When Can You Sue a Trucking Company?

February 26, 2024 | By Polito & Harrington LLC
When Can You Sue a Trucking Company?

When another driver crashes into your car, you generally would assume that you would file an insurance claim or lawsuit against that driver directly. However, in some cases, other entities may be liable for your car accident-related losses, increasing your chances of a full financial recovery. This is often the case in a truck accident lawsuit. Many times, the trucking company may be held responsible instead of the truck driver.

If you've been involved in a Connecticut truck accident, one of your first questions is likely, "Can you sue a trucking company?" In addition to shedding light on how liability in truck accident claims works, our personal injury lawyers are here to offer guidance regarding how to recover damages after an unexpected crash and how you can protect your legal rights in these instances.

Who is Responsible for a Truck Accident?

There’s a clear distinction between suing a former employer in a trucking company and filing litigations against the trucking company itself. Typically, the former pertains to employment issues, while the latter usually involves accidents and damages brought on by negligence. In Connecticut, like any other state, you can pursue legal action against a trucking company for various reasons. However, the most commonplace situations involve traffic accidents caused by the negligence of the truck company, their drivers, or any other employees. Negligence in this realm refers to any breach in the duty of care that directly leads to harm, loss, or injury. For instance, if a trucking company fails to maintain its trucks and that lapse results in an accident, the injured party may be entitled to sue. Similarly, companies that allow truck drivers with known reckless tendencies or underqualified operators can be held liable if their negligence results in an accident. Negligence, in this case, can also encompass overloading trucks, coercing drivers into exceeding appropriate speed levels, or bypassing mandated rest periods.

How Modified Comparative Negligence Affects a Truck Accident Claim

Connecticut operates under the modified comparative negligence rule. Even if you are partially at fault in a crash with a commercial truck, you can still seek damages, provided you are found to be less than 51% at fault. Additionally, if a Connecticut trucking company is guilty of violating Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations – which could include a wide range of infractions like exceeding federal hours of service, poor maintenance, or non-compliance with drug and alcohol testing, you have grounds to sue. You should absolutely seek legal counsel to guide you through the complex process of filing a lawsuit against a trucking company within Connecticut’s legal framework. A Connecticut truck accident lawyer can help you understand any distinctive state-specific regulations that apply to your case, ensuring you have the most robust possible claim.

Is the Trucking Company Responsible for the Actions of a Negligent Truck Driver?

In many cases, companies may be held accountable for the actions of their employees while on the job under a legal doctrine called “respondeat superior.” Therefore, if a truck driver is working for a company and causes an accident, the company may be held liable for the truck driver's negligence. There are a few exceptions to this legal rule, though in most cases, a respondeat superior will allow you to sue the company directly.

Examples of Trucking Company Negligence

In addition to being liable for employees' negligence, trucking companies can be negligent in and of themselves. The following are only some examples of negligence on the part of trucking companies:
  • Negligent hiring – Hiring drivers with a history of driving violations or who are unqualified to operate commercial trucks puts dangerous drivers behind the wheel of large trucks.
  • Inadequate inspection and maintenance – Truck accidents occur not infrequently due to mechanical failures. Failing to keep trucks in their fleet in good repair can lead to malfunctions and crashes.
  • Failing to perform drug tests – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires that companies perform random tests on drivers, and failing to do so can lead to impaired driving.
  • Allowing FMCSA violations – If a trucking company knows its drivers are violating FMCSA regulations and fails to discipline the driver, it can result in dangerous truck driver behaviors.

How Do Truck Accident Lawsuits Work?

A truck accident lawsuit involves several steps, and understanding this process can help individuals prepare better if they ever have to face such an unfortunate circumstance. After receiving proper emergency and medical treatment, your first step should be to contact a truck accident attorney who can help guide you through the process of pursuing a claim for damages and, if necessary, pursue legal action through a lawsuit against the negligent party. While every case is different, in general, legal action following a commercial truck accident will involve these steps:

Initial Consultation with an Attorney

The first step in filing a lawsuit is to consult a personal injury attorney with experience handling truck accidents. They can guide you through the process, assess the viability of your case, and discuss possible outcomes. Your attorney will begin an investigation to collect all relevant evidence, such as police reports, photographs of the scene, witness testimonies, and medical records. They may also inspect the truck involved in the accident and review the trucking company's records.

Filing a Lawsuit

Once the attorney has all the necessary information, they file a complaint or petition against the trucking company and any other responsible third parties. This document describes the basis of the lawsuit, details the damages suffered, and outlines the legal relief sought. After the lawsuit is filed, both sides engage in discovery, where they exchange information pertaining to the case. This could involve written interrogatories, document production, and depositions.

Negotiations and Settlement

The attorneys may try to negotiate a settlement either directly or through mediation before going to trial. If a settlement agreement is reached, it can save time and legal fees. However, the case will proceed to trial if the other side is unwilling to offer a fair settlement. Here, both sides present their evidence and argue their case before a judge or a jury. If the case wins in court, the court enters a judgment against the trucking company, which indicates they are legally bound to compensate the injured victims. This process can be complex, lengthy, and physically and emotionally taxing. Having a qualified and experienced attorney by your side throughout this process can be a significant factor in the eventual outcome of your case. Your attorney will help you gather and maintain all possible evidence and advise you to stay patient, as such lawsuits might take a considerable amount of time. No matter what it takes to achieve a successful outcome, the focus will always be on achieving justice and the compensation you rightfully deserve after a truck accident.

Who Pays for My Truck Accident Injuries?

Truck accident victims in passenger vehicles frequently experience severe and even life-threatening injuries after a crash. Determining who pays for these injuries can become complicated because multiple parties may be involved. Your truck accident attorney can help determine the potentially responsible parties and how best to seek compensation for medical bills and more.

Truck Driver's Insurance Company

If the trucking accident were due to the truck driver's negligence, such as reckless driving or violation of traffic laws, their insurance company would typically cover the damages in a truck accident claim.

The Trucking Company's Insurance

In cases where the trucking company is at fault due to inadequate training, poor truck maintenance, or systemic violations of regulations, the company's insurer would be responsible.

Truck Manufacturer

If the truck accident was caused by a manufacturing defect or system failure in the vehicle, the truck manufacturer or parts manufacturer could be held liable. This would also fall under product liability, and hence, their insurance would pay for the injuries.

Cargo Loading Company's Insurance

In cases where improperly loaded or unbalanced cargo causes an accident, the company responsible for loading the truck could be responsible.

Other Vehicle's Insurance

If another driver on the road caused the accident, their car insurance would be responsible for covering the cost of injuries.

Your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance

In Connecticut, drivers can opt to add personal injury protection coverage to their auto insurance policies. In this case, your own PIP insurance may pay for part of your medical expenses and lost income due to the accident, regardless of who is at fault.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

If the responsible party does not have sufficient insurance or if you've been involved in a hit-and-run accident, your insurance policy (if it includes uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage) can cover your injuries. Every truck accident case is unique, and liability can often be shared among multiple parties. Many variables need to be considered, such as the specifics of the accident, the nature and extent of your injuries, and the insurance policies of all involved parties. For these reasons and more, consulting a knowledgeable and experienced truck accident lawyer is the best course of action.

Contact a New London Truck Accident Lawyer for Assistance Today

Generally speaking, trucking companies have significantly deeper pockets and greater insurance coverage than individual truck drivers. These companies also have more resources to defend against liability, so going up against them in court is not easy. You need a law firm handling your case with the skill and resources to prove your claim against the trucking company so that you receive full compensation. Please call a Connecticut truck accident attorney at Polito & Harrington LLC at 860-447-3300 for a free consultation.