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Who Can You Sue for a Trucking Accident?

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June 20, 2024

Trucking accidents can have devastating consequences, often resulting in catastrophic injuries and significant property damage due to the sheer size and weight of the vehicles involved. If you or a loved one has been involved in a trucking accident, it is crucial to identify all potentially liable parties to ensure you receive fair compensation for your losses. This article aims to provide clarity on the various parties that could be responsible for a trucking accident, the applicable laws, and the time frame within which you need to file your claim. 

If you have been involved in a truck accident and would like to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Delaware trucking accident attorneys, contact us online today.

Potential Liable Parties in a Trucking Accident

Trucking accidents can be caused by multiple factors, and several parties may share responsibility. Here are the most common entities that you may be able to seek compensation from after a trucking accident:

1. The Truck Driver

The most obvious party to consider in a trucking accident is the truck driver. If the driver’s negligence or recklessness caused the accident—such as through distracted driving, fatigue, speeding, or driving under the influence—they could be held accountable. Truck drivers must also adhere to strict regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regarding hours of service, vehicle maintenance, and safe driving practices. If the driver violated any of these rules or engaged in negligent behavior, they could be held personally responsible for the damages caused. Evidence such as the driver’s logbooks, drug and alcohol tests, and eyewitness testimony can be crucial in establishing fault.

2. The Trucking Company

In many cases, the trucking company that employs the driver can also be held liable for a trucking accident. Trucking companies have a legal obligation to properly train their drivers, maintain their vehicles, and ensure compliance with federal and state regulations. If the company failed to meet these responsibilities, contributing to the accident, you may have grounds to sue them for negligence.

Additionally, trucking companies can be held liable for the actions of their employee drivers under a legal doctrine known as "respondeat superior." This means that the trucking company can be held responsible for negligent actions of its drivers while they are operating within the scope of their employment.

3. Cargo Loaders

Improperly loaded or overloaded cargo can cause a truck to become unstable, increasing the risk of an accident. If a separate company was responsible for loading the cargo and did so negligently, resulting in an accident, they may be held accountable.

4. The Truck or Parts Manufacturer

If the accident was caused by a defect in the truck itself, such as brake failure or tire blowout, the manufacturer of the vehicle or its components could be pursued for compensation. Product liability laws allow victims to hold manufacturers responsible if it is proven that a defect caused the accident. Similarly, if the accident was caused by a design flaw in the truck's structure or systems, the vehicle manufacturer may be responsible.

5. Maintenance Providers

Trucks require regular maintenance to ensure they are safe on the roads. If a third-party company was responsible for maintaining the truck and failed to perform necessary repairs or inspections correctly, leading to an accident, they could be held liable.

6. Other Drivers

While less common, other drivers on the road may also share liability in a trucking accident. If another motorist's negligence, such as running a red light or failing to yield, contributed to the collision, they could be named as a defendant in your lawsuit.

7. Government Entities

In some cases, government entities can be liable for accidents caused by poorly maintained roads, inadequate signage, or other road hazards. However, suing a government entity involves specific procedures and limitations, making these cases much more complex.

Determining Liability

Establishing liability in a trucking accident case requires a thorough investigation of the facts and a detailed knowledge of the law relating to personal injury, employer's liability, and commercial insurance. Given the complexity of these issues, it is crucial to get the advice of a lawyer who is experienced in handling trucking accidents.

To determine who might be liable in the accident, your attorney will ask you detailed information about the accident, your injuries, and your recovery. They will gather evidence such as police reports, witness statements, vehicle maintenance records, driver logs, and data from the truck's electronic control module (ECM) or "black box." They may work with accident reconstruction experts and other professionals to analyze the evidence and determine the sequence of events that led to the accident and identify all potentially liable parties. Contacting an attorney promptly can lead to better evidence in your case. There may be physical evidence from the scene of the accident, such as skid marks, that only exist for a short period of time after the accident.

It is important to know that multiple parties may share responsibility for a trucking accident, and your lawyer will work to ensure that all liable parties are held accountable for their negligence. You should also be aware that, in Delaware, your compensation may be reduced if you are partially at fault for the accident under a legal doctrine called comparative negligence. You read more about this in our explanation of modified comparative negligence.

Seeking Compensation

Once liability has been established, your lawyer will pursue compensation for your damages from the responsible parties and their insurance companies. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to compensation for:

  • Medical expenses (current and future)
  • Lost wages and diminished earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Punitive damages (in cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct)

Your attorney will advise you on the types of damages that are compensable and your likelihood of recovery. However, a lawyer should never guarantee your compensation. Instead, they can advise you on what other victims in similar circumstances have been awarded, which is helpful when deciding whether or not to pursue a legal claim and when to accept a settlement offer from an insurance company or at-fault party.

Deadlines in a Trucking Accident Claim

It is crucial to contact an attorney as soon as possible after a trucking accident to preserve evidence and your ability to bring a claim for compensation. In every state, there is a legal deadline for filing a lawsuit known as the statute of limitations. The deadlines differ depending on the state and the type of claim but if you miss it, you cannot bring a claim in the courts except under very limited circumstances. In Delaware, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim arising from a trucking accident is two years from the date of the accident. If you do not file your claim within this limited window, you may lose your right to seek compensation for your damages in the accident. 

When an attorney is involved in the first days after a truck accident, they can also recover evidence that might be crucial to claim strategy or unavailable after time has passed. Physical evidence at the scene can be erased by weather and other factors. Electronically stored information from on-board computers, GPS devices, or cameras can be lost if they are not downloaded promptly. Many truck drivers are also required to complete multiple logs that need to be preserved as potential evidence. If you have been involved in a trucking accident, speak to an experienced trucking accident attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help gather evidence, identify liable parties, and file your claim within the required time frame. If time has passed and you think you may be outside this window, you should speak to an attorney immediately about any exceptions that may apply to you.

Trucking accident cases are complex and often involve significant physical and financial damages for a victim. Sadly, insurance companies will often try to minimize their payouts or shift blame to avoid liability. Having an experienced trucking accident attorney on your side can help ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the full compensation you deserve after a trucking accident.

If you or a loved one has been in a trucking accident in Delaware, it is vital to get legal help quickly. At Morris James, our attorneys have been standing up for victims since we opened our doors in 1932. If you have questions about trucking accidents in Delaware, you may find answers in our Trucking Accident FAQs, or you can contact us online or call us at 302.655.2599 to speak to one of our experienced truck accident attorneys.

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