Who Is At Fault? Proving Liability in Trucking Accidents

Some accidents can be fairly straightforward when it comes to determining responsibility. Less parties involved typically results in simpler resolutions. Trucking accidents, however, may not provide such simple resolutions.


Many parties are involved in these cases, including the driver, the trucking company, the truck manufacturer, parts manufacturer, freight or loading company and/or the truck equipment owner or leasing company. Because of this, they can prove difficult to address without seasoned legal guidance.


Before pursuing a responsible party for injuries you sustained in the accident, you and your attorney must also determine if the following factors were a part of the equation:

  • Fault: The term fault refers to the determination of responsibility for an accident or event. More than one party can be found to be at fault in a trucking accident. The parties responsible for the accident or event can be legally held liable for damages.

  • Negligence: One component of liability comes from negligence. Negligence means willfully acting in a thoughtless or careless manner. Proving this may require forensic experts or an accident reconstructionist.

  • Duty of Care: The second component of liability is duty of care - this refers to a legal obligation that an individual has to act with a “standard of reasonable care.” In trucking accidents, all involved parties have an associated duty of care. It must be shown that this was breached and led to the accident.


While no two accidents are exactly the same, commercial trucking accidents do have some similarities.

Situation Report: Trucking Accident Stats

Commercial trucks haul a majority of U.S. resources – about 70 percent. That puts $671 billion of American products on the road each year. It also means 15.5 million trucks on the road, two million of those tractor-trailers, and 3.5 million truck drivers. Many of these drivers travel vast distances and face a multitude of possible hazards regularly.


Between 2003 and 2013, accidents dropped from 4,721 to 3,906. That still means at least 10 people die each day in a US trucking accident. Commercial trucking accidents caused property damage in 265,000 collisions between this time.


Many factors contribute to these accidents and the leading cause includes both evidence of negligence and breach of duty of care. Drug use contributed to the majority of accidents – 54 percent - whether legal or illegal drugs. Other causes of semi-truck accidents include:

  • 26 percent: prescription drug use

  • 23 percent: driving too fast for conditions

  • 18 percent: miscellaneous

  • 17 percent: over-the-counter drug use

  • 13 percent: fatigue

  • 3 percent: illegal drug use

  • 8 percent: alcohol

Potentially Liable Parties

With so many parties involved in transportation, liability can spread out over multiple individuals or organizations. In some cases, the acts of negligence and duty of care breaches can seem obvious, but in most they require investigation and digging on behalf of a well-equipped trucking accident attorney. The most common situations include the following:

Truck Driver Liability

The truck driver may have taken prescription or over-the-counter drugs that cause drowsiness or come with a warning to not operate heavy machinery. They may have failed to follow truck driver regulations or local, state or federal laws or have committed traffic violations.

Trucking Company Liability

The trucking company’s liability could stem from having hired unqualified drivers or provided inadequate driver training. They could have set operations schedules that violate hours of service regulations. The company could have known that the driver was using prescription, over-the-counter or illegal drugs which would have precluded allowing them to drive. If a trucking company knew that the driver had come to work under the influence of alcohol, it also would incur liability.

Manufacturing Liability

Two parties of manufacturers could incur liability. Both the truck manufacturer and the parts manufacturer could be held liable if faulty equipment influenced the accident. If a manufacturing defect in the original parts or engineering of the vehicle contributed to the accident, the truck maker may carry the liability. If a defective aftermarket or replacement part contributed to or caused the accident, the parts manufacturer may be held liable.

Shipping/Loading Liability

The shipping or loading company loaded the truck also could incur liability if they did not package the materials properly, overloaded or mis-loaded the truck, improperly tied on the load, etc. Proving this requires photos or videos of the load securement or data from the smart sensors located on most modern trucks and fitted to many loads.

Legal Liability: Making the Determination

Sometimes, multiple parties may be found to have acted negligently and be liable for a trucking accident. In these situations, either or both parties could be pursued for damages suffered by those injured. Some example situations where multiple parties could be found to liable include:

  • The shipping company overloaded the truck but the truck driver did not weigh the truck.

  • The driver violated FMCSA hours of service regulations, however, the trucking company encouraged them to do so.

  • The seller and the manufacturer of a defective product were both responsible for a defect in its creation and allowance.


As we said, liability in truck trucking accidents can be much more complicated than accidents involving regular vehicles. Remember that you don’t have to go through this process alone.


If you of a loved one is injured in a trucking accident, turn to the legal advocates at Fowler | Helsel | Vogt for help pursuing compensation for your injuries. Our team will consult forensic experts, recreate the collision, and work to determine liable parties so you receive the compensation you need to heal.


Contact our firm at (559) 900-1280 to schedule your free consultation with one of our Fresno trucking accident attorneys.

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