Trucking accidents are on the rise in the U.S., following a record low in 2009. As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports, the uptick is believed to be connected to economic improvements. With more jobs and more money in their pockets, Americans are more often on the road.
Truck drivers aren’t immune from increased danger either. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2015, more than 25 percent of all workplace fatalities in America occurred in the trucking industry.
How A Trucking Company Can Be Legally Responsible For Causing a Truck Accident
Liability (or legal responsibility) for a truck accident can fall on either the trucker or the passenger car driver. In some cases, both drivers may be found negligent. The Texas Comparative Fault Rule allows recovery of damages even by negligent drivers, so long as their own liability for the crash does not exceed 50 percent. In those cases, damages awarded will be proportionately reduced by the degree of responsibility for the collision.
Trucking companies too may be deemed liable for contributing to a truck accident when their conduct resulted in an unsafe situation on the road. For example, because truckers are often paid by the mile, rather than by the hour, they are often forced to choose between productivity and safety. When trucking companies encourage drivers to push themselves to drive too many hours in a row – or fail to discourage this practice – they can be liable for accidents caused by tired truck drivers. Truck firms may also be held vicariously liable for the negligent actions of drivers who are employees, so long as the plaintiff can establish the driver was acting in the course and scope of employment. That means it would not be necessary to prove negligence on the part of the carrier, only the employee driver.
A common problem in the trucking industry is a high turnover rate. Long hours, low pay, and tough working conditions have caused turnover among truck drivers to remain near 100 percent. In turn, this means that many truck drivers lack experience. The turnover rate among truck drivers also means that trucking companies do not always thoroughly screen for problem drivers – especially those with a history of trucking and traffic violations. Accidents caused by drivers who are inexperienced or have poor driving histories can also bring liability to the transit companies that hire them (i.e., negligent hiring, negligent training, negligent supervision, and negligent retention).
How Texas Drivers Can Reduce the Risk of Being Involved in a Truck Accident
- Allow plenty of distance between your vehicle and any nearby big rigs. Large, heavy vehicles require greater stopping distance than small or light vehicles.
- Make sure your vehicle can be seen by truck drivers. Trucks have large blind spots, which can make it difficult for drivers to see smaller vehicles around them – especially at night and during inclement weather. Use your horn and headlights as necessary to make your presence known.
- Watch for swaying, swerving, or any other pattern which indicates the driver might not have complete control of the truck. This is a particular problem for tanker trucks, as liquid cargo creates a “sloshing” effect with powerful momentum. Slow down and put more space between your vehicle and the truck any time you notice such movements.
- Be aware of driver risks – both from yourself and other drivers on the road. The Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration presented a study to Congress on Large Truck Crash Causation. The most common crash factors were all driver-related (including legal drug use, travelling too fast for road conditions, unfamiliarity with the roadway, and not paying attention to hazards). Protect yourself by eliminating all distractions within your own vehicle, and learning to recognize dangerous driving patterns from large vehicles on the roadway. Report any unsafe driving you may witness.
If you or a loved one has been injured on the road, contact a Fort Worth truck accident attorney as soon as possible. You have legal rights which must be protected.