Commercial trucks carry goods and products to every city and town in the U.S. Trucks are vital to our economy, but big trucks also pose genuine dangers to others. If you’re injured in a crash with a large commercial truck, contact a Little Rock truck accident attorney at once.
A “truck accident” is usually defined as a collision involving a trailer (weighing at least 10,000 pounds) that collides into another vehicle or into a pedestrian. A total of 3,087 people died in U.S. truck and bus accidents in 2019, according to the federal Department of Transportation.
Trucking in this nation is governed by a confusing combination of state, local, and federal regulations. A truck driver’s hours, the weight that trucks may carry, and the training required for drivers are among the matters regulated by local, state, and federal law.
Hurt in a Truck Accident? What Steps Should You Take?
If you’ve been injured in a collision with a truck in the Little Rock area, what steps should you take? Can you obtain compensation for your medical bills? Will you need a lawyer’s help? Who may be held accountable for a truck accident? That is, who may be liable for damages?
Keep reading, and you’ll learn the answers to these questions. You will also find out more about the rights of truck accident victims in Arkansas.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Truck Accidents?
When an accident involves a large truck, even if the truck’s driver was “at-fault,” it may be tough to determine who has liability for damages. That’s one reason why you must contact a Little Rock truck accident lawyer immediately after an accident with a large commercial truck.
How is liability determined after a truck collision? Can a trucking company – or another party – have liability for a driver’s negligence? One of your accident attorney’s first steps will be determining which parties have liability for the collision and your personal injury or injuries.
Under the legal principle known as “respondeat superior” (Latin for “let the master answer”), employers may be liable for the negligence of an employee, provided that such negligence wasn’t intentional and occurred in the “course and scope” of an employee’s work duties.
When Does “Respondeat Superior” Apply?
Respondeat superior is “vicarious” liability. In other words, it shifts liability to a negligent party’s employer. Whether the principle applies to a particular truck collision depends on how these questions are answered:
- Was the driver a contractor or the employee of a trucking business?
- Did the negligence, accident, and injury take place in the scope and course of the truck driver’s employment duties?
- Was negligence intentional or unintentional?
While trucking companies may be deemed liable for employee negligence, they have no liability for negligent independent contractors. If the driver works as an independent contractor, the respondeat superior principle does not apply, so the company will likely not have liability.
If a truck driver owns his or her own truck, purchases his or her own accident insurance, does not have taxes withheld, and earns no other benefits, that driver is probably a contractor.
What Are a Truck Driver’s Duties?
Even when a driver is a trucking company employee rather than a contractor, respondeat superior only applies to negligence that occurs within the scope and course of a driver’s employment duties. Defining those duties can be complicated. These factors must be considered:
- the driver’s job description
- the time, place, and nature of the driver’s negligence
- the amount of freedom and discretion a driver has over his or her job duties
- the truck driver’s intentions at the time the negligence took place
If a truck driver who is making deliveries collides with your vehicle, the employer will likely be held liable since the truck driver acted as an employee in the course and scope of his or her employment duties.
But should the same driver leave work, take the employer’s truck, drive to a store, and crash into your vehicle on the way, an employer probably has no liability since the driver was not acting within the course and scope of his or her job duties.
Trucking companies may incur liability for accidents but not, in most cases, for a driver’s intentional negligence or criminal behavior. If a driver intentionally collides with a particular car or truck – in a road rage incident or hate crime – the employer does not have liability.
Can More Than One Party Have Liability for a Truck Accident?
Often, multiple defendants may have liability in a personal injury action arising from a trucking accident. Contractors, subcontractors, and leasing companies are important parts of the U.S. trucking industry. A party other than a driver may be liable for a truck collision if:
- The truck wasn’t loaded or maintained properly.
- The truck or a truck part was defective, and that defect caused the accident.
- The road where the crash occurred was constructed or maintained negligently.
How Will an Accident Attorney Help You?
If you’re injured in a truck crash, an Arkansas truck accident attorney will find every potential compensation source, hold negligent parties accountable, and aggressively seek the compensation and justice that injury victims need, deserve, and are entitled to by law.
If the truck’s tires or brakes were defective, if cargo was not properly loaded, or if the maintenance on the truck was conducted improperly or neglected entirely, more than one defendant may share liability for the collision and injuries.
Cases with more than a single defendant can be difficult to settle out-of-court since defendants may not agree regarding shares of liability. Some truck accident injury victims reach a settlement with a single defendant while continuing to pursue a lawsuit against others.
When Should You Reach Out to a Truck Accident Attorney?
If you suffer a personal injury in a truck crash here in Arkansas, don’t put your signature on any insurance papers or make a formal statement to any insurance company prior to consulting a truck accident attorney.
The statute of limitations in Arkansas gives the victims of negligence three years to take legal action, but you cannot wait three years – or even three weeks. Over time, evidence deteriorates and memories fade. The sooner you act, the more likely it is that your injury claim will prevail.
If you’re injured in a truck collision in the greater Little Rock area – or anywhere in Arkansas – arrange at once to meet with a Little Rock truck accident attorney who will provide the advice you need, fight for justice on your behalf, and bring your case to its best possible resolution.