It is not true that truck drivers are always at fault for truck accidents. Depending on how a truck accident occurs, the fault for an accident may lie with:
- A truck driver
- A truck owner
- The operator of a trucking business
- A service or maintenance team responsible for truck repairs and upkeep
- A local town or municipality responsible for road repairs if road damage caused or contributed to a trucking accident
Trucking Accidents Can Lead to Fatalities and Severe Property Damage
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), truck accidents caused approximately 5,000 deaths in the United States in 2017. The vast majority of fatalities in truck accidents—almost three-quarters of all recorded fatalities—were occupants of other vehicles, such as smaller passenger cars and SUVs. Most fatal truck accidents occur on weekdays during regular work hours.
According to PBS NewsHour, vehicle accidents lead to $871 billion in damages every year. The overall economic costs of vehicle accidents in the United States can also lead to lost business productivity, medical treatment expenses, lost income, vehicle damage, and other related expenses.
The Severity of a Truck Accident May Be Affected by the Type of Truck and Accident
Determining how and why a truck accident occurred is an important first step in identifying who is at fault for an accident. Trucks come in a variety of types and designs, and they can be involved in different types of accidents. Common truck types include:
- Big rigs, semi-tractors, and 18-wheelers: The NHTSA has found that 78 percent of truck accident fatalities involved large trucks such as these.
- Cargo trucks that haul freight: These trucks can carry anything from clothing and food to toxic chemicals and hazardous substances.
- Construction trucks: Construction trucks are used to carry construction materials, such as cement, steel, or lumber. Trucks like bulldozers, forklifts, and backhoes are also used for construction work.
- Smaller trucks: Smaller trucks include delivery vans and garbage trucks, which can cause traffic fatalities, especially to pedestrians and children.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were approximately 5,000 work-related deaths in the United States in 2018. People employed in the trucking industry had the highest number of fatalities of any single group. Driving and working with trucks can be dangerous and expose truck drivers and other workers to accidents, such as:
- Jackknifing, which is when the cab of a truck pivots too far, usually during a turn, causing the driver to lose control of the truck
- Frontal and rear-end accidents, which can occur if a motorist loses control, drives while distracted, drivers while intoxicated, drivers with worn brakes, collides with road debris, drivers on slippery surfaces, or experiences a tire blowout
- Underride accidents can occur if a driver stops suddenly or a truck’s rear brake lights malfunction
- Rollover accidents can occur if a driver takes a turn at too high a speed or they lose control of the truck as a result of a vehicle malfunction
- Cargo accidents can occur if cargo is not properly secured to the bed of the truck or a truck is overloaded or carries unwieldy cargo
Based on the above, truck drivers are not always at fault for truck accidents.
Determining Fault for Truck Accidents May Not Be Immediately Obvious
Fault and liability for a truck accident are determined by the causes of the accident in question. As is clear from the discussion above, truck accidents can occur in many ways, and the truck driver may not necessarily be implicated or at fault for an accident. Here are a few examples of how this rule can be seen in practice.
Trucks must be inspected and serviced regularly. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that a lack of maintenance is a leading cause of truck accidents. If a failure to service a truck causes an accident, a service or maintenance team may be at fault for the accident in question, not the driver.
The same applies to accidents caused by cargo issues or vehicle parts malfunctions. A cargo or loading team or a vehicle parts manufacturer may be at fault for an accident instead of the truck driver if the accident was caused by cargo that was not properly loaded or there was a mechanical failure.
If road damage caused or contributed to an accident, a town or municipality responsible for road repairs in that area may shoulder some of the blame for the accident.
A truck owner or a freight business operator may share liability for an accident if poor hiring practices, inadequate driver training, or unsafe driving rules caused or contributed to an accident, such as pushing drivers to overwork and meet tight deadlines.
Beyond the above, if a driver drives while intoxicated, speeds, drives aggressively, does not follow road signs, or drives negligently in any other way, they may be at fault for any accident they cause.
Call the Fitch Law Firm, LLC, Today
Please contact the Fitch Law Firm, LLC, today at (614) 545-3930 for assistance with a trucking accident and to learn more about your rights should you be involved in one.