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Big Truck Accidents: Causes and Liability

Robert P. Christensen, P.A.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The number of accidents involving big trucks is very small compared to those involving other vehicles. In fact, statistics indicate that these trucks are responsible for only about 3 percent of injury-causing vehicle mishaps. But whenever such accidents occur, they can be very complex in terms of the destruction caused as well as the legal issues involved. Learning about the most common causes of big rig accidents and understanding who is liable can help simplify the matter a by significant amount.

Common Problems

Some of the most common causes of trucking accidents are drivers who are inadequately trained or overworked, poor or improper maintenance of the machine, and overloaded trucks. If the driver is not familiar with operating a big truck (which could be the case right after they obtained their license), maneuvering and controlling the vehicle especially when at high speeds or in adverse weather conditions can be a problem. Poor maintenance can lead to crucial components such as the brake system failing while the vehicle is in motion or trying to reduce speed. Equipment problems due to manufacturing defects or design errors also occur, but these are less frequent. Similarly, a truck which is loaded beyond and over its capacity can prove dangerous on the highway, especially when negotiating a curve or a speed bump.

The Regulators

The trucking industry is governed by federal laws and most of these are covered under Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. All the states also have their own set of laws applicable to trucking. These are helpful in determining who is responsible for a trucking accident and are applicable to drivers, owners, and trucking companies. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are the agencies that oversee the enforcement of these laws and regulations.

No Longer Valid

In the event of an accident involving a big truck, the driver, the owner, the individual or company that leased the truck from the owner, the manufacturer of the truck’s components that might have contributed to the accident, as well as the shipper of the truck’s cargo can be held accountable. A few years ago, trucking companies that leased the trucks could avoid liability for accidents by arguing that they did not own the vehicles. They also often claimed that since the drivers were not their employees, they could not be held liable for driver error. However, this is no longer possible. Under existing federal law, the company which owns the trucking permit can be sued in the event of an accident.

Working with a Professional

The law also mandates that trucking companies carry a certain minimum insurance which is different from that available for passenger vehicles. If you or someone close to you is ever involved in an accident with a big truck or big rig, you should contact Robert P. Christensen, P.A. as soon as possible such that the necessary evidence can be preserved to prove liability.  Our firm is the sole Primerus  Plaintiff/Consumer Law Firm in Minnesota and connected with other Primerus trial lawyers throughout North America and the world. Contact us at 612-333-7733 or bob@mnadvocatesforjustice.com.

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