Who Can Be Held Liable for a Truck Accident?

Truck accidents are usually more complicated than accidents that involve only passenger cars. In addition to truck drivers, numerous other parties may be held responsible for a truck accident, including trucking companies, truck manufacturers, third-party vendors, and local governments. Additionally, the enormous size of these vehicles usually results in more severe injuries and property damage in an accident situation.

If you’ve been on the wrong end of a crash involving a large commercial vehicle, you’ll need the help of a New York truck accident attorney if you want to recoup your economic and noneconomic losses.

Who Can Be Held Liable for a Truck Accident?

As noted, various parties may be legally liable for a trucking accident; this is perhaps the key difference between these and car accident cases, where, typically, only at-fault drivers can be liable. We break this down in more detail in this section.


Truck drivers often cause accidents by:

  • Using mind-altering substances like alcohol and drugs. Ordinarily, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for New York drivers is 0.08%. However, for commercial drivers in the state, it’s just 0.04%.
  • According to the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, speed is a factor in around 30% of deadly accidents in the state of New York.
  • Driving recklessly at night.
  • Carrying unsafe loads. This may also create liability for other parties if it causes an accident, which we’ll discuss below.


Under the doctrine of vicarious liability, trucking companies or carriers may be held responsible for harm caused by drivers they employ. Whether liability attaches to a company or its workers in a given case will depend on various factors.

To properly discharge their duty of care, trucking companies must:

  • Ensure their drivers are properly qualified: Trucking companies must hire drivers with proper licenses who do not have Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and driving infractions.
  • Conduct drug testing: Carriers must conduct random drug tests on truck drivers throughout the year.
  • Conduct background checks: New York state law requires all transportation network companies (TNCs) to conduct pre-employment criminal history background checks on drivers.
  • Use appropriate loading practices: Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring that trailers are securely loaded. Failure to do so can result in rollovers, jackknife accidents, and more.
  • Properly maintain trucks: According to New York State’s Department of Motor Vehicles, each motor vehicle registered in the state must be inspected at least every 12 months.
  • Avoid pressuring drivers to disregard the FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations: The FMSCA has strict hours-of-service regulations for property-carrying drivers. If trucking companies encourage their drivers to break these rules, they will likely be liable for any resulting accidents.
  • Maintain proper registration and licensing of its trucks: Carriers that operate commercial trucks must have a USDOT Number and be registered with the FMCSA. The USDOT Number is a unique identifier for collecting and monitoring a company’s safety information acquired during crash investigations, audits, compliance reviews, and inspections.


Some truck crashes are caused by the failure of a part or system of the truck, such as brakes, tires, and steering systems.

Where manufacturers identify problems like these and issue timely recalls, they may evade liability. If trucking companies ignore recall notices, they will be liable for problems that arise thereafter, not manufacturers.


Some haulage companies work as contractors to load and ship cargo for other carriers. Each party in such arrangements is responsible for following relevant state and federal regulations.


Some large carriers outsource tasks to third-party vendors. This may include:

  • Administrative work, such as alcohol and drug testing and driver recruitment
  • Maintenance tasks, such as truck repair
  • Fleet operations, such as dispatching.

Any of these vendors can be held responsible if their negligence contributes to an accident.


If a road hazard — such as broken pavement or a soft shoulder — contributes to a truck accident, the state or local government responsible for that part of the highway may be held liable.

In the same vein, contractors hired by the government may be held liable if:

  • The work they performed (or failed to perform properly) contributed to the accident
  • The work zone they set up caused the crash.

How Is Fault Determined in a New York Truck Accident?

When determining fault in truck accident cases, courts typically look at the following:

  • Truck camera footage
  • Accident reconstruction specialists’ expert testimony
  • Documents about the hiring, training, and supervision practices of the trucking company
  • The trucking company’s inspection and maintenance records
  • Driver logs. The FMCSA sets out a number of requirements related to electronic logging devices (ELDs) and the storage of their data to which trucking companies must adhere.
  • Alcohol and drug screening results
  • Witness testimony
  • Black box recorders or electronic control modules (ECMs), which are devices installed in trucks to record occupant and technical vehicle information
  • Results of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigations, if applicable
  • Police reports and other accident reports.

How Does New York’s Contributory Negligence Law Affect Damage Recovery?

New York is one of the few states that follow pure comparative negligence rules in cases involving shared fault.

This means that you can recover damages from anyone who is partially at fault. However, if you are found to be at fault, your damages will be reduced according to your share of the blame. For instance, if you’re found to be 20% at fault for a truck accident that cost you $30,000, your damages would be reduced to 80% of $30,000 — $24,000.

What Should I Do When Insurance Adjusters Call?

After your truck accident, insurance adjusters will try to shift as much liability to you as possible, as this will reduce the amount they’ll have to pay you.

So, it’s a good idea to avoid discussing your accident with your insurer to the greatest extent possible. Just give them contact information for yourself and your lawyer; your attorney will be entitled to conduct all insurance company interactions on your behalf, and will know how to do so without compromising your claim.

Talk to an Experienced New York Truck Accident Attorney to Get Help Today

Picking up the pieces after a devastating truck accident can be extremely challenging. However, Tucker Lawyers P.C. is here to help. We have over 30 years of experience in helping people get the compensation they deserve.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you. You can reach us via our online contact form or over the phone at (516) 399-2364.

john tucker

Managing Attorney John. J. Tucker, Esq.

John has personally handled thousands of clients who were victims of another’s negligence and fights relentlessly for their rights. John enjoys bringing closure to a client’s matter so that the injured party can move forward with their life. His background enables him to evaluate complex liability related claims and bring resolution to claims in a record time frame. [ Attorney Bio ]

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