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Tracing Liability in a Trucking Accident

| Feb 16, 2022 | Car Accidents, Truck Accidents

When there is an accident between two people, liability can get complicated. Even when the facts seem straightforward, there may be uncertainties or challenges that keep the process from running smoothly.

This complication can increase greatly in an accident between a regular commuter and a commercial truck. There are far more variables, and the chain of liability can be unclear.

Liability in a trucking accident is completely dependent on the details of that accident. Even if it’s easy to tell who was directly responsible on the road, it can still be difficult to determine who to hold accountable. In this article, we will explore various types of trucking accidents and help you decipher who might be responsible.

Liability in a Cargo Spill

Cargo spills are dangerous. They can cause multi-car pile-ups, depending on what was being hauled and how far the cargo spreads. The first element of liability in a cargo spill is determining what caused the spill. It may have happened through no fault of the trucker. Maybe they were hit or had to swerve to avoid danger. This caused the cab to rupture, spilling goods into the streets. In a case like that, whatever or whoever caused the initial accident could be held accountable.

If, however, the spill was the result of a loose or poorly packed trailer, liability becomes more complicated. This kind of accident is likely the fault of whoever handled the door or the cargo last. Often, this means the loading company. Some truckers are forbidden to handle the goods or even the trailer door, simply to avoid such liability. If the loading company overpacked a trailer or did a poor job securing the door, and a spill resulted, they can be held responsible for any resulting injuries.

Of course, loading companies are not solely to blame. Your attorney may need to do some thorough investigation on the case. If they find that the trucker was inappropriately handling the trailer or the cargo, that trucker could be the culprit. It all depends on who last handled the items, causing the spill.

Liability in a Collision with a Commercial Truck

Of course, there are more direct ways to get into an accident with a truck, like being hit by it.

Insurance-wise, New York is a no-fault state. This means that regardless of who caused an accident, you can collect benefits directly from your insurer, bypassing the need to blame anyone. Fault, however, can still be relevant. If your insurance benefits don’t completely cover your bills, you may need to appeal to the at-fault driver’s insurance to cover the rest. In lieu of that, you may need to take the matter to court.

This is where things get tricky. Let’s say you were hit by a trucker. Superficially, it would seem as though they are the at-fault driver. While this may be true, it doesn’t automatically mean that they are held responsible. If the trucker is employed by a trucking company, the company may be liable for the accident.

The trucker, however, may not work for a big company. If they are independent contractors, the trucker might be liable. Even that, however, may not be the case. They may be insured by whoever hired them for the duration of the job, putting liability back on the employer. Chains of liability get complicated, and that is intentional. The harder it is to track down a liable party, the harder it is to hold them accountable. If you were hit by a trucker, you may need a legal professional to help you track down responsibility for the accident.

There is yet another scenario. You must also consider the trucker’s behavior. If they drive recklessly, do something illegal, drive while intoxicated, etc., then the employer may be able to distance itself from the driver. This would put liability directly onto the trucker.

Liability With a Poorly Maintained Truck

Drivers have a responsibility to pay attention, follow traffic laws, drive safely, and so on. They must also keep their cars properly maintained. A car with poor upkeep can be hazardous on the road, endangering other drivers.

If a poorly maintained commercial truck causes an accident, liability falls on whoever is responsible for the truck’s upkeep. Once again, the chain of liability can get messy here.

Traditionally, the truck’s owner is responsible for its maintenance. Ownership alone, however, can get complicated. Perhaps the trucking company has a fleet of vehicles, and truckers use different trucks for each job. In cases like these, the company is probably liable for truck maintenance, not the driver. However, companies could assign trucks to drivers along with the responsibility for keeping trucks maintained.

Furthermore, the matter becomes even more complicated if neither the trucker nor the company owns the vehicles. The trucks may be rented from an outside company. From there, the responsibility for vehicle maintenance depends on the contract. The renters may claim that the owners are liable, and the owners can put that responsibility on the renters.

If the trucker owns their truck and works as an independent contractor, they are most likely liable for the truck’s upkeep.


You must have the help of a good attorney if you’ve been in a trucking accident. With the ever-branching paths of liability, it can be difficult to understand who you can hold responsible. A good lawyer can sift through the red tape and go after the legally responsible party.

If you’ve been hurt in a trucking accident, reach out to our firm for help. We can help you track down the responsible parties and hold them accountable. You can call us today at (607) 228-8404 or contact us online.