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Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Tractor-Trailer Accident?

Posted On 10/15/20 by Begam Marks & Traulson, PA

Who is liable is a tricky question to answer after any type of motor vehicle wreck. Since Arizona is a fault state, it is necessary to determine liability before you can recover compensation for a car accident. If your crash involved a tractor-trailer, it can be even more difficult to understand fault. Unlike a typical accident that only involves two drivers, a tractor-trailer accident can also involve the vicarious liability of the trucking company and other third parties.

The Truck Driver

Technically, most truck drivers are independent contractors and therefore self-employed. This means they must carry their own truck accident liability insurance to pay for damages should they cause accidents. If a truck driver is guilty of causing an accident in Arizona, his or her own insurance may pay for the damages. Common trucker-related causes of truck accidents include distracted driving, driving while fatigued, speeding, tailgating, failing to yield the right-of-way and making unsafe lane changes.

The Motor Carrier

Despite recognizing its drivers as independent contractors, many trucking companies or motor carriers will be vicariously responsible for the actions of their drivers based on federal law. This law states that motor carriers will be legally and financially responsible for most accidents that involve their trucks and drivers, even if the drivers are self-employed and the trucks are leased from other owners. If this law applies to your tractor-trailer accident, you may be able to hold the motor carrier responsible for a driver’s negligence. This could result in greater compensation for your damages.

The motor carrier may also be liable for the accident if it was directly responsible for causing the crash. For example, if the motor carrier was guilty of hiring a driver with a bad driving record or pushing an untrained driver out onto the road too soon, the company could be directly responsible for subsequent accidents. Other examples of negligence that could point to motor carrier liability are lack of fleet maintenance, poor cargo loading and securement procedures, and failing to conduct driver drug and alcohol tests.

Cargo Loading Company

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has many requirements in terms of cargo loading, securement and inspection. The team in charge of loading cargo onto the trucks must follow these rules exactly. The company must load the cargo properly according to the type and size of the load. The securement methods used must match what federal law requires.

If the company is loading hazardous materials, this type of cargo comes with its own set of rules. If a cargo company fails to distribute the weight evenly, fails to secure the load well enough or fails to inspect the load regularly, disasters such as lost cargo loads can occur in transit. Should this happen, the cargo loading company would be responsible for related collisions and injuries.

Truck Owner or Manufacturer

If a tractor-trailer crashes due to a part breakdown or malfunction, the manufacturer of the truck or the truck’s owner may be liable. The manufacturer could bear fault if it created a defective or dangerous truck part that malfunctioned while on the road, such as bad tires or brakes. The owner could be liable if he or she did not properly maintain and inspect the truck before the trip.

Surrounding Drivers

If your tractor-trailer accident in Arizona involved third-party drivers, meaning drivers of other passenger cars around you, one of the drivers might be responsible for causing your crash. If another driver was texting while driving, for example, and forces a large truck to swerve out of the way and strike you, the driver guilty of texting could be responsible for your damages.

Determining liability for a tractor-trailer accident in Arizona can be difficult. The best way to make sure you identify the correct at-fault party is by hiring a truck accident lawyer. A lawyer can identify all responsible parties and bring a claim to damages on your behalf.