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When Are Truck Drivers Liable After an Accident?

Determining liability after a truck accident will depend entirely on the facts of the specific case. Some of the factors that are used by truck accident lawyers to determine fault after a crash include but are not limited to:


  • Whether the truck driver was careless (negligent) in the operation of the truck
  • Whether the truck or tractor being driven had mechanical or manufacturer defects
  • Whether the company the truck driver was employed by was negligent in their hiring, training, and/or supervision of the truck driver
  • The driving conditions at the time of the crash

This article is intended to provide broad and general insight into truck driver liability and how liability may be analyzed and determined after a truck accident.  This also includes some of what lawyers, accident reconstructionists, police, retained experts and insurance investigators may look for when analyzing the facts and evidence following a collision.


Determining Liability After a Truck Accident

close up of two men at a table look through documents

In the immediate aftermath of a truck accident, determining fault is a high priority for the individuals involved, as we as their attorneys, truck driver, trucking companies, and the potential insurance companies involved. This can be resolved during informal settlements and conversations while other situations are ultimately determined by a jury.

One of the main reasons to investigate how and why a crash occurred is to determine fault which may, in turn, determine who is responsible for payment to the aggrieved party or parties. There are several possible parties that may be held accountable for a truck accident.

Again, it cannot be overstated that not all cases are the same, especially in the context of truck accidents. To discuss a specific case and understand the potential liability issues after a truck accident, call our experienced trucking team at (414) 436-2484 for a FREE and confidential case evaluation today.


Drivers At Fault

If it can be proven that the truck driver’s actions or negligence caused the accident and subsequent damages, then the driver may be held liable for the damages, injuries, harms, and losses that resulted. It is important to note that in most cases, the damages for which a negligent truck driver is responsible are often covered by an insurance policy or multiple insurance policies. Again, trucking cases can be extremely complex and there are many factors that play a role in the determination of liability.

Lawyers, accident reconstruction experts, trucking standard of care experts, police, and retained and insurance investigators might first look to find evidence regarding which driver may have deviated from the law including general rules of the road, commercial driving rules or trucking rules and regulations.

If it can be proven that the truck driver did not follow rules and regulations associated with trucking, which may include speed limits, cargo weight, or service hours, then the truck driver may be negligent and could face some liability for the accident. Moreover, as stated above, it is important to note that this liability is often covered by the truck driver’s insurance or the motor carriers or other insurance policies possibly involved. Driver fatigue is a common cause of truck accidents.

Some liability may be shared between the driver and other parties under Wisconsin’s comparative negligence laws. [1]


Manufacturer is At Fault

A manufacturer may be held liable for a truck accident if the collision was caused by a defect in the design or production of the truck or one of its components.

In these cases, the manufacturer may be held responsible for any damages or injuries that result from the defect. For example, if a defect in the truck's braking system caused the accident, the manufacturer of the brakes may be held liable. Similarly, if a defect in the truck's tires caused the accident, the manufacturer of the tires may be held liable.

It is important to note that in order to hold a manufacturer liable for a truck accident, it generally must be proven that there was a design defect, a manufacturing defect, or a failure to warn. If this cannot be proven, the manufacturer may not be held liable.

Again, this is a general explanation of a highly complex and nuanced legal issue and a significant investigation into each specific incident.


Company is At Fault

A trucking company may potentially be held liable for a truck accident if it contributed to the cause of the accident or if it allowed the driver to operate the truck while knowing or having reason to know that the driver was unfit to do so.

There are also situations where a truck driver may be covered by multiple insurance policies or employed by multiple motor carriers at the same time under Wisconsin law.

For example, if the trucking company failed to maintain the vehicle properly and this contributed to the accident, the company and/or their insurance company could potentially be held liable. Similarly, if the company allowed the driver to operate the truck while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if they did not adequately monitor the driver's hours of service to ensure that the driver was not operating the truck while fatigued, the company may be held liable for any resulting damages, harms, and losses. Once again, this is a generalization of a very complex and nuanced situation that should be investigated by an experienced truck accident law firm.

It is also important to note that trucking companies have a legal responsibility to ensure that their vehicles are operated safely and in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.

If the company fails to fulfill this responsibility and an accident occurs as a result, they may be held liable for any resulting damages and injuries. [2]


Multiple Parties are At Fault

Yes, it is possible for multiple parties to be held liable for a truck accident. Liability may be shared among various parties depending on the specific circumstances of the truck accident and the role that each party played in causing or contributing to the collision.

For example, the truck driver may be held liable if the accident was caused by the driver's actions or negligence. This is often covered by the truck driver's insurance policy, or the motor carrier or employer’s insurance policy. Additionally, the trucking company that employs the driver may also be held liable in certain circumstances.  In some situations, the trucking company could be liable if it knew or should have known about an issue and failed to properly maintain the vehicle or if it knew or should have known and then allowed the driver to operate the truck while fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This could potentially lead to something called punitive damages.

In addition, other parties such as the manufacturer of the truck or one of its components, a company that loaded the truck, or a third party that caused the accident may also be held liable. It is important to determine the cause of an accident and who may be liable in order to determine who is responsible for paying for damages and injuries. [2]

As noted earlier, each truck accident is different, and liability depends on the facts of each specific case. You should consult with an experienced truck attorney for further clarification.


Wisconsin State Laws Regarding Truck Accidents

lady justice statue with a clear blue sky behind

The State of Wisconsin has specific laws and regulations that apply to truck accidents. These laws are intended to ensure that trucking companies and their drivers operate safely and in accordance with all applicable rules and regulations.  Often these laws work in conjunction with federal laws and federal regulations.

One important trucking law in Wisconsin, via the FMCSA, is the "Hours of Service" regulation, which limits the number of hours that a truck driver may operate a commercial vehicle without taking a break. This law is intended to protect the public as well as prevent fatigue-related accidents caused by drivers who could otherwise be overworked and sleep-deprived. [3]

Wisconsin also has regulations in place to ensure that commercial vehicles are properly maintained and equipped. For example, the State, via federal regulations, often requires that trucks generally be equipped with certain safety features such as reflective tape, fire extinguishers, and warning triangles. These regulations are intended to help prevent accidents and limit the severity of accidents that do occur.

Finally, Wisconsin has laws in place that help hold any responsible party accountable for injuries, economic and non-economic damages, harms, and losses. These laws allow victims of truck accidents to seek compensation for their damages and injuries.

Each law can be complex and the application of said law depends on the facts of the case.

You will need a skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced team of attorneys and resources to protect yourself. Our firm has a decades-long track record of success. Contact our team today for a FREE case evaluation. There is never a fee until we win. Call us today at (414) 436-2484.


Gathering Evidence After a Truck Accident

close up of a smart phone taking a picture of a road after an accident
It is important to gather as much evidence as possible after an accident so that liability may be investigated properly. Remember, evidence may change or disappear and acting quickly post-crash can be vital in proving liability. Additionally, there are a number of important steps to take after a truck accident.

Evidence can be used to establish the cause of the accident and who may be liable for any damages or injuries that resulted.

Evidence that may be helpful after a truck accident includes:


  1. Photos and videos of the accident scene, including the positions of the vehicles and any damage that was sustained
  2. Witness statements from people who saw the crash, pre-crash driving patterns, or post-crash aftermath
  3. The police report, which may contain information about the cause of the accident and the parties involved
  4. The truck driver's logbook, which may contain information about the driver's hours of service and whether the driver was in compliance with regulations (any trucking telematics data may be used as well)
  5. The truck's maintenance records, which may contain information about the condition of the truck and any repairs that were made
  6. Telematics data- see the post on telematics data above and how important this can be in investigating a serious truck accident lawsuit
  7. Trucking company data- crash history and statistics
  8. Employment file and employment application for the truck driver
  9. Expert testimony, such as testimony from an accident reconstruction expert, engineer, standard of care expert, truck driving expert, or a mechanic, who can help to establish the cause of the accident and who may be liable

It is important to gather and preserve this evidence as soon as possible after the crash.


How a Truck Accident Law Firm Can Help

Uber lawyer David Gruber discussing a case with a client


If you have been involved in a truck accident and you are unsure who is liable, you should contact us right away. Don’t wait. An experienced truck accident law firm can help you to navigate the legal process, protect your rights and help you get the compensation you deserve.

Based on our experience, it is extremely important to contact a firm with a proven history of success. Ultimately, the decision of whether to hire a lawyer after a truck accident is a personal one and will depend on your individual circumstances. One factor that should not deter you from hiring an attorney is cost. We offer a FREE and confidential case evaluation. And there is NEVER a fee, until we win your case. Call or message our dedicated truck team today. (414) 436-2484 or learn more here: truck accident FAQ page.

Yes, it's always worth it to hire a car accident lawyer. It's also a good idea to contact a lawyer after a minor car accident.




Disclaimer: This post provides general information but is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.

Steven Gruber car accident attorney
( Personal Injury Attorney )

Attorney Steven Gruber was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His family has deep roots in the Wisconsin legal community, as his father, David, founded Gruber Law Offices almost 40 years ago and his mother, Nancy, is a managing attorney with the firm. Steven is an award-winning attorney who focuses on serious injury cases and firm strategy and operations. Some of Steven’s awards and memberships include National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyers, Top 10 Attorney in Wisconsin by the National Academy of Personal Injury Attorneys, The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40, and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, just to name a few. He has successfully handled cases regarding serious matters that have been publicized by the Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC, Fox and many other media outlets. At Gruber Law Offices, Steven also manages and leads a powerful team of 130 talented professionals. He is proud to continue the family legacy of positively impacting our community.