Learning how an accident occurred and who caused the wreck is the first step in deciding who to include in a personal injury lawsuit. This is a complicated process that requires an experienced attorney where a truck accident is concerned. The companies and firms involved in the transport of goods via 18-wheeler can be numerous, and often, more than one party may have been negligent in causing or contributing to an 18-wheeler accident. Potentially liable parties can include:
Truck Drivers: We have handled cases in which drivers have operated 18 wheeler trucks for long hours and were fatigued. Some were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the wreck. Experienced attorneys can investigate the facts to make these determinations.
Commercial Carriers: Special laws apply to the relationship between trucking companies, called “motor carriers,” and their drivers. Some of these laws make commercial carriers liable when one of their truck drivers causes a severe injury. Companies sometimes attempt to circumvent these laws by “leasing” drivers, leasing tractor-trailer rigs, or hiring drivers as independent contractors. Because of our experience, we understand the federal and state motor carrier regulations, and know how to use these laws to prevent the trucking companies from avoiding liability when their drivers cause a serious accident or injury.
Truck Manufacturers: We have been involved in lawsuits where the design and/or maintenance of a truck by a manufacturer have caused catastrophic injuries, even death. While these cases are difficult, our lawyers have experience investigating the hundreds of components that ensure the safe operation of a tractor-trailer rig.
Others: There are a number of different kinds of tractor-trailer rigs. Some trucks, for example, are set up to haul cargo in shipping containers that may be going long distances via ship or train. How these containers are attached to a trailer (or “chassis”), how they are maintained, and how they are loaded, are all important issues in whether the load can be carried safely on the roadway. If a container is overloaded, it can cause the truck to have a longer stopping distance. If it is loaded improperly, it can cause the truck to be prone to rollover. If the container is not attached to the rig properly, it can cause the container to become detached. Our law firm has experience in investigating all of these issues so that if the seller that loaded the container improperly or the shipping company responsible for a container contributes to a catastrophic injury, we can identify that party at fault and include them in the lawsuit.
It is not always easy to locate liable parties, and once they have been identified it is just one more reason to hire an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. We have handled cases where the truck driver has literally disappeared by the time our clients hired us. Fortunately, tracing missing persons has become easier in recent years. In addition to running the standard ‘people locator’ searches, we often run and re-run driver’s license histories through the department of motor vehicles. Updating a driver’s license after a move is required by law. This check can not only tell us if the truck driver changed cities, but it can also tell us if the driver has moved to another state.
We also obtain all payroll information from the trucking company, making sure the records also provide child support information. If the company was holding out child support and sending it to the attorney general, it is likely that the custodial parent as well as the attorney general will have the truck driver’s current employment and address information. Finally, we run criminal history checks and investigate courthouse records filed in the home county under the driver’s name, which can provide us with location information, especially if the driver is involved in a divorce case or other civil matter.
Finally, we always contact and obtain statements from previous employers. This serves two purposes: First, the trucking companies are required to perform a background investigation of every driver that includes information from prior employers. If the driver had a bad driving record or history of drunk driving or drug and alcohol use while with his prior employer that does not show up in public records, that information can become a valuable tool to establish liability. It is also, very common for drivers to go back to work for previous employers or keep in touch with friends from previous employers. We have been able to find drivers by checking with previous employers and asking if they know how to contact the liable driver. Whatever it takes, we find the parties responsible for our clients.