After a commercial truck accident, you may have a number of questions about what steps to take next. Depending on the nature of the accident and the injuries or damages you suffered, you may have grounds to file an injury claim against the responsible party. Unfortunately, while an injury claim addresses a victim's needs after an accident, navigating the process of filing and pursuing a claim can prove surprisingly complicated and difficult.
Don't allow the complexities and frustrations of properly pursuing a personal injury claim keep you from doing so. You may deserve sizable compensation for your injuries and losses, and without building and pursuing a strong claim, you may never receive all — or any — of it.
Make it a priority to build your claim as effectively and efficiently as you can so that you do not shoulder the burden of medical expenses and property damage on your own. It is not wise to wait, hoping that the responsible party covers everything eventually. Even if this happens, by that time, you may experience financial ruin because of the mounting medical expenses and other issues.
Drivers as employees or independent contractors
The most obvious liable party to consider is the driver of the truck. Even if the accident is the fault of the driver, which is dependent on his or her professional relationship to the shipping company hiring the truck, the driver may or may not personally bear liability for the accident.
If he or she operates as an independent contractor, then the driver's individual insurance policy may have to shoulder the liability. On the other hand, if the shipping company classifies the driver as an employee, the company itself often bears liability.
When it comes to the employment status of the driver, you may need to do some of your own research to get the truth. In many instances, companies prefer to classify employees as independent contractors to limit their own liability, and may misclassify the driver in your accident for their own protection. If you find grounds to suggest that the shipping company misclassified the driver, it may be liable for the accident after all.
Other potential defendants
Your accident may not actually be the fault of the driver, even if the truck itself caused it. It is also possible that the cargo the driver hauled was improperly loaded, or that some component of the truck itself failed.
If, for instance, a crew packs a load for the driver to carry at a dock, but does not properly secure the contents of the load, it may shift while the driver hauls it. Sudden shifts of weight in a trailer or on a flat bed can easily cause a massive accident, and may even spill the contents of the shipment all over the road, causing further damage. In this case, the individuals or company that packed the shipment likely holds liability for the accident.
Likewise, if a repair shop performs a repair poorly and a component of the truck fails, these failures may cause an accident. In these instances, the parties who performed the poor repair or the manufacturer of the failed component may bear liability.
You must research the causes of the accident itself in detail before you file a comprehensive claim. Be sure to consider all the legal tools you have available to keep you rights and privileges secure while you pursue fair resolution to your injury claim.