Who Is At Fault In Big Rig Accidents?

Truck accidents can be catastrophic. Victims who sustain injuries can face long-term consequences. Commercial trucks are heavier than personal cars and trucks, and they often carry hazardous materials. According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were nearly 3,500 fatal truck accidents in 2014 alone.

Because they have the potential to be so dangerous, we hold operators and manufacturers of big rigs to a high standard in accident cases. Learn who may be at fault for an accident and how to pursue a truck accident claim.

If you’re looking to file a truck wreck claim, speak to a truck accident lawyer in Houston today.

Defining a “Big Rig”

A truck, or big rig, is the name given to any vehicle used in the course of business transporting commercial goods. A big rig may be an 18-wheeler, a tractor-trailer, a semi-truck, or a delivery truck. A commercial vehicle requires a special license to operate: A standard pickup truck, for example, is not a commercial truck.

What Makes Commercial Truck Accidents So Dangerous?

Though accidents involving commercial vehicles are less common than those between passenger vehicles are, they’re more likely to cause injury. A commercial big rig, when fully loaded, can weigh 80,000 pounds or more.

Determining Fault in a Big Rig Accident

Driver, manufacturers, and mechanics of commercial trucks are held to a higher standard of care than individuals are. We all have a duty to exercise reasonable care on the road by obeying traffic laws and minimizing our distractions. If not, we can be guilty of negligence. Truck drivers, by contrast, must exercise their highest level of care.

Attorneys, insurance companies, and law enforcement officials will look at a variety of factors when assigning fault in a commercial truck accident. Common causes of truck accidents include:

  • Driver fatigue. Drivers must meet strict schedules with mandated breaks and must get a certain number of hours sleep per night. Failure to log breaks or sleep is negligence.
  • Driver distractions, such as texting or operating GPS apparatus.
  • Driver intoxication.
  • Improper loading. If a truck’s load is imbalanced, the truck may become unwieldy and more prone to crashing.
  • Truckers must make pick-up and delivery times, causing them to rush and drive recklessly.
  • Improperly maintained vehicles. All commercial trucks on the road must make certain maintenance milestones, which must be logged.
  • Defective Brakes.
  • Improper training.

In many of these cases, it seems the operator of the truck is at fault for the accident, but this isn’t always true. For example, a trucker’s employer may have negligently hired the driver by failing to conduct appropriate background checks or drug testing. The employer may have neglected to provide proper training or ot check logs regularly to ensure truckers are taking mandated breaks and sleeping enough.

The manufacturer of a truck may also be to blame for inherent flaws in truck design, such as defective breaks. Similarly, a contractor charged with maintaining a fleet of commercial trucks may be negligent if equipment malfunctions on the road.

Finding fault in a big rig accident can be difficult, as it requires analysis of many moving parts. A Houston personal injury attorney can help determine who is responsible for conducting an investigation and determining where the breakdown in reasonable care occurred.

What If I Am Partially at Fault?

A police report may find you partially at fault for an accident. If this happens, you’re still eligible for compensation. When the fault is split between two parties, a judge will use a rule called “comparative negligence” to determine the amount of your personal injury settlement. Simply put, you can still win an award for damages, minus your degree of fault. For example, if you’re seeking $100,000 in damages, but were 10% at fault for the accident, you would receive $90,000 if you win your case.