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Truck Accident Litigation - Baumgartner Law Firm
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There are two basic ownership structures when it comes to commercial trucks operating on Texas roadways. First, there are owner-operator rigs. In an owner-operator scenario, a commercial vehicle is both owned and driven by the same person.
The second type of ownership structure is one in which the rig is owned by a trucking company. The trucking company hires a driver to operate the 18-wheeler.
In the event of an accident involving a semi-truck, an injured motorist may have questions about finding a trucking company at fault for an accident and responsible for injuries, damages, and losses. When the operator is also the owner of the semi-truck, establishing responsibility for an accident is a more straightforward endeavor. The situation becomes more complicated when an employee or “independent contractor” of a trucking company drives the rig.
A motor carrier can be responsible for damages in an accident if their driver was at fault for the crash. A company can also be liable for its own actions which contributed to a collision. After an accident a truck accident investigation should be conducted promptly.
Truck Accidents and Texas Agency Law
As the employer of a truck driver, a trucking company can be held responsible for the negligence of a rig operator in causing an accident through the legal theory of agency. The elements are required for a trucking company to be held responsible for the actions or conduct of a truck driver are straightforward.
To Hold the Company Liable Under Agency Law
First, an employment relationship must exist between the trucking company and the truck driver.
Second, the rig operator must act within the scope of employment at the time of the accident. Meaning that he was “on the job” at the time of the crash.
Finally, the semi-driver must have operated the rig with the trucking company’s express or implied permission at the time the accident occurred.
In addition to the theory of agency, a trucking company may also be held at fault for an accident if it failed to exercise reasonable care in hiring, supervising, or training a rig operator. Negligent hiring can be a claim made against the company for being lax in hiring or retaining the driver. It could be not following the safety rules in investigating new drivers, or knowing the driver was unsafe but keeping him anyway.
Additionally, a trucking company can be held responsible under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) for the actions of the driver of the big rig.
Some Examples of Negligence by the Company
In addition to being responsible under agency law, motor carriers can also be held responsible for their own acts and failures. For example, In one case we had the company knew its tractor-trailer was in unsafe operating condition but failed to repair the big truck. The condition they failed to fix was related to the cause of the crash. After our truck accident investigation revealed the violations the case settled for many millions of dollars.
Truck Accidents, Third Parties, and Truck Companies
Because the trucking company is the owner of the vehicle involved in an accident, the enterprise can be deemed at fault for an accident in other situations as well. For example, if there is a defect in the vehicle itself, the trucking company, together with the truck manufacturer, can be held responsible for an accident arising from the manufacturing defect.
Likewise, a trucking company might also be found at fault for an accident if improper maintenance undertaken by a third-party service provider contributed to the accident. In any of these scenarios, the trucking company has a duty of care that requires the rig in question to be in a reasonably safe condition when put onto a Texas roadway.
There are also stringent regulations on the skills and qualifications of the driver. If the trucking company failed to follow the safety regulations which contributed to the cause of the crash, they may be held accountable. We have been holding motor carriers responsible for decades. Call for an injury accident consultation. Finding a trucking Company at fault is a first step for our team.
Questions About Trucking Companies Responsibility for Accidents?
If you have questions about the potential legal responsibility of a trucking company or are looking for a lawyer for a trucking accident near Houston, call us for a no-obligation consultation. (281) 587-1111.