When Can You Sue the Trucking Company for an Accident?

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If you have been injured in a truck accident, you need an experienced attorney to fight for you at every step of the way. The presence of the trucking company at the table means that there will be more opposition to your case, but there could also be more money available to pay for your injuries. Call the truck accident attorneys at Gibbons & Crichton, Personal Injury & Accident Lawyers, to learn more about your legal rights to sue a trucking company.

When Is a Trucking Company Liable for Your Accident?

In some cases, going after the trucking company provides an opportunity to maximize your financial compensation for your injuries. Trucking companies are almost always responsible when their driver causes an accident.

Two principles are at play in a lawsuit against a trucking company:

  • The trucking company is legally responsible for the acts of the people who are employees, so long as they are performed within the scope of their employment.
  • The trucking company must follow an extensive body of federal law, and if you can prove a violation of regulation, it may be evidence of negligence in itself.

The trucking company may also directly contribute to your accent injuries, in addition to simply being the driver’s employer. The trucking company has numerous responsibilities about the truck itself and its safe operation.

Federal regulations require trucking companies to only put roadworthy vehicles onto the road.

They must properly inspect and maintain the trucks, so they can be driven on the road.

However, trucking companies tend to cut corners with maintenance. The time that a truck is off the road means that it cannot be making money for the trucking company, so they are not inclined to make repairs unless necessary.

The trucking company may hire professionals and third parties to provide services. When a trucking company hires a driver, they must check their safety record.

They must not entrust their vehicles to any drivers who have a checkered past, including a history of drunk driving. Trucking companies owe you the same duty to scrutinize who they hire when they are enlisting a third party to perform services.

For example, the trucking company may hire an independent contractor for cargo loading. You could, if evidence suggests, file a lawsuit against them for negligent hiring or retention.

The usual principle in Pennsylvania personal injury law is that the employee and the employer are the same. If the employee is on the job and performing their job-related actions, their employer is liable for anything that they do. If the truck driver was negligent, their actions would be imputed to their employer. The truck driver is an agent of the trucking company, who must pay for the harm that the driver causes.

Why Sue a Trucking Company?

From your standpoint, this approach is financially advantageous. The truck driver is not the one whom you are trying to sue. The trucking company, assuming that they have complied with federal regulations, has a large insurance policy that is meant to pay for situations like this.

Trucking management companies are carrying at least $750,000 in coverage and often far more (as most insurance companies do not write policies under $1 million). If the trucking company is being prudent, they have a policy for more than a million dollars because they want to protect your assets. You can seize the trucking company’s assets if they do not have insurance coverage sufficient to pay for your damages.

There have been many cases in which a jury has awarded plaintiffs large sums of money that are well beyond what the trucking company may have in insurance coverage. If that is your situation, you become a judgment creditor, and you can go after the truck and company. These so-called “nuclear verdicts” have been known to put entire trucking companies out of business.

It doesn’t help you to sue the individual driver after a truck accident unless they are an owner-operator. The average truck driver, who does not own their truck, would not have the assets necessary to pay for your injuries.

Remember that you have suffered significant injuries and financial consequences, and you need a defendant who can fully compensate you. The truck driver would only be a part of your lawsuit to the extent that they are an agent of the trucking company.

How to Build Your Case Against the Trucking Company

When you are suing the trucking company, you would often need to obtain evidence that is in their hands. In many cases, you would file a lawsuit against the trucking company, as opposed to an insurance claim.

Your lawyer would continue to develop your case through the discovery process, where they can request information that the trucking company possesses. For example, you may be able to acquire during the discovery process:

  • The truck’s electronic data recorder
  • The individual records from the driver involved in the accident
  • Inspection logs
  • Logs that show the hours the truck was operating
  • Records that demonstrate how and when the truck was repaired

When you are suing a trucking company, your lawyer may be trying to build a story that they have a pattern of widespread non-compliance with federal trucking regulations. These situations are often when a jury would decide to hit the trucking company with a large punitive damages verdict.

Not only has the trucking company failed its duty in its operation by employing a driver who made a mistake, but it may have also failed in other cases when they do not follow rules.

Contact a Philadelphia Truck Accident Lawyer Today

Gibbons & Critchton, Personal Injury & Accident Lawyers are in your corner when you have suffered a serious injury in a truck accident. Call us today at 215-274-0173 or reach out to us through our website to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

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