Can You Sue the Company After an 18-Wheeler Accident in Pennsylvania?

March 24, 2023

Accidents involving 18-wheelers often result in devastating injuries. These large commercial trucks are heavy, hard to control, and even harder to stop—especially when truck drivers are being careless or aren’t paying attention behind the wheel.

If you have been seriously injured—or if you have tragically lost a loved one—in an 18-wheeler accident, you probably have lots of questions. One of these questions may be, “Who can I sue?” Along with causing devastating injuries, 18-wheeler accidents can also lead to substantial and long-term costs, and filing a successful claim for just compensation can be critical for moving on.

Suing the Company After an 18-Wheeler Accident

In most cases, 18-wheeler accident victims and their families will have claims against the truck driver’s employer. This is typically the company that owns the truck. This could be a trucking company, a delivery company like UPS or FedEx, or a big box retailer like Amazon or Walmart.

These types of companies can face liability for truck accidents on a handful of different grounds. After a serious or fatal 18-wheeler accident, determining the cause of the accident is essential for proving your legal rights. Even if the company that owns and operates the truck is responsible for what happened, if you can’t prove why it is responsible, you won’t be able to recover the financial compensation you and your family deserve.

So, when can you sue the company after an 18-wheeler accident in Pennsylvania? The primary grounds for suing the trucking company are:

1. Vicarious Liability for the Truck Driver’s Negligence or Recklessness

Truck driver negligence is among the leading causes—if not the leading cause—of 18-wheeler accidents. When truck drivers work for companies as employees, their employers are subject to vicarious liability for their negligence on the job.

Basically, this means that if a truck driver causes an 18-wheeler accident, his or her employer can be held fully liable. As a result, truck accident victims and their families will often be able to sue the company that owns and operates the truck on grounds such as:

  • Distracted truck driving
  • Falling asleep behind the wheel
  • Using alcohol or drugs behind the wheel
  • Merging or changing lanes without enough room to get over
  • Speeding, tailgating, harsh braking, and other common truck driving mistakes

2. Liability for Hiring a Dangerous or Unqualified Driver

Trucking companies, retailers, and other companies that own and operate 18-wheelers can also be held directly liable for hiring dangerous or unqualified drivers. Hiring a dangerous or unqualified truck driver is also considered a form of negligence under Pennsylvania law. If a company hires a driver who has no business being behind the wheel and the driver causes a serious or fatal accident, the company deserves to be held fully accountable for the costs of its negligence.

3. Liability for Allowing (or Forcing) the Truck Driver to Spend Too Many Hours Behind the Wheel

Many 18-wheeler accidents are the result of truck driver fatigue. Truck drivers have a duty to remain alert behind the wheel, and truck drivers’ employers can be held vicariously liable when they nod off while driving.

But truck drivers’ employers can also be held directly liable for allowing (or forcing) them to spend too many hours in the driver’s seat. Under the federal Hours of Service Regulations, there are restrictions on how many hours truckers can drive each day and each week. If a company encourages (or requires) its drivers to exceed the federal driving hour limits, this is also a form of negligence for which the company can—and should—be held accountable.

4. Liability for Negligently Loading the Truck

Along with driver-related issues, trucking companies and other businesses can also be held liable for truck-related issues in some cases. One example of a truck-related issue that can lead to an accident is negligent loading.

When loading their trucks, companies must be careful to address a variety of potential risks. If they don’t address these risks appropriately, this can significantly increase the risk of an accident even if the truck driver is alert and paying attention behind the wheel. For example, all of the following can make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for a truck driver to maintain control on the road:

  • Overloading the truck (exceeding its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)
  • Loading more cargo on one side of the truck than the other (resulting in a cargo imbalance)
  • Failing to properly secure cargo (allowing it to slide forward or backward under acceleration or braking)
  • Failing to pressurize liquid cargo (which can cause sloshing that can lead to loss of control)
  • Using cargo straps, tie downs or other methods of securing cargo that are not strong enough to resist breaking under load

5. Liability for Failing to Perform Adequate Truck Maintenance

Truck-related issues can also result from inadequate maintenance. Like all vehicles, 18-wheelers require regular maintenance to ensure that they are safe for the road. But, unlike other vehicles, 18-wheelers have numerous additional complex components that require regular maintenance and replacement to prevent failures. If a company fails to adequately maintain its fleet and this failure leads to a serious or fatal accident, this can justify a lawsuit even if the truck driver did everything possible to try to avoid the collision.

While these are among the most common grounds for suing the company after an 18-wheeler accident in Pennsylvania, there are other potential grounds for filing a lawsuit as well. When you hire a lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will conduct a comprehensive investigation and determine what claim (or claims) he or she can pursue on your behalf. This requires a prompt and thorough investigation; and, as a result, it is important that you hire a lawyer as soon as possible.

Discuss Your 18-Wheeler Accident Claim with a Lawyer at Drake, Hileman & Davis, P.C.

If you need to know more about your legal rights after a serious or fatal 18-wheeler accident in Pennsylvania, we encourage you to contact us promptly. With offices in Doylestown, Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton and Stroudsburg, we represent accident victims and their families statewide. Call 888-479-9197 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation today.