Can Employers Be Liable in Trucking Accidents

Posted in Truck accidents on July 22, 2019

The commercial trucking industry is not always safe for its drivers or others on the road. Every year, trucking accidents take thousands of lives. More than 2,500 traffic crashes in 2016 involved heavy trucks in Nebraska, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Truck accidents caused 46 deaths and 771 injuries. Liability for a trucking accident could come down to the truck driver, trucking company, the product manufacturer or another party.

Employer Liability for Truck Driver Misconduct

After an accident with a commercial truck, the discovery that the driver is an independent contractor could make a victim assume no corporation is liable for damages. This is not usually the case. Federal laws do not allow trucking companies to escape responsibility for their trucks and drivers, regardless of employment status. A trucking company’s liability for damages, however, is not always clear.

  • The trucking company was negligent. The company could be responsible if it cut corners to try to save time or money, resulting in a collision. Examples include rushing driver training, ignoring fleet maintenance and violating hours of service regulations.
  • An employee was negligent. An employer will be vicariously responsible for the actions of its employees. Truck driver fatigue, drunkenness, and drowsy driving could point to employer liability. If the driver was on the clock at the time of the collision, the company could be liable.
  • The truck driver was an independent contractor. If an independent contractor is not fully connected to the trucking company, the employer might not be liable. However, in most cases, classifying drivers as contractors will not bar an employer from vicarious liability.

Proving an employer’s liability for the actions of a negligent or reckless driver may be difficult in Nebraska. Victims may benefit from truck accident attorneys in Omaha helping them investigate their accidents. The lawyer will need evidence to hold the company, rather than the independent truck driver or the plaintiff’s insurance company, liable. The lawyer will need proof that the company or one of its employees contributed to the crash.

Who Is Responsible for Improper Loading?

Improperly loaded cargo could fall into the road and cause serious accidents. Lost loads may force a vehicle following the truck to slam on its brakes or swerve off the road. Lost loads may send dangerous materials through windshields, killing or seriously injuring the occupants inside. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has cargo securement rules to optimize the safety of cargo during transport. If someone was guilty of improperly loading or securing the cargo, that party could be liable for the accident.

  • Using the incorrect straps
  • Overloading or under-loading a trailer
  • Failing to properly accommodate dangerous cargo
  • Stacking boxes dangerously
  • Forgetting to use edge protection
  • Failing to use enough tie-downs

Debris falling off a truck could cause a fatal car accident in Omaha. In these accident cases, the trucking company could be responsible. The company will be accountable for its employees – including the people who incorrectly loaded the truck. Failure to adhere to the FMCSA’s securement standards is an act of negligence that could point to liability for a subsequent truck accident. If the cargo loaders operate under a separate company, that employer could be responsible.

Can an Employer Be Liable for Bad Weather?

Rain, fog, snow or sleet could compromise the safe transportation of cargo in Omaha. If bad weather contributes to a trucking accident, victims should not dismiss the possibility of employer liability. A combination of bad weather and human error could have caused the accident. A dangerous truck driver, improper braking techniques, speeding or poor truck maintenance could contribute to a crash that occurs in bad weather. If an investigation discovers a human-related cause, the trucking company or another employer could be responsible for damages.