How Do Semi-Truck Accident Lawsuits Work?
Trucking is a huge industry in the United States. Because Kansas is located in the center of the country, it is a crossroads of trucking. Kansas roads and highways are among the most heavily trafficked in the nation. Semis, box trucks, and other commercial vehicles make up a large portion of traffic on Kansas roads. The massive size of semi-trucks means that injuries resulting from accidents with these behemoths are generally more severe. When an individual is injured in a trucking accident, the law provides a means of redress for those injuries. Below is an overview of common lawsuits involving trucks.
What Type Of Liability Arises From Truck Accidents?
Just as with all car accidents, the most common claim is one of negligence. The basis of a negligence claim is the legal principle that all drivers on the road—including truck drivers—must operate their vehicles in a reasonable and safe manner. For truck drivers, though the standard is the same, it often requires different actions because of the nature of semi-trucks. For example, the appropriate distance to follow another vehicle is very different for a semi-truck and a small car. Additionally, blind spots of semi-trucks are much large than those of other vehicles, requiring extra precaution by truck drivers. When a truck driver fails to act reasonably and safely, causing injury to another driver, that injured driver has a valid claim for negligence.
Another common claim arising from traffic accidents is negligence per se. This type of claim is based on violations of laws that result in injury to others. To be successful, the violation of the law must result in the type of harm the law was meant to prevent occurred and plaintiff must be the type of person—such as a car driver or pedestrian—that the law was meant to protect. For truck drivers, all the laws that normally apply to drivers may be the basis of this type of claim. Truck drivers are also subject to several regulations and laws specific to operating large vehicles or using a commercial driver’s license. For example, Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 395.3 limits the hours a commercial truck driver can drive and how long the breaks between driving must be. If a truck driver violates this rule and falls asleep at the wheel, the injured individual can bring a negligence per se claim to collect compensation for injuries. However, if a truck driver violates this regulation but causes an accident due to speeding, not fatigue, the violation would not provide a means of redress; the regulation is meant to prevent accidents caused by fatigue, not accidents caused by speeding unrelated to fatigue.
Is The Trucking Company Liable For A Truck Accident?
The at-fault driver will be responsible for injuries resulting for a traffic accident. This principle holds true for truck drivers as well. Because insurance is required by Kansas law, insurance companies will generally defend and pay for claims against their insured drivers. However, in the context of truck drivers, another party may also be liable: the employer of the truck driver. This is because of the doctrine of respondeat superior makes an employer liable for negligent acts committed by their employees. Two important things must be proven for this vicarious liability to apply. First, the truck driver must be an employee, not an independent contractor. They key is not what the employer says—in fact, employers often will intentionally misclassify workers to attempt to get the benefits of employing an independent contractor—but instead the level of control the employer maintains over the worker. This requirement will be difficult in a number of trucking cases, because most truck drivers are given a fair amount of freedom in executing their work. This is, of course, not always the case, particularly with trucking companies that may set specific delivery schedules and requirements. The second thing that must be proven is much easier: that the accident occurred during the course and scope of the truck driver’s employment. This simply means that the truck driver was either performing an assigned task when the accident occurred or otherwise acting to benefit the employer. Courts have traditionally applied this rule in a fairly friendly way to injured individuals, meaning most times a truck driver is on the road, the driving will be found to be within the scope of employment.
What If The Injured Party Is Killed In A Trucking Accident?
When an individual is killed in an accident caused by a truck driver, a legal claim still exists. The estate of the deceased individuals can bring the claim that the individual would have been able to bring had she survived. This is true whether the injured individual dies as a result of the accident or passes away from unrelated conditions after the accident but during the lawsuit. The family of the deceased individual has another option, however. They can bring an action for wrongful death under Section 60-1901. This action seeks to redress the loss of the loved one, rather than to compensate the deceased for injuries suffered prior to death. Section 60-1902 allows any heir of the deceased to bring the action against the individual that caused the death of the deceased. Whatever recovery is awarded must be divided among all heirs, unless those heirs decline to partake in the lawsuit.
Trucking accidents are some of the most severe traffic accidents that occur. Individuals can be seriously injured or even killed in these accidents. If you or a loved one are injured by the carelessness of a truck driver, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Evidence regarding the cause of the accident is easiest to obtain just after an accident occurs and this evidence may be critical to establishing a claim for redress of injuries suffered.
For more information on Semi-Truck Accidents In Kansas, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (913) 451-9500 today.
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