Trucking accidents are responsible for thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries every year. Trucking companies were able to avoid paying damages to victims in the past through legal loopholes. Federal Regulations have ended trucking companies’ ability to avoid responsibility for accidents involving their employees or contractors.
Determining Fault in Trucking Accidents
Because there are so many players behind the scenes at trucking companies, the fault does not always fall with the drivers themselves. The responsibility to victims of trucking accidents may also lie with the truck’s owner, the leasing company, the vehicle or parts manufacturer, the shipper, or the person who loaded the vehicle.
There is often a dispute among these different players regarding whose insurance company should provide compensation for the victim. It is sometimes difficult to actually sort out who was at fault with so many different people actually involved in sending these trucks onto the interstates and highways.
Victims of trucking accidents often find that their legal situation in terms of filing claims is far more complicated than with a normal car accident. Who was actually at fault must be determined before any claims can be filed, and since responsibility often gets passed around among various players in the trucking industry, getting accurate information about what actually went wrong often requires the assistance of someone familiar with the ins and outs of the trucking industry.
Statistics Regarding Trucking Accidents
Since 1994, there has been a 20% increase in the number of trucking accidents on highways and interstates. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were nearly 5,000 deaths and 130,000 people who suffered injuries from accidents that involved large commercial trucks. Trucking accidents cause more severe injuries than other types of accidents even though they only comprise 3% of all motor vehicle accidents.
Laws Regarding Trucking Accidents
There are federal laws and regulations the govern and oversee the trucking industry.
These laws require truck owners, drivers, and trucking companies to meet to establish who was at fault and who is required to take responsibility for an accident. Most federal regulations regarding the trucking industry can be found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulate the truck driving industry, but each state has its own set of trucking regulations through its own department of transportation.
Trucking Companies and Avoidance of Liability
In the past, trucking companies were often able to avoid liability by setting up a complex network involving drivers who were not employees. Instead, they were simply hiring owner/operators as contractors and allowing the driver to use the company’s permit on his or her truck. When accidents occurred, the trucking company would deny any responsibility by arguing that neither company trucks nor employees were involved. Using these sorts of legal loopholes, trucking companies could get away with denying any responsibility whatsoever for trucks and drivers they had commissioned for their use to haul products.
Federal Laws that Ended Loopholes
Federal Laws have established that responsibility for trucking accidents can no longer be avoided through this legal loophole. Any company allowing a driver or truck to use its permit number has to take legal responsibility for accidents if the fault was with anyone involved with the trucking company (permit holder) in any way. These newer regulations mean that trucking companies can no longer avoid paying insurance claims to victims who were injured as a result of an accident that involved the use of the company’s permit, regardless of who owns the truck or whether the driver was a regular employee or an independent contractor.
Trucking accidents can result in serious physical injury and monetary damages. Determining fault and liability in a trucking accident can require specific legal knowledge.
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