Former State's Attorney With Over 38 Years of Experience

truck accident

Driver vs. Company Liability in a Big Rig Accident

Accidents involving a big rig, delivery truck, or any other commercial vehicle are incredibly complex. It can be incredibly challenging to determine whether the truck driver or the trucking company is financially responsible for the resultant damages.

Suppose you or someone close to you is injured or killed in a Chicago truck accident. You can hold the parties at fault accountable for the damages by filing an injury or wrongful death lawsuit

Even so, it helps to understand that figuring out exactly who is liable can be an uphill task.

This article examines some of the issues that determine who is responsible for the damages arising from a truck accident.


When Are Truck Drivers Liable For Damages From Truck Accidents?

Big rig drivers act within the scope of their employment when an accident occurs, usually not financially responsible for the resulting injury and damages unless they caused the accident on purpose. 

Even if the driver is in the wrong, the trucking business they work for is liable for the accident. 

However, several instances are when the truck driver is responsible for the damages arising from a truck accident. These are:

  • When the rig driver is an independent contractor, who is expected to carry their insurance and an actual trucking company employee.
  • When the rig driver made deliberate and neglectful decisions while driving, for example, if they were careless, overspeeding, or driving under the influence of controlled substances, they might be liable for the damages.
  • When the driver was using the truck for their errands outside employment.
  • When the driver is an owner/operator, i.e., they are both the driver and the trucking company.


What Leads To Truck Driver Negligence?

A lot of factors can contribute to a truck accident. However, many of these mistakes might still arise from external factors.

For example, truck companies might reward the drivers who work for long hours by paying them by distance covered and giving them bonuses for attaining high mileage quotas. 

When a company encourages its drivers to meet such unrealistic quotas, they burn out as they drive longer. 

In such a scenario, both the driver and company might be partially liable for the damages or injuries that arise from the truck accident.

In that case, it’s best to find attorneys to help you manage the complex issue of liability to ensure that the genuinely responsible parties are held accountable.


When Are Trucking Companies Liable for a Chicago Truck Accident?

Trucking companies in Chicago should comply with all the state and federal regulations regarding vehicle maintenance, operation, hiring, and driver onboarding. 

If a company does not observe these set rules and its drivers are involved in truck accidents, it’ll be held liable for any resulting damages and injuries.

Below are some of the issues that could render a trucking company liable.


Poor Maintenance of the Rig

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for controlling the trucking sector. The agency demands that all rigs are in excellent, roadworthy conditions. 

As such, all trucking companies should inspect their vehicles frequently, and so should the drivers too. Any needed repair works should be done before the rig hits the road and other necessary truck accident preventative processes.

Companies with bad maintenance practices put the lives of both their drivers and other road users at serious risk. An unforeseen mechanical issue could arise at a crucial time during a regular workday. 


Some of the issues that can cause serious truck accidents in Chicago to include:

  • Worn tires
  • Faulty braking and steering systems
  • Faulty windows, mirrors, and lights.


Hours of Service (HOS) Violations

The FMCSA has stipulated the number of hours each rig driver can be on the road every day and every week. These Hours of Service (HOS) laws also specify the compulsory breaks each driver must take before getting back on the road.

It’s the responsibility of trucking companies to comply with and enforce these laws, failure to which they’ll be penalized. The FMCSA has also demanded that trucking companies install electronic logbooks in their vehicles to ensure that HOS laws are observed.

Even so, some truckers have devised ways to beat the e-logbooks and get their drivers to go the extra mile. As a result, they put tired drivers on the road, putting the lives of every road user in danger.

Any company that pushes its drivers to violate HOS regulations might be liable for damages from a truck accident that arises from mistakes made by a sleeping driver.


Poor Employment Practices

A trucking company is legally responsible for hiring drivers who are not capable of operating big rigs effectively. 

Companies with ineffective employment practices are liable for any issues arising when their drivers cause accidents.


Here are some examples of poor hiring practices:

  • Employing drivers without the required Commercial Drivers’ License (CDL).
  • Not doing a background check on a driver’s driving history.
  • Hiring drivers with negative records, for example, driving while intoxicated.


Problems Related to Cargo

Truck companies usually hire workers who load their vehicles. This exercise requires more than just throwing cargo on board since the FMCSA has laws that require the loaders to secure the cargo properly so that it does not move about while in transit.

Trucking companies that do not adequately train their workers on loading and securing cargo and those that contend with employees who make negligent mistakes resulting in load spills can be liable for damages.

Trucking companies that fail to train their employees to load and secure cargo properly, or employees who make negligent mistakes that lead to a Chicago truck accident from load spillage, can be held liable for damages.


Get Legal Help After a Big Rig Accident in Chicago

Big rig accidents are among the most serious and costly injuries people can suffer in a traffic incident. 

If you or someone you know is involved, it’s natural for you to want to get justice, especially if the accident came about due to negligence on the truck driver’s part.

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