Are Truck Drivers Responsible for Damages?

Semi-truck accidents can be devastating. Every year, thousands of victims lose their lives in a large truck accident. Hundreds of thousands more are left with mental and physical injuries that can significantly impact their lives. Not to mention, victims are often left tackling the emotional trauma and mounting medical bills that usually follow a large truck accident. Injury Facts reports that in 2021, roughly 5,700 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes, while 117,300 were involved in collisions that resulted in injury.

A semi truck that has jackknifed

If you were the victim of a large truck accident in or around Tampa, Florida, you are more than just a statistic. You are a victim who is entitled to the compensation you deserve for the pain and suffering you’ve endured. At Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, our team is committed to representing victims just like you. Our team of attorneys, investigators, and paralegals will work diligently to help you hold the parties that have caused your injuries responsible. Often, this includes the driver of the large truck. 

To learn more about your legal rights and options and whether you can hold a truck driver responsible for your losses, contact our team to schedule a free case consultation.

Establishing liability after an accident with a commercial truck 

When filing a personal injury lawsuit, truck drivers are often named as defendants along with their employer and other liable third parties. However, you’ll have to establish liability before taking any legal action against a defendant.

Establishing liability against a commercial truck driver requires evidence proving their actions are what led to your injury. When you establish liability, you’ll also be able to narrow down if it’s just the truck driver you can hold responsible or if there are additional defendants you can sue. Below are some of the most common ways to establish liability.

Evidence from the on-scene investigation

Immediately after a semi-truck accident, an investigation will take place by responding law enforcement officers. These officers play a pivotal role in gathering crucial evidence. This evidence includes assessing and documenting the scene, interviewing witnesses, taking statements, determining the sequence of events, and other critical pieces of evidence. 

An experienced personal injury attorney will get a copy of this documentation, usually through a crash report. An attorney may also decide to bring in experts who can do things like recreate the accident to gather more information. 

Inspection of involved vehicles

The vehicles involved in the accident will also undergo a thorough inspection. This inspection can help identify mechanical failures, defects, or maintenance issues that may have contributed to the collision. An inspection can also help narrow down liability by determining if the maintenance company that services the truck could be to blame. 

Witness statement or surveillance video

Eyewitness accounts and surveillance footage are valuable when establishing liability. They offer a first-hand account of what happened before, during, and after an accident. These pieces of evidence can be instrumental in establishing liability and corroborating or contesting the statements of those involved.

The discovery process

As part of the discovery process, both party’s legal teams are required to share information about the case. This allows both sides to be aware of relevant evidence, and the process as a whole is critical for establishing liability. 

Establishing negligence

Establishing negligence goes hand in hand with liability. In legal terms, negligence is when a defendant fails to exercise the appropriate actions in a situation and, as a result, their actions (or lack thereof) cause harm. Negligence includes four elements, and each element must be present for a victim to have a strong case.

Duty of care

All drivers, including truck drivers, owe a duty of care to others on the road. This duty includes adhering to traffic laws, maintaining their vehicles, and exercising caution to prevent accidents.

Breach of duty

Negligence occurs when there is a breach of the duty of care. This breach could involve a driver failing to obey traffic laws, driving distracted or drunk, and failing to maintain the truck properly. Establishing a breach of care is a critical element in proving negligence.

Causation

The legal concept of causation refers to the link between a defendant’s breach of care and the actual harm suffered by the victim. Essentially, causation establishes that the defendant’s negligent actions directly caused the accident and the victim’s injuries.

Damages

The final element of negligence is damages. A victim must show that they suffered measurable damages. This can include any physical injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. 

Who can be held liable in a truck accident?

An accident involving a commercial truck means there are likely several parties that can be held responsible for the injuries you’ve sustained. Often, the following are named as defendants in a commercial large truck accident. 

Cargo management companies

These companies are responsible for loading and securing cargo onto trucks. If freight is improperly loaded, the cargo company may be held liable for any accident that occurs because of the improperly secured load. The most common safety issue with loading is cargo that is not properly strapped. This can destabilize the truck, leading to loss of control and even collisions.

Manufacturer of the vehicle and maintenance company

There may be a safety issue with the truck itself, and the truck manufacturer could be held liable for an accident that occurs as a result. 

The maintenance company that services the truck could also be held responsible for any mechanical failures, recalls that have gone unaddressed, and other safety issues with the vehicle. 

The driver’s employer

A truck driver’s employer can be held liable for their employee’s actions, especially if an accident happens while the driver is operating within the scope of their job duties. Even if a driver is classified as an independent contractor, the employer can still be held liable. 

The driver

Finally, the driver can be held liable for their actions. Liability can exist when a driver is operating within the scope of their employment as well as outside of the scope of employment. 

When operating within the scope of their employment, the liability can be spread out among the truck driver, their employer, and additional liable parties. When a driver is operating outside the scope of their employment, they can be held personally liable. 

For example, if a driver is using their commercial vehicle for personal use without the prior authorization of the employer, the employer could avoid liability.

Intentional acts

Personal liability can also extend to events where a driver acts intentionally. This is an action a driver engages in that deliberately causes an accident. This can include road rage, intentional violation of traffic laws, and other intentional misconduct. 

Contact the truck accident attorneys at Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys

The focus is on a gavel with the scales of justice blurred in the background.

If you have been injured in an accident with a commercial truck, turn to the team at Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys. When you schedule a free case consultation with our team, one of our attorneys will offer an initial assessment of your case. This includes an understanding of your accident, the injuries you sustained, and a determination of the overall strength of your case. 

Determining liability and negligence is complex in any personal injury case. At Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, we specialize in navigating these complexities, especially regarding truck accidents. Our team is here to help you establish liability and pursue the compensation you need to rebuild your life. 

You don’t have to bear the burden alone — call Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, today for the advocacy and support you deserve.

Sources: 

FLA. STAT. § 768.81.

Large Trucks – Injury Facts. (2021).

Traffic Crash Reports. (2023).