State and federal laws hold professional drivers to a higher standard than the standard for individuals who just drive cars for their own personal use. A driver of a semi truck has a great responsibility to prevent the rig from causing injury or death on the public roads.
Truck Driver Liability
Before getting behind the wheel, a semi truck driver must make sure that his or her rig can be operated safely. The driver must be aware of hazards and road conditions at all times and always have complete control of the vehicle. A truck driver must make sure that distractions don’t interfere with operating the semi truck. Even so, establishing liability for a truck accident can be a more complex process than one would expect.
In some cases, the truck driver may bear no liability for an accident. For example, another driver or a pedestrian may have moved in front of the semi truck before any truck driver could reasonably have been able to stop in time or swerve away. However, in many cases, the driver of a semi truck does bear all of the liability for an accident or shares the liability with other parties.
The driver of a semi truck might bear the liability for an accident if he or she was intoxicated when the accident occurred or if the driver became distracted. Establishing liability for a truck accident would likely be more difficult if none of these conditions applied.
Third Party Liability
Other parties might bear some of the liability for a truck accident. For example, the vehicle could have had defects that the driver could not have detected during a routine check before getting on the road; in this case, the party responsible for the vehicle defect might also be liable for the accident. Maintenance crews sometimes make errors that are not revealed until a rig has been on the road for hours or even for days. Manufacturing errors and design flaws may not manifest themselves until a semi truck has been driven thousands of miles. In addition, freight companies sometimes coerce drivers into hauling loads that are more than the legal weight in Illinois — 34,000 pounds. A truck with an overweight load can require much more distance to stop than a truck that has a load within the legal weight limit.
Although the driver is ultimately responsible for the safe operation of a semi truck, a judge or jury may determine that other parties’ actions also contributed to an accident. In such a case, a judge or jury may have a difficult time determining how much liability the other parties should bear for causing the accident.