To answer the question in the title above, yes, you may be able to collect damages if the truck that injured you was not properly maintained by the trucking company. To explain why, we first need to cover some basic information.
Why large trucks are so dangerous
Large trucks are more dangerous than smaller vehicles in any collision. This is just a matter of physics. A fully-loaded semi-truck can weigh more than 80,000 pounds, while a typical passenger car weighs just over 4,000 pounds. When the two collide, the results will be devastating for the occupants of the smaller vehicle, even in an accident where the truck driver doesn’t suffer a scratch.
Given this danger, professional truck drivers are trained to drive their vehicles carefully. They are generally more careful than anyone else on the road. Still, accidents happen. Trucking companies are under a lot of pressure to deliver goods quickly, and sometimes they cut corners in their quest to be the fastest and the least expensive option in a competitive market.
According to the National Safety Council, a nonprofit group, only 4% of all registered vehicles in the United States are large trucks, but they account for 10% of all vehicle miles traveled and 9% of all vehicles involved in fatal accidents.
After a truck accident, other drivers may suffer serious injuries, with enormous medical expenses. They may never be able to walk or work again. After a fatal accident, the victim’s family is left without their income, emotional support and more. The law refers to these losses as damages and gives the injured and their families an opportunity to recover compensation through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
Negligence and liability
Most lawsuits based on motor vehicle accidents are based on the legal theory of negligence. To put it simply, in these cases, a driver who causes an accident through carelessness can be held liable for the damages suffered by the people they hurt.
The same theory can apply to a commercial truck accident if a commercial truck driver caused an accident through negligence — for example, by texting while driving. However, there are other parties that may be liable, as well.
If the truck driver was working at the time of the accident, their employer may also be held liable through vicarious liability. Generally, employers can be held liable after the negligence of their employees causes injury and damage to a third party.
What if the truck driver wasn’t negligent?
Here’s where the issue of maintenance comes in. What if it turns out the truck driver didn’t cause the accident through negligence?
Imagine a case where a truck driver does everything properly, but the brakes on his truck fail, and he crashes into a car. The car driver is badly injured and suffers tremendous damages. To pursue compensation, the injured party wants to file a lawsuit against the truck driver and the truck driver’s employer, but if the driver was not negligent, then how will the injured person win the lawsuit?
In such a case, it’s possible that the injured party can show that the brakes failed because the trucking company failed to properly maintain them. This would be negligence on the part of the trucking company. It may also violate state and federal regulations.
The legal issues in truck accident cases can be quite complicated. An experienced attorney can help the injured and their families to examine their legal options after a terrible accident.