Any car accident is scary, but getting hit by a large commercial truck is a particularly nightmarish scenario. Unfortunately, that nightmare is a reality for thousands of drivers every year. Based on statistics from the United States Department of Transportation, there are around 500,000 trucking accidents a year in the U.S. Around 5000 of those accidents result in at least one fatality, and it's safe to assume that even in non-fatal accidents, a large portion of trucking accidents result in injuries. If you're one of the many people injured in a trucking accident this year, you deserve compensation for your losses and injuries. But figuring out who to sue after a trucking accident can be more complex than deciding who to sue after an ordinary accident. Take a look at a few things that you should consider when seeking legal compensation after a trucking accident.
Is The Trucking Company At Fault?
The first thing that you'll probably want to consider is whether or not you should sue the truck driver. In an ordinary accident, you would most likely file a lawsuit against the other driver, so it makes sense to do the same here. However, you may need to consider another responsible party – the company that employed the truck driver.
To understand why you would sue the trucking company, you need to understand a legal concept called vicarious responsibility. In a nutshell, vicarious responsibility means that some third party – in this case, the truck driver's employer – is responsible for the actions of their subordinate. A perfect example of this can be found in the lawsuit filed by comedian Tracy Morgan after the trucking accident that killed one person and left Morgan and two other people injured. It was revealed that the truck driver was operating after not having slept for more than 24 hours. The lawsuit, which was eventually settled, held that the company employing the driver was responsible for making sure that its drivers were not fatigued to the point of being unsafe behind the wheel. Morgan's lawsuit named the company only, not the driver, even though criminal charges were filed against the driver.
Is A Mechanic At Fault?
Another possibility to consider is that it might have been a mechanical malfunction that caused the accident. The investigation could reveal, for example, that the truck's brakes were faulty, preventing the truck from stopping, or that the truck's steering mechanism was damaged and the truck driver couldn't turn or change lanes to avoid the accident.
In that case, you may have a claim for damages against the person or entity who was in charge of ensuring that the truck was in safe operating condition. This would normally be the mechanic who last worked on the malfunctioning part of the truck, although in some cases, your claim might be against the manufacturer that made the faulty part.
Are Multiple Parties At Fault?
It may be the case that multiple parties are at fault. Consider the Tracy Morgan case. The company may have been responsible for making sure that their driver wasn't operating on no sleep, but surely the driver had some responsibility as well. After all, he had to know that he was too fatigued to drive safely. That's why criminal charges were filed. So why was the driver not named in Morgan's lawsuit?
When multiple parties bear responsibility for an accident, deciding who to sue is often more of a question of strategy than of justice. The idea behind a lawsuit is primarily to get you appropriate compensation for your injuries. Not only is a trucking corporation more likely to have the funds to settle a lawsuit or honor a judgement than a lone truck driver, a trucking corporation is more likely to be held liable by a jury. Many jury members might feel sympathy for the truck driver – who, after all, was not acting maliciously – and might hesitate to hand down a large judgement for the truck driver to pay. They're less likely to hesitate when the defendant is a corporation.
Of course, there are also cases where the truck driver and the corporation, or the truck driver and the mechanic, or all three, might be named in the case. Much depends on the specific circumstances in your accident.
The most important thing you can do is see a lawyer who specializes in trucking accident cases as soon as possible after the accident. A good law firm will send out accident investigators to look into your accident and determine what happened and who is responsible. However, evidence and witness memories fade with time, and the longer you wait, the harder it is to determine who is responsible and make a good case. If you've been injured, don't wait to contact a trucking accidents lawyer in your area.