals. In the context of interstate truck drivers, regulations promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will come into play. For instance, drivers must follow specific hours of service guidelines that are intended to reduce fatigued driving.

Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability is imposed on one party based on its relationship with another party. Most states have vicarious liability laws in place. In Tennessee, for instance, an employee’s negligence can be imputed to the employer so long as the employee was acting within the course and scope of employment. Thus, if a truck driver was on the clock when he sped and rear-ended your vehicle, you may be able to file a claim against the trucking company as well. To avoid vicarious liability, some companies will hire drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. The employer’s classification is not always determinative; instead, relevant factors can include the amount of control the company is able to exert over the individual.

Negligent Hiring

Driving a large commercial truck is not meant for everyone. These large trucks require specific training and competence. FMCSA regulations set specific responsibilities on employers in terms of conducting background checks. The FMCSA has a Pre-Employment Screening Program that provides access to a potential driver’s five-year crash history and three-year inspection history. Commercial carriers must also ensure drivers meet licensing requirements, such as a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with any necessary endorsements.

Negligent Training

Training is an essential task of a trucking company. Before allowing a driver to operate a big rig, he or she must possess the necessary qualifications and training to do so. For instance, drivers should be trained in how to allow sufficient distance to come to a complete stop, how to react to inclement weather, strategies to prevent acts like jackknifing, inspecting the vehicle, and more. Drivers should be educated in terms of complying with FMCSA regulations, including documenting their routes and hours driven.

The above theories are just a few that can be used to help you recover all to which you may be legally entitled. For more information, call the law office of Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz. We are a large regional personal injury law firm, and we represent truck accident victims throughout Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Kentucky. Many of our clients come from communities like Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Caruthersville, Hayti, Oxford, Starkville, Grenada, Columbus, Tupelo, Meridian, Jackson, Little Rock, and Jonesboro. For a free consultation with an attorney today, call 800-529-4004 or complete our online form.