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Understanding the Five Potentially Liable Parties in a Semi-Truck Accident

Photo of the semi-truck accident in August on Interstate 41 near Menasha where a truck hauling a wind turbine collided with the side wall barrier

Approximately 500,000 semi-truck accidents occur annually across the United States. But who is responsible for the victims’ damages in these accidents? This is the question in any personal injury case, but it is an especially important question when it comes to potentially liable parties in a semi-truck accident.

When cases involving truck accidents are brought to attorneys, they are referring to vehicle collisions involving semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles that haul cargo. This kind of trucking accident receives a lot of attention because oftentimes the results of an accident tend to be more catastrophic.

Recently, a semi crash occurred on southbound I-41 north of County Trunk Highway II in Menasha. Following an investigation, the cause of the accident was determined to be mechanical issues. Luckily, only one person was injured in this incident.

Oftentimes, more than one party is liable in a truck accident, and the next challenge is how to prove which parties are responsible.

In most cases, there are five potentially liable parties in a truck accident. To raise awareness around truck accident liability, DiRenzo & Bomier has curated a list of potentially liable parties and how they may be held responsible.

1. The truck driver

Photo of a person holding a steering wheel

The truck driver may be the most obvious liable party in a truck accident. Some of the most common reasons a truck driver may be liable in a truck accident include failure to anticipate upcoming hazards in the road, violating traffic laws, substance abuse and driver fatigue.

Failure to anticipate upcoming hazards in the road

As with any driver, truck drivers are responsible for anticipating upcoming hazards in the road. It takes attentive and careful driving to anticipate these hazards, from changes in traffic patterns to changes in road conditions.

If it can be proven that the truck driver was distracted and unprepared to anticipate upcoming hazards, they may be held responsible in a truck accident.

Violating traffic laws

Like other drivers, truck drivers are expected to follow all Wisconsin traffic laws. If it is believed that a truck driver was driving recklessly or failed to follow traffic rules, the “black box” on the vehicle can be examined to determine factors that contributed to the accident, including speed.

Substance abuse

In addition to being monitored by police officers on the road, truck drivers are heavily monitored for drug and alcohol use by their company while they are operating a vehicle. Before a truck driver is hired, there is heavy vetting of drug and alcohol records, and throughout a driver's career, random tests are performed.

If an accident occurs, attorneys may use the driver’s drug and alcohol records as well as a test that is performed after the accident to potentially hold the driver accountable.

Driver fatigue

In order to avoid accidents resulting from driver fatigue, there are strict rules in place on the number of hours a driver may operate a vehicle on a given day. In order to monitor these hours, trucking companies must keep specific records documenting hours operating a vehicle.

If these logs are not kept or show that drivers are working greater than the number of legal hours, both the driver and the trucking company may be liable for an accident.

2. The truck companies

Photo of a truck that has crashed into a guardrail

As stated, if a truck company’s drivers are not abiding by the proper rest periods, the company may be held liable. Other situations that may result in truck company liability include failure to properly train drivers or hiring an unqualified driver or a driver with a poor record.

When a truck company may be liable for an accident, an attorney will also investigate who owns the truck and if the proper care and maintenance was performed on the vehicle.

3. Loading companies

Photo of forklifts loading materials into semi tractor trailers

If the proper care and maintenance was performed on the vehicle, another factor that could result in an accident is if the loading of the truck was not performed properly. Cargo must be properly sealed, strapped and evenly distributed in order to avoid cargo tipping or falling off the truck.

If cargo falling off a truck results in an accident, the loading company may be held responsible for not following proper procedures. Attorneys will be able to gain information about the loading company involved from the truck company.

4. Defective equipment manufacturers

Photo of brakes with a mechanic's tools nearby

Trucks must regularly be inspected and maintained by the company who owns the trucks, but even if these steps are taken, there can sometimes be defective equipment involved.

Defective equipment may include things like brake failure, tire blowout, defective vehicle lighting, transmission failure or defective steering. If inspections were not conducted, the truck company is liable for a resulting accident. However, if proper inspections occurred, the manufacturer is liable for defective equipment that results in an accident.

5. Other drivers

Photo of a roadway filled with vehicles, including semi trucks

If another driver caused a truck to be involved in an accident, that driver may be liable. For example, if a driver cuts off a truck driver and forces them to swerve, the other driver would be responsible if there is a resulting crash.

Accidents caused by other drivers can be difficult to prove, so a variety of evidence is used in this case. Security camera footage and witness statements are key pieces of evidence in these scenarios.

Involved in a truck accident?

If you or a loved one have been involved in a truck accident, Di Renzo & Bomier offers a free, no obligation consultation to discuss your case. Call (800) 725-8464 or fill out our online form to schedule an appointment.

We represent accident victims from Neenah, Appleton, Green Bay and across Northeast Wisconsin.

The content of this blog was prepared by Law Offices of DiRenzo & Bomier, LLC for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to solicit business or provide legal advice. Laws differ by jurisdiction, and the information in this blog may not apply to you. You should seek the assistance of an attorney licensed to practice in your state before taking any action. Using this blog site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Law Offices of DiRenzo & Bomier, LLC.

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