In a typical vehicle accident case, the target of an injured party's claim is usually the driver of another car. The claim is presented to the driver's insurance company, and that's where things generally start for legal purposes.
When an incident involves a truck, though, the issue is often more complicated than just going after the driver. Let's look at how a truck accident attorney has to approach the question of who should be the target of a claim.
The Cast of Characters
A normal truck accident case involves a commercial driver and at least one company. The number of possible arrangements for hauling freight is pretty large, though. An independent driver might work for a contracted company that then sells its services to a third business, such as a big box store. On the other hand, a driver might work directly for the folks who need the freight hauled. There are a lot of ways operators are matched with folks who might be their customers or employers.
Why Not Go After the Driver?
Unless the driver of the vehicle was an independent operator in a situation where they weren't working for anyone else, a truck accident lawyer probably isn't inclined to target them. It may sound crass to point it out, but the driver probably isn't the party with the most money, the best insurance, or clear liability. That's usually a fleet operator or a contracting party.
A few scenarios do involve filing a claim against the driver. Most involve the truck without the trailer because liability often follows the load. If an independent operator isn't on a job, such as when they're taking a truck to a shop for service, then the driver is the correct defendant. Otherwise, liability tends to follow the trailer and the load.
Identifying the Target of the Claim
Depending on the circumstances, a truck accident attorney may have to dig through a lot of paperwork for the vehicle's trip before determining who the defendant should be. Every load, however, should be governed by an agreement. The parties to the agreement usually assign liability to one of them, and that's the key to deciding who should pay.
In the worst cases, a truck accident lawyer may have to sue to obtain documents related to the contracted trip. However, a judge will order all parties to the case to produce the necessary documentation. Anyone who fails to do so may be subject to sanctions, fines, contempt proceedings, or even a summary judgment.
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