Establishing liability in truck accident lawsuits

Truck accident lawsuits in Kentucky and around the country are usually based on the civil law tort of negligence. In most situations, plaintiffs must prove that they were harmed because the defendant owed them a duty of care and failed to meet that duty. However, the burden on the plaintiff is eased considerably under the legal principle of negligence per se when the defendant broke the law.

Negligence per se

Negligence per se arguments are made in motor vehicle accident lawsuits when drivers who caused accidents did so because they violated traffic laws or operated their vehicles while impaired by alcohol or drugs. The defendants in truck accident cases could also be negligent per se if accidents are caused by violations of Department of Transportation or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations. These regulations are comprehensive and very strict, and they require semi-tractor trailers to be properly maintained and equipped with safety systems such as anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. FMCSA regulations also place limits on the amount of time truck drivers can remain on duty.

Vicarious liability

Truck accident victims may sue trucking companies under the legal principle of vicarious liability when the negligent actions of a truck driver were foreseeable or preventable. This type of lawsuit is often filed when truck drivers are not properly screened, poorly trained or subject to lax supervision. Trucking companies could also face negligence lawsuits when they knew their drivers were violating FMCSA regulations and failed to take adequate steps to stop it, allowed cargo to be loaded improperly or used substandard parts to repair their vehicles.

Evidence of negligence

When preparing truck accident lawsuits, experienced personal injury attorneys may look for evidence of negligence per se by studying police reports to find out if the truck driver involved was speeding, impaired or operating their vehicle in a reckless and unsafe manner. When the accident may have been caused by distraction, a mechanical defect of some kind or fatigue, attorneys could also seek to obtain the driver’s cellphone call history, the vehicle’s service records and hours of service information from the truck’s electronic logging device.


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