Springfield Trucking Accident Lawyers Share Common Causes and When a Trucking Company is Liable for a Truck Accident in Illinois
Although all motor vehicle accidents can be particularly devastating, crashes involving 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, big rigs, and other box trucks are particularly catastrophic. This is due to the considerable momentum that large trucks generate due to their weight – even at a low speed. But on a highway or thruway, large trucks can be explosive battering rams, causing significant personal injuries or wrongful death to innocent people. Despite the significant damages in a trucking wreck, unfortunately, many defense lawyers and insurance adjusters will defend cases aggressively. This includes unfairly minimizing or denying coverage to victims. In cases like this, victims and their families should contact an experienced Springfield trucking accident lawyer to learn when is a trucking company liable for a truck accident in Illinois to protect their rights.
At the Noll Law Office, their experienced and compassionate attorneys and legal staff have handled significant and devastating types of motor vehicle accidents. This includes 18-wheeler wrecks and other commercial vehicle accidents where individuals have been seriously injured, disabled, or wrongfully killed in a negligently caused crash. Unlike other personal injury law firms, the trucking accident lawyers at the Noll Law Office offer free consultations and case evaluations for victims and their families. In addition, as fifth-generation lawyers, the legal team at the Noll Law Office also prides itself on handling cases in-house and not farming them out to newly graduated lawyers across the state. If you or a loved one have been injured in any type of trucking accident, call the Noll Law Office at (217) 414-8889 to schedule your free consultation today.
What is Liability in a Personal Injury Action?
Personal injury cases involve proving liability, causation, and damages. The term liability simply refers to fault. The fault must be one that is recognized under the law. The law may be the common law, or judge-made law, or it could be statutory law, or legislatively-made law. In addition, a defendant may be liable for regulatory violations, which are administratively made rules.
Common Law Liability
When it comes to trucking accidents, the common law that applies in nearly all cases is that of negligence. Most if not all personal injury actions will be premised on negligence. Generally, the term negligence is simply a failure to use reasonable care which results in harm to another. In order to be found liable for negligence, a plaintiff must establish that:
- The defendant had a duty of care,
- The defendant breached that duty of care, AND
- That the defendant’s breach caused
- The victim damages (injury or loss).
Under Illinois law, all motorists owe a duty to use reasonable care in the use or operation of a motor vehicle. This includes avoiding reckless or careless harm to others on or around the roads. The standard of care is flexible and depends on the facts and circumstances of a particular case.
Statutory Law Liability
In addition to the common law, all motorists must comply with the vehicle and traffic laws of Illinois. This includes whether you are a driver licensed in Illinois, from Illinois, or just visiting from another state or even another country. Defendants who violate a traffic law may face criminal penalties or traffic offenses.
However, where a defendant violates a traffic law and causes a motor vehicle accident, such a defendant may be civilly liable for a victim’s personal injuries or other damages. In fact, Illinois has a doctrine called negligence per se, which may find that a defendant breached a duty of care when:
- The defendant violates a statutory law
- Such law was meant to protect the class of persons that the victim was (i.e., another driver or pedestrian), AND
- The law was also meant to prevent the type of harm that was caused to the victim.
If these three elements are met, a plaintiff will need to only establish causation and damages in order to recover compensation for a trucking accident in Illinois.
Regulatory Violations and Liability
Regulations are promulgated by administrative agencies. The largest and most relevant administrative agency for a trucking accident is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The regulations by this agency apply to all drivers of commercial vehicles and their companies. Most of the regulations pertain to the safety and orderly administration of the roads or driving commercial vehicles.
Although the doctrine of negligence per se does apply to FMCSA violations, and it can be used by an injured plaintiff, it does not have the same impact as a statutory violation (which is made by the legislature and through formal bill-making processes). As a result, a regulatory violation by a truck driver may be evidence of negligence in a personal injury case in Illinois, therefore still requiring a plaintiff to prove a duty of care and a breach.
When is a Trucking Company Liable for a Truck Accident in Illinois
After an 18-wheeler wreck, it is often clear that a truck driver is the one who often commits a common law, statutory, or regulation violation, and is, therefore, the person at fault for a trucking accident in Illinois. Indeed, the truck driver is the one who may have been driving too fast, fallen asleep, or otherwise caused the crash while operating the big rig.
Therefore, this begs the question of when is a trucking company liable for a truck accident in Illinois?
And the answer is nearly always. That’s because, like most states, Illinois has a type of vicarious liability known as respondeat superior. Under this legal doctrine, a trucking company or employer will be liable for a truck driver or employee’s negligence that occurred within the scope of employment. After all, the employee is acting to further the interests of the employer, and therefore the accident would not have occurred “but for” the employee having to be out on the road or do the delivery for the employer.
That means that nearly all types of trucking accidents in Illinois that are the fault of the employee will be the fault of the employer. The exceptions to this rule are narrow and difficult for a defendant to prove, although not impossible so it is always recommended that victims and their families have an experienced Springfield trucking accident lawyer help them with their case.
Common Causes of Trucking Accidents that the Trucking Company May be Liable Under Illinois Law
There are many different types and causes of trucking accidents in Illinois and throughout the United States. Some of the most common causes where an employer or trucking company may be liable for their truck driver’s negligence include the following:
- Improper left turn
- Following too closely
- Aggressive driving
- Drugged driving
- Drunk driving
- Distracted driving
- Overloaded cargo
- Improper lane changes
- Unsafe to merge onto a highway
- Jumping a curb
- Tire blowouts
- Unsecured cargo
- Fatigued driver who falls asleep at the wheel
- Jackknifed trucks
- Rear end collisions
- Unsafe backing, and
- Any other types of trucking accidents caused by a truck driver who was negligent that the experienced Springfield trucking accident lawyers at the Noll Law Office could possibly help you handle.
In addition to these common causes of trucking accidents, most of which are due to a truck driver’s errors, a trucking company could be independently liable for other types of truck wrecks. Some of these common causes of trucking company liability include the following:
- Improper hiring
- Negligent maintenance and repair of a truck
- Unsafe loading or improper loading of a truck
- Unrealistic driving schedules
- Forcing drivers to use cell phones while on duty and driving (a FMCSA violation)
- Improper supervision and training
- Failing to suspend truck drivers who are knowingly using drugs or alcohol while driving
- Old or damaged vehicles
- Creating dangerous and unsafe policies (i.e., if skidding out, rear-end the car in front of the driver instead of trying to turn to avoid and possibly jackknife and strike multiple cars)
- Using improper straps and securement devices, and
- Other common causes where a trucking company may be independently negligent for a trucking accident in Illinois.
Injured in an Illinois Trucking Accident? Call the Springfield Trucking Accident Lawyers at the Noll Law Office for Help
Individuals who are seriously injured in trucking accidents with big rigs, tractor-trailers, semis, and other types of box trucks should call the Noll Law Office for help. Their compassionate and experienced Springfield trucking accident lawyers can help victims and their families recover compensation for their personal injuries. To learn more about your rights to compensation under Illinois law and how their legal team can help you, schedule a free case evaluation by contacting the Noll Law Office today.