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Who is liable in a trucking accident?

The trucking industry relies on responsible companies, manufacturers and individual drivers to keep the drivers, their cargo and others that they share the road with safe. In the aftermath of an accident, it can be essential to examine which people or entities contributed to that accident.

Accidents can begin with distracted or reckless driving.

Aggressive driving like following too closely is especially dangerous in a commercial truck, and failure to follow properly causes about 5% of crashes. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) notes that semi-trucks need nearly 200 feet between their cab and the vehicle in front of them to ensure their ability to stop without a collision.

There are also a wide variety of ways that drivers can become distracted while on the road. The use of dispatching devices, cell phones, paper maps or global positioning system (GPS) units can result in distractions in the cab itself, while failure to focus on the road can lead to distractions from surrounding buildings, advertisements and even scenery.

Trucking companies contribute to as much as one tenth of accidents.

The FMCSA’s 2005 Large Truck Crash Causation Study indicated that pressure from carriers contributed to around 10% of trucking crashes. This can include violations of hours-of-service rules.

Trucking companies can also contribute to accidents in other ways. Failure to uphold their responsibilities in maintaining trucks and trailers can cause mechanical failures. If a load is too heavy, poorly balanced or improperly secured, then the company that loaded it may be violating an important government restriction.

Manufacturer defects can cause catastrophic failures.

Every aspect of a big rig—from its engine to its trailer hitch—is essential in keeping the vehicle functioning and its cargo secure. If a manufacturer defect was the cause of an accident, the company could be held liable for the damage done. These manufacturer defects can include defective brakes and steering systems that make it difficult or impossible for drivers to control the truck, defective underride guards that fail to prevent vehicles from going beneath the trailer in a crash, fuel line failures and design defects in tires.

If you have been in a trucking accident, determining who is liable for the crash is an important first step toward getting the compensation you need to recover.