California has more semi-trucks traversing its roads and highways than any other state in the U.S. While most truck drivers do their jobs responsibly, accidents can and do happen. Unfortunately, semi-truck crashes tend to be substantially more damaging than accidents involving ordinary cars.
If you were hurt in a crash with a semi-truck, you might have already considered filing a personal injury lawsuit. However, lawsuits against truck drivers and trucking companies can be complex. Here is what you should know before making the decision to take a negligent driver to court.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Trucking Accident
If you were involved in an accident with a semi-truck and need to file a lawsuit to pay for your medical bills or restore your vehicle, your first instinct may be to sue the driver. However, many truck-related lawsuits involve multiple defendants. After all, a truck driver’s mistake could be the result of poor corporate policy, inadequate training, or even a manufacturing defect. It is critically important to identify the correct parties since your case may be dismissed if you file a claim against the wrong party.
Here are some of the most commonly named defendants in California trucking lawsuits:
- Truck driver. If the driver’s negligence, inattention, or inexperience caused an accident, then they will almost always be named as a defendant.
- Trucking company. Trucking companies are required to comply with state and federal law. This means ensuring that their drivers are properly trained and that their vehicles are safe to operate. If a trucking company’s policies, procedures, or general practices are conducive to unsafe driving, then the company could be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit, too.
- Shipper. Many truck drivers, especially flatbed operators, do not load their own cargo. Instead, the shipping company will load the cargo. If the shipping company’s employees did not properly secure the load, then they may be named as defendants.
- Truck manufacturer. Some trucking accidents are caused by bad or faulty parts. If a tire blew out or a critical device failed, then it may be possible to sue the truck manufacturer or the manufacturer of an individual part.
- Other drivers. You may have been hit by a semi-truck, but the collision could have been caused or prompted by another motorist. If you were side-swiped by a truck that was forced into your lane by an erratic driver, you might be able to hold both parties accountable.
Investigating the Accident
Since there are many possible defendants in truck-related lawsuits, it is important to prepare a thorough investigation of the accident. That means reviewing police reports, checking physical evidence, and interviewing eyewitnesses. Your attorney will also look at the trucking company’s accident report, as well as their history of safety violations and citations. While you may think only the driver was negligent, the trucking company could have a record of pushing its over-the-road workers to take unnecessary risks. However, this will only become apparent through investigation.
While identifying the right defendants can be challenging, it is nonetheless necessary to do. If you try to file a lawsuit against the truck company or the shipper, but neither party is at fault, your case could face rapid dismissal.
How an Attorney Can Help
Even small trucking companies often have immense resources at their disposal, from high-priced and aggressive insurance carriers to experienced attorneys. Since trucking companies and their allies are intimately familiar with the literal rules of the road, they will be well-equipped to defend themselves in court. Even if a driver, manufacturer, or shipper should be held liable for an accident, they may dispute the circumstances that led to the crash or try to minimize your award.
A California attorney who specializes in truck-related accidents can help you level the playing field. If you or a loved one was injured in a California truck accident, send Case Barnett Law a message or call us to schedule your initial consultation.