Following a truck accident in South Carolina, it is common for the victims to be unsure of who they can and should sue. Several parties may be liable to pay damages in a truck accident.
An experienced trucking accident attorney at the Lovely Law Firm can help to identify all of the parties that contributed to the accident to make certain that the correct parties are named as defendants.
Who is liable in a truck accident?
Determining liability in a truck accident is a primary concern for people who are injured and the families of those who are killed. Identifying all of the potentially liable parties that should be named as defendants is important to ensure that the victims will be able to recover all of the compensation to which they should be entitled.
Multiple parties may be responsible for causing a truck accident. Some of the potentially liable parties might include the following:
- Truck driver
- Truck driver’s employer
- Leasing company that owns the truck
- Party responsible for maintenance and repair of the truck
- Manufacturer of a defective truck component
- Cargo loader
- Entities responsible for maintaining the roads
Truck drivers may work as independent contractors or as drivers who are employed by trucking companies. When a driver is negligent while operating the truck during the scope and course of his or her job, the trucking carrier that employs the driver may be vicariously liable to pay damages under a legal theory called respondeat superior. This is a Latin phrase that means that the master should answer for the servant. In the legal context, it means that employers are responsible for their employees’ negligent acts while they are on duty because the employers derive economic benefits from their work.
When the drivers are independent contractors, the trucking companies for which they are driving may not be vicariously liable since the drivers are not employees.
However, courts use tests to determine whether drivers should be considered to be employees or independent contractors for purposes of liability. If the company controls how the driver performs his or her work, the company may still be vicariously liable. If not, the driver may be solely liable to pay damages.
Drivers may be liable for causing truck accidents in multiple ways. For example, a driver might cause an accident because of distracted driving, drowsy driving, inattentive driving, drunk driving, speeding, traffic violations, and other problems. An experienced lawyer can examine the evidence to determine whether the driver engaged in negligent conduct that resulted in the accident.
Trucking companies may be directly liable for truck accidents. For example, if a company negligently hires, retains, or supervises a driver, the company may be directly liable to pay damages in an accident. Direct liability in these types of cases can extend to companies that negligently contract with independent contractors that they knew or should have known were unfit to drive.
For example, if a company contracted an independent contractor to transport a load who had multiple DUI convictions in his or her past, the company may be liable for negligently retaining the driver to perform the work.
In some cases, trucking companies may not own the trucks and instead might lease them from a different company. A leasing company that owns the trucks may be liable if it fails to inspect, repair, and maintain the truck, and the failure to do so results in an accident.
For example, if the truck’s owner fails to check the brakes and brake fluid, and an accident is caused when the truck’s brakes fail, the company that owns the truck may be liable. Similarly, if a trucking company contracts with a third-party mechanic, the mechanic may be liable if the third party negligently repairs the truck.
Some truck accidents are caused because of the cargo and how it was loaded or secured. Improperly loaded cargo can shift during transport, causing the driver to lose control or the truck to tip over or jackknife. Cargo that is improperly secured may fall off of the truck into traffic, causing accidents. In these types of cases, the cargo loaders may be liable to pay damages in an accident.
Some truck accidents are caused by defective truck parts. For example, if a truck has defective brakes that fail because of the defect, the manufacturer of the defective brakes or the failed component may be liable to pay damages.
Finally, some accidents are partially caused by defects in the roads such as asphalt that has crumbled away, large potholes, poorly designed curves, and other problems.
In these situations, the entities that are responsible for maintaining the roads or those who are responsible for the poor design might be liable to pay damages in an accident.
What happens if you fail to name a liable party?
If you fail to name one of the liable parties in a lawsuit, you will not be able to recover the damages that are allocated to the unnamed party. Under S.C. Code Ann. § 15-38-15, a defendant that is deemed to be less than 50% at fault is responsible for only its pro-rata share of the damages.
Juries determine the percentage of liability held by each defendant, including parties that should have been named but who were not.
For example, if a jury returns a gross award of $1 million and finds that a party that was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit was 30% responsible, the plaintiff will not be able to recover that 30% of the damages, meaning that his or her net verdict will be $700,000.
Common trucking companies and their histories of accidents
There are many trucking companies with trucks on the road today. Some have better accident records than others. A list of some common trucking companies and the history of accidents during the 24 months before 12/27/2019 as reported to the FMCSA include the following:
- AAA Cooper Transportation – 222 crashes, including 85 injury, four fatality, and 133 towaway accidents
- ABF Freight System – 312 crashes, including 93 injury, nine fatality, and 210 towaway accidents
- Acme Truck Line Inc. – 71 crashes, including 26 injury, three fatality, and 42 towaway accidents
- American Freightways LP – Zero crashes
- Averitt Express – 412 crashes, including 129 injury, eight fatality, and 275 towaway accidents
- Braun’s Express – 12 crashes, including three injury and nine towaway accidents
- Covenant Transport Solutions LLC – Four towaway accidents, zero injuries, zero fatalities
- CRST Expedited Inc. – 354 crashes, including 121 injury, six fatality, and 227 towaway accidents
- Daseke Inc. – No FMCSA data
- Estes Express Lines – 517 crashes, including 162 injury, 13 fatality, and 342 towaway accidents
- FedEx Freight Inc. – 884 crashes, including 263 injury, 26 fatality, and 595 towaway accidents
- J B Hunt – 1,509 crashes, including 515 injury, 36 fatality, and 958 towaway accidents
- XPO Logistics Express LLC – 24 crashes, including eight injury, zero fatality, and 16 towaway accidents
Contact the experienced truck accident attorneys at the Lovely Law Firm
Determining liability in a truck accident can be complex. If you have suffered injuries in an accident or have lost your loved one, you should talk to the experienced truck accident lawyers at the Lovely Law Firm. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling 843.893.4111 or by filling out our online semi-truck consultation contact form.