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Can third parties be liable for truck accidents?

Individuals and companies can be held accountable for negligence in Illinois personal injury claims without ever being involved in a motor vehicle crash. Third parties bear responsibility when their careless actions or failures to act contribute to a truck accident.

Under the theory of vicarious liability, employers may be liable for accidents caused by the people they employ. This doesn't mean blame is passed automatically from a driver to a trucking company. However, the company may share fault, and subsequently, may be ordered to pay damages in injury or fatal commercial truck accident lawsuits.

A trucking company is accountable for the hiring, training and monitoring of drivers. An employer can be accused of failing to prevent unsafe behavior by a truck driver who is on the clock. Along with drivers and carriers, other third parties like truck manufacturers and shipping companies may be blamed for damages in tractor-trailer accidents.

In 2011, an Illinois court ordered a shipping company to pay $23.8 million because the defendant did not carefully screen the carrier it contracted. The shipping company was blamed because the negligent carrier's driver was not properly licensed and altered trucking logs.

In more a direct way, shipping companies also may be held accountable for truck accidents caused by shifting or falling cargo. An accident investigation may uncover violations of cargo securement rules issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA has regulations that cover everything from the number of straps, chains, cords and ropes used to secure freight to the way a shipment is cushioned inside an interstate commercial vehicle.

The securement rules – some specific to the commodities shipped -- are designed for safety and truck accident prevention. Sudden movements or spillage of cargo may cause a crash, injuries or death.

Liability attorneys can identify primary and all possible third-party defendants by assessing a truck accident claim.

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, "Cargo Securement Rules," accessed June 26, 2015

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