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Who Is Liable for a Truck Crash Caused by Burned-Out Lights?

February 26, 2024

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One of the most common traffic violations committed by any driver is driving with a burned-out headlight, taillight, brake light, or turn signal. While these traffic violations can be dangerous for drivers of pickup trucks, sedans, and SUVs, they can be extremely hazardous for drivers of semi-trucks—and the people driving near them.

Burned out semi-truck lights can lead to crashes that injure truck drivers, other motorists and their passengers, or all three. Here’s what you should know about liability concerning burned out semi-truck lights when they result in crashes.

Determining Liability in a Truck Accident Caused by a Burned-Out Light

Determining liability for a burned-out light on a semi-truck involves considering various factors and the roles of different parties involved in the truck's operation and maintenance.

Here's a breakdown of potential liable parties:

Truck Driver

The driver is typically responsible for conducting regular inspections of the truck, including checking the lights before starting a trip.

If a driver fails to perform these inspections or knowingly drives with a burned-out light, they could be held liable for any accidents or damages resulting from this negligence.

Trucking Company

The trucking company has a duty to maintain its fleet and ensure all vehicles are safe for the road. This includes regular maintenance and repairs. If the company neglects these responsibilities and a light burns out due to poor maintenance, the company could be held liable.

Additionally, if the company's policies or practices encourage drivers to ignore maintenance issues, the company could also bear responsibility.

Truck Owner

Many semi-trucks are driven by employed or contracted drivers who don’t own them. Instead, the trucks are owned by third parties and leased out to owner-operators or trucking companies.

These truck owners must ensure that their trucks are safe to drive and well-maintained, and that includes checking and replacing all lights regularly. If a crash happens due to a burned-out light, they can be held liable for any damages.

Maintenance Service Providers

If the truck recently underwent maintenance and the service provider failed to notice or properly fix a faulty light, the service provider could be held liable for negligence.

Parts Manufacturers

In some cases, the issue might stem from a manufacturing defect in the light or its components. If the burnout can be traced back to a defect in the manufacturing process, the manufacturer of the lighting system or the specific part could be held liable.

Even when it’s clear a burned-out light caused a semi-truck to be involved in a crash, accurately determining who is liable for it involves a thorough investigation. Maintenance records, inspection logs, and adherence to safety regulations are all crucial evidence in establishing responsibility.

How Can a Burned-Out Light on a Semi-Truck Cause a Crash?

A burned-out light on a semi-truck can cause an accident in several ways, primarily due to the reduced visibility and impaired communication with other drivers it creates on the road.

Here’s how these crashes can happen:

Reduced Visibility

One of the primary functions of lights on any vehicle, especially a large semi-truck, is to ensure that it’s visible to other road users.

If a truck's lights are burned out, particularly at night or in poor weather conditions like fog or heavy rain, it becomes much harder for other drivers to see the truck. This reduced visibility significantly increases the risk of collisions.

Burned-out headlights also make it more difficult for the truck driver to see their surroundings, including lane markers, road signs, other vehicles, debris in the road, upcoming sharp turns, and more.

Miscommunication of Intentions

Truck lights are not just for visibility; they also communicate the driver's intentions. For instance, turn signals and brake lights inform other drivers of the truck driver’s intended actions, like turning, changing lanes, or slowing down.

A burned-out brake light or turn signal can lead to miscommunication or a lack of communication about these actions, leading other drivers to make unsafe maneuvers based on incorrect assumptions.

Lack of Rear and Side Warning Lights

On a semi-truck, rear and side lights are crucial for alerting other drivers to the truck's dimensions and presence on the road.

Burned-out rear or side lights can be particularly dangerous in situations where a truck is merging or when other vehicles are passing the truck, as the lack of proper lighting can lead to side-swipe accidents or rear-end collisions.

The more well-lit a truck is, especially at night and during inclement weather, the safer the driver and other motorists and their passengers are on the road. When trucks are partially or fully shrouded in darkness, their danger to their drivers and others increases significantly.

Hurt in a Crash? Contact Our Truck Accident Lawyers.

Truck accidents caused by burned-out lights are preventable tragedies. Determining liability after these accidents is crucial in ensuring victims receive the compensation they deserve, and doing so often requires the assistance of an experienced, dedicated, and aggressive law firm.

If you or a loved one was injured in a semi-truck accident, including one where burned-out lights was a factor, contact us today for a free consultation. The Ohio truck accident attorneys at Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy are here to ensure your rights are protected and your voice is heard throughout every step of the legal process.

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