Can a Truck Company Be Liable for an Accident in Texas?March 3, 2023
Yes, trucking companies can be liable for accidents they play a role in causing. That can be good news and a complicated answer because:
- It’s not always easy to know when a trucking company is at fault for an accident: Depending on how an 18-wheeler crash happened, it could take days, weeks, or longer to figure out fault. That’s especially true when less visible factors, like trucking company negligence, are at play.
- Even if they are at fault, trucking companies may argue otherwise: If there’s little or questionable evidence that creates some gray area, motor carriers may take advantage of that to contend that another party (any other party) was really at fault for a wreck. The point is to dodge the “bullet” of liability and avoid paying the victim(s).
Still, that doesn’t mean motor carriers can dodge responsibility for the damage, injuries, and truck accidents they cause on Texas’s roads. And it doesn’t mean you have to let these companies avoid liability for a claim.
If you’re familiar with how motor carriers cause truck accidents, you can take action ASAP after a big rig crash to:
- Gather evidence.
- Protect your rights.
- Prove trucking company liability.
- Make the negligent trucking company (and/or other negligent parties) pay for the harm they’ve caused.
When & How Trucking Companies Can Be Liable for 18-Wheeler Accidents
Simply put, trucking companies can be liable for big rig wrecks whenever these collisions involve motor carriers:
- Putting unsafe truckers on the roads by failing to properly screen, vet, qualify, hire, train, supervise, or retain safe drivers.
- Failing to implement and enforce safe policies.
- Failing to maintain and inspect their vehicles.
- Failing to comply with any trucking regulations required by state and federal laws.
Here’s how that tends to play out on the roads and when trucking company liability or legal responsibility could be a factor.
1. Unqualified Truckers
Commercial truck drivers have to have specific qualifications, credentials, behind-the-wheel experience, medical fitness testing, drug testing, and more, according to federal trucking regulations.
These rules are in place to try to ensure that commercial big rig drivers have the skills to safely operate massive 18-wheelers — and that they don’t have any disqualifying medical conditions or addictions.
Motor carriers can be liable for underqualified truckers who cause tractor-trailer accidents whenever trucking companies:
- Don’t screen drivers during the hiring process.
- Fail to conduct drug testing when hiring drivers or after wrecks.
- Overlook training or fail to check drivers’ credentials before putting them behind the wheels of semi-trucks.
2. Truck Driver Negligence
Motor carriers can also be responsible for collisions caused by the dangerous truck drivers they put on the roads. This can include truckers who have:
- Caused 18-wheeler wrecks in the past
- Violated federal trucking laws on or off the roads
- Received tickets for speeding, running red lights, or otherwise violating traffic laws
- Failed drug tests or failed to show up (or take) drug tests
- Lost or failed to maintain their commercial driver’s license
The rationale is that motor carriers should have been more vigilant in screening drivers or responding to these issues if they occurred after a trucker was hired. If motor carriers continue to put an unsafe trucker on the road, after there’s evidence of that driver being a risk to others, the company may be liable for accidents caused by the dangerous driver.
3. Vehicle or Equipment Failures
Trucking companies are supposed to maintain their big rigs and the equipment needed to load, unload, and safely operate these commercial vehicles. Many take this responsibility seriously. Some don’t. That can mean that:
- Risky, worn down, or potentially faulty equipment isn’t replaced or repaired in a prompt manner.
- Catastrophic equipment failures, like tire blowouts and brake failures, can happen on Texas’s roads.
Motor carriers may have been able to prevent these equipment or vehicle failures — and the subsequent truck wrecks — if the company had simply honored its obligation to inspect, maintain, and repair its fleet.
4. Unsafe Policies, Procedures, or Decisions
Sometimes, motor carriers don’t have the policies or procedures in place to prevent truck accidents. This could include a lack of policies for properly screening and training drivers or zero cargo securement procedures, for example.
Similarly, some trucking companies may have policies that specifically violate federal trucking regulations. For instance, these policies could require truckers to work back-to-back shifts and violate hours-of-service (HOS) rules. Others may offer bonuses for “early deliveries” that violate HOS rules.
Whenever these types of policies — or a lack of essential policies and procedures — are factors in big rig accidents, motor carriers can, again, be liable.
How Do I Know If a Trucking Company Is Liable for an 18-Wheeler Accident?
You may not know whether a truck company is liable for your wreck until after the investigation is wrapped up — or you reach out to an experienced attorney for answers.
Still, there can be some red flags of potential motor carrier liability, especially right after an 18-wheeler accident happens. These can include (and are not limited to):
- A trucker displaying certain signs of impairment after a big rig crash: Fatigue or intoxication could be apparent through red eyes, slurred speech, difficulty walking, or disorientation.
- Tire tread marks: If there aren’t any tire tread marks on the pavement, that could mean a trucker didn’t even try to stop before a wreck. If there are tread marks, it could mean a trucker had to slam on the brakes at the last minute (due to impairment, distraction, or fatigue, for instance).
- Witnesses: Vehicle passengers or other drivers may have seen a trucker drive negligently in the minutes or seconds before the crash.
- A truck driver being issued a ticket or placed under arrest after the accident: This would occur if the trucker violated traffic laws, committing a misdemeanor or felony offense that could warrant a citation or potentially worse.
- Truck debris on the roads: Pieces of tires, damaged cargo, broken glass, and other debris can indicate how a collision occurred, where the points of impact were, and how a truck may have collided with a car first. Similarly, this debris may start to tell the story of failures to maintain trucks.
These and other red flags of trucking company negligence and liability could be documented in police reports, your accident scene photos, or in other ways, even if you were not able to track them down right after a crash. To get help assessing the possibility of trucking company liability, talk to an experienced truck accident lawyer.