Who Can be Held Liable for a Trucking Accident?
Truck accidents are some of the deadliest that occur on the roadways, often resulting in serious and catastrophic injuries and fatalities. Each year, thousands are killed and tens of thousands are injured in accidents involving 18-wheelers and other large trucks. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the vast majority of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck are occupants of the passenger vehicles. When a trucking accident leaves you with a debilitating injury, it can be difficult to know who should be held legally responsible.
Determining Fault in a Mississippi Truck Accident Case
Commercial trucking accidents are some of the most complex personal injury cases accident victims could be involved in. The convergence of factors and circumstances that cause these accidents can leave several potentially at-fault parties. These may include:
- The Truck Driver
- The Owner of the Truck or Trailer (which could be the same person as the driver)
- The Person or Company that Leases the Truck or Trailer to the Driver
- The Company that Employs the Driver
- The Shipper or Loader of the Cargo
- The Designer, Manufacturer, Supplier, or Distributor of the Vehicle or Vehicle Part(s)
In many cases, multiple parties may share some of the blame for a big rig accident. For example, if the truck was overloaded or unevenly loaded and a tire blows out causing the truck to crash into another car, the accident may be partially the fault of the company responsible for loading the cargo, and partially the fault of one or more parties in the tire supply chain. Under Mississippi’s legal doctrine of “comparative negligence”, parties are required to pay a percentage of damages in accordance with the percentage they are at-fault for the accident.
Using this same example, if it is determined that the tire manufacturer is 30% at fault, they would be responsible for 30% of the damages. And if the loading company is 70% at fault, they would be responsible for 70% of the damages. If the injured party shares some of the fault for the accident, damages can be reduced by the same percentage they are determined to be at-fault.
How Trucking Companies Try to Avoid Responsibility
Over the years, trucking companies have played all kinds of tricks to try to shift the blame for accidents that occur under their direction to someone else. For example, many companies lease their trucks from another individual or company. In addition, instead of employing truck drivers, they often hire them as independent contractors.
In the past, they have often used these arrangements as “buffers” to argue that they are not the ones responsible for an accident, even though the accident is very often the result of their direct actions, such as pressuring drivers to cut corners to deliver their loads on time. These arguments are no longer valid, because companies that own a trucking permit that displays its name inside a vehicle can now be held responsible for accidents the vehicle may be involved in.
Trucking companies might still try to distance themselves from the driver and truck owners. However, if it can be shown that the company has a high level of control over the driver’s actions, then this argument is not likely to be successful.
There are other tactics trucking companies may use to get out of paying for accident injury claims. Two of the most common are attempting to shift the responsibility (or at least part of it) to the injury victim. Another would be to downplay the seriousness of the victim’s injuries in an attempt to negotiate a settlement for far less than what the claim is really worth.
Speak with a Seasoned Mississippi Truck Accident Lawyer
Pursuing compensation for injuries resulting from a big rig accident can be challenging. There are numerous federal, state, and local laws you need to be familiar with, and you need to be able to quickly identify important factors that will show who is culpable for the incident. At Gardner Law Firm, we have over 40 years of experience representing victims of trucking accidents in Mississippi. We have in-depth knowledge of the complexities of these types of cases, and we have a successful track record going up against even the most well-funded adversaries.
For a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, call our office today at 228-436-6555, or you may send us a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.