Commercial Motor Vehicle Liability

When a commercial vehicle causes a crash, questions arise about who is liable. Even if the driver’s behavior is what led to the crash, the law generally will find that an employer is liable, if the crash occurred while the driver was on duty. But other parties may be found to share some responsibility for the accident, such as the manufacturer of any faulty components in the commercial vehicle.

Sorting out liability in commercial motor vehicle crashes is complicated, simply due to the number of parties involved in some commercial enterprises. Drivers, managers, company owners, mechanics, and others may all in some way contribute to a crash. That’s why anyone who’s injured in a crash with a commercial motor vehicle should seek the help of a personal injury attorney who understands the intricacies of insurance laws.

Louthian Law FirmAt the Louthian Law Firm, we have been representing South Carolina personal injury victims since 1959. We understand how to pursue insurers to achieve the best possible outcomes for our clients, and often we can reach settlements without the need for a lengthy trial. If you’ve been injured in a crash with a commercial motor vehicle, call us today to find out if you have a case: 803-454-1200.

Notable Verdicts

In May 2016, settlements totaling more than $80 million were announced, stemming from an that killed five nursing students in Georgia and seriously injured two others. The driver of the tractor-trailer that rear-ended a car and started the fatal chain-reaction collision was traveling above the speed limit at the time of the crash and had been texting on his cell phone moments earlier. Families of the victims filed suit against Total Transportation, the driver’s employer, and U.S. Xpress, its parent company.

It may seem that $80 million is a windfall for these families, but it’s difficult to place a dollar value on someone’s life, or the pain and suffering their family experiences. No amount of money can erase the memory of what happened, or make up for a life cut short.

Another tractor-trailer crash, this one in Illinois in 2010, resulted in a $6.5-million settlement. The crash killed a 32-year-old mother and severely injured her husband and their 3-year-old son. At the time of the crash, the truck driver had allegedly been under the influence of drugs and exceeding the speed limit. An investigation found the company that owned the truck violated federal law by not conducting drug tests or background checks on drivers and that the vehicle’s load exceeded its maximum weight allowance. The truck also had faulty brakes.

The Dangers of Safety Violations

Trucking companies are required by federal law to keep vehicles in good working condition, yet some companies knowingly allow dangerous vehicles – and drivers –to travel the roads.

In 2012, a man driving a truck owned by a Florida transportation company caused a crash in Maryland that killed two construction workers. Investigators found three of the truck’s 10 brakes weren’t functioning, and another three were out of adjustment. The company that owned the truck had been cited for 56 safety violations in the past year for problems with brakes, tires, and steering.

When repeated violations are egregious, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will sometimes force a commercial transportation company to shut down, as it did in April 2016 following a fatal limousine crash in Illinois. FMCSA investigators found the company routinely employed drivers who were younger than 21– the minimum age under federal law for interstate commercial drivers. The company also failed to conduct background checks on drivers, to maintain records of vehicle maintenance, to have the required minimum level of liability insurance and to log drivers’ time – a federal requirement aimed at reducing fatigued driving. The company owner and the driver who caused the fatal crash both had prior traffic citations and driver’s license suspensions.

Crash Factors

Operators of commercial transportation companies create a risk to other drivers on the road when they fail to properly maintain vehicles and ignore federal laws about maintenance and driver background checks. A driver who has a record of multiple safety violations, such as speeding, reckless driving, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, should not be allowed to drive a truck that’s capable of crushing other vehicles; nor should he or she be allowed to transport passengers.

If you’ve been injured in a crash with a commercial vehicle, you may be entitled to pursue the liable parties for compensation. Call us today to request your free consultation at 803-454-1200, or complete our online contact form.