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How do you determine liability in a commercial truck accident?

A string of truck accidents along the West Virginia turnpike has prompted authorities to increase safety measures on that roadway. State officials said that a new flashing light will be added to warn tractor-trailer drivers of a sharp curve between two of the exits. Some areas have also received improved pavement to provide better tire traction.

Officials are still researching ways to increase safety on the accident-prone roadway and, in the meantime, emphasize that police will conduct additional patrols to get drivers to slow down.

Though road conditions are a major factor in many traffic accidents, oftentimes accidents may be attributable to either the negligence of the driver or of the trucking company. Recently, a driver on this roadway lost control of his truck (and his load of lumber) when the load began to shift while he was driving. It is unclear if the lumber was improperly packed.

Aside from the driver, other possible defendants include, the trucking company, and, in some cases even the owner of the truck's freight. The basic idea behind a claim to recover damages from the party or parties whose lack of care contributed to an accident. For example, the trucking company may have been responsible for the way in which the load was secured to the trailer or if the proper vehicle was used to haul the load.

If an employment relationship existed between the truck driver and trucking company, the company may also be liable for the injuries, provided the driver was acting within the course of the driver's employment when the party was injured. Perhaps the company encouraged the driver to drive longer hours to meet a deadline or deliver more loads. If their direction violated federal regulations regarding the number of hours truck drivers can log, then they could be liable.

In some rare cases, if the nature of the load made the injuries worse, the manufacturer or shipper of the hazardous materials can be liable to the victim.

Tractor trailer accidents can lead to serious injuries. The resulting complexities of a possible claim are important to understand in order for the accident victims and their families begin moving down the long and painful road to recovery.

Source: WSAZ-TV News, "Safety measures taken along W. Va. turnpike after series of semi accidents," Jeremy Edwards, Katelyn Sykes, Oct. 4, 2012

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