Liability in Tractor Trailer Accidents: What Injured Victims in North Carolina Need to Know

According to data from the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, there were 4,920 tractor-trailer accidents reported in the state in 2021 alone. Due to the immense size of large commercial trucks, these collisions are disproportionately likely to result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities. This raises an important question: Who is liable for a semi-truck or tractor-trailer truck accident?

In North Carolina, the truck driver, trucking company, or any other party may bear liability, but you must prove fault (negligence). Within this article, our knowledgeable North Carolina truck accident lawyers at Green Mistretta Law provide a comprehensive overview of the most important things that victims and families need to know about liability in tractor-trailer crashes.

North Carolina is an At-Fault Motor Vehicle Crash State (Applies to Truck Accidents)

First and foremost, it is essential to understand that liability for a commercial truck accident is mainly based on state law—more specifically, the state where the crash happened. 

North Carolina operates under an at-fault system in motor vehicle accidents. In other words, the party deemed responsible for causing a motor vehicle collision—including a semi-truck accident—can be held legally liable for the resulting damages. The fault is based on negligence. Negligence can take many forms in truck accidents, such as excessive speed, failure to keep a look-out or yield, reckless driving, fatigue, or improperly loaded cargo. Every truck accident in North Carolina must be investigated to determine exactly what went wrong.

Federal Regulations Can Play a Role in Determining Liability for a Semi-Truck Accident

In addition to state laws, federal regulations can also play a crucial role in semi-truck accident liability. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets forth stringent guidelines that trucking companies and their drivers must follow. Violations of these regulations, such as driver hours of service restrictions or proper maintenance procedures, could serve as evidence of negligence. If a trucking company violated federal safety standards, it might be liable for a North Carolina truck accident on those grounds. 

Who Can Be Held Liable for a Commercial Truck Accident

Several different parties may bear fault for a trucking accident in North Carolina. Indeed, determining liability for these types of crashes can be incredibly complex due to the numerous parties who are involved in the operation and maintenance of these vehicles. 

This is why when filing a claim, it is imperative to work with an attorney who has experience with truck accidents and a track record of success representing victims. The attorneys at Green Mistretta Law, PLLC have been working in the area of truck accidents for 25 years.

Potentially liable parties include:

  • Truck Driver: If the driver’s negligence or violation of regulations led to the accident.
  • Trucking Company: They might be liable if they failed to maintain vehicles, hired unqualified drivers, or pushed drivers beyond legal working hours.
  • Cargo Loaders: If improper loading caused the truck to become unbalanced, leading to the accident.
  • Truck Manufacturers: If a defect in the truck itself or its parts contributed to the crash. 
  • Other Drivers: In cases where the negligence of other drivers indirectly caused the truck accident.

An Important Qualifier – Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence is a legal principle in North Carolina that essentially states if a person is even slightly at fault (1% or more) for an accident that caused them harm, they cannot recover damages from other parties who were primarily responsible for the incident.

North Carolina is one of the few U.S. states that still adheres to the contributory negligence rule. Most states follow a different rule, called comparative negligence, which allows a party to recover damages even if they were partly at fault, although the damages would be reduced proportionately.

North Carolina Statute of Limitations for Truck Accidents: Three Years

In North Carolina, victims of truck accidents have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. This period, known as the statute of limitations, is crucial to keep in mind, as failing to file within this timeframe may result in the loss of the right to seek compensation. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as when the injury is not immediately apparent, but these are infrequent.

Recovering Full and Fair Compensation After a Tractor Trailer Crash in North Carolina

The aftermath of a large tractor-trailer accident can be devastating, leading to severe injuries, property damage, and even loss of life. Victims may seek compensation for a variety of damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. In cases of particularly egregious negligence, punitive damages may also be awarded. Though, punitive damages are only granted in a tiny share of cases in North Carolina. 

Regardless of the nature and severity of your crash, Green Mistretta Law, PLLC helps injured victims navigate the claims process, figure out liability, and secure maximum financial compensation. 

Contact Our North Carolina Semi-Truck Accident Attorneys for a Free Review of Your Case

At Green Mistretta Law, PLLC, our North Carolina commercial truck accident lawyers have the professional expertise that you can trust and we have recovered large sums on behalf of persons harmed in these collisions.

Contact our legal team immediately to arrange your no-cost, no-obligation initial appointment.