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Who is Responsible for an 18 Wheeler Wreck?

Each person or entity who has a role in a truck crash depends on the specific facts of each accident. While each crash is unique, after investigation, who can be held legally responsible for causing a crash can be predictably determined.

The following may have responsibility in an 18 wheeler accident:

  • The driver
  • The motor carrier, (Trucking Company)
  • The maintenance providers
  • The owner of the tractor or trailer
  • Persons or entities that load the rig
  • Manufacturer of the tractor or trailer
  • Manufacturer of parts such as tires
  • Other motorists involved in the crash

Early Investigation is Helpful to Identify Responsible Parties

The importance of an early investigation of a serious injury or wrongful death truck crash cannot be overstated. Only after conducting an investigation can an experienced attorney have a game plan for moving forward on the case. Not only can an early investigation help in identifying potentially responsible parties but it can also uncover facts that make liability much clearer for some of the parties.

While exemplary damages or punitive damages are the exceptions rather than the rule in trucking accident litigation, many times the black box data or the condition of the tractor or trailer itself can lead to the potential of making a credible punitive damage claim.

Insurance companies for trucking companies have become very sophisticated in their defense of these commercial cases. One of the strategies that have been increasingly employed is the company tries to put the tractor-trailer back in service as quickly as possible thus precluding the injured person or their family from collecting necessary information regarding the truck. If the tractor or trailer had bad brakes, or other deficiencies only an inspection can reveal that condition.

The Trucking Company May Have Responsibility for its Driver Even If He Is Not an Employee

Under general legal principles the trucking company as legal responsibility for its driver who was on the job and in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the crash. Additionally, the trucking company (Motor Carrier), has an independent responsibility to implement safety policies by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

If the Driver Leases the Rig from the Company.

Section 376.12 FMCSR makes clear that the company must retain exclusive possession, use and control of the truck, making the “Motor Carrier”  liable for the damages caused by the operation of the big rig.

Statutory Employee

Trucking Companies have been held to be “statutory employers” and responsibly for the negligence of the driver even though the company does not own the rig, and does not technically employ the driver if the driver operates under an arrangement with the company which is subject to the FMCSA as an interstate carrier.

The Morris Case

In Morris v. JTM Materials, Inc., 78 SW3rd (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2002, pet. filed), the court found an Interstate Motor Carrier has vicarious liability as a matter of law for the driver’s negligence as provided by the FMCSR.

Contact an Experienced Trucking Accident Attorney

The first step after an accident where you have been injured by an 18 wheeler is to research and contact the best 18 wheeler accident attorney you can find. It is important that you select an attorney who has the time to devote to your case and the experience necessary to achieve the best possible results. You do not want your case handled by a paralegal or by an inexperienced associate attorney.

Contact us for a free no obligation consultation regarding your rights and options after being injured by an 18 wheeler.

(281) 893-0760

About Greg Baumgartner

Truck accident lawyer Greg Baumgartner
Greg Baumgartner is a preeminent rated personal injury lawyer based in Houston, Texas, with over three decades of experience representing severely injured clients in truck accidents. He founded Baumgartner Law Firm, in 1985, with a mission to provide excellent legal representation and personalized attention to every client.