Figuring out who is liable for a truck accident is usually complicated. There might be several parties involved, which makes it even more complicated to identify the responsible party. Determining the party at fault is key to filing a successful truck accident lawsuit. Every driver has to operate a vehicle with utmost care. Commercial drivers have a higher duty of care due to the extensive damage that results from truck accidents. However, the truck driver isn't always at fault in an accident. Numerous parties might be liable for the accident. Different parties may share the liability for contributing to the truck accident. If you have been involved in a truck accident in Las Vegas, NV, Dallas Horton & Associates can help you identify the liable parties.
Identifying the Liable Parties in a Truck Accident
When an accident involving a large truck occurs, it's often complicated to identify the responsible party. Investigating the person or entity responsible for the accident requires a thorough investigation and examination of the factors leading to the accident. You will need an attorney who is experienced in handling truck collision claims to guide you. Some of the potentially liable parties in a truck accident are:
- Truck driver
- The courier or trucking company
- Truck manufacturer
- Truck maintenance company
- The cargo owner or loader
- A government entity
- Other vehicles
1. Truck Driver
Like other drivers, truck drivers may cause collisions. A truck driver might face legal liability in a truck accident if their actions led to the crash. The driver owes a duty of care to other road users. A driver must always look out for other road users. Some of the factors that could make a truck driver liable in an accident are:
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
Alcohol and substance abuse is common among truck drivers. Truck drivers are just as vulnerable to addictive substances as other drivers. Truck driving is a solitary and challenging profession that calls for long hours on the road and odd periods of rest. Some drivers might feel tempted to use drugs to remain awake or to ease the boredom. Under Nevada law, it is illegal for a driver to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or another narcotic. It is common for truck drivers to drive while under the influence of self-administered intoxicants and narcotics. In some instances, a driver might be under the influence of both drugs and alcohol.
Even if truck drivers use drugs to stay alert or awake, the controlled substances usually have adverse side effects. The drugs often make the truck drivers agitated and erratic instead of enabling them to drive better and longer. The use of alcohol and drugs usually harms the truck driver's perception, concentration, and reflexes. While under the influence of drugs or alcohol, truckers usually experience physical, visual, and cognitive impairment. A drunk truck driver has less ability to process information quickly, impaired perception, reduced coordination, decreased nervous system reactivity, and longer reaction times.
Engaging in Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is never safe, and truck drivers often cause deadly accidents by engaging in distracted driving. When a truck driver engages in distracted driving, they are likely to cause severe accidents with devastating impacts on them. Despite how unsafe distracted driving is, many drivers continue to engage in distracted driving. Anything that takes the driver's eyes or minds off the road is a form of distracted driving. At times, distracted driving takes the driver's hands off the wheel. Truck drivers are more likely to cause an accident due to mobile phone use while driving. The common ways in which mobile phones distract drivers include:
- Texting while driving
- Reading text messages
- Dialing the phone to initiate or receive phone calls
- Accessing the internet on the phone
- Reading emails or instant messaging
Using a mobile phone is not the only way a truck driver gets distracted. Some of the typical dangerous distracted driving practices that often lead to accidents include:
- Operating a portable music device or DVD player
- Using a laptop or a tablet
- Adjusting the instrument controls
- Looking at a map
- Eating and drinking
- Looking at the surroundings
- Reaching for another object inside the truck
- Reading work-related paperwork or the newspaper
Speeding or Reckless Driving
Truck drivers in Nevada have a legal duty to drive prudently and safely. A truck driver must comply with stringent federal laws regarding cargo loading, truck inspections, braking techniques, and rest breaks. A driver could cause a deadly truck accident by breaching any outlined rules and regulations either intentionally or negligently. No commercial driver should ever exceed the speed limits in Nevada. However, in most cases, truck drivers speed to meet tight deadlines or due to road rage. A truck driver will be liable for causing an accident because of speeding and reckless driving irrespective of the reason behind the speeding.
Failure to Obey Traffic Laws
A truck driver may also be liable for an accident for failing to follow the traffic laws and engaging in:
- Unsafe lane changes
- Running the red light
- Unsafe overtaking
It is extremely dangerous for a commercial truck driver to ride close to other vehicles' tailgates or bumpers. Compared to the smaller passenger vehicles, trucks require more time to come to a complete stop. Tailgating increases the risk of the truck rear-ending the car in front. A truck driver must maintain a safe distance from the vehicles in front of them to prevent these collisions. When a truck crashes into the back of a passenger vehicle, the collision is often fatal for the occupants.
A truck driver has to switch lanes safely and prudently. A driver should only change lanes when it is safe to do so. Truck drivers must also signal to inform other drivers of their intention to change lanes. They must also wait until the lane is clear. Truck drivers often face a challenge determining whether the lane is clear due to the no zones or the significant blind spots. While changing lanes, a truck driver must keep this fact in mind and be extremely careful.
One of the most common road safety rule violations by truck drivers is running the red light. It is illegal for a truck driver to run the red light or roll through a stop sign. By running the red light, a truck driver puts the lives of other road users in danger, and this might render the driver liable if a truck accident occurs.
2. The Courier or Trucking Company
The courier or trucking company could be liable for the mistakes committed by the truck driver, who is their employee. The trucking company could be responsible if the driver's errors were unintentional and were committed within the scope of employment. For the trucking company to be liable, it should be evident that the driver, not an independent contractor but an employee. The courier is not responsible for the wrongful acts conducted by an independent contractor. A truck driver could be:
- An employee of an independent agency that leases drivers to the trucking company
- An employee of the trucking company
- An independent contractor working directly for the trucking company
- A self-employed driver operating a truck they own
The company that employs the truck driver might be at fault even if the accident was due to driver error. Driver error is the leading cause of truck accidents in Nevada. In most cases, a driver error occurs because a driver has been on the road too long without sleep or taking enough rest. The trucking company could be liable for making a driver work too long without a rest.
The trucking company also has a role in ensuring that they employ well-trained and qualified drivers. The company must be accountable in its hiring and training practices. The company could be liable if they hire a driver who has infractions on their records. The courier could also be responsible if the company records indicate that the driver did not undergo ample training. It is common for trucking companies to rush employees and fail to train them properly to save money.
The trucking company has to ensure that the truck is safe and operating the way it should. A truck accident might occur when the brakes are faulty or mechanical issues like power steering problems. A trucking company would not be liable if the truck underwent all the necessary routine inspections and maintenance.
The company will be liable if a truck accident occurs due to a mechanical issue that the company should have known about. The truck company will only be responsible if the driver was acting within the scope of employment at the time of the accident. It can be challenging to determine whether the driver was acting within the scope of work. The court will evaluate the following factors:
- The driver's intent at the time of the accident
- The nature, time, and place of the accident
- The type of work the truck driver was hired to do
- Incidental acts that the trucking company would reasonably expect the driver to do
- The amount of freedom allowed to the driver while doing his or her work
- The amount of time the driver spent in personal activities
The trucking company could be liable if the driver rear-ends another vehicle while rushing to make a delivery since the driver is acting within the scope of employment. However, if the truck driver leaves work early to attend a soccer game and hits another vehicle outside the stadium, the trucking company will not be liable because the driver was not acting within the scope of employment.
The trucking company will not be liable if the driver causes an accident while engaging in intentional torts. Intentional torts may include acts like battery, assault, and kidnapping. As long as the driver's actions at the time of the accident are not related to the business enterprise, the trucking company is not liable.
3. Truck Manufacturer
Some truck accidents occur due to a defect in the design or manufacture of the truck or its components. If a truck accident occurs due to a defective truck or a defective part, the manufacturer might be liable. For heavy trucks, even a slim design or manufacture defect could cause a severe accident. The manufacturer could be responsible if a defective part caused the truck accident. If the trucking company was aware of the truck defect but ignored it, they could also be liable. You may pursue a product liability claim when a defective truck or a piece of equipment causes an injury. A product liability claim may fall under three categories:
- Design defects
- Manufacturing defects
- Marketing defects
While proving that an accident occurred due to a defective truck, your attorney may have to involve experts like performance specialists, vehicle engineers, and accident reconstruction experts. These experts will help to determine why and how the crash occurred. Through thorough analysis, your attorney, together with experts, will prove the accident happened due to a defect in manufacturing or design on the truck.
In some instances, a truck manufacturer may issue a mass recall of trucks known to have defective parts. If you suffer injuries in a truck accident that was involved in a recall, you will have reasonable grounds for filing a product liability lawsuit against the truck manufacturer. When they issue a recall, truck manufacturers have a responsibility to alert their customers, in this case, the trucking companies.
4. Truck Maintenance Company
Like any other vehicle, a truck's tires, brakes, and other parts may wear and fail without proper maintenance. The trucking company has a responsibility to inspect the trucks frequently and adequately. The truck maintenance contractor could be liable for the truck accident if they failed to notice a defect that they should reasonably have seen and a truck accident occurs as a result. The truck parts that are prone to damage include:
- Fuel systems — Poorly repaired fuel systems could lead to leaks, which might cause complications like fire.
- Suspension — The truck driver may lose control of the truck mainly while braking if a component of the truck's suspension fails
- Lights and reflectors — Dim lights could affect a driver's range of vision, making it challenging for other drivers to see the truck.
- Tires — Worn-out truck tires could affect the driver's braking capability. Worn-out tires are more prone to failure and tread separation.
- Brakes — Trucks usually have air brake systems that are suited for stopping such massive and heavy vehicles. Brakes might weaken and fail without regular maintenance. A catastrophic crash is likely, especially at high speeds, if the truck maintenance contractors fail to identify and repair a braking problem.
- Wipers and Windscreens — Ineffective wipers or cracked windscreens could lead to low visibility making the truck driver cause a crash.
A company responsible for conducting truck inspections could be liable it fails to inspect the truck properly and an accident occurs. Some truck parts might malfunction due to faulty maintenance. In this case, the maintenance contractor could be liable.
5. The Cargo Owner or Loader
Cargo owners, loaders, and distributors have a legal duty to ensure that dangerous materials are loaded safely into the truck and handled properly. The cargo owner or distributor could be liable if the cargo causes a truck accident. The cargo manufacturer will be responsible if a defect in the cargo causes the accident.
The cargo loader will be liable if they fail to inspect the cargo and ensure that it is well loaded and an accident occurs. There are several requirements regarding how a truck should be loaded. Factors that need to be considered while loading a truck include the truck's size and weight and goods being transported. A truck accident is likely to occur if the load is not balanced or secured properly. A load might be too heavy for a truck, making the truck unstable. A truck's load affects the truck driver's ability to stop the truck; it could increase the rollover risk.
Many trucks in Nevada often haul hazardous materials. Below are some of the dangerous materials that could be dangerous in a truck accident:
- Fuel including diesel, gasoline, kerosene, and propane
- Fuel-powered equipment
- Items that contain mercury
- Dry ice
- Refrigerant gases, including carbon dioxide and liquid nitrogen
- Consumer electronics with lithium batteries
- Oxygen tanks
- Ammonium nitrate fertilizers and fertilizer compounds
A hazardous load on a truck might cause a fire that consumes the neighboring vehicles. Some cargos might also release dangerous vapors into the air. These vapors could be dangerous if inhaled. If the shipper fails to load the cargo according to the recommended regulations and suffers injuries, the liability could be on the shipper or the cargo company. The trucking company might also be liable for improperly loaded cargo.
6. Government Entities
Government agencies and contractors could be liable for a truck accident if the accident occurs due to roadway hazards like broken pavement or soft shoulder. The state or the local government responsible for maintaining that stretch of the highway could be liable for the accident. In some instances, the government may hire a contractor to maintain the roadways, only for the maintainer to do a faulty job. In this case, the negligent maintenance contractor hired by the government could be liable for the accident.
In some instances, roads are designed without the large trucks in mind. For example, the lanes might be too narrow, and the overpasses might be too low. Truck accidents could also occur due to temporary road design flaws. While performing roadwork, the agency in charge of the roadwork may fail to set lanes wide enough for the tractor-trailers to pass through. You may have grounds to file a claim against the responsible government entity if the accident occurs due to a road design flaw.
The government or a government entity could be liable in a truck accident if the truck involved in the accident belonged to the government. Different government entities in Nevada operate all kinds of trucks, and these trucks can cause accidents.
If you are involved in a truck accident, and you intend to bring a lawsuit against the government, it is crucial to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. In the state of Nevada, the statute of limitations for lawsuits filed against the government is shorter than for the cases filed against private entities.
7. Other Vehicles and Road Users
Drivers of passenger vehicles need to give trucks plenty of room. Due to its size and the heavy loads, a truck will not stop instantly in case of an emergency. It takes a much longer distance for a truck to stop than a regular vehicle. A passenger vehicle driver could be liable in a truck accident if they cut a truck off and fail to give enough room, causing an accident. Other vehicle drivers must be aware that trucks have blind spots. It is advisable not to drive in the blind spot where the truck driver will not notice them.
Other road users like pedestrians and cyclists could also cause truck accidents.
For you to file a lawsuit against the liable party in a truck accident, you have to prove three crucial factors:
- The liable party owed you a duty of care
- The party failed to honor its duty of care
- You suffered injuries due to the liable party's failure to honor their duty of care.
In a truck accident, the liable parties aren't always willing to accept fault. You will need the legal representation of a competent attorney to help you prove liability. If the investigation reveals that several parties caused the accident, you may be able to maximize your compensation by filing multiple claims.
Find a Truck Accident Attorney Near Me
If you or your loved one is involved in a truck accident, determining the liable party can be challenging. It is crucial to identify all the responsible parties to recover the compensation you are entitled to. The attorneys at Dallas Horton & Associates have the necessary skills and resources to investigate a truck accident and bring a solid claim against all the liable parties. Contact us today for reliable legal representation in Las Vegas, Nevada. Contact us at 702-380-3100 and speak to one of our attorneys.