Trucking Accidents: Who Can Be Held Responsible?

Millions of trucks and tractor trailers drive our highways and roads every day, delivering food and other goods to stores in every city and town in America. With so many trucks on the road, accidents are inevitable. Because of their size and weight, trucks are particularly dangerous in an accident – according to the National Highway and Safety Administration, 73% of those killed in accidents involving large trucks were occupants of the other vehicles, and 81% of the fatal accidents involving trucks were multiple vehicle collisions.

One of the most challenging tasks after a trucking accident is determining who is responsible. All interstate commercial truck drivers are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates all aspects of commercial trucking, including drug and alcohol testing, hazardous material transportation, training and licensing of commercial truck drivers, and insurance requirements for trucking companies. Once the actual cause of the accident has been determined, the next step is to determine if any of these regulations were violated.

Some common causes of trucking accident include:

Driver Error

Driver error is the leading cause of all auto accidents, including trucking accidents. Often, truck drivers are found in violation of regulations regarding the number of hours they drive in one trip. Drivers are limited to 14 consecutive hours at one time, including breaks and mealtimes. After 14 consecutive hours, drivers must be off duty for 10 hours before being allowed to drive again. Drivers should have logbooks to record their hours, but the books can be neglected or even falsified. Studies have shown that fatigue has the same effect on one’s ability to safely drive as alcohol, so failing to follow these regulations can have disastrous effects. Other driver errors include distracted driving, driving while under the influence of alcohol or other substances, speeding, and simple lapses in judgment or concentration.



Improper loading of cargo may cause a truck to be unbalanced, increasing the chances of an accident. Contents inside a truck may shift if not properly secured, also creating a potential hazard. After an accident, a spill of hazardous materials may cause additional injuries. In these cases, liability may fall on the manufacturer of the materials or the shipper in charge of loading the truck.


Mechanical Failure

Commercial vehicles, like all motor vehicles, must pass periodic safety inspections. Safety inspections for commercial vehicles are more rigorous and detailed than those for private vehicles. The owner of the truck, either a trucking company or an owner/driver, is responsible for proper maintenance of the vehicle. Cutting corners on safety inspections or equipment can lead to accidents. After an accident involving a truck, it is important to access inspection record and also have the truck inspected for faulty equipment that may have been improperly maintained.


All of this may seem overwhelming for someone who is already struggling with a serious injury or with the loss of a loved one. The attorneys at The O’Brien Firm have many years of experience handling trucking accident cases and can help identify the responsible parties to work with their insurers. We are available any time for a free consultation at 716-907-7777. Visit the firm’s website at /for more information about the firm and our attorneys. COVID-19 UPDATE: Although we are working from alternate locations, we remain fully functional and look forward to helping you.