Being involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, especially an 18-wheeler, can be devastating. The sheer size and weight of these vehicles often leads to catastrophic accidents and serious injuries.
When you are in an accident with a truck you may wonder who you could hold responsible for your injuries – and all the expense, pain, and suffering that comes along with them. In some cases, it is obvious, but in others it might be unclear.
Regardless, you should always speak with a truck accident attorney in the area. They have the expertise to identify all potential defendants. After all, if you try to do this yourself you might leave out a possible defendant – which lowers your chances of receiving maximum compensation.
What Defendants Can You Name in a Chicago Truck Accident Case?
Your trucking accident attorney will look at all the angles. They will examine the evidence and decide which defendants are responsible, but also which defendants are more likely to pay the compensation if you are awarded a settlement in court.
Some of the potential defendants can include:
The Truck Driver
This is the obvious source for fault, because they were behind the wheel at the time. However, there are instances where a driver is not responsible. Therefore, do not assume that only a driver can be held accountable for your injuries.
Instances where a driver would be responsible could include driving intoxicated or falling asleep at the wheel. But even then, the driver would not be the only party named in the lawsuit.
An instance where a driver would not be responsible might include a manufacturing defect on the truck – which was something the driver was unaware of and unable to control.
The Employer of the Driver
Next, your attorney looks at the driver’s employer. Did that employer perform their due diligence and ensure their driver was properly licensed or trained to drive? Did they review their driving record to ensure they had no violations?
If a company fails to background check their drivers, allows a driver who has a record of DUIs to use their semi-trucks, or allows drivers with expired licenses to haul cargo – they are just as responsible as the driver of that accident.
The Truck Owner
Sometimes the driver and the driver’s employer are not the owner of the truck. Many times, these trucks are leased out. Therefore, the responsibility might be on the truck’s owner, especially if the owner did not maintain, inspect, or ensure their truck was safe enough to transport products.
The Leasing Company
If a third party is leasing the trucks to other companies for hauling cargo, including leasing out the trailers, then they are responsible for ensuring that the truck and trailer is safe before they give it to a customer. Failing to do so could result in being named in the lawsuit.
On the other hand, if the owner of the truck hides maintenance records or gives falsified maintenance, then the leasing company may not be liable, because they did not know that there was an issue with the truck.
The Manufacturer of the Truck or Safety Components
Companies that manufacturer vehicles, including commercial vehicles, have a duty to ensure the vehicle is safe. This is the result of a federal regulation. Any replacement parts or safety components fall under this federal regulation as well.
If the truck’s manufacturer fails to perform quality control measures to ensure that their trucks are safe, they might be liable if the malfunctioning component is the cause of the accident.
For example, let’s say that the brake system is defective and the cause of the accident. The manufacturer knew that the brake systems could be defective but failed to recall and repair them. Therefore, they could be named as the defendant in the lawsuit.
Additionally, any third party responsible for manufacturing, distributing, installing, or selling defective parts for the truck could also be named in the lawsuit.
Certified Truck Inspectors
Truck inspectors are required to ensure that a commercial vehicle is safe. If they fail to do their job or neglect reporting potential issues with a commercial truck, they are just as liable as the manufacturer or even the company that used the truck knowing it had defects.
Trucking Company Mechanics
Most trucking companies have in-house mechanics, or they outsource to a third party. These mechanics are responsible for doing routine maintenance, but also repairing the truck when needed. If they use defective parts or do not report defects in the truck, they could be considered a defendant.
Sometimes a company is hired to load the cargo into the truck, and they may not be employees of the trucking company or even the owner of the cargo. However, they are responsible for ensuring the cargo load remains balanced and that the semi-truck is not overweight.
The Shipper Brokering the Truck or Cargo
Sometimes, a company will contact a shipper or cargo broker. The broker then finds a trucking company based on the shipping needs. They may rent a portion of a semi-truck out for a client or use various trucking companies to ship cargo nationwide. Regardless, the broker is responsible for screening all trucking companies they use to transport cargo.
If they fail to ensure the company they have hired for their client is safe, then they could be named as a defendant in the lawsuit as well. For example, a broker hires a company that has had federal violations in the past, fails to tell their client about the violations, and uses them anyway.
Evidence Determines Fault and Liability
To decide which parties could be named in a lawsuit requires a careful examination of the evidence. It might require hiring multiple experts to recreate the scene, examining the truck, reviewing federal inspections, and doing background checks on the companies and their drivers before liability can be determined. Until all the evidence is gathered and analyzed by the proper experts, it is impossible to determine which party or parties would be responsible in a trucking accident case.
The Settlement Issues for More than One Defendant
Obviously, you can see how a lawsuit would become complicated the more defendants you have on the list. When multiple defendants are named in a trucking accident lawsuit, depending on the facts, the courts may hold each party equally responsible for paying compensation, or they may hold one defendant more responsible than the others – portioning out compensation based on each party’s role in the accident.
Any time you have more than one defendant, the case becomes quite complex and involved. There are multiple issues of liability on the table, several laws that apply, including federal and state, and you will be negotiating with teams of attorneys rather than just one.
More so, you may have multiple insurance companies that you are seeking compensation from, because each party is likely to have their own insurance company and policy that your attorney will need to investigate.
The goal in these types of cases is for your attorney to reach a consensus between the parties, get all sides to agree to their level of liability, and then receive a settlement. Your attorney may have a meeting with all sides at once to negotiate a settlement and apportion fault. Other times, you may have to take your case to court and let a judge decide.
You Do Not Have to Figure It Out Alone
There are too many defendants to sort through in a commercial accident. As the victim, you have enough to worry about, and you do not have the time or resources to investigate this type of case.
Multiple-defendant cases are complicated and require detailed knowledge of trucking laws and insurance rules. If you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident that might have more than one defendant, you need a trucking accident attorney like the team at Malman Law.
We know the unique nature of these cases, and our attorneys have handled cases in the past where more than one defendant was involved. We can help guide you through the intricacies of receiving a settlement.
Let our dedicated attorneys fight for you and help you receive full compensation for your injuries stemming from the accident – including compensation for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, disability, and more. You should not have to pay for these losses, but they will continue coming until you have an attorney examine your case and help decide which parties are responsible.
Schedule your consultation today at 888-305-5043 or request more information online.