According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, about 12 percent of fatal accidents in 2015 involved at least one large truck. In addition to these 3,838 deaths, there were 476,000 non-fatal accidents involving a sizable vehicle. Looking at Connecticut roadways specifically, 40 people died in commercial motor vehicle (CMV) accidents. CMVs are vehicles over 10,000 pounds used for interstate transportation of goods.
It’s no secret that many people are intimidated by tractor trailer trucks. These large vehicles have reduced visibility of the motorists around them and require extra time to make simple driving maneuvers. When a motorist is involved in an accident with a massive commercial vehicle, is the truck driver or company liable?
When a Driver Can Be Held Liable
If you’re driving a passenger car and get into a collision with another car, the fault lies with one of the drivers. With commercial vehicles, the answer is not always so simple.
Taking Personal Time on the Job
Keep in mind that CMV drivers are on the job, following a route given by their employer to make deliveries. However, as many of us take breaks from our desk jobs, CMV drivers could be caught doing something unrelated to their job that results in an accident. For instance, he or she stops to visit a relative on the way to a delivery site. While getting back on the highway, the CMV driver collides with a passenger car. This minor detour could land the accident blame right in the truck driver’s lap.
The Accident Was Purposeful
Most trucking companies hire reliable, hard-working men and women with upstanding reputations. Yet in some cases, a driver could cause intentional damages to another motorist. Driving long hours and dealing with careless drivers can be frustrating. However, when this frustration turns into road rage and a tractor trailer truck driver hits another vehicle on purpose, they can be held liable.
The Driver Is an Independent Contractor
Some trucking companies use third parties for drivers, trucks and equipment. In many of these cases, the drivers have their own commercial auto insurance, pay for their own gas and do not receive employee benefits from the trucking company. If an independent contractor is found to be at fault in a collision, he or she can be held liable. The trucking company who contracted with this person will likely be free of any responsibility.
When a Company Is Responsible
There are also instances when the trucking company can be liable in a motor vehicle accident involving their commercial truck.
The Driver Was Doing His Job
When a commercial truck driver is working within the scope of his or her employment, but gets into an accident with another vehicle, the car driver could sue the trucking company for damages. If the CMV driver was following his route and paying full attention to the road, it is more difficult to build a successful case against the employee than the employer, who is ultimately responsible for their drivers and vehicles.
The Truck Is in Bad Condition
Unfortunately, not every trucking company takes vehicle maintenance seriously. It can be very costly to replace the tires or brakes on an 18-wheeler, so some employers continue to use the trucks until the repairs can no longer wait. In some cases, this can result in vehicle malfunctions and fatal accidents involving other motorists. If a truck is in bad condition for the roadways, the company could be in big trouble.
Company Work Environment Is Poor
Truck driving can be a very dangerous profession, especially when working conditions are poor. CMV drivers are not allowed to work more than 14 hours a day, but some employers exploit this law. For instance, if a delivery is expected in 18 hours, the company may force a driver to forgo breaks and drive straight through. This could result in an overtired and distracted driver who is more likely to be in an accident.
At Trantolo & Trantolo, we have the highest respect for professional tractor trailer drivers. We know that without them, many of the products we need from day-to-day would not be accessible. However, when a driver is improperly trained or overworked and causes an accident, someone needs to be held responsible. If you’ve been involved in a large truck accident, contact Trantolo & Trantolo’s lawyers, who will fight for your rights.