Trucks contain many complex systems that require regular inspections and maintenance. When a problem arises, it can pose safety risks that demand immediate attention. Otherwise, a malfunction can result in a major accident that could have been prevented. Sometimes a truck maintenance company fails to properly repair a truck, but inaction by a driver or a trucking company also may allow a maintenance problem to go unaddressed.
A truck driver must inspect their truck before each trip (and before each day of a multi-day trip) and alert the trucking company to any problems. The company is supposed to address these problems promptly. Unfortunately, both truck drivers and trucking companies have incentives to cut corners regarding inspections and maintenance. Since drivers are often paid by the mile, and companies may demand that they meet tight deadlines, they may not take the time to thoroughly inspect a truck before going out on the road. If a driver notices a problem during an inspection, the trucking company may be reluctant to arrange for repairs. This process involves costs for labor and parts, and the company loses the profits that it would have earned if the truck had stayed in operation.
Was a Truck Part Defective?
Sometimes a malfunction results not from improper maintenance of a truck but instead from a defect in a truck part. This may support a claim against the manufacturer of the part, based on a problem with the design or manufacturing process.
Legal Claims Based on Improper Maintenance of Trucks
Crashes resulting from improper maintenance of trucks may be complex and involve the fault of multiple parties. A victim may want to hire an attorney who can perform a thorough investigation and bring all the at-fault parties into the case. These may include the truck driver, the trucking company, and any third-party maintenance company that failed to conduct proper repairs. Even if the trucking company was not at fault, it may be held accountable for errors by an employee driver that occurred while they were on the job, such as oversights during rushed inspections or a failure to conduct a required inspection.
When multiple defendants shared fault for an accident, this may trigger a rule known as joint and several liability. This can help a victim recover full compensation if not all defendants can pay their share of the damages. Joint and several liability provides that each at-fault defendant is responsible for paying the full amount of damages, even though they were not completely at fault. Some states generally apply joint and several liability to personal injury cases, while other states limit its application to certain situations. Still other states provide only for several liability, which means that a defendant must pay only the damages that are proportionate to their percentage of fault.
Accidents caused by malfunctioning truck parts can result in catastrophic injuries, such as brain damage, paralysis, and amputations. A victim often can recover damages not only for costs and losses that they previously suffered but also for future costs and losses. Medical and vocational experts often can provide testimony to support a claim for damages such as future treatment costs and lost earning capacity. Meanwhile, testimony from friends, family members, or coworkers of a victim can complement photo and video evidence in illustrating future non-economic damages, such as lost enjoyment of life.
Statute of Limitations
A victim should explore legal action as soon as possible after a truck accident. They will need to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations, which usually starts running when an accident happens. If a victim does not comply with the statute of limitations, they probably will not recover compensation, even if they can prove fault.