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Who is liable after an accident with a commercial truck?

Large commercial trucks travel through Kentucky every single day. Unfortunately, their massive size and the cargo they tote can make them very dangerous when you have to share the road with them. Truck accidents are often devastating and can result in serious injuries. Establishing liability after an accident with a huge truck is sometimes tricky.

What are the laws pertaining to the truck driver’s standard of conduct?

There are federal and state laws that regulate the trucking industry and set standards for truck drivers and trucking companies. One of the aspects covered by those laws is to determine who can be held liable for truck accidents. Two federal agencies, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, are responsible for such regulations. Kentucky has its own department of transportation that regulates trucking in the state as well.

Commercial trucks are required to follow certain laws. If they are found to be in violation of those laws, the trucking company or truck driver can be held responsible for truck accidents. Those laws include the following:

  • Commercial driver licenses: Truckers are required to hold CDLs. Truck accidents that occur with truck drivers not holding that license can result in the trucker’s employer being liable.
  • Adequate rest for the driver: Truck drivers barely get enough rest while working. However, this area, hours of services, is regulated to prevent accidents due to fatigue.
  • Maximum weight permitted: Trucks can carry up to 20,000 pounds of cargo and two-axle trucks can tote up to 34,000. If a truck is overloaded, an accident can occur with deadly consequences.
  • Quality control: Commercial trucks go through regulation in manufacturing and repairs to ensure quality control. If there’s a defect in a truck or in one of its parts, there may be a claim of product liability.
  • Hazardous waste: Trucks often tote hazardous waste. As a result, the trucker and company are required to follow proper protocols for transporting it. Truck accidents involving hazardous waste can result in liability against the trucker and the company.

How is liability established in an accident with a truck?

Establishing liability with truck accidents means you must prove that the driver or trucking company is responsible for the injuries you sustained. One way to prove liability of the company is through vicarious liability, which means the company is responsible for the driver’s actions while the driver is conducting business.

Negligence is a common factor when establishing liability as well. Sometimes, the trucking company can be held to negligence per se, meaning that if the driver was driving drunk, the company is liable.

In some cases, the company can be held liable if it was negligent in hiring a poor driver. For instance, if it failed to conduct a background check on the driver, the company can be held responsible for an accident.