How Truck Accident Passenger Injury Cases Work - And The Laws Involved
Unless authorized to do so by their employer, a truck driver is generally not supposed to allow anyone to ride in the truck who is not also employed by the trucking company and engaged in performing their job duties. If the truck driver does so by bringing along a friend, spouse, or even hitchhiker on the trip, then the trucking company could be responsible for any resulting harm to the passenger. Because the degree of liability assumed by the trucking company will vary according to the details of the accident, you will need to consult with an experienced commercial vehicle accident attorney to discover what compensation you can expect to receive after being injured in this type of accident.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- When is the trucking company primarily liable for a passenger's injuries?
- What laws apply to injuries sustained by passengers injured in an 18-wheeler wreck?
- When can a passenger receive compensation for their injuries?
- Does a semi-truck's injured passenger need a lawyer?
- If you're injured as a passenger in an 18-wheeler, does workers' comp cover it?
When Is The Trucking Company Liable for Injuries to Passengers?
In the state of Texas, employers are responsible for the actions of their workers under a legal concept called respondeat superior, literally translated as "let the master answer." In other words, if a truck driver's negligence causes a crash, then the trucking company is liable for the harm caused by the accident.
This concept would also apply to someone who was injured in a truck accident while riding in the cab of the truck. By agreeing to let the passenger ride in the truck, the driver assumes some responsibility for his or her safety. While allowing someone to ride along may not be permissible under the company's policies, the trucking company is responsible for the driver's actions and could indirectly assume responsibility. Therefore, if an accident occurs because the truck driver committed an act of negligence, then the trucking company incurs both liability and financial responsibility for the accident, in addition to responsibility for any harm to the passengers of the other vehicles involved and of any passengers in the truck driver's cab.
Occasionally, the trucking company knows a passenger is riding along, but attempts to limit their liability in the event of an accident. In one case we've litigated, a truck driver's wife was made to sign a waiver of liability by the trucker's company before she was allowed to accompany her husband while he was working. However, even though the permission slip was written up by the trucking company, the waiver of liability was not legally binding because the company's attorney did a shoddy job, and we were still able to successfully pursue compensation after she was injured in an accident.
However, even in the event you were made to sign a valid waiver of liability before joining the trucker as a passenger on his haul, scenarios still exist in which the trucking company could be held accountable. You can waive your right to pursue compensation due to a negligent act by the truck driver, but you can't waive the protection the law provides you against intentional acts of wrongdoing. This means that in cases of extreme negligence, or gross negligence (defined as "conduct that shocks the senses") the waiver would not hold up in court.
When Is The Trucking Company Partially Liable?
While truck drivers often cause the accidents in which they're involved through carelessness or acts of negligence, that's not always the case. Truck accidents often happen due to negligent actions of other drivers on the road or due to a wide array of negligent actions by third parties. For example, the company that plans the truck's route might send it into a dangerous area, the company that loads the cargo could do so unsafely, the manufacturer of the truck or any of its component parts (particularly the tires) occasionally errs in design or assembly, and the mechanic who maintains the truck might fail to keep its component parts in good working order. If any of these third parties commits an act of negligence, it could leading to a serious wreck, and as a result, that party would be primarily liable for any injuries suffered in the accident.
Just because someone other than the trucking company is found to be primarily liable, it doesn't mean the trucking company will be entirely off the hook for a passenger's injuries. This is because the passenger wouldn't have been injured in the accident at all if he or she had not been in the cab of the truck at the time of the accident. As we've already mentioned, the truck driver may have acted negligently for allowing the passenger to be in the truck, and the trucking company may also bear some responsibility for the passenger's injuries.
Did you know? There are many types of commercial vehicle accidents, but some are more common than others. Read our article on 18-wheeler common fact patterns here.
How Commercial Truck Passenger Lawsuits Work
Just because you believe the trucking company is liable for your injuries, however, doesn't mean compensation will be automatic. You'll need to be able to prove it in court through legally-permissible means. Laws are designed to be fair for both sides - the defendants and the plaintiffs. Thus, the defendant in a lawsuit has the right to mount a defense and resist being held accountable for damages just as the plaintiff has the right to seek damages if they believe that can prove their claim. Because it allows them to avoid paying anything to injured parties, the trucking company will likely argue that its driver was not negligent or grossly negligent.
This is why if you've been injured in a wreck of this kind, you have even more reason to need an experienced truck accident attorney. When trying to reach an insurance settlement, the insurers of all potentially liable parties will argue that other persons or companies are responsible, and that those truly at fault should pick up the tab for the harm done to you.
If your case goes to court, a jury will be called on to determine what percentage of liability is borne by each party who may have contributed to your injuries. You will need a truck accident lawyer working for you who has significant experience with similar cases and knows how to correctly ascertain how much liability should be born by each party, as well as how to convince a jury of that.
What Compensation Can You Pursue?
No matter what other party was found to be liable for the truck accident that caused your injury, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries. This compensation may include restitution for medical bills, any property that may have been damaged in the wreck, lost wages during recovery time, pain and suffering felt during the accident, mental anguish experienced during rehabilitation, and any detrimental effects of lifelong disabilities that result from injuries suffered in the accident.
When you seek compensation for your injuries suffered while riding in an 18-wheeler, you have more motivation than just obtaining money to pay for the bills you've incurred. You're also taking a positive step to try to prevent these incidents from occurring again. This is often the only way to get negligent parties to change their hazardous ways.
Grossman Law Offices Is Here to Help You
In order to receive the full amount of the compensation you deserve, you need the assistance of a truck accident attorney who can prove the value of your injuries. While some damages can be more easily demonstrated, like medical bills, other harm done to you, like diminished earning capacity after a crippling injury, is much more complex and challenging to correctly estimate and prove. What's more, the liable party and/or its insurance provider is likely to argue that your assessment of damages is too great, and you will need an advocate who is capable of meeting them head-on.
To learn more about how the truck accident lawyers at Grossman Law Offices can assist you, call us now for a free consultation at (855)326-0000. You will have an opportunity to ask any questions you have to one of our attorneys, and we can briefly give you a run-down of the merits of your case.
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