How is Liability Determined in a Texas Commercial Trucking Accident?

Last year in Texas, there were 19,424 accidents involving large trucks – more than any other state. When a trucking accident involves fatalities, injuries, and property damage, liability is primarily based on negligence.

Negligence in trucking accidents

Negligence is generally defined as the failure to behave with the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under the same circumstances. When one party’s negligence contributes to the cause of an accident and another party is harmed, the negligent party may be found liable for the other party’s losses.

The concept of comparative negligence applies to Texas trucking accidents. If a plaintiff was partially at fault in an accident, that plaintiff could still recover damages, as long as they are not determined to be 51% or more at fault for the accident. The total compensation will be impacted by the percentage of each party’s fault in the accident.

How parties can be found negligent

When a truck is involved in an accident, several parties may be found negligent, including the truck driver, trucking company, the driver of another vehicle, and others.

Truck drivers may have contributed to the cause of the accident due to speeding, distracted driving, failing to obey rules of the road, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or violating hours of service rules.

Trucking companies may be found negligent through failure to properly maintain the vehicle, negligent hiring of the driver, failure to provide adequate training, or pressuring the driver to violate hours of service or other safety regulations. Trucking companies may also be held liable for the actions of their employees through vicarious liability. Cargo loaders, maintenance companies, truck and parts manufacturers, and government entities responsible for maintaining the road may also be held liable if their negligence played a role in the accident.

How trucking companies can protect themselves

Trucking companies can limit their exposure by ensuring they are in compliance with all state and federal regulations. Trucking companies have a duty to conduct proper background checks and ensure their drivers are licensed, qualified, and adequately trained to safely operate the type of vehicle they are driving. Trucking companies are also responsible for properly maintaining their fleets with regular inspections, maintenance, and repairs. They also need to follow all regulations with regard to drug and alcohol testing for drivers and ensure their drivers adhere to hours of service rules. Trucking companies can help limit their liability by maintaining accurate records such as driver logs, vehicle maintenance records, drug and alcohol testing records, and documents pertaining to the hiring process.

Trucking companies can further protect themselves by having a well-thought-out 24/7 accident response plan in place and acting swiftly to carry out all the steps of the plan in the aftermath of an accident.

The transportation and trucking attorneys at Texas law firm Sheehy, Ware, Pappas & Grubbs have represented transportation and trucking companies in litigation and other matters for more than 20 years. If you would like to speak to a trucking lawyer about your transportation-related matter, contact us.