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Who is to Blame in Single-Vehicle Truck Accidents?

Single-vehicle truck accidents always the truck driver's fault? No. Here's why:

When most people hear about a single-vehicle truck accident, they assume that the driver must be to blame. After all, if there was no one else involved, who else could be at fault? Sadly, in a number of these accidents, factors beyond the driver's control, such as an over-demanding schedule, poor maintenance, a manufacturing defect, or even an improperly loaded trailer can be the real reason for a single vehicle accident.

Another common perception is that accidents are thoroughly investigated by local authorities would discover if something other than driver error was to blame for an accident. Unfortunately, most local police departments lack the necessary expertise and equipment to spot mechanical failures and manufacturing defects. At the same time, law enforcement's primary concern is whether or not a crime has been committed, not figuring out whether someone other than the driver may be liable for an accident. Without an independent investigation, conducted by specialists who know what they are looking for, many times it is difficult for a person to see causes, which would show the driver was the victim of someone else's negligence.

In 25 years of handling truck accident cases, the attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have learned that the initial police report of a single-vehicle accident is only the beginning of the story. With a carefully assembled team of independent crash experts, Grossman Law Offices has investigated many accidents that were initially ruled driver error by the police, and uncovered other reasons for the accident beyond the driver's control. In single-vehicle truck accidents, our preference is to investigate thoroughly and then let the facts tell the story. The following are some of the different causes we look for when we investigate an accident on behalf of an injured trucker or their family.

Questions answered on this page:

  • If the driver is not at fault for an accident, then who is?
  • How do you prove that someone other than the driver was responsible for an accident?
  • What does it mean for an injured truck driver if we can prove that someone else was at fault?
  • What are the benefits of hiring a truck accident law firm to investigate a single-truck-accident?

Scenario 1: The trucking company is at fault

This situation frequently arises when the trucking company's policies encouraged or forced the driver to exceed the limited number of hours which they are legally allowed to drive each day. Sometimes trucking companies ignore these regulations and either force or encourage their drivers to break the law. Tired and overworked truckers make mistakes, regardless of their skill. If they are working more than they are legally allowed to work and the trucking company encouraged or incentivized that behavior, then a fair portion of the liability for the accident could rest with the trucking company. In these cases, the trucking company's safety manager will usually try to claim that they strictly follow all regulations, and you will need an experienced attorney who can thoroughly investigate your claim and prove that they violated the law.

If the trucking company is in charge of maintaining the vehicle, and their negligent care caused the truck to be involved in an accident, then the truck driver's employer will be liable for all of the resulting injuries. For example, if they did not properly maintain and replace the tires or the braking system, the truck driver's employer is directly responsible for the one vehicle accident and will be required to pay for the truck driver's damages.

Finally, it is also very important to determine whether the trucking company is classified as a subscriber to workers' compensation or if they are listed as a non-subscriber. If the company is a subscriber then the injured driver goes through the workers' compensation system in their state for all of the their medical bills and a portion of their weekly wages since they are an employee of the company. Workers' compensation prohibits employees from filing suit against their employer except in cases of gross negligence. If a driver is part of a company that participates in the workers' compensation system, the employer will not be required to pay for any non-economic damages such as loss of consortium or other emotional damages.

However, if the trucking company is a non-subscriber then they are treated just like anyone under the law who has injured someone through negligence and your lawsuit against the company expands greatly. If you have been injured in a trucking accident and your employer is a non-subscriber, not only can you file a claim to receive compensation for all of your medical expenses, but you can also recover for pain and suffering, disfigurement, and mental anguish.

Scenario 2: The company which loaded the trailer is responsible

Sometimes the company which loads the trailer is independent from the trucking company or the truck driver's employer. In this instance, if the company which loaded the trailer would be liable for the truck driver's damages and injuries if an imbalance in cargo caused the truck to rollover. I'm sure you have seen large trucks trying to make wide turns at intersections and freeway exit ramps. These turns are more difficult for the truck driver not only because the vehicle is so incredibly large, but often because it is carrying a great amount of weight.

Think about when you load your car for a long road trip or when you are moving furniture: you are forced to take turns more cautiously and even with great care, you cargo will sometimes shift. Because the contents of your vehicle are relatively light weight and your car is not incredibly long, this shift does not have a dramatic impact on your driving.

However, in 18 wheeler trucks, the bed of the truck is very long, and the contents can weigh several tons. When this enormous weight is improperly balanced on the bed, or is not properly secured, it can cause a huge shift in the balance of the 18 wheeler truck and force it to rollover. Whoever improperly loaded the trailer, or insufficiently secured the cargo will be held responsible for the truck driver's injuries. Like other causes of single-vehicle truck accidents, the only way to prove that a trailer was loaded improperly is with a thorough, professional investigation.

Scenario 3: The company which maintains the truck is liable

In many cases trucking companies are not the ones who maintain the vehicles. Many trucking companies subcontract this work and hire other companies to make sure that their trucks are safe for driving. As mentioned above, if the trucking company failed to properly maintain the vehicle causing it to crash, the trucking company would then be liable. The same is true for third party companies who work on and maintain the trucks. If they negligently repaired or failed to repair a problem with the truck, they will be liable if that negligence caused the truck driver to be injured in an accident.

Scenario 4: The truck manufacturer is responsible for the truck driver's injuries

Another common problem associated with single-vehicle 18 wheeler accidents is defective roofs which cave in and injure or kill the truck driver. Often when a truck accident only involves the truck it is due to the truck rolling over. Every car and truck, not just semi-trucks, have passive safety features, which are designed to protect the driver and passengers in the event of an accident. 18-wheelers are equipped with crush resistant roofs which are designed to remain intact if the truck rolls over.

If your loved one was driving a semi-truck and the roof caved in, crushing them after the truck rollover, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck manufacturer based on the theory of product liability. This theory argues that the manufacturer is best able to ensure that dangerous products do not reach the marketplace and when they do, the manufacturer is in the best position to remedy those dangers. The average person cannot hire engineers to inspect all of their purchases to determine if they are safe, whereas a manufacturer can. So when we buy a car or truck, we have to take it on faith that the engineering is sound and the roof won't crush us in a rollover accident. Therefore, manufacturers have a duty to make sure that products aren't unnecessarily dangerous before they hit the market. When they fail in this duty, products liability says that they are responsible for the resulting damages.

Why you need an experienced truck accident attorney

It should probably be clear at this point that most people, heck even most police departments, do not have the resources to confirm or rule out many of these single-vehicle truck accident scenarios. It takes years of working truck accident cases to assemble the team of outside experts necessary to determine many of the causes these accidents. If you are a driver and feel that you were unfairly blamed for a single-vehicle accident, or a family member of a deceased trucker who feels that there is more to your loved one's accident than what is in the police report, call the experience truck accident attorneys at Grossman Law Offices at (855) 326-0000 and we'll do our best to answer your questions. The call is free and we pick up the phone 24/7.

If you were involved in a single-vehicle truck accident, you may be interested in the following truck accident articles

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