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Determining liability in a truck accident

On Behalf of | Mar 4, 2022 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

The trucking industry is an essential service to the American economy, and so truck operators have a stressful job that requires long hours driving thousands of miles to haul goods across the country. Truck drivers must have special skills that allow them to maneuver their extremely heavy and unwieldly vehicles, usually at high speeds.

Their work, unfortunately, carries daily risks both to them and to other drivers who share the road with them in Montana and elsewhere. When accidents happen, catastrophic injury or death is often the result, especially to the occupants of smaller vehicles.

Residents of Missoula who have suffered injuries because of a serious truck accident should know where to turn to discover the best strategy for filing a claim if the other driver was negligent. Complex cases involve third-party liability claims if there was vehicle malfunction or another contributing cause of the accident.

Catastrophic injury and damage after a truck accident

The tremendous size differential between a fully loaded 18-wheeler and a passenger car makes a high-speed collision catastrophic for the smaller vehicle occupants. The impact may not only crush the car, but there is also a risk that the vehicle will slide under the undercarriage of the truck. The massive trauma to the victims may be even more severe due to secondary injuries if the truck was carrying cargo that ignites or releases toxic chemicals on impact.

It can be challenging to determine the full extent of liability after the accident, as there may have been failures along the supply and maintenance chain that have contributed to the accident. Because the extent of damages is so great in truck accidents, multiple parties may be responsible for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operations:

  • Motor carriers
  • Freight forwarders
  • Hazmat safety permit carriers

These entities must have permits and carry public liability insurance for bodily damage, property damage and environmental restoration from $750,000 to $5 million, depending on the commodities carried.

Investigating the causes of the accident

Accident reconstruction is key to determining liability after a catastrophic accident involving a CMV. Not only will important information surface because of the police report, but an independent investigation will determine road conditions, witness testimony, evidence such as skid marks or broken glass, as well as driver logs and dashcam video to determine cause. Not only may the driver be found negligent, but also other parties such as:

  • The trucking company for regular maintenance lapses.
  • Equipment manufacturers for equipment failures.
  • Cargo loaders for improper weight distribution.

If the driver violated federal regulations regarding break or off-duty hours, checking their logbook entries or hotel receipts can reveal discrepancies that can also point to liability.

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