Truck accidents are often the result of negligence. But Determining fault in a truck accident can be more complicated than you might think. Semi-trucks and big rigs are usually not personal vehicles, and the driver is not always at fault. The commercial trucking companies that own or hire out the truck usually have a legal responsibility for their safe operation.
When Is the Driver Responsible?
Even if a truck is in perfect working order, that will not matter if the driver acts in a reckless or unsafe manner. Some of the most common driver-related causes of truck accidents include:
- Driving above the posted speed limit on most 4-lane and super two-lane highways;
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- Driving longer than federal “hours of service” regulations governing commercial motor carriers allows;
- Failing to obey the rules of the road, including local traffic laws and signage;
- Failing to maintain an appropriate “space cushion” between the truck and other objects;
- Failing to allow a adequate stopping distance. This is especially true when driving at night, on secondary roads, or along hilly or curvy roads; and
- Failing to keep windows and mirrors clean.
- Failure to properly secure the load and failure to regularly inspect the truck.
Who Employs the Truck Driver?
If the driver is responsible for the accident, it is important to find out his or her employment status. Many truck drivers today are independent contractors. They are only hired on a job-to-job basis. If that is the case, an accident victim may only be able to seek compensation from the driver and their insurance provider; instead of the trucking company.
If the driver is employed by a large trucking company, the employer may be “vicariously liable” for the accident under Oklahoma law. Vicarious liability applies when an employee commits a negligent act within the scope of his or her employment. The trucking company may also be held responsible if the driver was not provided with proper training or safety instructions on delivering particular cargo.
Who Owns the Truck?
As noted above, truck drivers are not always to blame for accidents. The truck itself may have a defect that was never identified or repaired by the trucking company. If the brakes were not maintained, for instance, then the driver may have been unable to stop. The brakes themselves might be defective. In that case, the manufacturer of the part could be liable.
Which Other Parties May Be at Fault?
There may be some third parties whose acts contributed to the accident. This can include another driver who forced the truck driver to lose control, or the company that hired the truck to carry certain dangerous cargo.
Given the number of potentially liable parties, investigating a truck accident is no simple task. That is why you need to work with a qualified Oklahoma City truck accident lawyer who has experience dealing with these types of complex cases. Contact the offices of Hasbrook & Hasbrook at 405-235-1551 to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys today.